Timed Training: What is the Best Time to Exercise?

timed training

We all know how important nutrient timing is. It really matters at what time you eat during the day. Especially in relation to your training. But have you ever heard of timed training? Recently, studies have been done into the effects of exercise on your metabolism in relation to the time of the day. Of course, you could say that you should just work out whenever you have time. Many go training in the evening after work. Is there a reason to change this? What is the most efficient time to train? Let’s find out! 

Daily Routines and You

‘The effect of exercising is measured in multiple systems, such as your physiological and neurobiological systems. Physiological and neurobiological activities such as working are related to biological rhythms in your body. For example, your hormonal system plays a big role in controlling when you need to work out. Your body has a routine that it builds up in accordance to your daily life and activities. To illustrate, if you have breakfast at 7 AM every day, you will get hungry around that time. The same is true when it comes to the time at which you exercise. These routines are called circadian or diurnal rhythms, or time-of-day. 

Timed Training – Is There a Best Time to Exercise?

The positive or negative effect of training at different time slots varies from from 3% to 21%, according to recent studies. That means that diverting from your regular routine can be either good or bad. It turns out that there really is a significant difference between morning and evening routines and workouts.

Having said that, other factors are important too. How long you spend on your warming-up plays a role in your workout, for instance. The same can be said about sleep deprivation and overall training time. 

The studies into training timing show that the only thing we know for sure is that exercising at the same time every day is very beneficial. What about the difference between training in the morning and evening though?

Timed Training: Benefits of Morning Training 

Around 42% of people work out in the morning. These early birds benefit from initiating gene programs in the muscle cells. It makes them more effective and better capable of metabolising sugar and fat during the day. This supports weight loss and fat burning. 

Some studies also show that aerobic capacity is around 65% higher in the morning than in the evening. But when it comes to resistance training the results are less clear. Some studies showed more improvement after morning routines and others showed this for evening routines. 

More Benefits of a Morning Routine

Morning workouts often provide energy throughout the day and relief of stress. Your workouts will be at maximum power because you are not worn out by work or other activities. 

Morning work outs in the Summer in cooler temperatures and early light may help increase melatonin levels for a good night’s rest. Another benefit is that your gym or calisthenics park is probably a lot less busy. Which means no waiting times at the equipment or in the showers.

So It’s All Good in the Morning?

These benefits do not mean you should all start exercising in the morning. It is not for everyone. The biggest disadvantage for a morning workout is that you need a good warm-up to get your joints and muscles ready for peak performance. That means you need to have time. Warming up is very important for any training. People who have trouble getting up in the morning will be less efficient during the morning workout.

Timed Training: Evening Training 

Around 27% of people work out in the evening. Most of them work out between 6 and 8 pm. Several studies show a higher peak power and grip strength in evening versus morning workouts. Muscle temperatures reach their peak in the evening, which enhances performance. These factors let you go the extra mile in the evening. Additionally, you do not have to worry about getting in time for work, etc. After a stressful day, it can also be a big relief to let go of stress. Therefore, many people feel more relaxed after an evening workout. 

So It’s All Good in the Evening?

The biggest disadvantage of evening workouts is possible lack of motivation and tiredness. Picking yourself up to go after a long and hard work day can be difficult. And you may just feel tired. Sometimes, this makes people not go at all. And obviously, that is not going to help you in any way. 

What if You do Not Time Your Training?

The other 31% of people work out whenever they have time. This group does not benefit from the morning or evening effects mentioned above. And their circadian or diurnal rhythms are less functional compared to those in a morning or evening group. Your body needs the rhythm to produce the hormones enhancing weight loss in the morning, or peak muscle power in the evening. So, yes, it really is better to choose morning or evening as a fixed timed training instead of going whenever you feel like it.  

Timed Training: What Should You Do? 

First, look at your possibilities and what suits you best. Morning workouts (5-12 am) or evening workouts (4-10 pm). Not a lot of research is available regarding exercising between 12 and 4 pm. What we do know is that your body will experience less of the benefits of both morning and evening routines. Work or school will play a big part in your decision. Especially if you have more daily obligations such as caring for your children.

Second, see if you can schedule your workouts at the same time every day. The circadian rhythm is important to have an overall better fitness performance and increase weight loss for morning training or peak power in the evening.

1: Sato S, Basse AL, Schönke M. Exercise may have different effects in the morning and evening. Sciencedaily: 2019. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/06/190613095209.htm 

2: Seo DY, Lee S, Kim N. Morning and evening exercise. Integrative medicine research. 2013: 2 (4): 139-144 

3: Mastine-Frost J. When do people exercise. 2020. https://www.treadmillreviews.net/morning-vs-evening-workouts/ consulted on 7-12-20 

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