Can’t find the motivation to work out in the morning? You may feel intrigued by those early bird friends who set their alarms and work out at 5 am. While early morning sessions may work out for some, it doesn’t necessarily mean you must do the same. In fact, you can hit the gym late at night. Many people often believe in morning workouts. The idea of picking up weights at night just doesn’t resonate with many. It may seem counterintuitive, but working out at night reaps many benefits. Let’s explore the science and look in depth at late-night workout sessions and whether or not you should work out at night.
What Are The Benefits Of Working Out At Night?
Before exploring the various benefits, it is important to clear people’s doubts regarding night workouts.
Earlier, experts advised against working out in the evenings. However, a new study has revealed that individuals who exercise in the evenings and no less than an hour before bedtime found it much easier to fall asleep (1).
Besides this, the following benefits of working out at night are offered when you hit the gym later in the day. The best part is that you have the entire gym to yourself since it is much less crowded. That means, you won’t have to worry about people smirking at you when you make those awkward noises!
Increased Muscle Strength
If you aim to get big gains, you must trade your morning strength-training workouts with night sessions. Science suggests that our muscles have their own circadian rhythms, i.e., muscle strength is pretty high during the evenings. Between 4 – 6 pm, our muscle performance is at its peak.
The hectic day at work and busy routines deplete our energy and burn us out. Working out at night relieves all that stress. In addition, exercise in general causes our bodies to produce endorphins, the feel-happy hormones that instantly improve our mood and will make us go to bed happy and healthy.
Read More: Why Am I Working Out But Gaining Weight?
Since many people opt for morning workouts, the gym is overly crowded during that time of the day. This often may prevent you from focusing and using the required equipment. On the contrary, you can utilize every piece of equipment at night without waiting for your turn. Plus, you may easily concentrate on your workouts and make the most out of them without any distractions.
Improved Sleep Quality
You might be wondering how a pumping session at the gym could make you sleep. Well, you can do that and still get good sleep as long as you work out at least an hour before bedtime.
In fact, doing moderate activity like walking or cycling a few hours before bed improves slow-wave sleep, aka deep sleep. It is vital that you must avoid intense workouts before bedtime as that may disrupt your sleep (7).
Just like many people advise against working out at night, eating after working out at night is also not considered healthy by many. On the contrary, it is proven that consuming small, nutrient-dense meals does not lead to weight gain (8). Further, consuming casein supplements, a milk protein, before bed may help enhance exercise performance. So go ahead and pop a tablet the next time you work out before bed and to get the magical results early.
Working out at night also helps your goal of losing weight by offering satiety. A study reveals that doing HIIT in the evenings reduces the production of hunger-stimulating hormone ghrelin. Exercising at night will prevent cravings and binge eating, which will help you reach your weight loss goal (3).
Good For Your Heart
Night workouts may also benefit your heart, as resistance training reduces glucose and fat levels in the blood. Make a habit of doing rigorous training after having dinner to boost your cardiovascular health.
Have you wondered why you might work out better at night? Study reveals that we get better workouts in the evenings than mornings as our energy levels increase up to 20% more than in the day (4).
Working out late at night makes you ready for the next day. Busting all that stress and getting a good night’s sleep can help you feel refreshed, energized, and prepared to tackle the day. With that in mind, the next time you plan your workouts, choose the best hour to hit the gym!
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Is Working Out At Night Bad?
This is the question that perplexes many. Working out at night before bed isn’t bad as long as you avoid strenuous activity.
If you indulge in an intense, sweaty HIIT workout before bedtime, you will have difficulty falling asleep. This usually happens because intense activity stimulates the production of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline that do cause sleep problems.
But, if you do a mild activity like walking or bike riding one or two hours before bed, that will definitely reap your benefits. Research suggests that individuals who work out no less than 35 minutes before bedtime do not experience any change in their sleeping habits than when they were not working out (9).
If you are up for night workouts, then consider doing the following:
Yoga works wonders for our physical and mental well-being. Certain yoga techniques, like restorative yoga, calms your body and improves your sleep quality by stimulating your parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for shutting off your body’s fight or flight response and relaxing it (5).
Walking is particularly good for your health. In addition to relieving stress, walking helps you sleep better. So the next time you consume dinner, go out for a promenade.
What To Eat After Working Out At Night?
Many people avoid eating before bed due to indigestion and the inability to fall asleep. If you are a night owl who likes working out late, you must grab a meal before you snooze.
The science behind this is that our muscles work nonstop during exercise and utilize glycogen as energy. Since muscles are made up of protein, it is also damaged in the process (6). After a workout, our body tends to regenerate and repair muscles.
For that, it needs sufficient protein and carbohydrates. Incorporating proteins and carbs in your diet enhances the repair process. The type of nutrients to include in your diet also depends on the kinds of exercises you are doing. You will probably need more carbohydrates if you are doing cardio, such as cycling or swimming. You can also add healthy fats to help muscle regeneration and immunity.
Some people think skipping meals will help them lose weight more. This is not always true. Skipping a meal once or twice is okay, but if you deliberately avoid meals after every session, you do more harm than good for your body.
If that is the case, you can do intermittent fasting and work out at night to balance your appetite. Our bodies need energy and proteins to reverse muscle damage during workouts. When you skip meals, your body will not get the energy it needs to perform certain functions.
This would mean that before your next workout, you won’t feel the energy and strength you need to lift weights. Also, you will experience fatigue, brain fog, and lethargy. While some people deliberately avoid meals, others don’t feel the need to consume meals, as exercise causes hunger loss in some individuals.
Below are some of the best healthy post-workout meals for working out at night.
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Greek yogurt is high in proteins with minimal fat. Yogurt contains tryptophan, an amino acid responsible for producing melatonin, essential for inducing sleepiness. You can add flaxseed, granola, raspberries, or strawberries to yogurt, as combining carbohydrates with proteins helps fully utilize tryptophan.
Yogurt also contains casein, a protein essential for building and repairing muscle. Also, it is much easier to digest than milk, making it an excellent pre-bedtime and post-workout snack.
Quinoa is the most popular post-workout meal as it contains all nine amino acids. These make it one of the best proteins for your body. It also lowers cortisol and helps you fall asleep better. You can make a quinoa salad by mixing beans and veggies, such as sweet potato for carbs, salmon for protein, and avocado for fats.
Despite being small in size, nuts like almonds are packed with essential nutrients like proteins, fats, and fibers that instantly boost energy. Almonds contain melatonin and magnesium that help you fall asleep.
Magnesium reduces cortisol and combats inflammation. Before hitting the bed, consume a half-quarter of the almonds. You can also include nut butter with celery for added nutrition.
Eggs are the best go-to meal, as you can carry them anywhere. Hard-boiled eggs aid in protein synthesis after a workout. You can make an egg salad by chopping and tossing the eggs with chopped veggies such as kale or zucchini.
You can also make patatas with egg by baking sweet potatoes for added nutrition. Moreover, you can make scrambled eggs with avocados, as they contain potassium, magnesium, and essential vitamins.
Fish is an excellent source of protein. It also contains essential omega fatty acids to make you full. Fish like salmon or tuna contain ample antioxidants and vitamins D and B12. Make a canned or roasted salmon salad paired with baby spinach and sprinkled with olive oil.
Bananas are excellent sources of magnesium and potassium. These two are the essential minerals that evaporate in sweat during workouts. Combine bananas with 100% peanut butter for essential proteins and healthy fats.
Oatmeal is a favorite post-workout snack for many people. And it is so for all the right reasons. Oatmeal is enriched with essential nutrients, including melatonin which helps us sleep better. It also aids in weight loss and lowers blood sugar levels. You can add banana slices and nut butter to oatmeal to get an extra dose of magnesium and protein.
If you are a strength addict, you must consume a protein-based diet. Grab a protein bar high in protein with low carbs, and pair your meals with a protein shake. These and other protein-based meals are perfect for a post-workout snack. Avoid heavy meals like a sugar-based diet, alcohol, and fizzy drinks before bed. Remember to drink enough fluids, as water and electrolytes are lost during the sessions. Drink water and an ionic glass every hour to replenish your fluids.
What Does Working Out At Night Do?
Working out at night helps your body in many ways. That, of course, depends on the duration and intensity of your workout. If you are doing intense exercise right before bedtime, it may mess up your sleep schedule.
On the flip side, doing moderate exercise at least an hour before bed may surprisingly improve your sleep quality. In addition to sleep, night workouts offer:
Increased performance: Many individuals can perform better in the evenings than in the day since their endurance, strength, and flexibility is much higher between 4 and 6 pm. Also, individuals who work out in the evenings or at night take up to 20% longer to reach the point of exhaustion than those who exercise in the mornings.
- Higher body temperature: Our bodies’ temperature rises significantly during evenings, increasing muscle flexibility and, ultimately, our workouts.
- Testosterone production: Testosterone is essential to building muscle in both men and women. Our bodies naturally produce more testosterone in the evening than morning, leading to better muscle strength.
- Busts stress: Since working out releases endorphins, you will go to bed feeling relieved and happy. That may also help you get a good night’s sleep.
Why Working Out At Night Is Better?
Not everyone can wake up at 5 am, and that is okay. Many people struggle to stick to their New Year’s resolutions. The important thing is to find a time that works for you and allows you to make progress.
Busy work schedules often prevent people from exercising during the day. For those individuals, working out at night can be a game-changer. Despite the traditional belief, it provides a distraction-free environment and is just as effective as morning workouts.
Evening workouts also have their advantages. Exercise benefits our bodies and helps us break unhealthy habits like excessive TV watching or phone use. Replacing these sedentary activities with exercise makes us feel more energized and physically fit.
The Bottom Line
Working out at night has been proven beneficial by science. Night workouts may lead to better physical performance, flexibility, weight loss, and sleep. The key is to do light to moderate activity at least an hour before bedtime. Avoiding strenuous activities before bedtime is particularly good for health. It is vital to note that not everybody can manage late-day workouts. The idea is to exercise whenever you can regularly. You will witness the results as long as you are working out and eating right.
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!
- Circadian Rhythms in Exercise Performance: Implications for Hormonal and Muscular Adaptation (2011, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Time of Day and Muscle Strength: A Circadian Output? (2020, journals.physiology.org)
- Evening exercise will not ruin sleep and might even reduce appetite (2019, sciencedaily.com)
- Morning and evening exercise (2013, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- The effect of yoga on sleep quality and insomnia in women with sleep problems: a systematic review and meta-analysis (2020, bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com)
- Post-Workout Nutrition: What to Eat After a Workout (2023, healthline.com)
- Exercise and Sleep (2023, sleepfoundation.org)
- Food and Diet (n.d., hsph.harvard.edu)
- What’s the Best Time of Day to Exercise for Sleep? (2023, sleepfoundation.org)