Should I Exercise in the Morning or in the Evening?

We Investigated the Science

For years, the early morning exercisers have been outnumbered by the late-night workout owls. 

Should we all rise with the sun — like Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson, who works out at 4.30 a.m. — and power through a workout before the rest of the world? Is it better to reboot your mind and body in the evening with a HIIT sweat session  after a long day at work?

When you consider that sports records are almost always broken after the sun goes down, the truth becomes more difficult to find, as both early birds and night owls clock in significant advantages.

Let's begin with a cliche: the best workout is the one you do. The mundane practicalities of your day-to-day are more important than any science or subjective opinion on when you should train. When are you going to exercise? When are you going to enjoy it? When do you feel the most energised after working out?

The key, as always, is balance: train and eat in ways that make you happy, whether that's a 7 a.m. HIIT session fuelled by an espresso or a 7 p.m. weights workout fuelled by cake. Still unsure? Let us begin the long battle between the early birds and the night owls.

The Advantages of Morning Exercise

The Advantages of Morning Exercise

The early bird gets the worm, but what are the advantages when he also goes to the gym before work?

HIIT and strength training first thing in the morning, for example, will force your body to use stored fat rather than the food you just ate. According to research, the 'afterburn' from a morning workout may last longer. An Appalachian State University study found that those who exercise at 7 a.m. power down faster at night – and produce more human growth hormone – than evening trainers.

Morning Cardio. Morning is an excellent time to devote to working up a good cardio sweat. If you put it off until later in the day, life will almost certainly intervene – but committing to a run first thing in the morning means you're more likely to do it. Morning exercise may also improve concentration and alertness, allowing you to have a more productive day.

Tension in the joints and muscles? A stretching and lengthening session is an excellent way to increase flexibility. If HIIT and strength training first thing in the morning isn't your thing, a morning yoga session is a great way to wake up your mind and body while also soothing your nervous system.

When you combine that with a separate study that shows you'll eat 100 calories less throughout the day if you get up early, the morning doesn't seem so bad. Combine a morning workout with this sleep hack that can reduce daily calories by up to 500 per day and you’ve built a powerful fat loss engine. Take it one step further by adding intermittent fasting to this stack and you will have built the equivalent of a fat burning fusion reactor.

It's no surprise that 27% of the UK population describes themselves as "definite morning types." However, doing so comes at a cost: cortisol, the muscle-eating hormone, rises by 75% in the morning but returns to normal at night.

The Advantages of Evening Exercise

The Advantages of Evening Exercise

If you're not quite ready to join the 5 a.m. club, don't worry; working out in the afternoon or evening is also beneficial if done correctly.

Later in the day, energy and performance tend to improve – most people have higher levels of power and endurance as the day progresses. Great news for cardio enthusiasts: research shows that people who exercise in the evening take up to 20% longer to reach exhaustion, allowing you to run, ride, or swim for longer.

Flexibility improves throughout the day as you warm up - literally. Later in the day, your core temperature rises, allowing you to get back into your routine faster and with less creakiness. This is also an excellent opportunity to stretch. An evening yoga class will allow you to dive deeper into poses and stretches. 

Flexibility improves throughout the day as you warm up - literally. Later in the day, your core temperature rises, allowing you to get back into your routine faster and with less creakiness. This is also an excellent opportunity to stretch. An evening yoga class will allow you to dive deeper into poses and stretches.

Cons of Evening Exercise

Cons of evening exercise

Because we are all built differently, whether or not evening exercise is beneficial varies from person to person.

Some people believe that exercising in the evening can interfere with their sleep. While this is not true for everyone, some people find themselves annoyingly energised or jittery after exercise, making sleep difficult. This is especially true for anything very intense, such as an HIIT session. If this is the case, it is worthwhile to try something less strenuous. But keep in mind that sleep is also required for muscle gain and fat loss, so don't overdo it.

Exercise in the morning, on the other hand, has been shown to help people sleep better. That said, consistency is essential for rewiring your circadian rhythm to an earlier start.

Cons of Morning Exercises

Cons of Morning Exercises

While morning exercise has numerous physical benefits, it is not suitable for everyone's schedule. Sleep is critical for the mind and body; if the only way to fit in a morning workout is to sacrifice sleep, the negatives may quickly outweigh the benefits.

An evening workout can also help you unwind from the day and sleep better – and is better for you than a NetFlix binge session that you might otherwise be tempted by.

What Food Should I Eat?

Where does your nutrition fit into the picture? According to the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, eating a large breakfast will help you burn extra calories throughout the day by revving up your metabolism. According to the Journal of Nutrition, your post-workout protein intake is better absorbed in the evening. Making time to prepare a proper dinner will help you achieve your goals. Choose what works best for you. 

Your strength levels can fluctuate according to your schedule, as anyone who has struggled through a bleary-eyed workout will attest. And scientists have discovered why they feel so different — for example, according to the University of North Texas, your muscles gradually become more flexible throughout the day, and your anaerobic capacity (essential for lifting weights or resistance training with a band) is approximately 7% higher later in the day. On the other hand, a British Journal of Nutrition study discovered that HIIT done at the crack of dawn could burn 20% more fat.

Of course, it isn't just about your muscles and body fat. Sleep is an important component of your workout routine. According to a study conducted by Appalachian State University, those who train at 7 a.m. power down faster at night – and produce more human growth hormone – than evening trainers. Evening gym time, on the other hand, raises body heat like a warm bath and promotes sound slumber, according to the same study.

Who Wins: Morning or Evening?

Morning workouts are best!
Unfortunately, between the exercise early bird and the workout night owl, there can only be one victor. Early risers can put an end to the debate because they have the most optimal fat-burning and cognitive outcomes. Strength training sessions are welcome afternoon treats, but they come too late – especially since science shows that workout night owls don’t sleep as well as early exercise risers. Pay attention to the rooster's call and exercise in the morning!

Looking for a full body workout that you can do in the morning in just 12 minutes? Try this free workout from our Beginner Bootcamp seres. 

Best,

Freddy

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