When it comes to working out, some of us can’t stand the idea of lacing up our gym shoes before the sun comes up. Others can’t imagine the thought of a workout looming overhead all day and having to fight off the urge to skip the gym on the way home from work. The best time of day to hit your workout depends on what you are hoping to achieve, as there are benefits to both morning and evening exertion.
As we exert ourselves, our bodies produce and release endogenous morphine- better known as endorphins- to reduce pain. Serotonin, known to be elevated significantly by aerobic exercise such as running, swimming, and biking, is the endorphin responsible for the euphoria associated with “runner’s high.” Anandamide, also elevated by exercise, regulates the body’s tolerance for stress. Together, these neurochemicals depress perceived discomfort (Pathway Genomics 2020). Exercise also improves attention by stimulating the production of dopamine and norepinephrine, both of which improve motivation (Robinson, L., Segal, J., Smith, M. 2019). As the body is flooded with neurotransmitters during and following a morning workout routine, the early morning exerciser is likely to notice an elevated mood and ability to concentrate throughout the day.
For those working out in order to manage weight, morning exercise may be the right choice. Physical activity suppresses appetite by increasing satiety, or the ability of the body to feel satisfied without overeating. Hunger stimulating hormones such as ghrelin are reduced, and hunger-suppressing hormones such as peptide YY are released (Beresini 2012). These same hormones limit overcompensation or binge eating at later meals. (Fillon, A., Mathieu, M., Boirie, Y., Thivel, D., 2020). Following exercise at any time of day, the body turns to fuel sources to repair muscle breakdown, so morning exercise is sure to upregulate your metabolism right out of the gates.
While morning exercise has the most benefit associated with a powerful metabolism, you may be more primed to workout later in the day. As the day goes on, your body’s core temperature reaches its height in the late afternoon. Hormones such as testosterone follow this pattern, leaving the body more capable of withstanding muscle fatigue later in the day (The Greatist 2019). The ability to exercise while sharp and quite literally ‘warm’ may trump a morning workout that lacks intensity. Evening exercise also boosts energy and regulates sleep. Studies have proven early evening exercise decreases feelings of sleepiness during the day and leads to more restful, consistent sleep cycle overtime (Fillon, A., Mathieu, M., Boirie, Y., Thivel, D., 2020).
In the end, the best time of day to workout comes down to personal preference. When implementing a workout schedule, it is best to form a routine that will become a habit. Consistency is key, along with a well-balanced diet and proper supplement intake!