It’s an age-old question, yet one many of us ask ourselves every day: should I work out in the morning or evening? With so much conflicting information out there, we caught up with the fitness experts to set the record straight and finally discover the best time of day to exercise…
Before we get started, it’s important to note that there is no strict right or wrong when it comes to fitness. At the end of the day, you should exercise when you want to, and when it feels best for your body. Alongside listening to our bodies, the time we choose to exercise is also often dictated by our busy schedules. Many of us are forced to weave short bursts of exercise in wherever we can – often between shifts at work, manic school runs and endless household chores.
All of this is simply to say: don’t put further pressure on yourself to exercise at a certain time of day if it doesn’t work for you, your body or your life. Rather than a hard-and-fast-rulebook, use the expert advice in this article to gently guide you as you plan out your weekly workout schedule.
So, whether you’re wondering if you should work out in the morning or evening, or you’re clueless when it comes to the impact of exercise on your sleeping habits, read on for all the answers you need…
Meet the experts:
- Morning routine ideas to start your day right
- Wake up and go: 8-minute morning workout plan
- How to make treadmill running less boring
What is the best time of the day to exercise?
According to our experts, the morning is usually the best time of day to exercise. As Sarah explains: ‘Getting a workout done first thing in the morning is often the best option – you’ll have less excuses, feel less sluggish and be more energised. You’ll also have less water on board. Plus, a morning workout gives you energy for the day ahead, kickstarts your metabolism and boosts your performance.’
However, this certainly isn’t a one-size-fits-all rule. As Aysha adds: ‘The best time of day to exercise really depends on what you are trying to achieve. For example, someone wanting to lose weight or burn fat would benefit from a morning workout, especially on an empty stomach. Early morning exercise will also benefit you mentally, as it promotes alertness and gets our endorphins going. Plus, a productive start to the day will leave you with a positive mindset.’
On the other hand, if you often find yourself experiencing an afternoon slump, then an afternoon workout could be in the cards for you. ‘Afternoon workouts are an amazing way to boost energy levels and refocus the brain – even a walk can have these benefits,’ Aysha explains.
Is it better to work out in the morning or evening to gain muscle?
If you want to gain muscle, it’s usually better to exercise in the evening. Why? ‘An evening workout is the most effective way to gain muscle, because the body tends to be weaker in the morning and increases its strength throughout the day,’ Aysha explains. ‘So, if building lean muscle is the aim, early evening is the best time to work out.’
Sarah agrees: ‘There are definitely benefits to working out in the evening to gain muscle, as your muscles gradually strengthen throughout the day and tend to peak in strength during the early evening. However, a morning workout can sometimes be better for strength training, as you will be a lot more energised and less tired.’
Whatever your goals, it’s important to listen to your body. As Sarah explains: ‘We all have our own goals and body types, so it’s advised to seek professional advice and find what works best for you.’
Is it better to work out in the morning or evening for weight loss?
If you’re hoping to burn excess fat and reach a healthier weight for your body type, our experts recommend working out in the morning. ‘This is because your cortisol and growth hormone levels are elevated in the morning, both of which are related to our metabolism,’ Aysha explains. ‘When working out in the morning, you’re more likely to draw your energy from your fat reserves, thus helping you to burn fat and lose excess weight.’
The benefits don’t end there. ‘Research suggests that women burn more fat when exercising in the mornings as they feel more energised, their performance is increased, and they will experience improved blood pressure – all of which contribute to healthy weight loss. Plus, after getting active in the morning, we are more likely to make healthier nutrition choices throughout the day,’ Sarah adds.
What is the best time of day to exercise for improved sleep?
If you want to sleep better, you might think going for a run before bed will help. However, it could actually do the opposite. ‘Exercise releases endorphins and boosts your energy levels, which will make you feel more awake. So, if you were to train in the evenings, you would feel more awake when you want to be winding down,’ Sarah explains. ‘Morning is the best time of day to exercise for improved sleep. As well as helping you fall asleep faster, it can also improve the quality of your sleep too.’
But what sort of exercises should you be doing in the morning to promote better sleep? And is evening exercise completely off the cards? ‘High intensity exercises or a strong yoga practice should be kept for morning workouts – think power yoga, running, dynamic vinyasa, hot yoga or weightlifting,’ Aysha explains. ‘When it comes to evening workouts, stick to lower intensity exercises and yoga flows to help your body wind down and promote peaceful sleep.’
How soon after waking up should I work out?
So, according to our experts, it seems like the morning is the best time of day to work out – generally speaking. But does this mean you should be jumping straight out of bed and into your activewear? Our experts think not. ‘It is advised to give yourself 30-60 minutes of awake time before exercising,’ Sarah tells us.
When it comes to the exact time of day you start your workout, it’s important to listen to your body, as Aysha demonstrates: ‘I personally practice yoga an hour after I have woken up – this totally sets me up for the day. Some say exercising 30 minutes after waking is okay, while others say it is best to wait a little longer.’
If you do want to start working out in the morning, it’s crucial to bear in mind how dehydrated we can become during the night. ‘The most important advice around starting an early morning workout routine is to make sure you drink plenty of water. Aim for between one pint to one litre when you wake up. Replacing the liquids you lose in the night – before you start to lose more through exercise – is vital,’ Aysha warns.
So, should I work out in the morning or evening?
In general, working out in the morning, around 30-60 minutes after waking up, is the optimal time of day to exercise, according to our experts. However, it’s important to listen to your body and think about your personal fitness goals when scheduling in your weekly workouts.
For example, morning workouts are especially effective for healthy weight loss, while evening workouts are better for muscle gain, as our muscles become stronger throughout the day. On the other hand, an afternoon workout might suit you best if you find your energy slumping around 3pm. Try working out at different times throughout the day and see what works best for you!