What You Need to Know About the Best Time of Day to Work Out

The science may surprise you.

By: Emily Freeman

Are you wondering when the best time to work out is? You’re not alone. It’s one of the most popular questions we get as fitness experts. And it makes sense. If you’re going to put time and effort into your exercise regimen, it’s important to know how to get the optimal results from your hard work. 

If you’ve tried to do the research yourself to find out the best time to work out, you may be even more confused. Science is unclear, and expert opinions are across the board, and ultimately, it comes down to the individual. So how do you determine what time of day will warrant jaw-dropping results for YOU? We’re breaking down the benefits of working out in the morning versus the evening. Then, it’s up to you, perfect unique snowflake, to determine when is the best time to workout based on your goals, schedule, and natural inclination. 

Finding The Best Time to Work Out For YOU!

Benefits of AM Workouts

#1 Set Yourself up to Make Healthier Choices

There’s no magic pill for making healthy habits stick. However, working out first thing in the morning can make it easier. AM workouts are proven to reduce cravings for unhealthy food and inspire you to be more active throughout your day. This study not only found that women who exercised for 45 minutes in the AM became less reactive when shown images of tasty food, but it also revealed that the participants who worked out in the morning also were more active throughout the day. 

#2 Burn More Fat on an Empty Stomach

The best thing to eat before your workout may be… nothing. Though there are some benefits to fueling before your workout, this study showed that if you want to burn up to 20% more calories, skipping breakfast before an early morning workout may be a good idea. But note that this may not work for everyone, so always listen to your body. 

#3 Improve Sleep

Exercise can increase your body’s core temperature and stimulates your nervous system, making it harder to fall asleep after an intense workout. However, according to this study, working out in the morning is like a natural sleeping aid that produces more hours of better quality sleep. 

#4 Take Advantage of Morning Workout Muscle Building Potential 

This study revealed that our body’s testosterone levels are at their highest first thing in the morning. This hormone plays a crucial role in building muscle, so morning workouts may be the secret sauce to building more muscle quicker. 

Benefits of PM Workouts

#1 Take Advantage of Having More Energy

Some of us just aren’t morning people, and that fatigue you may feel in your 6 a.m. workouts may not just be in your head. A study found that participants could exercise 20% harder and longer in the evening versus the early morning. It may be because you’ve consumed more calories by the evening, which gives you more energy. Your higher body temperature later in the day may also help with flexibility and muscle strength. 

#2  Build More Muscle Tone 

Not only are you potentially stronger in the evening, but your cortisol levels are also lower. Cortisol is one of our stress hormones, and since it’s higher in the mornings, an early AM workout could hinder optimal muscle growth. 

#3 Reset and Clear The Day’s Stressors

It can feel difficult to transition straight from work-mode to off-hours. Working out in the evening gives you an opportunity to shake off any stressors you experienced earlier in the day and press the reset button. The exercise-induced dopamine and serotonin will give you that extra little kick you need to enjoy your evening and feel less stressed overall. 

#4 Boost Your Protein Stores to Build and Repair Muscle 

Looking to lose weight and become more toned? A pre-bedtime meal after an evening workout could actually aid in fat loss and muscle building. Young, active participants who had a protein drink before bed showed a higher concentration of amino acids in this study. This means their body was able to absorb more protein in their sleep, which is essential to building muscle, losing inches, and gaining strength. 

#5 Also, Improve Sleep (Bet ya didn’t expect this one!)

Though proponents of AM workouts may disagree, according to some studies, evening exercise hasn’t been shown to negatively affect sleep. However, a good rule of thumb is to make sure you complete any intense exercise at least 90-minutes before you plan to hit the hay. 

Choosing the Right Time for You

It’s easy to see how choosing the best time to work out can be confusing. The bottom line — exercise is good for you, no matter what time of day you do it. The best time? The time where you can be the most consistent and show up present and excited more of the time. 

All of our bodies, schedules, and energy levels are different, so it’s about finding what works best for you. Sometimes this takes a little trial and error and enough time to let exercise become a habit. But once you get in a groove and start to experience results (or lack thereof), it will be quite obvious if your workout schedule is working for you or against you.