Science on what time of the day is best to work out for weight loss or muscle gain


Finding time to exercise can be challenging, and the most important thing is to squeeze in any amount of it whenever you can.

Exercise is important, but everyone also has lives with jobs, families, significant others, friends, household duties and errands which may dictate when they are able to fit in time to workout.

Most of us simply exercise when our schedule best allows us to, yet there is a science to optimising your training times.

Both morning and evening exercise have health benefits and potential pitfalls as evidenced by decades of research.

For those looking to find out when they should workout, here’s what the science says about the best time of day to exercise:

Woman jogging in park
Woman jogging in park

Exercising in the Morning

Exercising in the morning has been known to have a beneficial effect on energy levels, alertness, focus and decision-making, which can translate to a more productive work day.

Fitting in a workout soon after you wake up leaves you feeling good and energised for the rest of the day, which may lead to better mental health.

An early workout can also help improve metabolism, which means that you will continue to burn calories throughout the day.

Also, it has been found that exercising in the morning can help you sleep better, as compared to exercising in evening or anywhere close to bed time.

A number of scientific studies have also revealed the added benefits of completing your workout in the morning.

Studies have shown that your testosterone level is at its highest in the morning, which can be really helpful, especially for strength training.

Exercising at certain times of the day can help you achieve your fitness goals

It has also been proven that exercising on an empty stomach can help you burn more fat, which is more likely to happen if you choose to workout soon after waking up.

A 2013 study found that exercisers can burn up to 20 percent more body fat when hitting the gym before they have tucked into their breakfast.

This happens because your body must utilise fat stores that already exist to fuel exercise, rather than use the food you just ate as fuel.

However, there are some drawbacks to working out in the morning.

Research has shown that our bodies are not at their peak first thing in the morning and you might experience stiffness in your joints and temporary inflexibility if you decide to exercise early in the day.

This means an extensive warm-up is necessary to get your body ready to exercise which may lessen the amount of time you have to workout.

There are plenty of benefits in exercising in the morning

Exercising in the Afternoon

Exercising in the evening has been proven to have a range of benefits as this is the time of day when the body is in peak condition for physical activity.

From 2 pm to 6 pm, the body temperature is at its highest. As the body temperature increases, it optimises your muscle function and strength.

Scientists have backed this up with several studies which have looked at long term muscle size and strength gains in groups training at different times of day.

A 2016 study from Finland found that a combined program of strength and endurance training could lead to greater gains in muscle mass when performed in the evening rather than the morning.

There are perks to morning and evening exercise

Similarly, a study by Kuusma and colleagues in 2016 compared the effectiveness of a training program performed in the morning versus the evening on 72 trained men.

The researchers found that after 24 weeks, the evening training group experienced nearly 50% more muscle growth than the morning group. There was also a slight yet non-significant trend towards better strength improvements for the evening group as well.

Meanwhile, a 2005 study conducted by Schett and colleagues found that: “Subjects that trained in the evening experienced slightly greater muscle growth AND fat loss when compared to subjects that trained in the morning over a period of 10 weeks”.

Studies have also determined that the late afternoon is also the time when your heart rate and blood pressure are lowest, which decreases your chance of injury while improving performance.

Woman using rowing machine at gym

Verdict

While both morning and evening exercise have their benefits and disadvantages, the most important thing is finding the time to do so, whenever works for you.

All in all, no matter what time you exercise, the fact that you exercise regularly, is what matters the most.

The best way to find out what time of day is best for you is to try out different training times and then decide which one is perfect for your personal training.





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