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Morning Workouts vs. Evening Workouts: Is There a Winner?

Morning Workouts vs. Evening Workouts: Is There a Winner?

Most people have difficulty finding the time to work out due to busy schedules. This makes it so there are really only two options for those who live a busy life - workout at the crack of dawn or workout late in the evening. But which one is better? There are two big factors to consider, your lifestyle and fitness goals.

The best time to work out is whenever you can do it, but there are certain advantages of morning workouts over evening workouts, and vice-versa... Advantages that can help maximize your training efforts! Coincidentally, those two are the most common time of day people exercise. So, knowing what advantages both morning and evening workouts have can help you decide the better option for you and your goals! 

To help you decide here's the full breakdown of the benefits of morning and evening workouts...

Morning Workouts

There are certain perks to being an early bird, like being able to get out of bed in the morning to workout! With that comes even more perks that include getting your workout done and over with before you even tackle your day, giving you time for other things like cooking a healthy dinner, socializing, taking your dog for a walk, or just good 'ol relaxing! 

Unfortunately, not everyone is a morning person and has the will to get up for an early morning sweat sesh. However, early bird or not, there are a few reasons why you may want to consider making morning exercise a priority...

Advantages

Early morning workouts warm up your body for the day and allow you to have time to tackle everything that you have scheduled for the day. Aside from that, here are other reasons why you might want to toss aside your blankets and put on your workout clothes in the morning...

  • It can help you burn fat

Although morning workouts can refer to a 9 or 10 a.m. gym session, most actually get their workouts in before then at a much earlier time. This leads to working out on an empty stomach, also referred to as fasted workouts. Working out in the morning, specifically on an empty stomach, allows your body to tap into efficiently tap into fat stores for energy since glycogen stores are nearly empty in the morning. Another reason why your body burns fat more efficiently in the morning has to do with your hormone levels! In the morning, your cortisol (stress hormone) and growth hormone levels are high. These hormones help predispose you to better metabolism of fat, or in simpler terms, help your body draw more energy from fat reserves. 

Those with weight loss and fat loss goals can benefit from this. So, if you really want to maximize your results consider doing an early morning workout, it could be cardio or strength training. Just keep in mind you will be working out on an empty stomach, so it's best to keep the intensity at a low to moderate level, at least at first. Once you've adjusted to your new routine and feel like your exercise performance doesn't take a dip, then you can increase the intensity by either lifting weights or doing high-intensity cardio. And in case you’re interested, here are more tips on how to get started with fasted workouts safely.

Fasted workouts might not be suitable for everyone, and that's okay. Working out after having a meal isn't going to make it harder to lose weight, in fact, it'll help give your body the nutrients it needs to perform to its highest ability. Plus, there are other benefits of working out in the morning...

  • It can improve your sleep

All the magic happens at night! Your body works hard while you're asleep to regulate the production of hormones, clean out waste from cells, and most importantly, ensure that your muscles recover and repair from intense physical activity. So, if you want to build muscle and promote better muscle growth get better sleep! Luckily, morning workouts can help with that...

Research shows that working out in the early morning helped individuals get better quality sleep, opposed to those who worked out in the evening. Evening exercise has been shown to compromise sleep due to increased heart rate and body temperature. [1] If you have trouble sleeping, consider switching over to an earlier workout time, as long as your schedule permits. Eventually, your body's circadian rhythm (internal body clock) will adjust and you'll build the habit of waking up early to work out and going to bed earlier, thus getting better sleep!

  • It can boost productivity and better decision making

As you know now, our cortisol levels tend to be higher in the morning which helps give your body energy and, in general, helps you feel more awake. Add in a workout in the morning to release endorphins, and you've supercharged your morning! Instead of feeling groggy until you have a cup of coffee or breakfast, you'll feel energized and in a better mood which can lead to increasing your productivity throughout the day. Not only that, but it can also create a domino effect of good choices! Think about it, if you start your day right you'll naturally want to follow and build upon the healthy way you started the day. Plus, tackling your workout first thing in the morning allows you to have time for other important things like self-care, cooking, and better sleep - all of which will help improve your well-being and health.

All-in-all, morning workouts can be beneficial for anyone trying to lose weight or build muscle. They can help you burn fat more efficiently, help you get better sleep, and even help you make healthier choices. Sadly, as great as they are, they aren't for everyone! Luckily, working out in the evening has advantages that are just as good...

Evening Workouts

If morning workouts aren't for you and you've given them a proper shot, then consider sticking to evening workouts!

Advantages

Many believe morning workouts are the clear winner, but evening workouts can be just as good. They require less time warming up (since your body has been moving around), and they’re a great way to blow off steam from a hard day at work! Aside from that, here’s why you might want to workout later in the day...

  • It can improve exercise performance

This one might be a given, but evening workouts can help you perform better! Studies show that your body's ability to perform is best in the afternoon to the evening due to the increased body temperature. A higher body temperature optimizes muscle function and strength, enzyme activity, and endurance. [2] Not only that, but throughout the day you're typically filling up with nutrient-dense foods that provide you with sustainable energy and help with other important body processes! Additionally, your body is mostly warmed up as opposed to in the mornings, which requires a longer warm-up process. However, you should still do a 5-10 minute dynamic workout to prepare the muscles for any heavy weight lifting! Either way, you'll be able to focus more on your actual workout and your performance.

  • It's better for muscle growth and strength

Although some lifters prefer to workout in the morning and still receive significant gains, others prefer working out in the evening after having a few meals and/or snacks. To build muscle, one must focus on strength training and lifting weights more so than cardio. This is considered to be a form of high-intensity training that requires a lot of energy, power, and strength, meaning you'll want fast energy to tap into for energy. That fast energy is found in your muscles glycogen stores, which are typically empty in the morning and can make it difficult for you to lift as heavy as you want. Another reason why evenings are more effective for muscle building has to do with hormone levels too! Testosterone is a hormone responsible for muscle growth, strength, and stamina. Research shows that our bodies produce more of it in the late afternoon when resistance training opposed to in the morning. [3]

  • It can improve your reaction time

Fast-paced workouts, like high-intensity interval training (HIIT), require you to think and move quickly. Your reaction time has to be good. If these are the workouts you love, then consider doing them in the evening! Studies show that reaction time is fastest in the afternoon/evening, and it's also the time of day when your heart rate and blood pressure are at their lowest which can help reduce your chances of getting injured while exercising. [3] 

Is there a winner?

Working out at either time of day has different advantages and disadvantages. Mornings seem to be better for weight loss but also helps improve sleep which is ideal for muscle building. Evenings seem to be better for muscle building, but also ideal for those who do high-intensity cardio. The thing is... There is no clear winner. The best time of day to workout depends on you! Yes, there are advantages to working in the mornings and evenings, but no matter what time you choose, as long as you're eating healthy and consistently working out, you can expect results!

Bottom line is, all that matters is that you workout. No matter what your goals are you can still achieve them whether you workout in the morning, afternoon or late at night. So, if you can't stand waking up early for an intense sweat session, but your main goal is weight loss and you want to make sure you get good sleep, then take other steps to ensure it doesn't affect your goals and sleep. Like sacrificing your pre-workout or any caffeine after 4 p.m. and making sure to eat the right foods by tracking your macros. Find ways to make it work for you, and remember, if you want to maximize results, you have to balance everything (diet, sleep, stress) so don't make it any more difficult by choosing a time of day that isn't right for you.