What is the best time to work out
Whether you think about it or not, you’ve carved yourself a piece of the day that you dedicate to the gym. It might be the morning, noon, afternoon, or evening. For the rare few, that time could be in the middle of the night. But with such a huge difference in the time of day we work out, a logical question arises: “Are there better and worse times of day to work out? And if so, what are they?” In this article, we’ll go over everything there is to know about working out, and you’ll have all the information you need to decide for yourself when to schedule your workouts.
But First: One Critical Factor We Need to Understand
It would be great to find the ‘perfect’ time of day to hit the gym consistently, but not all of us have the choice to train whenever we want. Most of us have dozens of responsibilities to our families, work, studies, and more. So, the best time to train is going to vary from person to person.
For you, this is going to be the time of day you can adhere to and consistently show up to the gym. No amount of planning and searching for the best time to train is going to be good for you if you are unable to get your workouts in. And, of course, I don’t want you to confuse not having time with having better things to do. Many people use that excuse because they would rather do something else. But, if you have a busy schedule and can only spare a bit of time for the gym, you should be proud that you’re consistent, not beat yourself up because theoretically, there could be a better time to work out.
Here at Fitlov, we understand the critical importance of consistency above all and preach of its importance.
What is the Best Time of Day to Work Out (According to Our Circadian Rhythm)
The human body is quite complex. Within 24 hours, each of us experiences fluctuations in our hormonal milieu, our energy levels, bodily temperature, motivation, and physical performance.
If you’ve ever trained at a different time than usual (on vacation, for example), you probably felt a bit ‘off.’ That’s because your body is used to ‘prime’ itself for intense physical effort at a different time of the day. In most circumstances, people who sleep from 10 pm to 6 am are normally weaker and slower in the first half of the day and gradually pick up and increase their performance by mid-afternoon.
Our circadian rhythm heavily influences this fluctuation in athletic performance. Our habits and schedules also impact that but to a lesser degree. Think of your circadian rhythm as a 24-hour internal clock that regulates our sleeping pattern, hormones, bodily temperature, nervous system, and many other things. Below, we’ll take a look at two critical factors that influence our physical abilities - hormonal secretion and core temperature.
1. Hormonal secretion
Many hormones influence how we feel at a particular time of day and how energized we are. But two are the major ones - testosterone and cortisol.
Testosterone is one of the most important hormones for physical development. The more of it we have, the better our ability to grow and develop is, the easier time we have losing fat, and the better our overall health is. Conversely, low levels of testosterone lead to an inability to build muscle and get stronger, hard time losing fat and a whole host of other issues.
On the other hand, we have cortisol, best-known for its catabolic properties. Spikes and drops in the hormone are normal, but chronically elevated levels lead to many health problems. The ratio between these two hormones has been used as one of the main predictors of athletic performance, to measure catabolism and anabolism, and to measure overtraining in athletes. For most people, testosterone is low in the morning and progressively increases during the day. Cortisol is the exact opposite - it’s high in the morning and slowly declines after that. The ratio between testosterone and cortisol is highest in the afternoon and evening. Research suggests that training when your T/C ratio is highest causes the smallest rise in cortisol and thus a lesser catabolic response to physical stress.
2. Core temperature
Core temperature is also influenced by our circadian rhythm and, similar to our hormones, also fluctuates over 24 hours. Much like testosterone, body temperature is also lower in the early morning and progressively increases over the day. This is important, so take note. Research suggests that physical performance improves as our core body temperature reaches its peak in the second half of the day. If you’ve ever had a workout in the early morning, shortly after waking up, you probably felt quite stiff and had to move around more to get in the groove.
From these scientific findings, we can suggest that, theoretically, the best time to train is between the early afternoon and evening hours. But, that’s theoretical - it’s not set in stone.
Why Training in The Morning Might Be Better For Some Folks
From what we discussed above, it appears that training in the afternoon or early evening hours is better for most people. But is that the case for everyone? If you’re someone who can only train in the morning (or you prefer it that way), don’t be afraid.
Training is a wide and complex topic. No one ‘best’ solution works great for everyone. Sure, hormone levels and core body temperature matter, but that’s not all there is. For example, if your days tend to be long and stressful, and you barely have any energy left for training, then lifting before the day begins can help you ‘fix’ that issue. If your evenings are often filled with different tasks and errands and you constantly have to skip workouts or cut them short, then, again, having early morning workouts could be your best bet.
And finally, some people simply function better in the morning. There are the night owls, and then there are the early birds. If you’re someone who feels amazing in the morning and your energy is through the roof, why sacrifice that time when you could be at the gym, crushing it? If that’s the case for you, then here are three quick tips to make the most of your morning workouts:
1. Warm-up extra well.
We know that our core body temperature is a bit lower upon waking up in the morning and slowly increases as the day goes on. Plus, you’ll feel stiff because you haven’t been moving much in the previous six to nine hours. This means that you should spend extra time warming up - do some cardio, jump into a dynamic drill, and do extra warm-up sets on your exercises.
2. Err on the side of less food before your workout.
If you eat your breakfast soon before training, it’s better to have something light and rich with carbs. Your body needs time to digest food, and it’s better to have 30-40 grams of carbs than to have a full-blown breakfast and feel sluggish and sick at the gym.
3. Start with lighter loads.
If you’re new to training in the morning, you’ll likely notice that you’re a bit weaker than usual. That’s normal, and it goes away as your body gets used to the new schedule. Start with 5-15% less weight and do your regular workouts. Research suggests that your body will be fully adjusted to the early morning training within two to four weeks.
What to do Next
Science doesn’t give us the whole picture. Sure, it can show us what ‘might’ work better, but it’s up to us to experiment and find our optimal. Whether you train in the morning, evening, afternoon, or 2 am, what matters most is consistency. The human body is incredibly adaptive, and so long as you create a habit of training at a certain time of day, you will get into a rhythm and make great gains. If you’re a bit confused and don’t know where to start with your fitness journey, then our 4-question quiz can help you transform your body in three short months. And if you’re a girl, we can provide you with the best female personal trainer in Dubai - one who can show you the ropes and give you a great start on your fitness journey. Alternatively, if you prefer to work out from the comfort of your own home, you can get incredible results with a home personal trainer of our own.