The Science of WHEN you Work Out
Updated: Apr 18
As a 30 year veteran of teaching fitness classes, I've led sessions every time of the day from 430am TRX Group Training and 6am aerobics to 730pm Zumba and 9pm Hip Hop.
I've taught lunchtime classes forever it seems and mid-afternoon classes at university campuses since I was a student myself.
Over the years I've come to find my "sweet spots".
My best time for morning workouts for me is 8am/830am, afternoons 12noon versus 1pm or later and for evenings 7pm and on.
8am is early enough that I can still get to work and not have to adjust my day but not so early that I want to stab the first person that talks to me lol.
I'm an early riser and like to "putter" around before work so by 12noon I'll have already been up and moving for 6 hours so a lunchtime workout or class is perfect. By 1pm I'm hitting that mid-day slump.
I work typically till 5pm and I actually prefer a break between work and working out in the evening.
For the average person, the question then becomes not what your fitness goals are but do you know your "sweet spot" for fitness?
I could tell you all day that morning workouts are the best but if you work shift work or you're just not a morning person then that doesn't help you. In the end, it's most important to find a realistic, consistent workout schedule, no matter what the time.
Read below for points for working out in the morning, afternoon and evening. If you have questions, contact me and I'd be happy to help you:).
Exercising in the Afternoon or Evening
If you are exercising to excel at a sport or you are trying to hit the highest possible intensities during your workout, then the optimal time to exercise is when your body temperature is at its highest and that is in the afternoon or early evening.
Our body temperature typically increases throughout the day and peaks in the late afternoon, so the theory is that our muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance also peaks in the late afternoon.
There is also the added benefit that in the afternoon our reaction time is the fastest and our heart rate and blood pressure is at its highest. All of this combines to improve athletic performance and also potentially reduce the possibility of getting injured.
Hormones are important to muscle growth and strength for both men and women. While performing resistance training in the afternoon, your body produces more testosterone than it does during the same workout in the morning. And, the stress hormone known as cortisol, which has been linked to the storage and accumulation of fat and also the wasting of muscle, peaks in the morning and then gradually decreases throughout the day.
General Rule - For exercise at night, you need to keep a healthy diet and with a regulated sleep routine. Overeating while exercising at night can cause drowsiness, and the digestion will slow down. Remember that when you work out at night, your whole calorie routine will be different than if you did activities in the morning, so your meal should also be different.
If you get out there early, you can do things like increase your post-exercise oxygen deficit and calorie-burning rate for the rest of the day. Early workouts can jump-start your metabolism and increase your body’s core temperature early in the day.
Psychologically speaking, you may be more likely to exercise in the morning, instead of after a hard day of work. At the end of the day, your mind and body are tired and that can lead to things like lowered willpower. At the end of the day, you are also more likely to have other duties to fulfill with family or friends. At that point it really doesn't matter if you're able to exercise with higher intensity and larger hormone boosts in the afternoon if you don’t get a chance to do it.
General Rule - Warm up is extremely important for morning workouts and you have to get your morning exercise nutrition on point. You may need to experiment to see what you can stomach for various kinds of exercise - which could be [eating] nothing - but in general:
East Small Before Your Workout
Drink 1 cup of water as soon as you wake up, then keep drinking while you exercise.
Eat/drink immediately after your workout to refuel your body and prepare you for your day. A proper post-workout morning meal supplies ample amounts of calories, carbohydrates, protein, and some healthy fat.
Exercising at Noon
For some people, lunchtime really is the best time to exercise, especially if you have some co-workers to keep you company and to keep you accountable.
Also lunchtime workouts tend to be more efficient. When you’re due back in the office, you’ve got extra incentive to make the most of your time. And fortunately, between cardio, weight circuits and HIIT classes, you don’t need more than 30–40 minutes to get in a great workout.
YOU’LL UNDO DESK-RELATED DAMAGE - It’s just not healthy to sit all day. Getting up from your desk to stretch or walk around is a great start. Getting up from your desk to exercise for 30–45 minutes is even better.
General Rule - Eat after you work out, not before. If you eat before, not only is it uncomfortable, but the blood that you want to go to your muscles is going to go to to your digestive tract instead. If you need some fuel for the workout, make it a light snack and eat it at least 30-45 minutes before you hit the office gym.
Do you have specific limitations to when you can work out? Feel free to contact me and I can answer any questions you may have:).
Interested in a fitness/wellness consultation or have some questions about nutrition and your current fitness program? Join any of my groups online (Facebook) and/or pick up my book, How to be Fit for Life - Eight Proven Steps to Reaching Your Fitness Goals, Getting Results, and Living the Fitness Life for more help with your fitness journey. And please feel free to contact me and I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have:).