Wouldn’t it be great if you could maximise your fitness by working out at a certain time of the day? Some people swear by a pre-dawn run or an early doors strength session. Others are sure that the key to their fitness lies in the after-hours spin class or in late-night boxing.
So, who’s right?
The answer isn’t as clear-cut as you might think. Day versus night doesn’t have a clear winner. However, earlier this year, Men’s Health posed the question: should I work out in the morning or evening? And wrote the following:
“The truth is the best workout is the one you actually do. More important than any science or subjective opinion on when you should train are the dull practicalities of your day-to-day. When can you actually get to the gym? When will you enjoy it? At what time does exercise most make you find your feel good?”
We think that’s probably the best answer you can give, and it’s worth repeating: the best workout is the one that you actually do. People talk about larks versus owls and whether the early-bird will always get the worm but what matters most is turning up, lacing up your trainers, slipping your EarHugz onto your headphones and getting sweaty, getting breathless whilst maintaining perfect form in pursuit of the better version of yourself.
Who gives a shit whether you do that at 7 am or 7 pm?
It boils down to personal choice. We’re all living increasingly hectic lives and fitting that thirty-minute run into a busy schedule is tough. But understanding how you work and what an average day looks like to you could help you build a routine that works.
Working Out in the Morning
Complete your workout in the morning and then you’re free to forget about it for the rest of the day. Isn’t that a lovely thought: you’re done. And good intentions are worth shit if you can’t make them stick. We’re only human; it’s easy to get sidetracked or pulled into the arrangements, appointments and encounters that often pop-up later in the day. You’re probably far less busy in the hours immediately after the dawn. If everyone else is still in bed, then they can’t bother you. You’ll have fewer constraints on your time which means fewer excuses. It should be far easier to crack-on.
Not to mention that the gym will probably be quieter. Who doesn’t like walking in to find all the machines available and the weights neatly racked. Chances are they’ll be fewer gym douchebags in the early morning, too.
Early risers have been found to be more consistent. Fitness demands consistency, so anything that helps create routine will help you commit to your workouts until they become a habit.
Your metabolism is better in the morning, too. Your body is better able to burn fat stores, particularly if you’re exercising on an empty stomach. One study found that women who worked out in the morning ate less food throughout the day. Surprisingly, too, is that 7 am could be THE best time to exercise if you want lower blood pressure. Researchers at Appalachian State University reported the following in their study on early morning exercise for blood pressure and improved sleep quality.
“In all cases, those who exercised at 7 a.m. experienced about a 10 percent reduction in blood pressure that carried through the remainder of the day. They also had about a 25 percent dip in blood pressure at night, slept longer and had more beneficial sleep cycles than when they exercised at other times of the day.”
The Huffington Post writes that according to Dr Cedric Bryant, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer of the American Council of Exercise. "Morning workouts result in better energy levels throughout the day and give you more mental alertness and sharpness,"
It’s not all good news for early risers, however. Getting up earlier could mean you’re missing out on precious hours of rest. Tiredness not only impacts our day-to-day health but it can also set back our training and undermine our performance. If you’re struggling to get enough sleep, then getting up early may not be the best option for you at that time. You’ve got to be realistic, too. Proponents of early-morning workouts often say that knowing they have to get up earlier to exercise incentivises them into going to bed earlier.
Speaking from experience, I’d say that it isn’t always the case. You never know how shit you’re going to feel on just a few hours of sleep until it happens. Could you quit Netflix after just one or two episodes of a favourite show to go to bed? Just because you’ve set your alarm doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to switch the TV off before midnight. How can you give your workout 100% if you can barely keep your eyes open?
And 100% in the morning is a tall order anyway. How long does it take you to wake up properly? If you’re skipping breakfast, then you’re not properly fuelled. And Muscle strength is down in the morning, so those looking to lift are better off waiting until later in the day.
Whilst fat burning is more likely to occur on an empty stomach, researchers have actually found that in the long-term there was no real benefit to working out in a fasted state as in a fuelled state.
Working Out in the Evening
Perhaps one of the biggest advantages to working out later in the day is that the body is already fuelled up for exercise. If you’ve been sensible with what you’ve put into your body over the course of the day, then there’s going to be a bigger payoff than for those who work out exclusively on an empty stomach. Later in the day, the body becomes more heated and is actually up to 20% more flexible, too, which should help to reduce the risk of injury.
And did you know that lung function is better in the late-afternoon? Science Daily reported on this back in 2004, quoting Dr Medarov from the Long Island Jewish Medical Centre who said:
"We often associate the end of the workday with being tired and less motivated for physical exertion; however, lung function seems to be at its best during this time. As a result, exercising or engaging in other physical activities in the late afternoon may help us to achieve optimal performance,"
The body is more prepared for exercise later in the day. It’s not quite the cold start of morning fitness and you can take advantage of that when planning your day.
Of course, one reason that a lot of us enjoy working out in the late-afternoon and evening is that exercise can play a major role in stress reduction. There’s nothing like a hard session to burn through the irritations and annoyances of adult life. Morning exercise might give the energy, but in the evening we get the release.
Do you workout in the morning or later in the day? It can be useful to recognise the choices we make and what feels right to us. But don’t take the label too seriously. Modern life is going to bite you in the ass at some point so it’s important to know that flexibility is an ally.
It’s worth saying again: the best workout is the one that you actually do.
Do you wear headphones to the gym? Did you know that sweat damages the cushioning and internal wiring of your cans? Sweat is corrosive and it couldn’t give a shit about whether your headphones are worth £10 or £300.
EarHugz are sweat-resistant and anti-bacterial covers that will protect your headphones from excessive sweating during exercise. They come in a range of awesome designs, too, and fit almost ALL major headphones brands including Beats and Bose.