When is The Best Time of Day to Work Out?

They say the early bird gets the worm. But when it comes to working out, is that notion true? Not necessarily, it turns out.

So, what time of day should you plan your workout routine?

The answer isn’t black and white. And, your best bet may be going when you’re most comfortable and motivated. To help you decide, here are the benefits of working out at both times of the day.

The Argument for Evening Workouts

When is The Best Time of Day to Work Out?

You’re More Alert

It takes your body and brain a while to wake up. While early birds will deny its existence, early morning brain fog, aka sleep inertia, is a real thing that can impair our ability to perform. Not being fully alert can impact the intensity of your workouts. It can also lead to slips, falls and potential injuries.

That said, sleep inertia can last anywhere from one minute to four hours, depending on various factors. So, it is plausible that early birds are less affected than night owls. [1]

You’re More Likely to Recruit a Workout Buddy

When it comes to working out, research tells us that having a workout buddy is a great way to stay motivated. But it may be hard to find a compadre to help you crush your early workouts.

According to Edison Research, most people wake up between 6 and 6:30 a.m., and the average commute to work in America is roughly 30 minutes. So, unless you find someone who is punctual, lives a few doors down and works in the same building as you, you may have to go it alone in the morning. [2][3]

You’re Stronger Later in the Day

While most of the talk around workout timing focuses on the mental aspects, there are also physical differences to consider.

According to one study, your strength and oxygen utilization may peak during the evening hours. The study found that people who worked out between 5 and 8 p.m. experienced a 4% increase in maximal oxygen intake and a 7% increase in anaerobic capacity (energy pathways used to strength train). [4]

The Argument for Morning Workouts

When is The Best Time of Day to Work Out?

You Won’t Have to Compete for Equipment

Do a quick Google search for your local gym, and you’re likely to see an hourly breakdown of the most popular times to visit. While peak hours can vary from gym to gym, generally speaking gyms are the most crowded between 5 and 9 p.m.

So, if your routine is dependent on having a specific piece of equipment available, working out at night may not be the best idea. When you avoid the evening rush, you can also avoid bumping sweaty shoulders with strangers while you wait for the squat rack to open up.

You’ll Burn More Fat

Exercising in the morning may be a quick way to fast-track your efforts to burn body fat, according to a study in the EBioMedicine. Participants exercised in the morning, afternoon and evening. The results showed an increase in fat-oxidation when participants trained in the morning before eating breakfast.

However, exercising on an empty stomach can be physically taxing and potentially lead to injury, depending on your fitness level. If you’re new to working out or just getting started after a long hiatus, consult a doctor first. [5]

You May Have More Appetite Control

When you work out in the morning, you may be less likely to reach for a sugary snack. Exercise helps regulate your appetite by reducing ghrelin (aka the hunger hormone). It also boosts hormones that increase satiety, which helps you feel more full from eating.

According to one study, one bout of moderate-to-vigorous morning exercise can help decrease hunger cues that lead to overeating. [6]

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day (no pun intended), regular exercise can help improve your sleep, appetite, self-confidence, body composition and overall health! No matter when you work out, you’re making a positive change every time you lace up your trainers. So, if you’re more likely to stick with it at a specific time of day, that’s probably the best time for you.


[1] www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/
[2] https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com
[3] www.washingtonpost.com
[4] www.nrcresearchpress.com
[5] www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/
[6] www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

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written by

James Gardikas

James Gardikas

Contributing Writer