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Should You Exercise in the Morning, Afternoon, or Evening?

Exercise scientists have studied and written articles repeatedly on what time of day is the best time to work out and yet we all know people who buck the trend and work out at times that would make those researchers choke. So, are they wasting their time or are we?

By
Brock Armstrong
8-minute read
Episode #396
The Quick And Dirty
  • Body temperature peaks in the afternoon, which means that you can do hard workouts even harder later in the day.
  • Protein synthesis also peaks later in the day, which means that you could maximize your body’s ability to recover.
  • A recent research study found that your body could actually adapt to any regular workout times.
  • So, if you are stressed or inconsistent in getting your workouts done in the afternoon, don't let perfect be the enemy of good.

So Is There a 'Best' Time to Work Out?

Well, you don't have to be a scientist to determine the best time for you to exercise. If the best time of day is not immediately apparent to you, simply try working out in the morning, then try noon, then late afternoon or early evening. Give each time a fair shake, though a week or two should be enough to give you an idea of which you enjoy the most and which makes you feel best during and afterward. It should also give you an idea of how that time works with or against your other life commitments.

In the end, one of the most important aspects of any fitness regime is consistency. And that goes for time of day as well.

The Consistency of Exercise 

A research paper called The effect of training at a specific time of day suggests that the body could actually adapt to regular workout times. Let’s say you hit the weight room every day at 4:00 pm, well then eventually you might start to perform better at 4:00 pm than any other time of day.

Another study called Temporal specificity in adaptations to high-intensity exercise training says that sticking to a specific workout time can actually result in improvement in things like performance, oxygen consumption, and perceived exhaustion. In fact, the researchers concluded that "Greater improvements can be expected to occur at the time of day at which high-intensity training is regularly performed."

But if you are one of those people who really needs to know that they are squeezing every last drop of goodness out of your sweatband, what is the optimal plan?

The ultimate combination is an aerobic exercise session in the morning, lasting 30-60 minutes, followed by a more intense HIIT (high intensity interval training), resistance workout, or a very sport-specific session in the late afternoon or evening.

I'm an Exercise Newbie. What's Right For Me?

If you are still at a point in your fit life where your exercise sessions are pretty hit or miss, scheduling it for pretty much the same time each day will definitely help turn it into a habit. Whether you decide on first thing in the morning, over your lunch hour, after work, or after dinner, it is most important to make it part of your routine. People who are just beginning the fitness journey and try to exercise randomly are much more likely to give up. Leave the random workouts to us experts. ;)

Two final tips before I sign off:

  1. If you choose to work out in the morning, take extra time to warm up those muscles that are likely cold and tight from being asleep for the last few hours.
  2. If you choose to work out in the afternoon, keep them consistent. It might help to treat them as unbreakable appointments on your calendar that will alert you if you try to schedule something at the same time. 

For more exercise timing info, workout plan tips, and to join the time of day conversation, head over to Facebook.com/GetFitGuy or twitter.com/getfitguy. Also don't forget to subscribe to the Get-Fit Guy podcast on Apple Podcasts, StitcherSpotify, Google Play or via RSS.

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All content here is for informational purposes only. This content does not replace the professional judgment of your own health provider. Please consult a licensed health professional for all individual questions and issues.

About the Author

Brock Armstrong Get-Fit Guy

Brock Armstrong was the host of the Get-Fit Guy podcast between 2017 and 2021. He is a certified AFLCA Group Fitness Leader with a designation in Portable Equipment, NCCP and CAC Triathlon Coach, and a TnT certified run coach. He is also on the board of advisors for the Primal Health Coach Institute and a guest faculty member of the Human Potential Institute.