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What Time of Day Should You Be Working Out?

When do you work out? In the morning, afternoon, or evening? Each time of day comes with its unique set of benefits and drawbacks.

If you’re looking to burn more calories, a morning workout is probably for you. But if you’re looking to increase your endurance and build muscles, you’re better off hitting the gym in the evening. Keep reading to learn more about the benefits of working out at different times throughout the day!

Benefits of working out in the morning:

You’ll get it done early:

One of the biggest benefits of an easy morning workout is that once you get it done, you’re done for the rest of the day. You won’t be weighed down by other responsibilities that come up later in the day or too tired from the stress of the day.

Further, waking up early and pounding out that workout allows you to plan the rest of your daily routine around your workout, which will lead to a better consistency.

Its easier to work out fasted:

If you hit the gym first thing in the morning, before you’ve had your breakfast, you’ll be able to tap into all the added benefits of working out while fasted. Working out while fasted offers many benefits, such as:

  • Increased endurance

  • Greater-fat burning potential

  • Increased growth hormone

  • Improved insulin sensitivity

  • Weight loss

  • Gentle on the GI system

Just be sure to follow your fasted workout with a combination of protein and carbohydrates within an hour after completing the exercise. Following this routine will help to promote muscle growth.

You’ll burn more calories:

Another benefit to working out in the morning is that you’ll have the potential to burn more calories. A 2015 study found that 24-hour fat burn is maximized when people exercised in the morning when compared to those who worked out in the afternoon or evening. This effect is especially amplified if you work out before breakfast.

This maximized fat burning will also result in a great amount of fat loss as well.

It will increase activity throughout the day:

Studies have found that working out first thing in the morning can help to promote physical activity throughout the rest of the day. A 2012 study by Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise demonstrated that people tend to exert more energy throughout the day when they work out in the morning.

It will help you increase your productivity:

When you work out in the morning, you’ll feel the mental benefits of exercise all day! This includes a sense of accomplishment, rejuvenation, and feeling recharged. These mental benefits will help you be more productive throughout the day.

One study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that fitting in a morning workout can help improve attention, visual learning, and decision-making throughout the day.

You’ll sleep better that night:

Researchers agree that when you work out in the morning, you’ll be able to get higher quality sleep that night. A 2019 study from the Journal of Physiology demonstrated that working out at 7:00 a.m. can shift your body clock earlier, improving your alertness in the morning and allowing you to more easily fall asleep in the evening.

If you sleep better at night, this will allow you to get a good night’s sleep and recharge for the next day to continue your healthy habits.

Benefits of working out in the afternoon:

Midday stress relief:

Working out in the middle of the day is a great way to relieve the stress of the first half of the day. If you can squeeze in a workout on your lunch break, you’ll return to work destressed and ready for the last half of your day. A mid-day workout will help you finish out your day feeling invigorated and refreshed.

Get an energy boost for the rest of your day:

One study found that working out between the hours of 1-4 p.m. will help you stay energized and improve your focus throughout the rest of your workday. One of the researchers involved in the study said that a midday workout is better than a cup of coffee!

Even a quick midday walk has been found to help keep you concentrated and motivated for the rest of your day. Researchers think this is because working out between 1-4 p.m. will help to push back forward your body clock, keeping your energy levels high.

Best for people that are at high risk for or have Type 2 diabetes:

One study found that for people at high risk for Type 2 diabetes, working out in the afternoon is better for their metabolic health than working out in the morning. The researchers compared two groups of men at high risk for Type 2 diabetes, one group worked out in the morning while the second group completed their exercises in the afternoon.

After 12 weeks, the group that worked out in the afternoon experienced:

  • Improved insulin sensitivity

  • Greater ability to control blood sugar

  • Greater fat-burning potential

  • More weight loss

The researchers speculate that these benefits were due to moderate afternoon exercise positively impacting the participant’s metabolism. An afternoon workout enabled the participants to metabolize their dinners more quickly, leaving them in a fasted state overnight. Entering sleep with an empty stomach can help to better synchronize your circadian rhythm and fine-tooth your health.

Benefits of working out in the evenings:

You’ll be at peak physical ability:

An evening workout is a great way to ensure you’re workout at your peak physical performance. This will allow you to really push yourself and test your limits. This is because throughout the day, our body temperature increases and peaks in the late afternoon.

When your body temperature is peaked, so is your muscular strength and cardiovascular endurance. This will also mean your power and speed are at their highest.

You’ll build more muscle:

One study from the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that when trainers work out in the evening, they experience greater gains in muscle size. The researchers compared two groups of men who trained between either 7-9 a.m. or 5-7 p.m for 10 weeks. They found that the group that worked out in the evening gained an average of 3.5% more size and strength than the morning group.

Less chance of injury:

An evening workout, when your body is warm and core body temperature is at its highest also means there is a lower chance of injuring yourself while working out. This is because, at the end of the day, your muscles and joints are up to 20% more flexible at the end of the day.

This added flexibility in your joints and muscles makes you much less at risk of injuring yourself during a workout.

The final verdict:

At the end of the day, getting a workout in at all matters far more than when you're working out in the day. Working out at any time has its own benefits and drawbacks. But the benefits of getting in a workout outweigh all the rest.

You should find the time of day to squeeze in a workout that works best for you, depending on your unique circadian rhythm, work schedule, family life, etc. Once you find the time of day that works best for you, it’s critical to incorporate it into your daily routine. The benefits of working out regularly are far greater than the sporadic, once-a-week workout class. The benefits of a regular exercise routine include:

  • Weight loss

  • Improved mood

  • Boost energy

  • Promote better sleep

  • Increased libido

Working out regularly can also help to prevent or manage many different kinds of health problems and conditions, such as:

  • Metabolic syndrome

  • Type 2 diabetes

  • Stroke

  • High blood pressure

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Arthritis

  • Many types of cancer

Dr. Johnson recommends squeezing in two workouts a day if you can. This is due to the different benefits of working out in the morning and evenings based on circadian biology. Getting in a cardio workout in the morning is best for weight loss, while squeezing in some weight training in the evening will help you to build muscle.

To learn more about how to construct your workout routine, click here to contact us or call 276-235-3205 to schedule your complimentary 15-minute discovery call.

The Johnson Center for Health services patients in-person in our Blacksburg and Virginia Beach locations. We also offer telemedicine for residents of Virginia and North Carolina!


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