Morning vs Evening Workouts: Which is Better?
Some people swear by the morning sweat sesh. For them, the sunrise run or the 6am kettlebell training session is as much of their morning routine as a morning coffee. For others, there’s nothing worse than dragging themselves out of bed at sunrise to hit the gym, trying to channel Dwayne Johnson but feeling more like the Tin Man.
But is there a difference between morning and evening workouts? Research supports both exercising in the morning and the evening. While morning workouts have been associated with better sleep, lower blood pressure, and fat loss, working out in the afternoon or evening link to better anaerobic performance and lower stress levels.
What’s the right answer then? Well, there isn’t one.
The right time to schedule in a sweat session varies from person to person, depending on many factors including personal preference, energy levels and of course, the hectic schedule.
So if you’re still figuring out what time you should head to the gym, let us help you break down some of the factors you should consider.
Your health and fitness goals
Start by asking yourself what you are trying to achieve from your workouts. Are you trying to shed some winter weight? Or are you an athlete training for an upcoming race?
If fat loss is what you’re after, set that alarm bright and early. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism revealed that when you exercise before eating breakfast, you not only oxidise more fat molecules, but also reduce your risk of Type 2 diabetes.
This study involved 30 obese and overweight men, split into two groups – one that ate breakfast before exercises and one after. The research found that those who hadn’t eaten burned twice the amount of fat than those who had! The group that had fasted overnight had lower levels of insulin, which meant they could use more of the fat in their fat tissue and muscles as fuel.
However, if you’re looking to improve your athletic performance, working out later in the day might be a better choice. Research shows that the body consumes less oxygen and reaches peak core temperature in the early evening. In other words, for the same intensity of exercise, you use less energy in the evening compared to the morning, making you more likely to perform better in anaerobic activities (running, swimming, weight training).
Your circadian rhythm
Although the study above revealed that the body’s core temperature is generally highest in the evening, that may still vary depending on each person’s circadian rhythms, which also create variations in heart rate and blood pressure.
While some of us are wired to feel most energetic first thing in the morning, others feel best in the afternoons and evenings, so it’s a good idea to first figure out your energy patterns. For example, if you tend to be completely exhausted from the work day by 5pm, working out then wouldn’t be a pleasant experience and you might eventually find yourself skipping out on your workouts altogether.
“If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.” – Admiral William H. McRaven
US Navy Admiral William H. McRaven famously said that the small task of making our beds means accomplishing the first task of the day, setting us up for more and more tasks being accomplished the rest of the day.
Just like making our beds, getting to the gym first thing means checking off a major task on our to-do list for the day. This sense of accomplishment sets a positive tone for the day, which then carries through as the day progresses.
Moreover, since willpower is finite and drastically falls away as the day progresses, getting our workouts out of the way before the day starts removes the possibility of us pulling out the “I’m too tired” or “I just have too many other priorities (*cough* excuses)” card. Sounds familiar, I’m sure?
On the flip side, if you have a difficult job and think of working out as your time to release stress, hitting the gym or going for a run after work could be critical for your mental wellbeing. There’s truly nothing like pushing the body and lifting some heavy weights to get rid of all those pent up frustrations.
What can you realistically stick to?
The bottom line is: the best time to exercise is the time that will help you be consistent and stick to your workout routine.
It might take some time to figure it out, but if you’ve noticed a pattern of creating excuses for not training after work, try working out in the morning for a week and see if that suits you. If you’ve been trying morning workouts but notice that your body still seems to be in bed, experiment with afternoon or evening workouts and observe your energy levels then!