The two most popular times for people to hit the gym are in the morning and in the evening. While the common saying is that the best workout is the one you actually do, is there any scientific evidence that one time is truly more beneficial than the other?
It turns out that there are benefits to both but there may be a clear winner among them, and it is actually the time of day that most of us are hitting the gym.
There are those of us who wake up feeling energized, motivated, and ready to take on the day. Then there are the rest of us who have to drag ourselves out of bed after hitting the snooze button 3 times before shuffling to the nearest source of caffeine. Whichever camp you find yourself in, hitting the gym before work, school, or other duties has some clear-cut benefits.
One of the main benefits for both men and women is the fact that testosterone levels peak in the morning. Testosterone is responsible for energizing your workouts, controlling weight, and building lean muscle. Conversely, cortisol, the muscle-damaging stress hormone is also at its highest point in the morning.
Studies have shown that your body burns fat at a 20% higher rate before breakfast, so workouts like cycling and elliptical training are ideal for dawn exercises. More research has shown that early morning gym goers often get better quality sleep that results in better recovery and more efficient muscle growth.
While many people feel exhausted when the standard workday comes to an end, there are those who get a sudden spike of energy with their newfound freedom and head directly to the gym to start decompressing with a good lifting session or run. Despite testosterone levels being lower, evening workouts come with their fair share of benefits.
For starters, your muscular elasticity increases as the day goes on, so you are able to fully extend and contract your muscles more efficiently in the evening. That means that you might be able to lift heavier weight and knock out more reps in the evening, so it might be worth trying your new P.R. while the sun is setting!
There is even research that shows that people are able to work out for longer periods of time without running out of energy in the evening. This is probably due to the fact that our bodies have usually taken in more fuel later in the day than in the morning.
So… Which is Best?
While the answer to this question really depends on an individual’s specific health goals, there are slightly more benefits to hitting the gym in the morning. One of the deciding factors is that whenever you workout at night, it is actually harder for your body to get to sleep and the quality of your rest can be affected as well, especially if you have a particularly hard session.
That being said the old cliché is right that the best workout is the one you actually do. There are other benefits to the working out that are much harder to measure in large group studies like how good it feels to blow off some steam after a long day at work or how it motivates you to power through your day after a great run in the morning.
If your schedule allows it why not try both and find out which feels the best for you? You could even divide your workouts. According to data, cardio in the morning and weight training in the evening would be a great way to get the most benefits from each.