Is It Better To Work Out In The Morning Or At Night? A Trainer Answers
Working out in the morning versus the evening is a controversy as old as time. There's evidence to support both sides, and thus, the two camps remain divided. But many of us can't help but wonder...who is right? Is one workout time really better than another? Does it make a difference? The answer is, it depends, and arguments can be made for both sides.
The benefits of working out in the morning.
Die-hard morning fitness fans certainly do have some advantages when they train. Here are some of the benefits to consider when deciding if morning exercise is for you.
It's usually easier to stick to your program/routine.
Exercising first thing in the morning means you get it over and done with before you really start your day—responsibilities and last-minute social commitments can't get in the way. No matter what life throws at you during the course of your day, it doesn't affect your adherence to your program plan or routine. This makes you more likely to be consistent with your workouts over the long haul. Given that consistency tends to be the most difficult aspect of starting an exercise regimen, working out in the morning could help set you up for success.
You can maximize your time at the gym.
Believe it or not, early mornings at commercial gyms are often less crowded than peak hours after work. Not only does this make for a more enjoyable gym experience, but it also means you're less likely to waste time waiting for cardio equipment, racks, or benches to become available. If you only have a set amount of time to spend at the gym daily, you'll be able to make the most of it. Working out in a less crowded gym ensures that you're able to get all of your working sets done in the time you have available. Efficiency is your friend.
Your mood will be better throughout the day.
There's a treasure trove of research confirming that exercising can improve your mood1 through the release of endorphins. If you do that exercise first thing in the morning, you'll relieve any stress, anxiety, or pent-up tension before you tackle your day. Not only can that make for a more productive day2, but you'll feel better overall—and who doesn't want that?
You can work out fasted, if you want.
Some individuals prefer to perform their moderate cardio in a fasted state. This lends itself much better to morning exercise, of course. Those hours spent sleeping leave you waking up in a fasted state and ready to hit the gym. While it is possible to abstain from eating during your workday and to train in the evening, it's not the ideal choice for most people.
You'll have more energy in the morning.
As the day goes on and responsibilities pile up, energy levels for some tend to drop. By the time the workday is finished, many people are left exhausted. Hitting the gym with reduced energy, for those who struggle with this problem, means that their training will, of course, be negatively affected. Performing your workout session before heading to work, when you're fresh and rested, eliminates this problem altogether.
The benefits of working out in the evening.
Devoted evening exercisers also enjoy their fair share of perks training after work—especially those who prefer to sleep in and eat before they exercise.
You get to sleep in.
Less chaotic mornings and later sleep-in times can often translate to better workouts and recovery. For the night owls that just head to bed late (no matter what time their alarm is going off the next day), evening workouts may be a better choice. Sleeping later in the morning makes it probable that they'll get an adequate amount of shut-eye, which is necessary for recovery and performance.
It could calm you down before bed.
While vigorous exercise right before bedtime hinders quality sleep for some, moderate exercise can have the opposite effect3 for many. Our body's core temperature is raised during exercise4 and can actually promote a solid slumber. This is often compared to the effect of enjoying a warm bath before tucking in.
You can relieve any stress you've accumulated that day.
Life can get stressful, and sometimes by the end of the workday, you need nothing more than to blow off some of that steam. Exercise in the evening provides the perfect outlet to decompress and relieve some of the pent-up tension and pressure you've accumulated during the day. You'll head home in a state of bliss—not a state of angst.
Going to the gym means no after-work temptations.
Some people, when left to their own devices in the evening, make poor lifestyle choices. If you're busy at the gym after work, that means you're not knocking back cocktails and appetizers at happy hour. By going to the gym after work, you're helping yourself replace unhealthy habits with ones that support your health and goals. This benefit, however, is only seen in those who are able to consistently adhere to their evening fitness commitment.
You may get a better workout in because you have fuel.
Post-workday workouts mean that you have most likely enjoyed a few nutritious meals during your day. You're able to time your snacks and meals around your training later in the day easily. This translates to better workouts for some people, particularly those who feel sick or fatigued when they work out fasted. Arriving at the gym well fueled and alert may result in increased training performance.
So, what should you do?
When deciding what time you should exercise, my best advice is to take an honest assessment of your personality traits, preferences, habits, and lifestyle. Ask yourself questions like: Are you a late sleeper? Do you wake up with energy? Do you prefer to eat before or after your workout? Finding the ideal time to train will depend on what's best for you and your current life circumstances.
The time to best workout is whatever time you'll actually do it. In order to reap the rewards from your exercise regimen, you need to be committed and consistent. The optimal training time is what fits you best, whether that's in the morning or the evening.
Heather Marr is a personal trainer from Canada who specializes in training models. She is the co-creator of The Model Trainer Method and co-founder of Liftologie.com. After getting her start in the industry as a model with Elite, she quickly learned what not to do. She became a trainer to help girls in the industry get fit, lose weight, and keep it off the healthy way. Before moving to Manhattan, Marr ran her own training business in Toronto. She has clients from all over the world, including the United States, Europe, Australia, Canada, and Asia. Marr designs all of her clients’ diets and program plans and believes that together, nutrition and training shape the body.