There's A Big Difference Between Working Out In The Morning And At Night
They say the early bird always gets the worm, but in the case of workouts, that isn't necessarily true.
We always try to pin down the answer to when the best time to work out is, whether it's at the crack of dawn or after a long workday. But the answer is that there is no right answer.
While research supports both morning and evening workouts, your best bet is to pick a workout that aligns with your long-term fitness goals, and something you can stick with.
For example, a morning workout is going to require a nutritious dinner, a more rigorous warmup and lots of sleep, while an evening one will require you to fuel right throughout the day, and to make sure parties or events don't interfere with your gym date.
Here are the pros of morning workouts:
You get it out of the way in the morning.
Many early risers cite this as the reason they prefer morning workouts.
You don't have to worry about a workday that will tire you to the couch, or unexpected outings like dinner or happy hour, because you've already got your workout in and can partake in any and all activities.
Additionally, you'll have a boost of energy for the rest of the day, thanks to the daylong effects of morning exercise and the rush of endorphins. Maybe you'll even be able to skimp on the coffee.
It's better for weight loss.
If you don't know this yet, morning workouts are known to kickstart your metabolism early, so you burn more calories during the day, as opposed to when you are sleeping.
You're also more likely to burn fat. Research shows when you're fasting and exercising (ie, haven't eaten breakfast yet) you burn fat stores instead of carbohydrates from food.
But it also motivates you to be healthier.
A 2012 BYU study found after a 45-minute morning workout, women were more likely to eat less for breakfast and make healthier food choices. Moreover, they also upped their physical activity more throughout the day.
Your body is prepared.
Sleep is the optimal time for your body to recuperate and recover. That means it repairs used muscles and converts your food into energy (glucose) for the following day.
Moreover, during REM sleep, dreams help your body learn and improve motor skills, according to Ask Men. This means your body may have already practiced your morning glute workout in your dreams.
So when you wake up, your body is fresh and prepared for a workout, as long as you slept long and well enough.
But this also means it'll take more than a few stretches to warm up your body in the morning.
Your muscles are cold when you wake up, so experts suggest doing jumping jacks or going on a light jog before going into beast mode to prevent injury.
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 to really hit the hay hard.
It's because exposure to daylight early on in the day will tell your body to power down at night.
In addition, researchers at Appalachian State University found morning exercise lowers your blood pressure — correlated with better sleep — and triggers up to a 25 percent reduction at night.
Early birds are more consistent.
It makes sense, because let's be real, after a long day, sometimes all you really want is to go home and watch Netflix, while you aren't likely to have anything else to do at 6 am.
The Huffington Post notes that American Council on Exercise says those who work out in the morning are more consistent and even exercise more often than people who work out at other times of the day, which can lead to fitter, leaner bodies (consistency is key!).
Here are the pros of late afternoon/evening workouts:
You'll have a more relaxed morning.
In addition to sleeping in, you won't have to rush to pack a gym bag, post-workout snack, lunch and a change of clothes.
You'll also be able to take your time in the shower, instead of a 30-second one at the gym
You're already fueled and warmed up.
While your body may be just refueled in the morning, it turns out, your body may be better prepared for a workout later in the day.
You naturally have more energy from around 2 to 6 pm, likely due to higher testosterone levels.
You also are 20 percent more flexible later in the day, since your muscles are way more warmed up and your joints are a lot more fluid from being up and about, meaning you're also less prone to injuries.
Moreover, you're already fueled up since you likely ate lunch, along with some snacks, which is the perfect energy you need for a vigorous workout after work.
It's a good outlet to blow off steam.
The psychological benefits of exercise are well documented.
So after a long and rough day at the office or class, a light or intense workout can have a big effect on destressing when you're trying to unwind and relax, as opposed to a bottle of wine.
You'll have a more intense workout.
One study conducted by the Clinical Research Center of the University of Chicago said post-work gymgoers are more likely to receive a higher degree of fitness because they tend to work out harder.
That's because protein synthesis peaks in the evening, making it the optimal time for weight lifting.
Your endurance workouts are more likely to be improved in the evening, too, when lungs are at peak efficiency.
A 2012 study of Tunisian soccer players found they performed best at speed and endurance test at 5 pm, while another study found that swimmers recorded their fastest times in the early evening.
It can also help with sleep quality.
While we did mention morning workouts were better for sleep, there's evidence evening workouts can help with that, too.
While many experts say evening workouts raise your body temperature, which can interfere with sleep, one study found people who lifted weights in the evenings had longer, better quality sleep than those who lifted weights in the morning.
So pick your optimal time, and get sweating!
Subscribe to Elite Daily's official newsletter, The Edge, for more stories you don't want to miss.