What time of day should you be training?
Do you have a favorite time to work out? I know I do! But, is one time better than another? Do morning workouts produce better results than evening workouts? Will the time that you train affect your energy levels or performance? Let’s discuss!
- First thing in the morning
Military life is all about early mornings. With days full of activity, even if that activity is waiting for the next order to come in, getting up early is an unavoidable part of the job. I'm no longer serving, but I still enjoy getting up early and, after a shot of pre-workout or a coffee, I really enjoy my early morning workouts too.
Training early in the morning means that you can make the most of the gym being quiet and can complete your workout before job or family commitments derail your training intentions. There is also some evidence to suggest that early morning exercise is better for fat loss.
On the downside, some people don’t have a lot of energy first thing in the morning or find that they can’t get up early enough to get a good workout. Others feel sore and stiff first thing in the morning and need longer to warm up. Some evidence suggests that, after a night in your bunk, your spine decompresses and relaxes which means you have to be careful with heavy weight training, especially exercises like squats and deadlifts.
The final consideration is your pre-training meal. Unless you get up 1-2 hours before you hit the gym, you won’t have time to eat before you work out. This shouldn’t be a problem providing you had a substantial dinner the night before.
- During your lunch break
Lunch break training can work really well if your gym is close to where you work, or you just want to head out for a run. You may need to keep your workouts short, but that means you'll have to hustle those muscles and focus more on exercise quality than quantity.
If you value your early mornings and evenings, lunch break training can work very well. However, if you prefer longer, less-hurried workouts, this might not be the best time for you.
Training through lunch presents another problem – your post-workout meal. You’ll need to have something prepared in advance so you can eat as you go on with your day. Missing your post-training feed could impair recovery.
- Immediately after work
Hitting the gym on your way home from work makes a lot of sense. After all, your working day is over, and you can train before heading home to eat and sleep. The main problem with early evening training is that lots of other people have the same idea, so the gym is going to be busy. You might also feel tired after a long day at work.
On the flip side, training straight after work is an excellent way to work off the stresses of the day and is much better for you than crashing out in front of the TV with a bottle of wine!
- Last thing at night
If you have the willpower to go home, eat, and then head back out to train, late-night training might be a good option for you. Invariably, the gym is quieter at this time so you can train with fewer interruptions. On the downside, training late at night can interfere with getting a good night's sleep. You’ll also need to squeeze in a post-training meal before hitting the hay. That may not be ideal if you want to go to bed without a belly full of food.
The truth is that there is no best time to train – they can all work. It all depends on your personal circumstances and preferences. Train at the time that suits you, and that allows you to workout consistently. Ultimately, consistent workouts at a less-than-perfect time are always better than occasional workouts at the best time.