There are plenty of opinions out there about the best time to workout, and every locker-room expert has their own advice. You may have heard people singing the praises of waking up early to hit the gym, to encourage fat burning. Other people swear by the after-work or midnight sweat session. The truth is that there is very little scientific evidence to suggest that one time of day is more effective than others. Instead, the best results happen when you find a schedule that fits with your life and your goals. Having said that, there are pros and cons to both morning and afternoon training. Here are a few, broken down.
If you’re an early bird, here are a few of the benefits you’ll experience when you hit the gym in the A.M.
Choosing to hit the gym in the morning frees you from all of the potential excuses that inevitably come up throughout the day. When you go early, you don’t have to worry about social commitments or late nights at the office getting in the way of your training schedule.
Willpower is higher in the morning. This is why so many people skip breakfast and succumb to late-night cravings. If you’re someone who struggles with motivation, plan to go to the gym in the morning – you’ll just have to get past that tricky ‘snooze’ button. But, if you want to commit to early sessions, you’ll have to adjust your sleep schedule and make sure you get to bed early enough to give your body the rest it needs.
Most commercial gyms are busiest between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m., so if you’re not a fan of waiting for the squat rack, a morning session may be better do you. Typically, people have a fixed amount of time to spend in the gym in the morning, so they are less likely to dilly-dally and linger on their phones between sets.
Hitting the gym in the morning is a great way to start your day off right. When you start your day with exercise, you are more likely to follow it up with a balanced breakfast, and continue making healthy decisions throughout the day. After all, what type of person craves McDonald's after pounding out 7km on the treadmill?
If you do decide to lift weights in the morning, make sure you give yourself time to properly warm up. When you sleep, fluid settles in your spinal disks. This can create excess pressure on your back and can leave you more susceptible to injury, especially if you are performing heavy bending exercises, like squats or deadlifts.
If the thought of waking up before the sun rises makes you anxious, then you’re probably better suited for afternoon training.
Even if you’re a morning person, it's hard to find the energy to perform a heavy set of squats at 6 a.m. It can be very tempting to smash that ‘snooze’ button when you know you that you don’t absolutely have to wake up. When you lift in the evenings, you don’t have to worry about setting an early alarm - that you’ll probably end up just sleeping through, anyways.
Most people hit their peak strength in the late afternoon, though this varies with individual circadian rhythms and daily routines. When you hit the gym after work you should be operating at peak levels since you've have had all day to fuel your energy stores. If you’re looking to set a personal best, you will have more success in the afternoon, about 60 minutes after consuming a small, balanced meal.
Stress relief is one of the greatest benefits of exercise. Waiting until after work to train will allow you to fully capitalize on this benefit, and sweat out all of the stress of your day. If you lift in the morning, you may need to look for something else to comfort you after a hard day’s work.
Post Workout Nutrition
It’s important to refuel with a nutrient-rich meal after completing a gruelling workout. When you train in the morning, it may be difficult to find the time to get the nutrition your body requires. When you hit the gym after work, you can reward yourself with a nice dinner. If you’d like to learn more about the importance of refueling, check out our article on post-workout nutrition.
We live in a crazy world and there is no perfect time to train. Find something that works with your life and your routine. Set a schedule and stick to it. And hey, when you’re on your way out, shake up some Suppy protein to kick-start your recovery process.