I have to admit that when I get asked this question by most people, I get frustrated. I suppose there are a select group of folks who find this sort of thing valuable and can use the information in a constructive way. It’s great for education, research, and for individuals who are looking to get that competitive edge. The problem is that doesn’t apply to most of us. I honestly feel this sort of specific detail shouldn’t even be on the radar for most people. It is minutiae in the grand scheme of things. The problem isn’t that you are working out at the wrong time of day, the problem is that you are not working out. Period. So the answer to the question is – the time that you will ACTUALLY workout is the ideal time.
I think we sometimes get too caught up in the latest fitness article or we hear that Kim Kardashian lost 20 pounds because she worked out at 8:05pm. Let’s look at the big picture and keep things in perspective. Each and every one of us is different; what works well for one might not work well for another. You may be a morning person and love to get up and get going. Someone else may hit the snooze button repeatedly and dread getting out of bed before 9am.
We are all unique
Beginner – If you are overweight, new to exercise, and/or just starting a program, then anytime is the best time to exercise. Find a time to get it done and make it happen. Don’t worry about going “0 to 60” with your programming and the finer details of your workouts (i.e. workout time). Be honest with yourself and determine a time that you are willing to commit to. No excuses.
Intermediate – If you are an off-again-on-again exerciser, we may want to talk about things in a little more detail. First and foremost, find out why you continue to fall off the exercise routine…what’s the cause of you stopping? If it’s because of time, life, work, kids, etc., then perhaps choosing a time where those things can least interfere is the best option for you. Typically, first thing in the morning is a great option for folks with extremely busy schedules.
Advanced – And if you are an advanced fitness fanatic who has trained for years, then, to be honest, I’m not sure I would really even worry about it. If you are working out consistently and getting results, then I wouldn’t be concerned with changing things up. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
Early in the day
In my 15-plus year experience as a trainer and coach, the longer someone waits, the less likely they will be to get it done. Life gets in the way…an unexpected meeting, kids got sick at school, the dog pooped in the kitchen, etc. There aren’t unexpected meetings at 5am so mornings might be the best option for you. Some benefits of morning workouts include:
- Provides you with energy throughout the day.
- Improves your insulin sensitivity.
- Some claim to have better brain function, which will have you more alert and productive at work.
- Some experts say it will kick start your metabolism, but research shows it’s not all that impressive a change.
- Research shows morning exercisers stick with their routines longer than those that work out at other times during the day.
Later in the day
Some folks simply aren’t morning people. Or, their job or lifestyle simply does not allow for early exercise. In this case, a workout later in the day is their best bet. Some benefits include:
- Research shows that your muscle activation is highest in the afternoon.
- You body is warmer in the afternoon…less chance of injury (personally, I feel a proper dynamic warm-up will get the body warm, regardless of the time of day)
- Based on our circadian rhythms (our internal clock), afternoon exercise is the best time to move.
Consistency is key
A workout at ANY time of the day is better than the workout that didn’t happen. Establish a routine and stick with it. Get in there, get focused, and get your exercise in.
About Doug Balzarini
Doug Balzarini, CSCS, MMA-CC, is the owner of DB Strength, which provides fitness training, education, and resources. He is also the strength and conditioning coach for Alliance MMA where he works with UFC Champion Dominick Cruz, Bellator Champion Michael Chandler, Phil Davis, Brandon Vera, Travis Browne, Ross Pearson, Alexander Gustafsson, and more. Prior to starting his own business, Doug worked at Fitness Quest 10 as a personal trainer, strength coach, and Operations Director for Todd Durkin Enterprises (TDE).
He has completed some graduate work in Biomechanics at SDSU and has obtained multiple certifications including ACE, NSCA-CSCS, MMA-CC, TFW Level 1, TRX instructor training, RIP training, EFI Gravity instructor training, LIFT Sandbag Certification, and FMS training. He has produced his 2 DVD projects on strength training for combat athletes, appeared in many fitness videos and articles, and was a coach on “The Ultimate Fighter” FOX TV show in 2012.
For more information please visit www.dbstrength.com.