What’s the best time of day to workout?


What’s the best time of day to workout?

Whether you’re an early bird up at the crack of dawn or more of a night owl, can influence what time of day you work out.  Early morning, middle of the afternoon or late evening, does it matter what time of day you exercise?

The point of exercising is to achieve a healthy body weight, gain muscle and improve overall health and fitness.  In order to meet those goals, the answer lies not quite as much in time of day but rather as to what will help you do an exercise routine consistently over time. The benefits of physical activity are closely associated with the amount you do on a consistent, regular basis.

Everyone will be different on what time of day suits them best.  Some people want and need the socialization of working out with a partner so that will depend on what time of day they agree upon that is convenient for them.  For others who prefer more solitude and working out on their own, they will have more flexibility in picking the time of day best for them.

Time of day is also influenced on whether you are a morning person or more of a night owl.  It will do you no good to get up for a 5 am workout if you struggle to get out of bed.  Again, the main idea is to find the time when you are more likely to want to and actually engage in exercising on a consistent basis.

Having said that, if you are a person who has more leeway and flexibility in your lifestyle and what to know what research says on when is the best time of day to exercise, read on. 

·      You want to boost aerobic and endurance performance

If training for a marathon, cross country bicycling or other endurance type of activity, the best time to exercise would be when your body has sufficient access to stored glycogen.  This translates to either late morning, afternoon or early evening.  The goal of training aerobically for endurance is to take advantage of when you have a full tank of glycogen stored in your muscles and liver.  Glycogen is the body’s storage form of glucose which is our body’s main form of energy.  Carbohydrates contain glucose and some excess glucose will get stored within the muscles and liver as glycogen. 

Glycogen is used up throughout the day depending on how active you are but is highest in the hours after you have eaten a meal containing carbohydrates.  As a result, depending on your eating schedule, the best hours for utilizing when glycogen stores are at their highest to supply you with needed energy, will be late morning, afternoon, or early evening.

This will allow you to train or workout at your optimal best when there is sufficient glycogen that can be converted into glucose as needed.  Our glycogen stores tend to be lowest first thing in the morning when you have “fasted” overnight.  Early morning may not be the best time for someone who plans on going “all out” on exercising as they may not have the necessary energy available to them.  But if early morning is the best time for such person to exercise, then they should eat half a banana or have a cup of watered down juice before the work out to boost levels of glucose in the blood.

·      You want to burn fat and lose weight


For those wanting to reduce fat and body weight, first thing in the morning is the best time to get in a workout.  The reason is before you have eaten breakfast your body is more likely to tap into fat stores. Glucose levels are low in the morning so the body is forced to turn to using fat stores as an energy source. 


A couple of other advantages of doing an early morning workout when trying to lose weight is it can decrease your appetite and motivate you to be more physically active the rest of the day.  Another study from Appalachian State University found that when we sweat early in the day, it improves the duration and quality of sleep at night.  This is an important consideration as studies have shown that people who get adequate sleep – over eight hours a night – have greater fat loss when trying to lose weight.   


·      You want to build muscle

The look of a toned, muscular body is hard to beat and the best time of day to be pumping irons appears to be late afternoon/evening.  During the night, our body temperature drops and is a reason why we tend to wake up feeling stiff and lacking flexibility.  Trying to lift weights, particularly heavy weights, could result in injury as the discs between the vertebrae fill with fluid during the night making them more susceptible to harm. 

Throughout the day your body temperature climbs peaking between 4-6 pm.  Also rising is your muscle strength and power according to a Scandinavian studyOther research has shown that exercise-induced increases in testosterone production are greatest in the late afternoon and early evening.  So it looks best to reap the benefits of lifting weights to wait until later in the day when your body is the strongest.

In conclusion

All of us need to exercise and all of us have varying schedules.  Bottom line, if a person has the flexibility to do several types of physical activities working various muscles groups of the body during the day, they can take full advantage of the advice from this article.  But, for the majority of us, exercise when you can with the goal being to get in a workout most days of the week.  And remember, exercise needs to be consistent not intermittent.  Consistency will give you the best results.