Finding the right time of day to exercise is an important element when devising your training plan, but perhaps not for the reasons you think.
We all have commitments beyond our exercise regimens, which limit the time and frequency of our training sessions. Our families, work and social lives are all important elements in a balanced lifestyle.
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Fitting everything in
In an ideal world, we could dedicate sufficient time to each aspect in a proportional manner to make time for everything, including a daily training session. But reality is far from ideal. As such, sometimes it is a challenge to find 60 minutes a day to train, never mind fretting over when is the best time to work out.
As such, determining the best time of day to train often boils down to convenience. There is also mixed scientific evidence to support one time over another from a results or physiological perspective.
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Advocates for morning training will tell you that it leaves you fresh and invigorated for the rest of the day, and you have no reason to skip gym if the day gets away from you.
Some research suggests that morning exercise may blunt your appetite throughout the remainder of the day, which could provide weight-loss benefits.
Morning sweat sessions could also boost your weight-loss efforts because it exploits naturally elevated cortisol and growth hormone levels as these hormones enhance fat metabolism.
And it is more practical to train in a glycogen-depleted state first thing in the morning, which many people find accelerates fat loss.
And a 2019 study published in the Journal of Physiology found that morning workouts (around 7 am) regulates your circadian rhythm, which could help you fall asleep earlier and sleep better, leaving you feeling more invigorated in the morning with more energy.
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Afternoon sweat sesh
For some people, circumstances dictate that they can only squeeze in a quick gym session during lunch, or they prefer to beat the mad gym rush that happens before and after work.
The remainder prefer to hit the gym on the way home from the office or in the early evening. And there are science-backed benefits to this approach.
The 2019 Journal of Physiology study found similar changes to circadian rhythms among participants who trained between 1-4 pm.
Other studies determined that the best time to exercise is around 6 pm due to potential benefits to lung function, circadian rhythms (again), temperature regulation and hormone levels.
A 2019 study published in the Journal Experimental Physiology found that later workouts also reduced the effect of hunger-stimulating hormones (like the results in the morning training study).
Ultimately, given the varied scientific support, the best time to train is different for everyone based on your goals and life commitments.
The key is to make sure you get to the gym at some point, which means the best time to train is whenever it fits into your schedule best.