In the modern-day world where many of us have rather full schedules and never-ending to-do lists, squeezing a workout in at any time of the day is a successful feat! Of course, taking the time to fit in a workout also means that ideally, you want to be gaining the best results from that workout. While you may have been hoping for an easy answer to the question- ‘Are morning or evening workouts better’- perhaps the good news is that they are both effective and both have unique benefits. For example, if you are looking to lose weight, then morning workouts do have an edge. However if you are looking to gain in overall fitness levels or improve muscle gain, then afternoon sweat sessions have the upper hand.
Of course, while our day to day schedules come into play when fitting in a workout, so too does our unique preferences and physiology. While some people easily leap out of bed at 6 am to hit the gym, many others cannot fathom pulling on activewear before 3 pm! Ultimately, doing what suits you best and choosing a time of the day that you can commit to is the most important when it comes to consistency and sustainability. Bottom line? You most likely already know when your body responds best to exercise. Yet the tips and research below is incredibly interesting and great to keep in mind when you do have flexibility with your workouts or if you have keen goals in mind.
Let’s take a look at the benefits of each type of workout:
Benefits of Working Out in the Morning:
More Energy for the Day
Working out in the morning means that generally, you’ll have a boost of energy that lasts through the rest of the day. This is due to the rush of endorphins that are released when we workout. Aside from enhanced physical energy, studies show you are more likely to have better brain capacity and focus when you workout in the morning. With the burst of endorphins also comes a boost in serotonin- the happy hormone. Endorphins also improve your ability to prioritize tasks and help you stay focused. Basically, working out in the morning primes you for the day ahead, lowering stress levels, boosting your memory capacity, giving you the energy you need to get through the day and also setting a bright tone for the day ahead.
Increased Levels of Weight Loss
Morning workouts are known to kickstart your metabolism early in the day so that subsequently, you burn more calories right throughout the rest of the day. Research also shows that you can burn more body fat exercising on an empty stomach. If you work out in the morning prior to eating, you burn fat stores instead of carbohydrates from food. Working out in the morning also motivates you to make healthier choices throughout the day. Numerous studies have shown that women are likely to eat more mindfully and not overeat when they have worked out in the morning. Moreover, studies have shown that women are more physically active throughout the day after a morning workout. Both of which can lead to weight reduction over a sustained time.
You’ll Have a More Restful Sleep
While having a regular exercise routine always helps with better sleep, many sleep experts suggest a morning workout is even more beneficial. Since exercise increases heart rate and body temperature, working out too late in the evening (generally after 8 p.m.) may disrupt sleep. One study showed that working out at 7 a.m helped people who struggled with sleep have a more sound, restful sleep at night. Research also has found that exercising early in the day can shift your body clock earlier, meaning you’ll feel more alert in the morning and get tired earlier in the evening, potentially priming you to get enough rest to wake up and do the same thing the next day.
You’re Likely to be More Consistent
After a long day it can be incredibly hard to find the motivation to workout. Therefore it makes sense that those who work out in the morning are proven to be more consistent and even exercise more often than people who work out at other times of the day. If you get your exercise done in the morning, if other things come up throughout the day, they won’t prevent you from getting your workout in. If morning workouts are too hard for you with work or family commitments, prime yourself for the afternoon by having your workout gear on hand or even a training buddy to help pep you up on the days where the couch is so much more appealing than the treadmill!
Benefits of Working Out in the Afternoon/Evening:
If you’re already looking at your dairy and thinking about how you can switch your afternoon workouts for the morning instead, hold up a second! Morning workouts certainly have their benefits. Yet many women like to exercise in the afternoon or evening, and science backs that choice also.
You Have More Natural Energy in the Afternoon
While your body is refuelled in the morning after a good nights sleep, it turns out that your body may be better prepared for a workout later in the day. You naturally have more energy from around 2 to 6 pm, primarily due to higher testosterone levels. You also are up to 20 percent more flexible later in the day, since your muscles have had the chance to thoroughly warm up and your joints are a lot more fluid from natural movement. Energy-wise, you have also had a full day to fuel yourself for your workout, so you have energy to burn for a vigorous workout session. Morning workouts are ideal for burning fat and losing weight, but afternoon workouts may give your performance a boost, due to the food you have consumed. Any time you eat, your blood sugar levels rise, and sugar in the form of blood glucose is one of the things you need if you’re trying to work at a higher intensity.
It’s Great for Mental Health and Stress
You’ve had a long day. Work, people, traffic, situations out of our control all likely took a toll on you in some way or another! You could head home and blow off steam by complaining to your partner, by opening a bottle of wine, or reaching for an ice cream tub which seems like a great dinner option at this stage in the game. Or, you can hit the gym and blow off steam in a productive way! Exercise in the afternoon can be a great way to unwind and destress, especially after a rough day. As mentioned already, exercise not only helps to lower stress and blood pressure, it also releases positive hormones into your bloodstream. After a workout, things that bothered you an hour ago may not seem like such a big deal. Working out in the afternoon allows you to reclaim your emotions and the rest of your evening too! This sets you up to finish your day with healthier choices and more loving interactions. An afternoon workout can also be a great way to avoid an end-of-the-day slump and can help you perk up and refocus.
You’ll Achieve a Higher Overall Level of Fitness
So this one is interesting. Studies have shown that people who work out in the afternoon are more likely to receive a higher degree of fitness because they tend to work out harder. Even just reading the above two points gives credit to this point- you are more primed to workout, and you most likely have more energy and steam at your disposal. There are a few more reasons though. Protein synthesis also peaks in the late afternoon/ early evening, making it the optimal time for weight training. Your lungs are also at their peak efficiency, making this an ideal time for endurance workouts also. Research on athletes found that soccer players performed best at speed and endurance tests at 5 pm, while swimmers recorded their fastest times in the early evening. Again, the higher levels of testosterone in the afternoons are supportive of improved performance and increased power. The bottom line is that those who hit the gym after work are more likely to achieve a higher degree of fitness than early-bird exercisers.
Less Chances of Injury
Exercising in the afternoon means that your body temperature is lower, your muscles are more flexible, your body more fluid and agile, and your reaction time is quicker. While this means you are more primed to workout, it also means that the likelihood for injury is significantly lower. Studies have found that people are more likely to injure themselves in morning workouts than in the afternoon. Even for low-intensity workouts like yoga which is often enjoyed in the morning, the body is far more limber and flexible in the afternoon and is, therefore, less likely to have a negative reaction to a certain movement or be pushed beyond capacity.
The Bottom Line
The question of whether working out in the morning or afternoon is better doesn’t exactly have an easy answer. You can certainly make a case for either time of day, especially depending on the type of workouts you prefer and what your fitness goals are. The important thing to remember is to do what suits you best in order to maintain motivation and consistency. One thing is certain- there is no bad time to exercise!
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