Are you a rise-and-grind runner, more game for a night owl sweat-sesh, or keen on hitting the gym on your lunch hour? As it turns out, there’s a lot of science around what time of day you should be working out… but which one is actually best for you?
Here’s What Science Really Says About When to Exercise
Historically, research has always sided with morning workouts (the “early bird gets the worm” trope is as clichéd as it is for a reason!). It might have to do with the energy you have when you wake up, all thanks to the stress hormone cortisol.
While cortisol is often seen in a negative light, we can actually use this AM cortisol boost to our advantage. Why? Because research shows that this stress hormone is highest in the morning for most people, and it happens to come with a punch of energy. This is a total win for a kick-butt AM workout.
Plus, exercising in the morning can be more invigorating than your morning latte without all that added cream and sugar (heck, yes!)
Need more motivation to get your sweat sesh in first thing? As it turns out, you may sleep better and avoid those après-exercise munchies. A 2014 study said morning may be the best time to exercise if you want to have restful sleep at night, and another study noted that a 45 minute morning workout could curb your post-workout appetite. Speaking of appetite: exercising on an empty stomach can burn more body fat, and that’s a lot easier to do when you’ve just woken up.
The takeaway here is that if you can muster up that motivation, we know you totally have, jump up out of bed (don’t snooze that alarm), and get to it! Research shows that we all may benefit from waking up and working out in the morning.
While some research has shown that it may be tricky to keep to afternoon workouts with work scheduling, those who have a less conventional schedule (or simply no office job) may bypass this hurdle with ease.
The benefits of a lunchtime sweat? You may have another energizing hormone working for you—testosterone.
Studies have shown higher testosterone levels during late afternoon resistance training, and sports performance appears to peak in the afternoon as well. If you’re not quite a morning person and find yourself way too busy at night to grab your weights, then consider the afternoon your Goldilocks: just right for working out.
Despite what older research may say, nighttime exercise may not disrupt your sleep cycle at all, and could even help you stay asleep once you nod off (score!).
Plus, muscular function may be stronger at night, as well as muscular gains (read: you might feel stronger and get stronger at the same time if you break a sweat in the evening).
It’s Never a Bad Time to Break a Serious Exercise Sweat
Listen, there’s no bad time to work out. The only way we lose is when we don’t work out at all. So, if your schedule doesn’t allow for a quick morning sweat, exercise in the afternoon. If you’re tied up at work and can’t get to that HIIT workout until after dinner, seriously, don’t sweat it.
Every single time of day has its benefits, so you truly can’t lose. Everyone’s body is different, and you need to find what works best with your own unique physiology — and your schedule! Pick the time that you’re most likely to stick to your commitment, whether it’s the same time every day, or whenever you can fit a little sweat into your busy life.