Updated: Jan 14, 2022
Ah, the age-old question.
What's the best time for us to be working out?
Do the early birds win when it comes to making progress in the gym?
Or do the nighthawks come out on top?
It's a question that I see SO many beginners and even intermediate lifters asking all the time.
So in this post I'll be going over the advantages and disadvantages of exercising at each time of day, looking at some of the science behind all this and then drawing a conclusion and helping you pick the right time to be working out based off of this.
The short answer is to pick the one that you enjoy doing the most and can stay committed to. Ultimately, the workout program that you can stick to is the best choice. Each one has its own advantages, but it means nothing if you can't stick to it.
Also, we'll actually combine the advantages of working out in the afternoon and evening as they are very similar. They basically carry the same benefits and advantages.
Advantages of Morning Workouts
Before I begin, it's important to stress that you should always try to wait at least 1 hour after waking up before engaging in any intense physical activity. You might be physically awake, but your body still needs time to catch up.
If you work out too close to waking up, you'll still feel very tired and likely won't be able to get too much out of the session.
With that out of the way, we can get into the advantages now.
There are several advantages of working out in the morning over afternoon/evening workouts.
Personally, I am more of a morning person. I like to wake up earlier or get into the gym a little earlier and start my day off well.
I like the way it feels, and I like how it builds momentum for the rest of the day, whatever it is that I'm going to be doing. Whether I'm going to work or have something else planned, it sets up my day nicely.
But enough about me. Let's get into advantages of morning workouts!
Start the Day Off Strong
One of the major reasons why people choose to work out in the morning (this includes me) is that it helps them kickstart their day and build momentum for the rest of it.
By waking up early and getting a workout in (which is a pretty difficult task for most people), we set the bar high for the rest of the day as to what we're going to be doing and how we're going to spend our time.
It makes us feel good about ourselves, and what we accomplish so early on that the majority of the population doesn't ever get done.
A great way to start the day off and give ourselves an optimistic approach to the rest of the day.
Everybody hates it when they have to wait upwards of 5-10 minutes to get access to the gym equipment that they need.
Whether that's a lat pulldown machine, a squat rack or the bench press, it all sucks.
If you choose to work out in the morning, you'll likely find that your gym is usually much less crowded than it is during the afternoon/evening when people start to get off work, finish with school, etc.
For those of you who have anxiety in the gym, perhaps because you're still a beginner or just aren't yet confident in your body, working out in a less crowded gym is a great way to mitigate some of this anxiety and get on with your workout smoothly.
This one sort of ties in with the one above. Since the gym is less crowded, you're less likely to face distractions that could take away form your workout, and you'll probably find it easier to follow through with your session.
And if you're early enough, you'll find that most people aren't actually awake at the time of your session yet.
Not only does this further give you that ego boost, but it also means you're less likely to become distracted by emails, phone calls, texts, etc.
This study conducted by Michael J Wheeler found that working out in the morning could help to increase focus and the ability to make the right decisions.
If you choose your workout to be the first real task you do in the morning, you'll also find that you won't become distracted by other things on your to-do list or your daily schedule. You have all of your focus to hone in on your workout and get it done right.
Easier To Train in a Fasted State
Another advantage of working out in the morning could actually be that it's easier to get it done in a fasted state. If you're serious about losing some weight and you would like to get your workouts done on an empty stomach, it makes more sense to do this in the morning.
It's much easier to skip breakfast before working out in the morning than it is to skip breakfast, lunch and snacks to get a fasted workout in during the afternoon/evening.
You absolutely have to be eating throughout the day, and this makes it very difficult to get a fasted workout in if you don't do it in the morning.
Simply choosing to do it in the morning makes it so much easier, and it simply doesn't make that much sense to try and do it at another time.
You Get It Done Early
By getting your workout done early, you have the rest of the day to focus on your other tasks and/or relax and spend time with the people that you love. This is one of my favorite things about working out early in the morning.
You won't have to worry about getting to the gym after work when you're already tired, or trying to cram the session in your schedule amongst other things such as social gatherings.
You can spend the rest of the day doing other things, and can really enjoy it properly.
Increases Your Metabolism
Choosing to do your workouts in the morning can actually help you to burn more calories throughout the day.
When we exercise, we can cause our bodies to go into a special state where it continues to burn additional calories, even though we've stopped working.
According to a study conducted by Kaito Iwayama, this effect was amplified to its strongest when exercising was done in the mornings, before eating breakfast.
So if you're trying to increase your metabolism and burn more calories throughout the day (most likely because you want to lose weight), working out in the morning might be the way to go.
Disadvantages of Morning Workouts
While there certainly are some great advantages to working out in the morning, it does have its disadvantages too.
You Might Find Yourself In a Bit of a Rush
If you choose to work out in the morning before work, school or some other task that requires you to be there on time, you might find that you're slightly limited by your time and are in a bit of a hurry.
You might find that if you accidentally rest too long, or have to wait to use equipment for some reason, you'll quickly run short on time and either have to cut your workout short or sacrifice something else (such as rest periods) to get it done on time.
This is definitely a disadvantage to early morning workouts that will become a limiting factor for some people.
Some people will find it very tough to wake up earlier to fit their workouts in, and the time rush is going affect the quality of their workouts, whatever it is that they're doing.
Generally a Little Bit Weaker
It's also been proven by science that you're generally a little bit weaker or less physically capable than you are in the afternoon/evening.
This study conducted by Dae Yun Seo found that certain strength elements such as peak power output are actually lower in the morning than they are in the afternoon/evening, after we've given our bodies a chance to properly wake up.
This means that in the morning, you're generally not able to perform at your best, no matter the exercise type that you're doing.
You're more likely to feel stiffness across the body and experience some inflexibility that you wouldn't have otherwise faced if you chose to work out in the afternoon/evening.
This may mean that working out in the morning is not the bets option for those who really care deeply about their athletic performance.
Perhaps competitive athletes such as rowers or powerlifters would benefit more from working out in the afternoon, when they're able to produce more peak power and can really express their true physical capabilities.
You Could Increase Chances of Injury
Since you're generally weaker in the mornings and aren't as flexible as you usually are, you could actually end up increasing your risk of injury if you try to train at the same intensity that you have in the past during your afternoon/evening workouts.
Whether your form breaks down on weight that you've comfortably lifted before, or you injure yourself whilst trying to perform an exercise that requires a little bit more flexibility with heavy load, the chances of you injuring yourself will rise a little.
Of course, this doesn't mean that training in the mornings is inherently dangerous. It just means you have to be slightly more careful since you aren't going to be as strong.
You can make smart moderations to your workout and decrease the chances of you injuring yourself during the session.
These moderations would include things like training with slightly lower weights to start with and ensuring that you take your warmup as seriously as possible if you usually don't do so.
As you can see, there are lots of advantages and disadvantages to working out in the morning.
Now let's take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of working out in the afternoon/evening and draw a conclusion as to which one is better!
Advantages of Afternoon/Evening Workouts
You've Had More To Eat
One of the major advantages of working out later in the day is that it allows you to work out feeling more energized and less hungry.
You've had more meals to eat throughout the day, which means you're going to have more food stored in your body and feel more energized during your session.
You won't have to worry about feeling hungry all the time or feeling too fatigued in the gym if you make sure that you have enough to eat beforehand.
Being more energized is going to allow you to train harder and more intensely, and also reach a point of failure or fatigue much less quickly.
Essentially, you'll be able to train for harder AND train for longer. This will definitely lead to better gains and allow you to make progress more quickly.
Generally Less Time Rush
Afternoon and evening workouts are usually done after a long day at work or at school.
This means that aside from having to get home, you've likely got nowhere else that you need to be.
You're not going to be pressed to finish your workout in a set time or keep it to a certain length, and you'll be able to train for as long as possible.
If you're in the gym, this is going to mean that you're able to take longer rest periods in between sets and will be able to lift heavier/build more muscle.
If you're out running, cycling or doing something along those lines, this is going to mean that you're abel to spend more time ensuring that you do a proper warmup and are going to be able to get the best quality workout that you can.
Plus, you won't have to constantly be worrying about the time left for you to work out and can focus your attention solely on your performance and making gains.
Always a great benefit to have if you're not in a hurry to get done with your workout.
You Can Sleep In
An afternoon or evening workout also means that you're not going to have to specifically wake u early to fit your workout into your schedule.
Especially if you schedule your workouts in before work or before school, early morning trainees will often find themselves waking up quite early, often before 6 o'clock and before the sun rises.
While some people might enjoy doing this, this is not a practical nor enjoyable way to start the day for most people. Most people would rather sleep in and enjoy their time to relax before heading into the work day or school day.
If the latter sounds like you, then you're likely going to enjoy working out in the afternoon/evening more since you'll be able to sleep in later and won't have to wake up too early 3, 4, 5 or 6 days a week.
Choosing to work out in the afternoon/evening is also a great way to relieve yourself of the stress you faced during the day, and head into the night feeling calm and relaxed.
Our work lives and time at school can often be pretty stressful.
From people constantly asking for things to constantly facing problems that we have to solve on our own, it's easy for our daily lives to get very stressful very quickly.
And having the ability to spend 1-2 hours at the end of the day to clear your mind off of everything and just focus on working on yourself is a great way to reduce feelings of stress and finish the day of a high note.
Learn more: the top 11 benefits of regular exercise.
To back this up, a study conducted by Emma Childs concluded that: " suggesting that regular exercisers are more resistant to the emotional effects of acute stress, which in turn, may protect them against diseases related to chronic stress burden."
Disadvantages of Afternoon/Evening Workouts
Could Disrupt Your Sleep
One major disadvantage of working out in the evening is the fact that intensely exercising right before going to bed can actually negatively impact your ability to fall asleep.
This is backed by a study conducted by Jan Stutz, which concluded that: "However, sleep-onset latency, total sleep time, and SE might be impaired after vigorous exercise ending
≤ 1 h before bedtime."
Like the study suggests, this generally only applies to very intense exercise such as heavy weightlifting, HIIT cardio, CrossFit and so on.
In fact, light exercising such as yoga could actually help you fall asleep better if you do it correctly and don't overdo it.
Could be Harder to Commit To
Finding the will to head into the gym and work out after a long day at work or school can often be pretty tough for most people.
And for that reason, it could actually be tougher to stay committed to a workout program where you train in the afternoon/evening when compared to a workout program that has you training in the morning.
Tasks and problems do often pile up towards the end of the day, and it's just not practical for some people to try and fit a 1-2 hour workout into their schedule when they've already got so much else going on.
If this sounds like it applies to you then you might want to look to fit your workout in in the mornings instead of cramming them into your schedule after work.
Like morning workouts, afternoon and evening workouts also do have their strengths and drawbacks.
Now Which Is Better?
Like we mentioned above, the best time to work out for you is going to be the one that you can stick to and the one that you actually enjoy doing the most.
There's no point trying to stick to a workout program or workout schedule if you don't enjoy doing it. You simply won't be able to stay committed.
So if you prefer morning workouts, choose to work out then.
If you find that you prefer to work out in the afternoon/evening and hate getting up early, then work out later during the day.
You shouldn't really sacrifice your enjoyment and ability to stay consistent just to train a little bit more optimally.
With that being said, I know many of you want to know which one is actually better.
And we'll have to say that working out in the afternoon/evening is going to be the best overall choice.
Mostly because it allows you to train closer to your peak performance, and doesn't require you to wake up extremely early (which most people on this planet hate doing).
For example, I know people that choose to wake up 11 AM or even noon on the days that they don't have work, and getting up early (any time before 7 AM) feels like a workout in itself for those people.
The chances of them being able to stick to a morning workout schedule several days a week are very, very low.
And again, being able to train at your peak performance is going to allow you to build more strength, more muscle and make progress towards your goals quicker.
Your body needs a challenge in order to grow and come back bigger and better.
By choosing to do your workouts in the afternoon/evening, you're able to train more intensely and can give your body more of a reason to grow and improve.
That's not to say that you can't make gains if you work out in the morning, it just means that you might see better overall growth and gains over time if you were to schedule your workouts in the afternoon/evening.
So How Do I Pick the Right Time To Work Out?
Choosing the right time to work out doesn't have to be that complicated.
If you already know which one you enjoy doing more, and you hate the other one, then you should already have a pretty good idea of what your workout schedule should look like.
However if you don't already know, then you're going to have to do some experimenting and try to find what works for you.
For example, if you run on a daily schedule where you go to work and then are busy all the way until dinner time, it might make sense to try and get up a little earlier to fit your workout in before work/school or whatever else you're committed to.
However if you're the type of person who has to start work pretty early on during the day such as supermarket workers who might start at 6 AM, then you'll likely benefit more from working out in the afternoon/evening after work and relieving some of the stress you faced during the day.
It's all about experimenting and looking at what your own needs are. What works for your friend might not work for you, and vice versa.
Ultimately, make sure that you pick a time to exercise that you actually enjoy doing. I can't stress this enough.
You have to be able to stay committed to your schedule and enjoy the process. Otherwise it might not even be worth all this time and effort in the end.
There are many advantages and disadvantages to working out either in the morning or in the afternoon/evening.
What's important is that you weigh everything, and really take the time to pick out the best time for you to be exercising and working out.
I hope you enjoyed reading through this post and have found it helpful!
If you did remember to share it with your friends so that we can reach more people, and help more achieve their goals in fitness!
If you would like some help will picking your ideal workout time, let us know via our contact us page and we'll see how we can help you out!
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