What is the best time of day to work out and why?

Mornings, afternoons, or evenings? (Image via Unsplash/Chander R)
Mornings, afternoons, or evenings? (Image via Unsplash/Chander R)

Making time in your day to squeeze in a workout session can be challenging, especially if you haven’t established a solid daily routine yet.

We see conflicting reports all over the internet when it comes to the ideal time for a workout. Some enthusiasts claim that mornings are the best time to work out since we have all this untapped energy in us, while others swear that evenings are preferrable because you have more energy from the food you’ve had through the day.

And then there are some in-betweeners who propose that afternoons are ideal because they’re in the middle, and you sweat a lot more.

So, in this article, we look at the pros and cons of working out at each of these times.

Morning workouts

The pros

• Great way to start the day

Numerous morning hustlers will swear by the AM to work out, as it sets the pace for the rest of the day. You’re up early, you get your workout done for the day, and then you go about the rest of your tasks. Having this consistency helps set routines.

• Higher potential to burn fat

The stomach is empty when you wake up in the morning, which means the body primarily uses fuel from the fat stored within itself, as opposed to the energy from carbs consumed throughout the day.

• Improves energy & focus

Exercising in the morning helps regulate cortisol levels, which in turn clears the mind for the day ahead. Owing to the release of endorphins at the start of the day, one can look forward to experiencing better levels of energy, improved focus and alertness, reduced stress, and a clearer mindset overall.

The cons

• Waking up early isn’t easy

To work out before your day starts, you have to wake up earlier. Lots of people end up skipping their workouts because they don’t want to wake up in the morning. This can be attributed to a number of factors, including having a late night, insomnia, or just missing the alarm.

• Higher risk of injuries

At the start of the day, our muscles and joints tend to be stiffer than they are later in the day, which can lead to injuries in the form of pulled muscles, dislocated joints, fractured ligaments, and more.

Morning workouts can be quite fatiguing (Image via Pexels/Julia Larson)
Morning workouts can be quite fatiguing (Image via Pexels/Julia Larson)

• Faster rate of fatigue/exhaustion

Since the body is still in a fasted state at the start of the day, expending fuel sources stored in the body can lead to extreme exhaustion, making way for dizziness and nausea for the rest of the day.

Afternoon workouts

The pros

• Adequate energy to carry out the work

Working out in the afternoons ensures that you have sufficient energy from your first meal(s) of the day, and you’re not too tired from, well, living. It’s a good routine to ensure you do hit the gym every day, since it’s not too early in the day, nor is it too late.

• Potential to burn more calories

Afternoons are generally the hottest hours of the day, regardless of where you are. This means you’ll end up sweating more. Of course, you shouldn’t base the intensity of your workouts on how much you’re sweating, but it’s a good hour for anybody looking to sweat it out completely.

Afternoon workouts mean more sweat (Image via Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio)
Afternoon workouts mean more sweat (Image via Pexels/Andrea Piacquadio)

The cons

• Odd hour

Surely, you won’t find a gym bustling with members in the afternoons. People are usually at work, and that can sometimes get in the way of your workout too. So it’s not a guarantee that you can stick to it all days of the week.

• May lack motivation

It’s not just an empty gym that might demotivate you. The majority of the population admits to feeling lethargic in the afternoons, specifically after a meal. You may then push the workout for the evenings, and not show up eventually because you don’t like working out in the evening.

Evening workouts

The pros

• Less risk of injury & fatigue

Muscles and joints tend to be almost 20% more flexible than they are at the start of the day, because it is likely that an individual has moved around and performed basic activities of daily living quite a bit by the evening. Coupled with muscles that have already warmed up throughout the day, the potential to perform better is higher.

Joints are better warmed up in the evening (Image via Unsplash/Harry Gillen)
Joints are better warmed up in the evening (Image via Unsplash/Harry Gillen)

• Stress release & improved sleep

Working out after a long, hard day at work is an ideal way to blow off the stress of the day. People who enjoy exercising in the evenings report an improved mental state at the end of their day. To top it off, working out warms one’s body up, making it easier to enter a state of relaxation before going to bed. Just take a long shower and crawl under the sheets.

The cons

• Limited time/energy

Work days can be quite unpredictable, and one may not always have the energy or hours left in their day to hit the gym and expend more energy at the end of a long work day.

• Difficulty falling asleep

Although body temperature does stay elevated and promote relaxation of the body, some may find it harder to fall asleep due to elevated heart rate and metabolic rate. Incorporating stretches or yoga after a workout may help prevent this.

Stretches in the evening. Image via Unsplash/Kike Vega
Stretches in the evening. Image via Unsplash/Kike Vega

• Limited options

Working out in the evenings is a popular norm among various demographics, and fitness facilities may be crowded in the evening hours. Also, outdoor runs and training sessions may not be the safest option for all individuals (women and senior citizens, for example), and this could add to the lack of motivation.

So, really, there is no real winner here. It all boils down to personal choice and what works best for you, depending on your work days and lifestyle habits. Putting together a routine for your day while accommodating workout hours can be challenging, and even harder to stick to.

Ultimately, as long as you have done your workout, it doesn’t really matter when you do it. Post-workout nutrition should never be neglected, regardless of the time of day. So eat your meals on time, hydrate well, and get plenty of sleep. Your routine should fall into place by itself!

Poll : When do you prefer working out?

First thing in the morning!

Later in the day.

64 votes

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Edited by Sandeep Banerjee