When’s the best time of day to train?

A great question from Suki. He wanted to know the effects on recovery, metabolism etc.

The truth is that it depends on what you are looking for with your training.

Perfect time for strength training

looking to lift the heaviest load it would be in two windows. 4-5 hours and 11-12 hours after waking. So this would be mid morning or evening sessions. Early morning is the least desirable time for such training. For two reasons, firstly we are not at our physiological peak first thing, in laymans terms it takes a while for our bodies and central nervous system to reach it’s peak so we may not be able to deliver peak performance first thing.

Benefits of Morning training for fat loss

If you are looking at a peak time to train for fat loss there is some evidence to suggest that there is a slight metabolic benefit to exercising in the morning as it can act as a kick start to slightly raise your metabolism allowing you to burn more calories throughout the day. There is also a slight benefit to training fasted for fat metabolism. Neither of these benefits are huge. I think some of the more important benefits are the psychological benefit a morning workout can have on your mood and productivity for your day. You will feel sharper and more alert from the get go. It also tends to make people more likely to exhibit healthier behaviours and eating habits during the day. Also people than exercise early tend to be more consistent as they have fewer reasons to cancel sessions due to having to stay at work or get distracted by evening events etc.

Benefits of Evening training

With regards evening training there are also multiple benefits. Our muscles are warmer and we will feel more flexible. Generally you’ll be able to train a little harder in the evening. If you time it right exercise in the evenings can help get you a better nights sleep which is essential for recovery. If you eat after training most people will better regulate their food intake after exercise. It also works as a great way to destress after a days work.


The bottom line

When it comes to exercise, the bottom line is that it is more important that we workout than when we workout. 

If we can't workout in the morning, or don't want to but can workout in the afternoon or evening, we should do it. 

Consistency is one of the most important considerations when it comes to when we work out. 

If we consistently exercise at the same time each day, our 'internal clock' will adjust in time so that we have the energy and become mentally and physical ready to workout. 

This point is particularly important if we are training for a specific event. 

If we are training for a fun run that is going to start at 7.30 in the morning, it is a good idea to do most of our training at this time too. 

If it isn't broke, don't fix it. If you currently have an exercise time and routine that is working for you, stick with it. 

The time of day may make a difference for intense exercise, but for something like an easy walk, the difference between working out in the morning, afternoon or evening is likely to be negligible at best. 

Regardless of what research says, every individual is unique, and as such, each person's body chemistry and inner clock is different. What works best for another person may not work for us. In fact, what works best for us today may change in a couple of months or years. 

The most important thing about exercise is that we do some. It's far less important what we do and when we do it. 

The best time for all of us to exercise is the time that is free of interruptions, when we have sufficient energy and body temperature, and that can allow us to exercise as consistently as possible over the long term.