Is it better to exercise in the morning or at night? This age-old question is one that continues to baffle even the most dedicated fitness fanatics.
Early birds get to enjoy a peaceful, interruption-free workout before the rest of the world awakens, while night owls are able to run their batteries fully flat; ready ahead of deep and restorative sleep.
Most try to position their workouts at a time that’ll reap the most benefits, both physically and mentally, but who’s really doing it right?
Before we answer this question, it’s important to remember that the very best workouts are the ones that you actually do. Aside from the scientific standpoint and the supposed benefits of a perfectly timed workout, we fully recommend that you work out when’s right for you.
When do you have time to exercise? When do you most enjoy it? And most importantly of all, when does your workout routine make you feel at your best? These are very important points to consider first and foremost before trying to target a specific timeframe.
Whether it’s at sunrise or sunset, the most effective workout plans are always backed by the right movements and paired with the right diet.
Yet the battle between the larks and the owls continues to rage on, so let’s get straight into it!
Benefits of a Morning Workout
Working out in the morning has all the hallmarks of a perfect start to the day. It provides a dedicated amount of time when stretching the muscles and moving the limbs perfectly prepares the body for the demanding day ahead.
As we’ve looked at in some of our previous blogs, the body is a rejuvenated state of ‘new’ when it first arises, meaning that your workouts are going to be intersecting with your body in an entirely different way.
The hormone testosterone plays a big part in working out because it helps to fuel energy and create new muscle cells, and luckily for the early birds, testosterone levels are at their highest between 8am and 11am in the morning.
During this time, the body will be more encouraged to dive into existing energy stores than into the foods and nutrients just consumed, promoting the fat-burning potential of morning workouts. Added tools like resistance bands go a long way when it comes to this benefit.
Research suggests that morning training sessions help the body consume less food throughout the day while also encouraging more efficient digestion.
Morning workouts provide an opportunity to get your fitness done and out of the way before the rest of the day catches up, and will focus your energy and attention for the rest of the day.
Early morning starts are also bound to benefit your sleep cycle too, facilitating a more restorative process.
Drawbacks of a Morning Workout
With so many benefits on offer, it seems impossible for morning workouts to have any nasty side effects at all. But as testosterone fuels the morning high, other mischievous hormones are inclining the morning low.
Chief among them is cortisol. For those of you who are familiar with our blogs, you might recognise cortisol as the hormone that regulates the sleep cycle; helping you to sleep at night and wake up in the morning.
But cortisol naturally uses all its strength to wake up a sleepy head, which is why its levels are higher than usual in the morning.
This is important to note when working out in the morning. Although it’s very useful for regulating sleep, high levels of cortisol also have a bad habit of breaking down muscle tissue, which it does by essentially breaking down the muscle tissue into amino acids and sugars.
For this reason, workouts that are too close to the beginning of the day might lead you to not only lose muscle mass but struggle to make any significant gains.
Aside from the biological collision, there’s also a practical collision too. This is to say that early morning workouts don’t always work out, and sometimes it’s better to skip the 5am club. If you’re often placing the effort to workout out nice and early over the natural course of your sleep, you might well see the benefits start to slowly diminish.
Benefits of a Nighttime Workout
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and all workouts need to work around you. For those exercising in the afternoon or evening, there are plenty of benefits to be had.
Later doesn’t mean less. Energy and endurance are two of the main features that’ll benefit a later workout. It also means that you’ll be less likely to burn out while you’re breaking a sweat. Great news for anyone who loves a late session of cardio with a trusty pair of core sliders.
If it’s flexibility you’re after, nighttime workouts are the way to it. This is all down to changes to the body’s core temperature which happen throughout the day. The body’s core temperature hovers between 36.1℃ to 37.2℃, but varies mostly between the morning around 6am and the evening around 6pm.
The body’s heated core gives it an extra dose of flexibility when stretching and warming up, and you’ll find that you’re able to take your workout to new heights when the body’s prepared to do so.
If you’re into the life-affirming, all-good benefits of yoga, an evening session is a perfect time to seize them. Rolling out your yoga mat in the hours leading up to bedtime will help you to sleep better and avoid suffering from insomnia.
Drawbacks of a Nighttime Workout
The elephant in the room when it comes to discussing the drawbacks of late afternoon and evening workouts is that time isn’t always guaranteed. Time set aside for a later workout can soon run astray, making it even more difficult to exercise if it isn’t at the top of your list.
Gyms facilities aren’t always open and accessible in these later hours, and a definite drawback includes trying to find a suitable space in which to work out.
The drawbacks of nighttime workouts vary from person to person. It can cause your stomach to stir, especially at the end of a day’s meals, while some may find that it actually causes insomnia later when trying to score a good night’s sleep.
It’s common to feel energised and jittery with that post-workout high, which poses a challenge when winding down to a good night’s sleep.
Which is Better?
There’s a lot to compare when trying to answer our overarching question, and we emphasise how everyone’s workout path is unique and different. For some, a later workout is just ideal, while for others, a quick morning session is the only way to squeeze in a moment of exercise in an otherwise chaotic day.
It’s entirely up to the exerciser to decide when and where best suits their schedule, but for us personally, we turning more towards morning workouts.
This is primarily due to the clear benefits of time, convenience and advantageous chemical balances within the body. Runner’s high is real, and it’s best enjoyed when the day is backed by an early morning workout session.
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