Whether you are a night owl or a morning person, you will probably have a preference as to what time of day you exercise. Many people wonder if there is actually a difference between working out at various times of the day and whether your performance could be affected. This article will take a more in depth look at training at various times of the day and the impacts it can have on your progress.

Before we go any further, we do just want to note that the most important thing is your consistency in working out. So, we are by no means saying that you will not achieve any progress by working out at various times of the day. However, our bodies are better optimized at certain points in the day simply due to the way they function.

Circadian Rhythm

We each have a built-in circadian rhythm, also referred to as our 24-hour biological clock. The circadian rhythm is responsible for keeping our sleep-wake cycle regulated, as well as regulation of other bodily systems like the central nervous system, core body temperature, energy metabolism and hormone secretion.

There are two key factors that affect our performance when we train – hormone secretion and core body temperature. Hormone secretion consists of the two most important hormones that are relevant when it comes to exercise: testosterone and cortisol. Testosterone aids in the increase in muscle mass and development. Cortisol helps with catabolism, which is a form of metabolism. However, high levels of cortisol over a prolonged period of time can lead to a condition called Cushing’s syndrome. So, what does this have to do with our circadian rhythm, you ask? Cortisol levels within the body are very low at night, increase greatly when you wake, and then decreases throughout the day. Testosterone levels peak at night time and are lower during the day. Your core body temperature also follows your biological clock. For optimal performance, you want to train when your core body temperature is at a higher level as it helps prevent overloading your body with stress. Normally, people will find their core body temperature increases later in the day, therefore their performance positively correlates with this too. 

Morning Training

So, is this to say that training in the morning is less productive than doing so later in the afternoon or early evening? Absolutely not! Much like everything else in our lives, the time of the day at which we exercise and get the most from it is down to each individual. Some people who experience high levels of stress throughout the day may not benefit from a later workout as they will feel too drained and unfocused, therefore unlikely to perform at optimum levels – despite their core temperature being at the ideal temperature for optimal workout performance.

While anytime of day to workout is better than not working out at all, for the sake of this article we will be exploring ways to maximize your morning workout. Please note, that any of these ideas also pertain to afternoon and evening workouts, so if something appeals to you and your schedule, definitely indulge!

Drink Water When You Wake Up and Throughout the Day

This is a great practice regardless of whether you are going to exercise or not, because dehydration is known to decrease your performance as well as your cognitive function. Drinking water when you first wake up is almost like kickstarting your system. We recommend anywhere between ½ liter – 1 liter of water consumption when you first wake up. Don’t forget to keep hydrated through your workouts and for the rest of the day. Drinking water will keep your metabolism going throughout the day as well as help to curb your appetite if you are trying to fast.

Fuel Up

Many of us are short on time in the morning, so we can’t manage to eat a big breakfast two hours prior to exercise, (and you wouldn’t want to eat heavy and workout immediately afterwards.) If you know you have little time in the mornings, you should have a small meal, aiming to consume anywhere between 15-30 grams of protein and 30-60 grams of carbs. Depending on the type of workout you do, you may even be able to exercise fasted, however, strength training can be very strenuous, so you do need to be well fueled to perform properly.

Enjoy Some Coffee 

Coffee is a great way to kickstart your system in the morning and give you a boost before exercise. The only downside to this is that if you are relying on this every morning, your body will become accustomed to it and its benefits you would have first found may wear off over time. In fact, when you become too tolerant of coffee, it can even bring down your performance. 

Spend More Time Warming Up

As your core body temperature is not as high in the mornings, you will want to dedicate a few extra minutes to warming up properly. It is a good idea to use a cardio based exercise for about five minutes (jump rope, for example) to warm up followed by your warm up sets. 

Overall, while there are more optimal times of the day at which you can benefit from greater performance when exercising, the key is your consistency and just showing up to get it done! You can see benefits no matter what time of the day you do workout, but just make sure you go the extra mile as outlined above if you are training in the morning,

Read more in our blog!