Want the perfect workout program?Take Quiz
August 14, 2019
Working out in the morning vs night (…or evening), which is better?
It’s a debate that has been studied for years, and while a lot of it comes down to personal choice, lifestyle or simply the type of person you are, there are some facts to discuss that can help determine which is more beneficial, morning workouts or evening workouts…or possibly even both...It may just depend on your goals ;)
So, in this article, we are going to run through the pros and cons of morning workouts and evening workouts, which is “better”, what an ideal workout schedule looks like, and other important aspects of exercising.
Note: Most of what we are presenting is based on research and studies. We are refraining from our own personal standpoints, anecdotes, and partiality. That said, we will include some common standpoints. Moreover, everyone is different and there are always anomalies. You have physiological and psychological effects to consider. So, if something is working for you, then go for it! We are just going to offer information, and from there, it’s up to you to decide what you want to do.
“Should I rise at dawn before everyone I know wakes up and crush a workout or should I give my body and mind time to prepare for an intense evening workout?”
“Does it really make a difference?”
Let’s get some answers…
The early bird gets the worm, right?
Depends on what kind of worm you are trying to get…
Working out in the morning is a great way to jump-start your metabolism and increase your core temperature straight away. This will increase your post-exercise oxygen deficit and metabolic rate for the rest of the day. This means you will be burning more calories throughout the day, which is great for fat loss. This is more effective than getting this effect during the evening as when you sleep your metabolism will automatically lower to allow you to sleep properly.
Many sleep experts state that people who workout in the morning typically sleep better and earlier.
Researchers from Appalachian State University found that people who workout early in the day have a 25% decrease in blood pressure at night, which makes them feel calmer and easier to fall into a deep sleep.
There are two other reasons why you may get better sleep if you work out in the morning:
One - many people take pre-workout before exercising, and this can have lasting effects well into the night when it’s time to sleep.
Two - after working out your body temperature will be high, and to fall into good deep sleep, your body needs to drop a degree or two below normal body temperature. Thus, it takes longer for those who workout at night to reach this optimal temperature. A way to combat this is to keep room temperatures low and take a cool or cold shower an hour or so before bed. Note: don’t take a cold shower or ice bath directly after a workout as that may hinder muscle gains, according to research.
Exercising releases endorphins in the body, making you calmer and happier. This is a great way to begin your day, as it will give you a positive mindset when going to work, school or whatever it is that you do during the day.
We don’t have any studies on this, but according to ACE (American Council on Exercise), people who workout in the morning are more consistent than those who workout at other times in the day. This might be because many people feel tired after a long workday and sometimes that becomes an excuse to skip. That said, if you have the drive and motivation, a habit will become a habit no matter what time the day it is, and exercising is something that develops to be a habit. Moreover, if you are sleeping enough and you eat well during the day, your energy level should actually be more optimal at night. So, honestly, we believe this one is a non-factor, but we thought we’d include it, just in case you are someone who has trouble with consistency.
Let’s see how the pros of evening/night workouts weigh out…
Now, this point is a little bit complicated, involving both anabolic and catabolic processes, but let’s run through it.
So, your testosterone levels are at their highest in the morning and they decline slowly throughout the day. You would think that this is ideal for lifting weights, as testosterone is an anabolic (muscle-building) hormone. However, the good muscle growing hormones are not the only ones that are highest in the morning.
There are four main types of hormones - Testosterone, Growth Hormone, Insulin-like Growth Factor, and Cortisol. The first three promote muscle growth, the last one, Cortisol, is like the anti-testosterone. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone, which means "muscle depleting". It doesn’t encourage muscle growth.
So, what happens is, cortisol largely cancels out the positive effects of the other three hormones since your cortisol levels are high in the morning.
During the day, your cortisol levels drop lower and lower, finally normalizing by the evening. This means the best Testosterone and Cortisol ratio is in the afternoon and evening.
Therefore, if you are looking to build muscle, it makes more sense to workout in the evening.
What’s more, working out boosts your t-levels, so when you workout in the evening, you will have an extra spike in testosterone each day, without high cortisol. That’s the best way to build muscle.
Note: Try to keep your workouts shorter, around 40 minutes, as once you start going over the hour mark, your cortisol levels start to spike. Cortisol increases fat storing, which nobody wants. If you keep your workouts around 40 minutes, and at high intensity, you can keep cortisol levels down and t-levels high. This means you will be able to build muscle while keeping body fat low. This is especially important for those over 40 years old.
In the morning, your body temperature is at it’s lowest. For most people, around 4-6pm it is at its highest. Having a higher body temperature allows you to be more physically prepared for an intense workout. You will be more flexible and less susceptible to injuries.
Studies show people are around 20% more flexible later in the day.
This leads us to the next benefit.
Protein synthesis peaks in the evening, which is great for weight lifting.
Also, your lungs and metabolism are at peak efficiency in the evening, giving you more endurance for your workout.
All in all, people are shown to have a higher degree of fitness in the evening. If you look at Personal Records from heavy strongman lifts to sprints by Usain Bolt, they are all made later in the day.
Another example is professional and college sports. While it makes sense to have games at night so people can watch, it also is best for the athletes as they are at peak performance in the evening.
You may think after a long day that you will have less energy, but as long as you get enough sleep at night and you eat well during the day, you will surely be at your strongest in the evening.
Lastly, because your body is warmer, you won’t have to warm up for as long to be able to get to your highest level of performance, allowing you to be more efficient with your time.
After a stressful day, a workout is a great way to release the stress, giving you a boost of endorphins that carry you to sleep.
So, have you made your decision yet? Working out in the morning vs evening, which is best for you?
Here’s the conclusion we’ve come to.
If you want to build muscle, workout in the evening. All the benefits (and facts) of evening workouts means it makes sense to workout at night if you want to build muscle - boost that testosterone!
If you want to lose fat, workout in the morning - boost that metabolism!
Choose whatever time you prefer or works best for you. If you're trying to figure out how long a workout should be vs. how much time you have, pick the time slot that works best. A big part of working out is motivation, and if you have more motivation to workout at one time than another, go for what suits you. In addition, if one time better enables you to fuel up properly (see our post on what to eat before a workout), that might be the best option for you. Remember, you need proper nutrition to see your best gym results.
In the end, as long as you are working out, you will reap the benefits.
We believe in the best of both worlds, which means losing fat and building muscle.
Here is what we think is best for getting bigger and leaner...if you have the time for it that is.
The ultimate combination for building muscle and burning fat (which is what most people want) is to do two workouts a day…
You’d do an aerobic morning workout and an intense interval resistance training session in the evening.
Both the morning and evening workout can be 30 minutes long. So in the end, that’s only 1 hour of total workout time per day. This is much better than one longer session each day.
You’d do this routine 4-5 times a week.
Ideally, you’d train two days on, one day off, using an upper/lower split or doing full body.
If you go for full-body, switch up the exercises. For example, squats on Monday and deadlifts on Friday, among other exercises. Aim to hit each muscle group with at least one exercise for 4 sets.
If you are a heavy lifter and you want to build muscle, definitely go for an upper/lower split. This will allow you to hit both your upper body and lower body (more effectively) two times a week, with the perfect amount of recovery in-between.
Related: The 5 Best Workout Split
Related: Non-running cardio workouts
You can do these workouts in a fasted state for optimal fat loss benefits. Have a cup of coffee first and then get after it!
Use pre-workout on the days your energy is a little low. That will give you the caffeine boost you need to tear it up.
And remember, keep your workouts under 40-45 minutes. There’s no need to spend so much time in the gym unless you are trying to lift very heavy and do 1RM lifts.
Firstly, the gym is not the “be all” for working out, especially for your morning workouts. You can simply do a run in your neighborhood or an HIIT workout in your living room.
And, if you really want to miss the gym completely, buy some training tools for your home (how to start working out at home).
All you need for building muscle are kettlebells, steel maces, resistance bands, and other unconventional training tools. They are very affordable and effective. If you have more money to spend, get a squat rack, a bench, an Olympic bar with some plates and you are good to go. That is literally all you will ever need.
The best time to workout is the time you will actually workout!
Again, if you have a personal preference that works for you, stick to it.
As long as you are exercising, you will see improvements.
Benefits of exercise:
If you have any questions or comments, please leave us a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!
Comments will be approved before showing up.
September 28, 2022
September 27, 2022
At SFS we strive to equip you with the tools and knowledge needed for your fitness journey. Sign up to get the latest on sales, new releases, killer workouts, actionable fitness content and more. As our motto goes - "You don't have to get ready if you stay #alwaysready!"