Getting the most out of your workouts requires attention to nutrition, supplementation, hydration, fatigue management and a host of other factors.
One of the most often overlooked factors is the time of day a workout occurs. Most of us have to get in where we fit in, so we aren't necessarily paying any mind to the optimal time for a workout based on the goals we have.
So when is the best time of day to workout? Let's lean on a combination of scientific findings along with experience to answer this question.
First Define Your Goals
The goals you have will matter when trying to find the best time of day to workout.
Are you interested in losing body fat? Are you trying to add muscle mass? Are you focused on getting stronger?
The answer to these questions will matter in choosing your optimal workout time.
What Is Available To You?
All of this discussion might be a non-issue at all depending on your schedule and lifestyle.
Who cares if the best time of day to workout is 12 pm if you don't have an option to train at that time?
If the only time you have available to you is 5 am, it is better to get your workout in than not.
However, this article will still be useful to you because it may help you get the right type of workout for the time of day you are able to train.
The Best Time of Day To Workout
Remember I said earlier that the best time of day to workout is highly goal dependent. Let's bullet out a few and look at the best time to train for them:
If you are trying to lose fat, the best time to train is probably early morning.
The reason is that you jump-start the metabolism and elevate the core temperature early in the day. That means you will burn more calories throughout the day.
You can make this a part of a good morning routine. Just make sure you get the hydration part down.
High intensity training requires that your body temperature be at its highest to get the most out of it.
For most people, this is going to be between 4-5 pm.
This is a great time to get your HIIT workout in, or really push some weight around in the gym.
This one can be a bit of a question mark and is highly individualized.
On one hand, testosterone is highest in the morning. Since this hormone is so critical to building muscle, it would be logical to conclude that this is a good time to train.
But remember that the core body temp is lowest in the morning. If you are training for size and need to workout in the morning, make sure you warm up thoroughly before hand.
On the other hand, you might think that training for mass could mirror the sports performance window. This is probably correct, but you do have to be cognizant of the dip in energy levels in the afternoon, especially if you've worked all day.
You also don't want your training to interfere with you getting a good night sleep, as this is critical to building muscle.
Ultimately, this one is going to require personal experimentation to find the optimal window for you.
The Time of Day You Should NOT Workout
There is a time of day that you should avoid working out if at all possible, and that is within 2 hours of going to bed.
At around 9 pm, the body starts producing melatonin to signal it's time to get some sleep. Exercise disrupts the production. The more intense the training, the more disruptive it is.
Like I've said many times, this may not be possible based on your schedule, but if you can avoid this window before bed and in the evening, you will sleep much better and your body will repair itself more fully and efficiently.
How I Do It
I like to get the best of both worlds, so I often train both in the morning and in the evening.
In the morning, after my hydration, I like to get 20-30 minutes of aerobic and calisthenic movement in. It's not too intense, but it checks a lot of boxes.
I get moving, I elevate my core temperature, I get some mobility in, and I break a sweat. I get the fat burning benefits of a morning workout without being wiped out for the rest of the day.
In the evening, I get my strength work in. This is when I break out the kettlebells or the the barbells and try to move some weight.
I usually finish this workout with some type of metabolic finisher as well.
It's Up To You
You may not be able to tailor your lifestyle around optimal training times, but with this information, you can at least tailor your workout to the times you are able to train.