When Is The Best Time To Work Out? Maximize Results By Timing Your Exercise

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Our lives are busy. It seems like there’s always something going on or something to do, which is why most of us find it helpful to have a routine or schedule as a means of ensuring everything gets done. 

Aside from givens like work and sleep, one of the main activities that we try to work into our day is exercise. Depending on your responsibilities, your workout time might be inflexible and it may be tricky for you to find the best time to work out.

Perhaps you can only get a quick run in before your kids wake up in the morning or maybe you have back-to-back commitments all day long until you can squeeze in a session at the gym before dinner. 

In either scenario, the fact that you are able to make time to exercise is a major win and you shouldn’t concern yourself with wondering whether it’s better to work out in the morning or evening. However, if you have a little more latitude in how you schedule your day, you might wonder, “When is the best time to work out?”

In this guide, we will address what the research says regarding the best time of day to work out and other factors to consider when trying to determine what is the best time to exercise in your own life.

We will look at: 

  • Pros and Cons of Working Out In the Morning
  • Pros and Cons of Working Out In the Afternoon
  • Pros and Cons of Working Out In the Evening
  • When Is the Best Time to Workout?

Let’s get started!

A person walking in the evening.

Pros and Cons Of Working Out In the Morning

Particularly when it is still dark outside and the sun has yet to rise, it can be unappealing to toss your cozy blankets aside and hop out of bed to work out. However, morning workouts are a great way to kickstart your day and get your body and mind firing on all cylinders.

Let’s dive into some of the other benefits and drawbacks of exercising in the morning and see if it is the best time to work out for you.

Working Out In The Morning Can Promote Consistency

If your workout is one of the first “obligations” in your day, there’s a better chance that you’ll be able to get it done without other responsibilities cropping up and derailing your plans. 

Even with the best intentions, if your workout is scheduled for late in the day, you might find yourself buried under unforeseen obligations that pile up instead of heading to the pool to get in your laps or making it to yoga class on time.

Working Out In The Morning May Reduce Your Appetite 

If you’re looking to lose weight, there’s nothing more frustrating than feeling insatiably ravenous after your workout for the rest of the day. Some people’s bodies are more sensitive to the energy deficit generated by physical activity, and they experience a greater spike in appetite after exercising.

There’s some evidence to suggest that working out in the morning may help reduce your appetite the rest of the day, potentially helping you control your caloric intake.

Another study also found that men who exercised on an empty stomach before breakfast ate fewer calories over the course of the day.

A group of people exercising.

Working Out In The Morning May Enhance Fat Burning

Have you heard of fasted cardio? It is essentially the concept of running, cycling, walking, swimming, or doing some other form of aerobic exercise on an empty stomach—typically first thing in the morning.

Fasted cardio has been shown to increase the relative percentage of fat oxidation, meaning that more of the calories you burn during the workout come from stored body fat.

When you exercise, the body uses stored fuel for energy. Carbohydrates are stored as glycogen, fat is stored as triglycerides in fat tissue, and protein forms structural proteins in muscle. 

The human body has limited glycogen stores in the liver and skeletal muscles (about 2000 calories worth), and these levels deplete overnight during your fast. Therefore, when working out on an empty stomach, a greater percentage of the energy to support your workout comes from oxidizing fat. 

In fact, some studies show you may burn up to 20% more fat when exercising on an empty stomach. Moreover, one small study found that exercising first thing in the morning on an empty stomach also increased overall fat oxidation over the next 24 hours. 

It’s important to note that you don’t necessarily burn more calories working out in the morning, you just burn a higher percentage of the calories from stored fat.

Two people jogging on the beach.

Working Out In The Morning Can Increase Your Overall Activity

Daily physical activity can, and should, extend beyond your designated workout time. Walking around and moving your body count as active minutes that work towards weekly physical activity recommendations.

There’s evidence to suggest that people who exercise in the morning tend to exert more energy throughout the day. It might be that knowing your workout is behind you frees you to be more active without feeling you need to “save” energy for your workout.

Working Out In The Morning May Help Improve Your Sleep

Studies suggest that relative to working out in the afternoon or evening, working out in the morning can improve the quality of your sleep. Exercise increases your body temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure, which can impact your body’s circadian rhythm and time spent in each stage of sleep.

Working Out In The Morning May Help Improve Your Focus

Evidence suggests that working out in the morning can help increase attention, working memory, and executive function throughout the rest of the day. 

A close up of a person's feet on a treadmill.

You’ll Start The Day Off On The Right Foot

Getting your workout done first thing in the morning will jumpstart your day on a positive note. It’s a win, a success, and can fill you with a sense of accomplishment. This can carry over as a positive outlook for the rest of the day.

Some people find that after they work out in the morning, they are prone to making better health choices for the rest of the day.

Your Performance May Suffer In Morning Workouts

Most research shows that athletic performance suffers when you exercise without adequate fuel, so if you’re working out in the morning on an empty stomach, you might not be able to push your body as hard. 

Strength, speed, and intensity levels tend to be significantly better when exercise is performed in a fed state, particularly when adequate carbohydrates are available.

So, what do you think? Is morning the best time to work out for you?

A group of people in a yoga class.

Pros and Cons Of Working Out In the Afternoon or Midday 

Many people don’t have the luxury of fitting a midday workout into their schedule, but if you do, you might find these sessions hit the time-of-day sweet spot.

Here are some pros and cons for midday or afternoon workouts so you can decide if this is the best time to work out for you.

Midday Workouts Break Up Your Day

When you can squeeze in a run on your lunch break, you can head back to your desk feeling totally refreshed and reenergized for the rest of the day.

Midday workouts can be a great way to energize your body and mind.

Midday Or Afternoon Workouts Aren’t Practical for Most People

Many people don’t have enough time on their lunch break to really manage fitting in a workout. Afternoon workouts are also not feasible for many people working typical business hours. However, if you have an alternative schedule or greater flexibility, you might have plenty of time for an afternoon sweat session.

A person walking in the evening, is it the best time to work out?

Pros and Cons Of Working Out In the Evening

If you’re not a morning person, and you can’t realistically get your workout in during your lunch break, exercising in the evening is probably the most appealing option.

Here are some of the pros and cons for saving your workout for the end of the day. Let’s see if evening is the best time to work out for you:

Evening Workouts Allow You To Blow Off Steam From The Day

Particularly if you have an inactive job where you sit at a desk all day or a stressful job that leaves you feeling tense yet mentally exhausted by the time you clock out, exercising in the evening can be a great way to reduce stress and get your body and mind feeling good.

Evening Workouts May Disrupt Your Sleep

Depending on the type of exercise you do, working out too close to bed time can be energizing and disrupting to your sleep. This is often especially true for vigorous workouts that end less than an hour before you are shutting your eyes for the day. So if you already have trouble sleeping, the evening may not be the best time to work out for you.

On the other hand, some people find that pushing their body before bed actually helps them feel physically spent and ready for sleep when they get under the covers.

A silhouette of a person walking on a mountain.

Consistency Can Be Challenging With Evening Workouts

We’ve all had days where unforeseen things come up and sometimes, this means an evening workout has to be nixed. 

It Can Be Easier To Fuel For Evening Workouts

When you exercise first thing in the morning, it can be hard to have time to eat and digest anything beforehand, which can leave you feeling depleted during the workout.

For evening workouts, you have a full day of nutrition in you to energize your body. Just be sure to leave enough time for your body to digest your food before you exercise.

Have you decided when the best time to work out for you is yet?

When Is the Best Time to Work Out?

There are pros and cons to exercising in the morning and others for exercising in the evening, but ultimately; the best time of day to work out is the time of day that works best for you in your life. 

Whether your schedule dictates a certain time of day or your body feels best exercising at one end of the day or the other, choose the best time to exercise works and feels right for you.

If you would like some help in fueling these workouts whenever they may be, check out our Runner’s Meal Plan, How To Fuel Your Daily Runs.

A person stretching in a field.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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