When is the best time of day to work out for weight loss and fitness? That depends

  • 2 Minutes Read
Sue Heikkinen
Sue Heikkinen, MS, RDN, CDCES, BC-ADM, ACE-PT - Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

Any exercise is good exercise, but if you have a choice, is there a best time of day to work out to get the most benefits? Well, what are your needs, goals, and when are you likely to do it?

Best time of day to work out

The best time of day to work out depends on you

If you are starting an exercise plan or want to optimize your workout, research on the best time to work out offers clues into what part of the day might be most effective depending on your lifestyle, health, and fitness goals.

Benefits of morning exercise

Better fat burning

A higher proportion of fat burns as fuel during morning workouts performed in a fasted state. Note this doesn’t necessarily translate to greater body fat loss overall.

There may be sex differences in fat-reducing responses to exercise timing. For example, researchers have noted decreased abdominal fat in women who worked out in the morning yet did not find the same result in men.

Caffeine bonus

If you start your day with coffee, the caffeine boost can enhance exercise performance, especially for aerobic exercise. Yet this caffeine boost could affect a good night's sleep when accompanied with late-day workouts.

Morning energizing and nighttime relaxation

Morning exercise may help get you awake, energized, and clear-headed for the day. If you are a “morning person,” you will probably find morning exercise a better fit than in the evening when you are sleepy. You may also prefer a morning routine if you have difficulty winding down after a workout. Contrary to popular belief, nighttime exercise only negatively affects sleep if it is intense exercise one hour or less before bedtime.

Fewer barriers

Despite your best intentions to exercise in the afternoon or evening, pressing daily tasks can get the best of you, leaving no time or energy to exercise at night. In this case, a morning workout routine might ensure you get the workout completed.

Benefits of evening exercise

Unwinding and social opportunities

Exercise may be just what you need to unwind after a busy work day. Many activities, recreational sports leagues, for example, are scheduled in the afternoon or evening, a great time to incorporate exercise in a social setting. You may also enjoy an evening walk with a friend or family member, using that time to catch up on your day.

Better muscle recovery and performance

Can you believe our muscle cells have their own circadian rhythm (our internal 24-hour clock)? This may explain why muscles respond differently to exercise at different times of day. For example, muscle recovery, performance, and gains tend to respond better to evening workouts than the same exercise performed in the morning.

Consistency matters

If you are a competitive athlete, consistency of exercise time is important. As you match your training time to the usual time of your events, your performance at the event will be better than if you train at a different time of day. For example, if your bike races are always in the morning, a morning training routine would be more effective than an evening routine.

The best time to exercise is when you actually do it!

Despite the pros and cons of exercising in the morning or evening, there is no wrong time to exercise. And, of course, whether you choose a morning or evening workout time, aim to be active throughout the day. For example, you could go for a brisk walk in the morning and a strength training workout in the evening.

Consider your “chronotype, ” your natural sleep and wake pattern preference. An evening workout may serve you best if you are a night owl and setting an early morning alarm causes you to resent exercise. In contrast, if you are an early bird, you may be too worn out for evening exercise.

The research on the best time to work out is in the early stages, and results are often conflicting. Find the time of day that works best for you to work out—when you feel most energized, and your schedule allows you to be active and meet your fitness goals.

Related content:

Get out and play! The benefits of exercising outside

Hiking is such good exercise! Learn what the great outdoors can do for your health

Is walking good for weight loss? Here are 7 ways to maximize the benefits of your walking workout plan

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Sep 11, 2023

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