What is the best time to workout? That's a question I get quite a bit from my clients and friends. But there's no one and only answer.
Sometimes I'm teaching a bootcamp that starts 5.30 in the morning. It may sound like insane time, but people show up, which is awesome. Lately, there have been more people in the morning groups than in the evenings, which start at 7p. Apparently, 5.30am works best for those early birds. But it doesn't necessarily work for everybody.
What Is the Best Time to Workout?
So, when is the best time to workout?
I say, whenever works best for you.
This answer may not be what people are looking for–they want straightforward answers, not options! Just like they want to hear the one and only answer to a question whether they should eat fish or beef for lunch, have it with rice or potatos or spinach or lettuce.
If you like fish better, have fish. Potatos are okay, but so is rice. You can have lettuce instead of spinach. Look at the big picture–your lunch is overall very healthy. It would be a different thing if you were debating about fish and rice or Big Mac.
Similarly, people are worried whether they should workout in the morning or evening.
There is no answer that is right for everybody, because we all have different bodies, lifestyles, daily schedules and preferences. That's true about food, exercise and just about everything else.
Morning or Evening – Does It Really Matter?
The most important thing is to get your workout done. Overall, it's not that important whether you do it in the morning, during your lunch hour or in the evening. You should train when it fits into your schedule the best.
There are some exceptions, of course. If you really want to maximize the fat burn, you may want to work out fasted and first thing in the morning. I did that a lot when I was running 40+ miles every week. I woke up, put my running shoes on and went out. Combined with extremely low fat diet, I lost a lot of weight pretty quickly. But I also lost a lot of muscle and eventually, my body didn't have all that much shape. Plus, I ended up being incredibly weak.
I sometimes still work out first thing in the morning, but I don't usually do long steady state cardio anymore. I'm now focusing on HIIT or weight training and learning some new skills.
If you can't or want to workout first thing in the morning, if it just doesn't feel good, don't panic. You will still get to your goals if you work out and are consistent with your diet. Morning or evening, that doesn't play that big difference.
Benefits of Working Out in the Evening
If working out in the evening fits into your schedule best, go ahead and do that! You don't need to listen to anybody who says that the mornings are the one and only time to workout. Here are some reasons why evening might be the best time to workout for you:
- Your body is awake. For so many people, working out in the morning is physically very hard. You could try and change that habit and start working out in the morning if that would work better for your lifestyle, but if your body says that it really can't do it, that's fine. Workout when your body is ready.
- You have more time in the evening. If your workday starts super early, like 5 am, there's probably no way that you are going to squeeze in a workout before that. You have to sleep too, after all–that's extremely important. You will likely also get home a little earlier if you start very early, so evening trainings might be better fit for your schedule.
- You have more fuel in your body. Many people who workout in the morning, do it fasted (including me, if I workout really early). That might be an option if your dinner was pretty late, so that you simply don't need to eat anything before the workout. But if working out fasted is not an option for you because you get nauseous or your workouts are suffering because you don't have fuel in your body, work out in the evening when you have eaten earlier during that day.
- You may sleep better. That's something that varies from people to people, but overall, exercising usually leaves you tired and therefore makes falling asleep easier. I personally wouldn't do a HIIT workout in the evening, because that would, instead of helping me to go to sleep, energize me. But yoga is a perfect before-the-bed workout for me, because it calms me down perfectly.
Benefits of Working Out in the Morning
I used to exclusively workout in the morning. I wanted to get my workout done, so I could move on with my day. While I'm now working out a bit later, around noon, I still find that there are several reasons why you may want to workout within a few hours after waking up:
- You have time. Early morning may be the only time when you realistically have time to work out. If your workday ends at 7pm or even later and getting home takes you another hour, there's pretty much no way that you are going to workout later in the evening.
- Nothing can interrupt you. It's not likely that there's anything urgent happening as early as 5.30 in the morning. Evenings can get busy though: Family commitments, cooking dinner, long meetings etc can take a lot of time.
- You can still hang out with other people when your evenings are free. Not much else is going on at 5am when you are working out. Your evening is free, so you can still go to the movies and do other fun things.
- You have more energy. A lot of us feel simply drained after a long day at work. I admit that the chances that I get my butt out and work out after working all day is pretty small. I'm more than happy to go for a walk, but a hard workout is not going to happen in the evening.
A Quick Kettlebell HIIT Workout
So, workout whenever you can! There's no right or wrong time, but there's time that works best for you.
But speaking of morning workouts: The other morning after teaching my super early bird 5.30 training group, I did the following short and sweet workout that consisted of bodyweight and dumbbell exercises. As all the workouts on this site, it doesn't take you more than 30 minutes to complete. If you also do the bonus, 2-mile run, it will take a little longer.
Please don't think that you have to do this workout at 6.30 like I did! Morning, evening–it doesn't matter, as long as you don't make excuses to skip the workout altogether (remember: Being exhausted, sore or sick are not excuses but legit reasons to skip a workout).
Here's the workout:
And here's the video:
If you have a set of dumbbells, there's no reason NOT to do this workout. If you don't, you can use two kettlebells or even just one kettlebell or a medicine ball. If you have just one weight, hold it close to your chest while doing lunges and thrusters. Press the weight up just as you would press up two dumbbells.
Your turn: When do you work out–morning, evening or some other time?
Me: Morning or noon; I also like to go for a walk or light jog sometimes in the evenings.