Whether you are new to exercising or are a gym rat you’ve probably come across the age-old debate on which is better: morning or evening workouts. Should you be waking up before the sun rises to get in your workout for the day or are you better off waiting and doing your workout at the end of day after all your work and other responsibilities are done? In today’s article we are going to try and tackle the morning vs evening workout debate as we discover the answer to when is the best time to workout for weight gain and weight loss.
Why Should I Work Out?
Before even trying to figure out the best time to do your workout, why would anyone bother working out in the first place? Many people in the fitness, health and medical field often advise people to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, but many of us disregard this word of advice.
Here are some reasons why you should reconsider not doing daily exercise and start working out:
- It helps with weight loss – If you look in the mirror and are not happy with how much weight you’ve gained, try working out. This helps you burn more calories which leads to weight loss. Combine this with eating at a calorie deficit and the results will be astounding.
- It can help with weight gain – Exercising is mostly known for weight loss but it also works for weight gain too. Working out helps you gain weight by adding on to your lean muscle mass. Unlike with weight loss, you will need to eat at a calorie surplus.
- Reduces the risk of chronic illnesses – Exercising often can help lower the risk of illness or manage it. For example: heart disease, obesity, depression, cancer, type 2 diabetes, anxiety, and many more (5, 14, 12).
- Improves your mood and boost energy levels through the release of endorphins which are known to help relieve pain, reduce stress and improve a general sense of well being (16, 6).
- Helps you sleep better (15, 11).
What Is The Best Time To Workout?
Before we debate on the benefits and disadvantages of either morning or evening workouts, it is best for us to let you know that the absolute best time to workout is whenever is most convenient for you.
As you know, we all do not have the same schedules or responsibilities throughout the day and thus picking a blanket answer for when to workout is not very fair. For example:
- People who work late night shifts may find it hard to workout in the mornings because that is when they get to go to sleep. For these people, evening workouts, before they head on to work would be best for them
- Stay at home parents are often far busier than many of us realize or give them credit for. For such parents, the best time to workout would be whenever they get a free moment from their children. This could be early before the children wake up, late at night after they put the kids to bed, or the random hour during the day when they get a free moment.
- Office workers – The morning commute for many of them can be quite stressful if they want to get to work on time. For them, working out in the evening or during the lunch hour might be preferable.
- Gym trainers/anyone who works at a gym – They have the freedom to workout whenever they choose.
The simple message that we are trying to get across here is that actually doing your workout is much more important than trying to figure out whether doing exercise in the morning or night is better. If you’ve got the time, just do it regardless of time of day.
Morning Or Evening Workouts Which Is Better?
Now, say you have a more flexible schedule that allows either a morning or evening workout, which one should you choose? Let us look at the pros and cons of working out in the morning or later in the day.
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The Benefits Of Morning Workouts
Here are some reasons why working out in the morning might be a better option for you:
It’s Easier To Be Consistent
This is in accordance with a study published in the Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews journal in 2021. In the study, researchers stated that because people typically do not have either social or work related events planned for the morning hours, it’s easier to workout at this time as you have fewer distractions to hinder you (2).
Aside from this, altering a morning routine to include a quick 30 minute workout is much easier than altering an evening routine that could be interrupted by any random thing that might happen during the day. It’s easier to just get up and get the workout out of the way before settling into your usual routines.
Can Improve Your Productivity During The Day
If you’ve been feeling sluggish during the day, it might be time that you considered switching to an early morning workout. Exercise is said to stimulate the development of new mitochondria cells which equals more ATP production. With more ATP comes increased energy levels, not only for your body but also for the brain, which will boost your productivity (and even creativity) throughout the day (7). Studies have also shown that people who workout at work, or simply move more while at work tend to be more productive (8, 10).
Can Boost Your Mood – And Help You Kick Your Caffeine Habit
Unless you are among the select few morning people who always seem to be happy and preppy in the morning, early mornings (or just mornings in general) may be a way to boost your mood. Many people tend to rely on a cup of coffee or two to help wake them up and boost their mood.
As seen above, exercise is a natural mood booster and sweating that early in the morning is a great way to wake up. When you are more awake in the morning and feeling pumped to take on the day, you are also less likely to drink as much caffeine. Remember that too much caffeine is not good for you as it can cause insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, nausea, increased heart rate, headache, anxiety, and chest pain (1).
Can Help You Sleep Better
Some studies suggest that working out in the morning can actually help you sleep much better and deeper at night. They claim that not only do morning workouts shift your circadian rhythm – making you more alert in the morning and sleepier in the evening – but they also somehow boost deeper sleep (4, 9).
Read More: Benefits Of Tabata Workout
The Cons Of Morning Workouts
Some cons of choosing to workout early in the morning include:
- Interrupted sleep – You have to wake up earlier than usual to make sure that you don’t mess up the rest of the day by being late. Interrupted sleep will not only make you sleepy later in the day – especially in the evening – but it might also interfere with your already established sleep cycle.
- Increased risk of injury – As previously mentioned, not everyone is a morning person. To add on to that, waking up super early, especially when you are not used to it, means that you will be doing the first bit of your workout while groggy and sleepy. All these factors increase your risk of injuring yourself, especially if you are using free weights or machines.
- Your performance will be lower than usual – Going to the gym at 4,5 or even 6 am means that you did not get to eat first. While some people advocate doing fasted workouts, being low on fuel usually means that you do not have enough energy to go as hard, run as fast, or lift as heavy as you’d like. That aside, most people’s energy levels are quite low in the morning which leads to low performance/enthusiasm at the gym.
- You need more time to warm up – Not only is your core temperature lower in the morning, but your heart rate is also slower. You will need to warm up longer to get these two things to where they’d normally be if you worked out later in the day.
The Benefits Of Evening Workouts
If morning workouts don’t sound like your thing, here are reasons why you might choose afternoon/evening workouts instead:
- You get to sleep in – Which is perfect for anyone who hates early mornings. You also do not have to change or rush through your morning routine.
- Better gym performance – According to a review published in 2018, people have more endurance, muscle strength, flexibility and are able to output more power later in the day than super early in the morning (3). An early study published in 2013, compared morning and evening workouts and found that people who workout later in the day take about 20 percent longer to reach exhaustion (13). So for anyone looking to improve their athletic performance, evening workouts seem to be the better option.
- Warm-ups take a shorter time – Unlike the morning where your core temperature and heart rate are lower, it is warmer and faster later in the day meaning your warmups take a much shorter time allowing you to jump into your workout faster.
- It’s a great way to relieve stress – Had a bad day at work? Go to the gym and workout all those bad feelings away. Working out is also a meditative process that can help you solve things that have been bugging you all day. Plus the endorphins released will help you feel relaxed.
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The Cons Of Evening Workouts
As much as evening workouts seem like the best idea, they come with some drawbacks too.
- May interfere with sleep – As seen above, one of the benefits of working out is a rush of hormones that tend to give you a better mood and make you more productive. While this may be a good thing in the morning, it’s not necessarily a good thing at night, unless you have to work overnight. If you want to workout in the evening, especially super close to bed time, it’s advisable to do gentle exercises instead of something as intensive as HIIT as the latter will help soothe you to sleep (3).
- It’s harder to be consistent – It’s very easy to get distracted from your goals in the evening due to inconveniences at work, home, or simply being too tired. This will affect your consistency which makes it harder for you to reach your goals.
The Bottom Line: Are Morning Or Evening Workouts Better?
At the end of the day, the debate on morning or evening workouts all comes down to personal preferences. As seen above, both times have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages. Instead of going with the flow with what everyone else is doing (or says), choose a time that works best for you. A time that you know you will be consistent with – whether that is at the crack of dawn, mid morning, after work, or right before bed – your comfort is what matters.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Coffee (n.d., hsph.harvard.edu)
- Consistent Morning Exercise May Be Beneficial For Individuals with Obesity (2021, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Effects of Evening Exercise on Sleep in Healthy Participants: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (2018, link.springer.com)
- Effects of resistance exercise timing on sleep architecture and nocturnal blood pressure (2015, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Exercise as a treatment for depression: A meta-analysis adjusting for publication bias (2016, sciencedirect.com)
- Exercise for Mental Health (2006, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Exercise Increases Productivity (2012, brookings.edu)
- Exercising at work and self‐reported work performance (2008, emerald.com)
- Human circadian phase–response curves for exercise (2019, physoc.onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- Impact of a workplace ‘sit less, move more’ program on efficiency-related outcomes of office employees (2017, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Interrelationship between Sleep and Exercise: A Systematic Review (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Lack of exercise is a major cause of chronic diseases (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Morning-evening differences in response to exhaustive severe-intensity exercise (2013, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The association between physical activity and chronic diseases in European adults (2018, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The bidirectional relationship between exercise and sleep: Implications for exercise adherence and sleep improvement (2014, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Understanding Endorphins and Their Importance in Pain Management (2010, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)