The Ultimate Guide to Timing Your Workout

Is it better to workout in the morning or at night? Before you set your alarm for 5am, you may want to know more about the benefits of working out in the morning vs the benefits of working out at night. 

Which one will give you more bang for your buck so that you can make the most of your time in the gym or in a class?

When to workout

So when is the best time to workout? Before we look a little closer at the benefits of each, it’s important to remember that the best time to workout is whenever you most enjoy it. There are some definite advantages to working out in the morning and some to working out at night, but at the end of the day, if you prefer one over the other, that’s probably the most important factor.

Is it better to workout in the morning?

There have been a number of studies that suggest it’s better to workout in the morning. In addition to the science, a morning workout routine can often be easier to stick to. If you make plans to go to a class or hit the gym after work hours, there are all manner of things that could come up that could derail your plans. Having to work late, drinks with friends or movie night with the kids. No one would judge you for preferring to spend time with friends and family over a workout.

With fewer demands on your time and fewer social engagements taking place at 7am, the chances of you being tempted to skip your morning workout are significantly smaller. Yes, the first time that alarm goes off at 5am or 6am it’s going to suck, but in time you’ll get used to it I promise. In fact, a study published in 2019 in the Journal of Physiology revealed that early morning workouts at 7am can actually shift your body clock earlier, making you more energetic and alert first thing in the morning.

Benefits of working out in the morning

Popular thinking is that one of the main benefits of working out in the morning is due to your body’s hormonal composition as soon as you wake up. Your morning hormonal profile tends to have higher levels of cortisol and growth hormone which can help you to more effectively increase your metabolism and improve muscle growth and recovery.

Is it bad to workout at night?

You may have heard that it’s bad to workout at night, that a late-night workout could have a negative impact on your sleep routine. However, a study published in Sports Medicine in 2018 revealed that this isn’t necessarily the case. Exercising at night can actually have a positive impact on your sleep routine as long as you avoid vigorous activity for at least an hour before bed. If you’re taking boot camp class at 11pm it’s going to take you a while for your body to cool down and return to normal. Your heart rate will be elevated, your blood stream will be flushed with hormones and your mind will be more alert and active.

Benefits of working out at night

Though there’s more research into the benefits of working out in the morning, there are still plenty of benefits of working out at night. For one thing, evening exercise is much more sociable. There are far more classes and group workouts scheduled after work hours, and having the option of exercising with friends, colleagues and other gym-goers can be a huge support. If you enjoy your workouts and have that extra level of support and accountability, you’re much more likely to stick to an exercise routine.

Also, don’t discount the impact of not being a morning person. If your brain comes alive most at night, then this is the time to do more physical activity, rather than forcing your still half-asleep brain to try and count reps at 7am. You’ll be more alert and have more energy, your workouts will be more effective and your technique will be much safer. Plus it’ll be way more fun, which is kind of the whole point.

So, is it better to workout in the morning or at night?

The best time to workout is when you’re most likely to enjoy it and most likely to stick to it. There are definite physiological advantages of working out in the morning and in the evening, but the best workout will always be the one that you actually do.

If you’ve never been a morning person, and the thought of waking up at 6am sounds like a nightmare, then you’ll quickly find excuses to hit snooze and skip your workout. Likewise, if you’re often exhausted after work or have a thriving social life, then do your workout in the morning and get it out of the way.

As a life-long early riser, I would say it’s important to give both a fair go. You may assume that early morning workouts would be awful, but you may actually enjoy how quiet the gym is or how much energy a 7am class gives you for the rest of the day.

What are the best time frames to workout?

  • 6am – 8am. Get your workout done early to leave you energised and ready for the day. Just make sure that if you’re going straight to work you sort out time to eat some breakfast when you can.
  • 12pm – 1pm. Lunchtime workouts became increasingly popular while people worked from home last year. In fact, our own research from 2020 found that during lockdown, 12pm became known as “Digital happy hour” and was the most common time for ClassPass members to take a digital class with friends.
  • 8pm – 10pm. If you prefer an evening workout you could avoid peak times by exercising after 8pm, however make sure you have an hour or two after your workout before you head to bed.
Nick Baker is a content editor and producer living in London. He’s a qualified yoga teacher and gym instructor and (tries) to get to the gym or the yoga studio on most days. Equal parts intrepid traveller and comic book nerd, Nick can be seen showing his age on TikTok and Instagram (@nicholasmarkbaker)
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