Some people swear by a 6 a.m. jog to get their hearts racing and get them psyched up for the day. Others wouldn’t even think twice about considering breaking a sweat before noon, preferring to do their workouts later in the day and in the evening. Exercising in the morning is a great way to get your body moving and ready for the day ahead but also has its downside where you may feel more fatigued as the day progresses. The question is – When is the best time to work out?
The truth is that there’s no reliable evidence to suggest that calories are burned more efficiently at certain times of the day. But the time of day can influence how you feel when exercising. This article examines the pros and cons of exercising at various times throughout the day in order to help you decide the best time to workout and better plan your workouts to ensure you burn the maximum number of calories or kilojoules and in doing so move you closer to achieving your weight loss goal and becoming a happier, healthier you.
If Your Primary Goal Is Weight Loss: Work Out in the Morning
The research suggests that exercising in the morning can help with weight loss in two ways.
First, a few studies have shown that exercising in the morning before breakfast (i.e., on an empty stomach) can increase fat loss compared to exercising later in the day.
In addition to helping you burn more fat when you exercise, research suggests that working out in the morning can help you control your appetite throughout the day. If you burn more calories through exercise and eat fewer calories from food, you’ll unsurprisingly lose weight.
If Your Primary Goal Is Performance: Work Out in the Afternoon/Early Evening
If your goal is to get bigger, stronger, and faster, then according to the research, you should schedule your workouts for the afternoon or early evening. Here’s why:
Increased body temperature improves performance. Your body temperature increases throughout the day and peaks between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. Elevated body temperature enhances performance in a variety of ways.
A warmer body is a more supple body. Muscles and tendons are looser. You just feel less stiff working out in the afternoon compared to the morning.
Increased body temperature also helps glucose metabolism. When you’re lifting weights or running a 5K at a brisk pace, glucose is your primary fuel source. The more efficiently your body can metabolize glucose, the more energy you have to push through a tough workout.
Increased body temperature is also associated with faster nerve transmission, which helps with explosive movements like weightlifting and sprinting. For example, a few studies have shown that power output in cyclists peaks around 6 p.m.
Increased muscle mass. Studies have shown that individuals who train later in the day put on more muscle mass than those who work out in the morning. One theory as to why is that your body has less cortisol in its system later in the day compared to in the morning. Cortisol is catabolic, meaning it breaks down muscle tissue. The less cortisol you have in your system after a training session, the less your muscle will break down, leaving you with more muscle mass. Again, this is a theory. Further research needs to be done.
Will Working Out Late in the Day Mess Up My Sleep?
Experts have long suggested that working out closer than four hours or so before bedtime could disrupt your sleep because exercise elevates body temperature, raises the heart rate, and stimulates the nervous system. But a 2018 meta-analysis of studies on the subject showed that exercising up to an hour before bed does not affect sleep quality.
You’ll have to experiment with this one to see how exercising close to your bedtime affects your slumber.