Here’s a common gym question: What’s the best time of the day to train?
The short answer: It’s always a good time to work out.
Most people don’t work out at all, so it’s better to train at any time than to skip a workout because the time isn’t “perfect.”
These days, people are incredibly busy, and time is precious. Parents are always taking kids somewhere, shift workers are managing wild schedules, some people face long commutes before and after work, and so on. The phrase “I don’t have time” is very common.
So our advice is to work out whenever you can. The time doesn’t really matter that much.
But here’s a tip: it’s sometimes better to get a workout in earlier in the day so unexpected issues later on don’t throw you off track and force you to skip training.
Another tip: No matter what time you plan to train, schedule your workouts and block off that time on your calendar so it’s locked in.
Other Considerations for Working Out
The simple advice above is sound, but we sometimes get asked for more detail. Here it is:
Working out later in the day can affect sleep for some people. If you’re one of them, don’t do a high-intensity workout that gets you fired up right before bed. Try to get your workouts in earlier in the day so you can gear down and get the sleep you need.
Other people really don’t like training after a meal because it upsets their stomachs. We recommend a gap of one or two hours between a big meal and a training session. If you have a smaller snack, you can likely leave a smaller gap before training.
And in some cases, a little food before a workout is OK as long as it’s reasonable amounts of carbohydrates and protein that your body can process easily. Fatty foods like chicken wings are a mistake before training, but a banana and a protein shake are fine for many people.
Some studies have suggested that your body will perform best in the afternoon, when body temperatures tend to peak. And you might have heard about studies that suggest morning workouts and “fasted training” burn more fat.
Here’s the thing to remember about studies and research: The body is complicated, and individual physiology makes it very hard to isolate all factors. With that in mind, it’s not surprising that the results of many studies conflict with the results of others, and sometimes the reported benefits of training at a certain time vs. another are so small that they’re almost irrelevant.
It’s hard to make firm conclusions at present. And even if it were clear that training at exactly 1:43 p.m. is best, how many busy people can train at that time?
One more thing to consider
Your mental state affects your workouts, too. For example, if you’re a morning person who always crashes in the afternoon, it doesn’t matter if a study says you might be a little stronger at 3 p.m. Or if you hate mornings, any benefits of early training will probably be wiped out by your distaste for the wee hours.
With all that in mind, the best advice is to work out whenever you can and whenever you feel best. Experiment to find out which time slots suit your schedule, your body and your mind.
We’d be happy to help you figure out when you should train to get the best results. We’ll find out what you want to accomplish and then provide a plan that takes your preferences and schedule into account.
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