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What Is the Best Time to Workout in the Day?

A well-honed fitness routine is a medley of personal preference, proven efficaciousness, a thoughtful diet, adequate rest… the list goes on. But when exactly is the best time to workout? If you’ve found yourself wondering if your a.m. routine is doing more for you and your body than your p.m. routine, you’re in good company. And, as it turns out, the choice of fitness timing does make a difference.


Vogue Arabia, April 2019. Photo: Domen & Van de Velde

“In my opinion, the best time to exercise is when it fits into your schedule consistently—the hardest part is showing up,” says Heather White, founder and CEO of wellness and fitness program Trillfit. Fitness coach Angela Manuel-Davis agrees, and adds that the way you feel at a given hour matters, too. “If your workout is performance-based, it’s best to workout when you feel your best,” she says. “Over my years in this space, I’ve learned that our fitness journeys are not one size fits all. You have to learn your body and what works best for you.”

Choosing the best time to workout for your needs, fitness goals (think weight loss, lower blood pressure, better sleep, muscle building), favored fitness routine, and with your metabolism in mind is the best means of scheduling the most successful workout for you. (Note: certain low-impact exercises, like Pilates, can be done at any time of day, so work those in whenever you can find a moment). Should you need some guidance in determining whether a dawn or dusk sweat session is best for you, read on.

Is it better to workout on an empty stomach?

It’s difficult (read: impossible or unwise) to discuss fitness without including diet and nutrition in the conversation. And while some claim that the best time to workout is prior to eating, which help with fat burning (a posited upside of the morning workout), it’s likely best to enjoy a little snack before exercise to bolster your energy levels and blood sugar regardless of timing. Kirsch suggests an apple with nut butter or a banana, reserving heartier meals for your post-workout nosh.

“Think about pre-workout meals as the fuel in your gas tank; you want to be balanced with protein and carbs to energize your workout,” says White. “For post-workout meals, consider muscle recovery and choose complex carbs that will replenish your energy stores.”

Best time to workout: The benefits of morning exercise

Starting your day off with a workout sets an effective foundation—and it may help with weight loss, as well. “Morning workouts will kickstart your metabolism and improve your mood for the day,” says White, who recommends cardio or even full-body strength training. “A.m. routines can focus on energizing and activating your body for the day ahead.”

Personal trainer David Kirsch adds that working out first thing in the morning tends to be more convenient, as the time of day comes with less distractions and increased focus and energy levels. “It’s also a great way to burn stored body fat.”

In addition to getting things (including your metabolism) moving, early morning workouts are something of a gateway to an overall healthier lifestyle. In fact, studies have shown that consistent morning exercise can lend to better weight management (and more frequent exercise in general) in adults struggling with obesity. And though we’re about to get into evening exercise, research suggests that aerobic routines executed in the early morning may be the key to better sleep and reduced blood pressure.

Best time to workout: The benefits of evening exercise

Looking to unwind? An evening workout may be best for you. Sweating it out after a long work day can help ease your mind, leading to a more enjoyable evening and deeper sleep, so long as the workout is thoughtfully timed.

“Evening workouts can help you de-stress and sleep better,” says White. The idea is backed by studies, particularly in regard to low-impact, stress-reducing options like yoga or stretching. “Moving your body before bed makes it easier for you to drift off to sleep and wake up refreshed to do it all over again.” Studies have shown that muscular performance in women may be better at night, too, which is something to consider if strength training is your goal.

But while night owls may be tempted to bust out a high-intensity workout late at night, know that any exercise will affect your circadian rhythm, which in turn influences essential hormones like insulin and cortisol. Nighttime exercise delays the production of melatonin for the following night and messing with your overall sleep schedule. To protect your sleep quality, make sure that your (advisably mellow) workout occurs more than one hour before bedtime, allowing time for a post-exercise meal and ample cool down time.

So, what’s the best time workout?

While there is not technically an ideal time to workout, factoring your habits, goals, and preferences into the decision will help determine what makes sense for you. “It is imperative to connect your mind and body in all you do,” says Kirsch. White agrees. “These goals are for you and no one else, so set them up to work for your schedule!” she says. “Make your goals reachable and accessible.”

If weight loss is your ultimate goal, the mornings are likely the best time for you to exercise, the better to burn fat and kickstart your general regiment. If alleviating stress and tension is important to you, workout at night! And if ramping up muscle mass is your ultimate endgame, get your workout in whenever the urge arises, taking sleep cycles and mealtimes in mind. “There is a trial and error that everyone goes through,” says Noah Neiman, trainer and co-founder of Rumble Boxing Gym. “Observing how diet and exercise affects you as the individual, and making appropriate adjustments based on your goals.”

Rather than finding this exploration a daunting tasks, experts agree that it’s something to take pleasure in. “We have an opportunity to get strong enough in our bodies to live the life we are called created and intended to live—what a privilege!” says Manuel-Davis. “Use your workouts as a tool to help support your best life.”

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