Some people squeeze in a run early in the morning, others will have a workout during their lunch break, and some will have a session at the gym in the evening.
Generally we all have time to work out at some point during the day, but is there an optimum time for exercise? I have been asked this a number of times by new clients in the last week or so when they have they have been booking their appointment. Could it be that exercising in the morning leads to greater weight loss, or is weight training in the evening better for gaining muscle mass? Well read on and you will find out….
While lots of people believe that exercising in the morning is the best way to go about it, there are many others who can’t bear the thought of having to get up an hour earlier just to go for a run. But with so many people swearing by it, exercising in the morning must have some benefits.
A recent study found that exercising in the morning before breakfast is the best time for cardio if you want to lose weight. This may be because when exercising before breakfast your body has to burn fat for fuel, as your glycogen stores will be depleted after a night of fasting. Furthermore, exercising in the morning will also help to kick-start your metabolism, and help to wake you up.
The endorphins released when you exercise will get your day off to a good and positive start, and help to keep your mental awareness high for hours to come. My experience has showed me that morning exercise boosts my mood more than evening exercise. So with both mental and physical benefits, morning exercise sounds pretty good.
However, there are some downsides to working out in the morning and these are mainly attributed to body temperature. Your body temperature is at it’s lowest in the morning, meaning that your muscles will be colder and less flexible. You’ll also have lower energy levels. This increases the risk of injury and reduces the efficiency of exercise. So you’ll need to make sure you are warmed up especially well in the morning. Also, if you’re not a ‘morning person’, getting into a routine of morning exercise, and sticking to it, can be very hard. You do not want to be a zombie when you are lifting heavy weights, you want to be alert and ready to give it your all.
Whilst morning workouts seem to have their benefits, there is a lot of evidence that suggests that, when it comes to performance, late afternoon and early evenings are the best time to exercise. A study published in ‘Sport’s Medicine’ found that exercise performance was best in the evening, and an article published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that the evening is better for maximal anaerobic leg exercises.
These studies suggest that late afternoon and evening may be best for building muscle and good for high intensity and power based exercise, such as weight training, and high intensity aerobic training. This could possibly be down to the fact that body temperature peaks in the evening and late afternoon, so your muscles will be warm and ready to go.
Another study that I came across while researching for this blog found that in the afternoon there are higher levels of testosterone induced by exercise; and with testosterone playing a key role in the gaining of muscle; this is another reason for exercising in the evening. The fact that you’ll be at your physical peak late in the afternoon and early in the evening means that it will also be a good time for moderate cardio.
On the other hand, some studies have shown that there is no difference between morning and evening when it comes to levels of stamina. So whilst it can be said that strength training and high intensity exercise is best done late in the afternoon and early on in the evening, moderate aerobic exercise is just as good, if not better, first thing in the morning.
Shane Walsh Fitness’ Opinion
So, after taking the current evidence into account, it seems that there are benefits for both morning and early evening workouts. However, aside from all the research the one thing that all scientists would agree on is that the most important thing is to get up and exercise, no matter what time of day. I know that by reading this you wanted a definitive answer but at least now you are hopefully better informed as to which time of day may be best for what you are trying to achieve, be it banishing the fat, toning up, or just for general health and fitness.