You Asked, I Answered: Is it better to work out in the morning or the evening?

You Asked, I Answered is a new series I’m starting. Once a week I’ll take a question that was submitted to me and explain the answer in a blog post. So if you have questions send them to me through the CONTACT PAGE of this website!

Question: “Is it better to work out in the morning or the evening?

This is a question I get often and usually somewhere near the beginning of the program. This is a topic I’ve spent time researching, particularly during my Masters studies in Sports Nutrition, and since with becoming a personal trainer. Now, there are a lot of factors that are considered if you ever read through the research… which you probably haven’t, nor should you want to because it can get pretty dry, so I’ll sum it up for you here. First you have to define what your goals are. What are you looking to “better” exactly? Weight loss? Muscle growth? More energy? Better quality sleep? What is it that you are actually trying to achieve? Based on your goals you might find yourself with different answers. For example, one recent study showed working out in the morning results in better quality sleep compared to evening or afternoon workouts. Those hitting the gym at 7am slept longer with deeper sleep cycles. If you’re looking to improve your athletic performance you might want to try late afternoon or evening workouts. A few smaller studies found higher power output in the late afternoon/evening times compared to early morning. As for weight loss, there is conflicting evidence on this one. Evening exercisers, in one large study, showed better results in overall weight loss. However, working out in a fasted state (which is doable before breakfast) allows our bodies to tap into our fat stores for fuel rather than carbs from foods we’ve recently eaten.

So now, are you even more conflicted than before? Don’t worry. After spending time researching this topic in depth from the average joe to collegiate athletes to body builders and apply various theories with my own clients the results are pretty simple. Do what is best for your schedule and your motivation level. What ever time is best that you can push yourself with no potential schedule conflicts, that’s when you should workout. If working out in the morning is best for my client to lose weight but they have to be at the office at 7am, have 2 kids to get out the door and isn’t a morning person, you can assume how often she/he would actually hit the gym in the morning. Any workout whether it’s morning or evening is better than no workout at all. Maybe you’re schedule allows you to choose between morning and evening and you just want to know which is better. I’d then ask you, when do you feel you can push your intensity the most.. that’s when you should workout. An intense workout whether it’s in the morning or evening is better than a low intensity workout.

I personally switch back and forth between the two depending on my schedule. I find I can push myself in the evening if I’m working out on my own. In order to really push the intensity early morning I have found I need to have a workout buddy, training with a client or doing a class. In the beginning of the week I take a look at my schedule and see what’s on the calendar. If I know I have evening obligations I schedule my workouts for the morning, even if it doesn’t end up being my most intense workout ever, it’s still a workout. If you feel you have a difficult time sticking to an exercise routine you might want to consider scheduling your workouts like appointments. Put it on whatever calendar you use to organize your life, whether that’s hard copy calendar, on your phone or computer. Once it’s scheduled, treat it like a doctor’s appointment. Only if something serious comes up are you going to miss it. Additionally, clients have found scheduling and paying for classes for the weeks ahead will help motivate them to show up. Partly, because they don’t want to waste the money.

The take away here is that you should workout when:

1. It’s realistic for your calendar so that you will actually workout and avoid any conflicts

2. When you feel you can push your intensity the most

Workout > No Workout

Intense Workout > Low Intensity Workout

If you have any tips or tricks for keeping motivated in the gym, let me know and I can share with everyone else! Remember, if you have a question, submit it on the CONTACT PAGE and I'll answer in an upcoming "You Asked, I Answered" blog post.




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