When is the best time to exercise?

Lately I have been asked by clients living busy lives this exact question, and to many, working out when to work out is part of the motivational struggle. So when asked, “When should I be exercising?” I explain the answer is not that simple.

As a fitness professional I come across all types of personalities and fitness fads, one day experts are saying do this and another they’re saying no stop doing that and try this. The sad thing about what these so called “experts” say is that everybody seems to listen and practice like it’s the gospel and then trainers such as myself  are left to pick up the pieces of what was supposed to work because he or she read this or called upon doctor Google for advice.

In order to answer this question, we must look at this laterally, reading between the murky dim lines of what many people are really asking, what is better for efficiency – Early morning or evening exercise?  Meaning many of us want to find the best time to exercise for maximum results, not so much hard work. So, my question is – Does the time of day you work out REALLY matter?

The truth of the matter is, training at various times of the day go beyond the purely physical, and in some cases, according to some of the advise I have heard given to many vulnerable fitness novices, the purely insane. Something that I will go into more detail with in part 2 of this blog: Fuel to burn, which focuses on the importance of fueling the body before exercise, especially in the mornings.

If it’s the scientific evidence you want, I am sorry to inform you that there isn’t enough to prove that either morning or afternoon exercise is definitively best for you and your fitness goals, however in saying that there are benefits unique to training in either time slot. For example, experts say training in the morning will help to burn more fat as this is when the body’s glycogen stores are lowest, while afternoon or evening exercise is found to be ideal for strength training and muscle development, simply because the body is warm and your muscles are said to perform better making you stronger later in the day.

The verdict

Keep it simple by simply exercising; I understand the argument for afternoon workouts, that the body is warm so you in theory perform better. But if morning workouts are more your forte or you have no choice due to a busy work and family schedule, try kick starting your muscles with about 5 to 10 minutes of cardio training before moving on to weight training, or for the fitter individual try adding quick bursts of 3 to 5 minute cardio intervals between resistance sets for added benefits. Alternatively try mixing up your exercise routine by combining morning jogs with afternoon resistance workouts and vice versa to help trick the body and beat boredom.

Many of us struggle to fit exercise in at all – so my suggestion would be to make the time you spend exercising the focus, not the time of day you do it. The small advantages you get from exercising at so called ‘optimal’ times of the day can quickly turn into great disadvantages if you put off or miss your workout all together.

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