Chances are that we probably all have that one friend who is at the gym at 11:00 PM texting us his latest deadlifting progress, wakes up at 5:00 AM to do squats, and leaves for lunch break 15 minutes earlier to sneak in a quick mid-day cardio while chugging down the protein shake rather than a sit-down meal. Chances also are that you are not like your friend and bodybuilding or fitness is an enjoyable hobby that just requires some planning throughout the day to finish your routines and stay on track with your own progress.
But wait! You also want to figure out what time is best for you to train to get optimal results. Let’s look at a few factors that may influence your decision to go to the gym and help you with planning your fitness sessions effectively to get the most out of the workouts!
Note: There is a number of factors and differences between males and females in terms of hormone production, energy levels, and a response to physical training etc. I will consider some of these factors to help you better select the time of the day for your workout!
Numerous articles and publications refer to the hormone testosterone as being at its peak levels in the morning in males. Besides the hormone being at its peak in the mornings, it cycles during 24-hour periods or cycles, which should stay fairly consistent given that some external factors such as sleep and nutrition are in an optimal place.
Since the growth hormone is highest in the morning among males, it can have a number of implications for your workout. Testosterone stimulates muscle hypertrophy (growth) while inhibiting muscle degradation and these two factors are essential for your strength training progress and results. Since testosterone is the main driving force behind your “gains” in the gym, considering the hormone levels may be beneficial while choosing your time frame for the iron lifting session.
While women may not have the benefit of the hormone peak in the mornings, in 2012 researchers at the Brigham Young University conducted a study of 35 women, resulting in a connection between morning exercise and reduced appetite for food throughout the day. The findings of the study showed that women who briskly exercised in the morning for 45 minutes experienced a reduced appetite and more physical activity during the day, regardless of the body mass index.
Additionally, the researchers found that the subjects of the study did not “make up” for the calories burned during the exercise in the remainder of the day, further removing the concerns of people simply eating too much because exercising. That does not sound too bad right? A quick workout in the morning will surpass your appetite, help you get fit and more productive? Sign me in!
One of the reasons why the morning workout may be attractive to many is the concept of fasted exercise and its potential impact on fat loss and getting leaner. A study of males was conducted in regards to the insulin sensitivity and fat loss process and the group of males that exercised in a fasted stated showed greater results than the individuals that exercised after or while consuming carbohydrates.
For me personally, I like to do cardiovascular exercise in the mornings along with strength or endurance training in a fasted state whenever I am in the cutting phase and getting leaner. However, for some of you who are currently bulking or do not care that much about some extra fat burning, morning fasted training may not be the best option.
Another factor that helps with getting up in the mornings and heading to the gym is the productivity or accomplishment. I am sure you know the feeling of waking up a couple of hours earlier than usual and being amazed at how much stuff actually gets done between getting up and the actual time your alarm was supposed to ring. Going to the gym is no different. Getting that gym session done and having some breakfast before your official day actually starts will leave you feeling like you have already accomplished a few tasks and are ready to take on more challenges during the day.
On top of that, mornings are usually not as busy as the peak afternoon hours so you will probably have more options for yourself in the gym, not having to worry about standing in line for the squat rack. Even though this concept is a little more philosophical than science-based, however, it helps me tremendously with productivity and feeling good for getting things done since the start of my day so why not give it a try?
Afternoons and Night Owls
Working out in the afternoons can also be beneficial for your fitness progress and health in general. You don’t need to worry about falling asleep while doing your first set of incline bench press in the morning, generally, you will be able to utilize all your strength and efforts since you have been going on with your day.
Working out in the evening can be an amazing stress reliever after a busy day at school or work and that chest routine you looked up during lunch break will sure leave you feeling amazing before heading home and relaxing.
Afternoons usually allow you to focus on strength and powerlifting because you’re fully awake, have energy from your meals, and already took on your entire day. Another great thing about hitting the gym toward the end of your day is the fact that you do not need to worry about sweating for a while, even after you take a shower and go to work. Sometimes the exercising in the morning just leaves my body running at 100 mph until noon and it sure does not feel great having sweat rings at your desk at work for “no apparent” reason to your coworkers.
Although, as I mentioned before, the evening workout can be a happy ending to an unhappy day. Finishing the day up with a good routine and some cardio can set the tone back to normal and help you relax and enjoy the rest of the day before you hit the sheets.
Things to Consider
In regards to exercising and figuring out what’s the best, not even the greatest and most scientifically proven advice will change your actual family life or work schedule which are much more important than the amount of energy for your workout.
Exercising can be time-consuming with a busy schedule and sometimes it is just not doable to go neither in the morning, afternoon, or evening. Planning for your gym session should also include family time, work or school, and your hobbies among many other factors. In the end (or at the beginning) of the day, it will probably not make that huge of a difference when you actually go. Some people may be simply “programmed” better for certain times than others!
I am a firm believer in experiencing what fits your schedule and body the best and adjusting accordingly. Everybody is different and if someone is a night owl and is capable of knocking off all of their daily tasks at night, great!
On the flip side, some of you probably like to wake up at 4:30 AM and get productive while your afternoons are designed to relax and enjoy your free time after school or work with your friends and family. There is simply no “one size fits all” type of guide or outline of when and why you should workout.
You and only you know yourself the best and you know exactly how you function during the day, when you’re at the top of the world and when you just want to sit back and unwind. Try to look at your current schedule and maybe experimenting with the alternation of your workouts from morning to the evening etc. Regardless of what time you choose, finding an enjoyment in the transformation and the fitness process should be the primary goal to keep in mind!