Health & Fitness

When is the Best Time of Day to Exercise?

Early bird or more of a night owl? We uncover which time of day is the best to get results from your workout.

The after-work rush to get to the gym, a fitness class or even hurrying home so we can go for a run around the block is a common scenario for many of us.

Yep, we’re a nation of evening exercises – in fact, over half of Brits get their workouts in at night, according to a survey by DW Fitness Clubs.

But are we doing ourselves and our bodies an injustice by saving our workouts to the evening? We look at what the best time of day is to workout…

The case for exercising in the morning

As a busy personal trainer, Carly Tierney has to squeeze her own workouts in whenever she can.

That said, if given the choice she’d opt for a morning exercise session. This creates a “healthy domino effect” that sets her up for the rest of the day, she said

“A morning workout jump-starts your metabolism in the same way that eating breakfast does. The thermal effect of exercise (or activity) lasts for at least four hours after a workout, which increases the total calorie expenditure throughout the day,” Carly commented.

“In the 8-12 hours prior to waking, your body was in sleep mode and in a process of regeneration. Sleep is the time for the body to repair damage (workouts cause microscopic tears in your muscle fibres). Food is also digested and converted into glucose. In the morning, you’re using a fresh, repaired body.”

Carly’s tips for an effective morning workout:

  1. Make sure you eat and hydrate pre and post-workout.
  2. Get enough sleep. You can’t consistently train early in the morning whilst smashing late nights and missing breakfast.
  3. Protein shakes are great for busy early-morning gym-goers who eat on the run.

The case for exercising at night

If you’re targeting muscle growth with your workout, it might be best to leave your fitness till the evening, say some experts.

Although we don’t know for sure, it’s generally thought that your muscles are at their strongest later in the day.

And aside from the all-important gains, many people prefer to hit the gym later on so they can unload all of the stress that they’ve built up throughout the day. Plus, they like a lie-in.

Carly commented: “What works for a person who gets enough rest every night and has enough ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) and muscle glycogen stored up won’t work for the person whose last meal was at 4pm the previous day and went to bed after midnight.

“An early-morning workout may wear you out for the rest of the day, especially if you didn’t get the recuperative sleep you needed. That groggy feeling in the morning will have you leaning toward an evening workout.”

Carly’s tips for an effective evening workout:

  1. Get a high-carb snack before your workout – fruit, a bagel or some nuts will do the trick.
  2. Take some supplements to give you an extra boost
  3. Have a black coffee before you hit the gym.

What about lunchtime workouts? Are they effective?

Of course, neither works for some people, and they squeeze a workout into their lunch break.

While this is a great time saver, can you really complete an effective workout in such a short timeframe?

Carly thinks it’s possible, but you need to be a bit more organised.

“Try to have a snack one hour before training and don’t train on a full or empty stomach. Try something like rice cakes and peanut butter or honey.

“If you’re stuck for time, make sure that your workout is intense and effective. Go into the gym with a plan, reduce your rest periods, increase your weights, try HIIT training and keep things varied and interesting. It’s often the quality not the quantity of the workout that gets results,” she added.


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