Working out at any time comes with a host of benefits and improves metabolic rate to a certain extent. If someone works out at night, they still get the same physical and physiological benefits, it’s just seen at a later time point in the day which will continue on as they sleep and into the next day. Receiving that metabolic boost during the morning or the evening will not make a difference when it comes to caloric expenditure or body composition adjustments.
Below are some of the physical and physiological benefits associated with working out in the morning versus working out in the evening:
Morning – Physical
- Improves mental acuity.
- Helps folks to wake up by breaking a sweat and then hitting the shower before work.
- Easier to work through super sets and giant sets as the gym will likely be less crowded or the trainees will all be seasoned regulars.
Morning – Psychological
- Sets the tone for the day.
- Eliminates the ability to talk yourself out of it later on.
- Leaves more free time to socialize after work.
- Motivates a person to make healthy food choices – i.e. “Well I don’t want that workout to go to waste so I’ll make the smart choice at lunch…”
- Gives you something to look forward to each morning.
- Ensures that your workout will get completed even if life gets more hectic as the day goes on.
- Teaches discipline as a person has to wake up an hour or two earlier by choice in order to improve themselves.
Evening – Physical
- Research has repeatedly shown that performance outcomes are typically greater in the late afternoon than in the morning.
- Allows for lengthier sessions – i.e. longer warm ups, greater rest periods to allow for substrate replenishment, time to decompress, de-stress, and socialize with training partners.
- Less gym rules as they realize that most folks aren’t on a time dependent schedule.
Evening – Psychological
- Stress reliever from everything at work.
- Helps some folks to “wind down” before going to sleep.
- Other folks are also free at this time due to the correspondence in work schedules so you’ll have a training partner.
- Keeps folks motivated to work hard through the day at their job knowing they have a workout to look forward to.
- May allow trainees to be more consistent since many folks struggle with waking up early and staying motivated to maintain a morning schedule.
- Less hectic mornings – sleep in a bit more, prep your meals for the day, ensure you have your gym clothes packed, and face the day head on.
Recommending morning versus night workout patterns
If you work out in the morning but your job is fairly strenuous and requires a good bit of manual labor, then it may be wise to include more exercises which limit the eccentric (lowering) portion of the movement. The eccentric component generates the most muscular damage which often correlates with perceived feelings of soreness.
Also, if your morning workouts are always rushed and you don’t have time for an adequate warm up, it may be wise to limit or skip direct axial loading (i.e. placing the bar directly on the spine). When we sleep, our spines decompress and our bodies experience a phenomenon known as “weeping lubrication”. In essence, our discs reabsorb fluid and actually thicken slightly while we sleep which will increase spinal stiffness upon waking. Over the course of the day the hydration status of our disks will decrease due to the effects of gravity while in an upright position.
Here a few suggestions on what to implement (All are context dependent and this is by no means an absolute list which you must abide by):
Dos: Deadlift variations, sled pushes, step up variations, hip thrust variations, bench press variations, plank variations, etc.
Don’ts: Forced negatives, excessively high volume, back squat variations, snatch grip overhead press variations, hanging leg raises, sit up variations, etc.
Dos: Back and front squat variations, overhead press variations, lunge variations,
Don’ts: Try not to lift within an hour or two of bedtime as the subsequent stimulation of your sympathetic nervous system may make it tough to sleep.
Overall, the most important take away point is that folks should be focused on exercising in general and worry less about the time of day. Therefore, the next time you get settled for your workout routines, remember that metabolic adaptations will occur regardless of whether the sun is rising or setting.