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The fitness community disagrees on many things, including the best exercises, diets and training programs. The morning vs. evening workout debate is among the most heated disagreements. Many people struggle to find the most ideal time to fit a workout into their busy schedules.
Both times have their pros and cons, but it’s ultimately up to the individual. Let’s discuss what makes morning vs. evening workouts effective and determine which one works best for you.
Morning Workout: Pros and Cons
Exercising in the morning might not sound appealing to beginners, especially if you’re a night owl. Who wants to wake up and go straight to the gym, you might ask? Well, lots of people.
One survey from YouGovAmerica revealed that 50% of Americans who exercise regularly do their workouts in the morning. Baby boomers make up a slight majority of that percentage, as they tend to wake up earlier than younger generations and many of them are retired. Still, a morning workout can work for any age group and experience level. Here’s why.
PRO: Potential for More Energy
Contrary to popular belief, humans ought to have more energy in the morning than at other times of the day. People who prioritize their sleep, eat healthily and get plenty of sunlight exposure feel more energetic early in the day. If you feel sluggish in the morning, you’re probably lacking in one of these three departments.
Many components of the modern lifestyle work against morning workouts. Early work hours, poor sleep due to stress and electronics, high-sugar breakfasts and the growing number of sedentary people have all contributed to less productivity in the morning.
However, independent variables should not ruin your perception of morning workouts. You ultimately decide the effectiveness of your workouts. Adjust your sleep schedule, eat a balanced pre-workout breakfast and get outside. You will notice a significant change in your morning energy levels and thus be more productive in the gym.
CON: More Time to Warm Up
Although you can increase your energy levels in the morning, your body still has some limitations. You just spent eight hours lying in bed with little to no movement and your body temperature dropped. As a result, you’re weaker and more inflexible than usual. An extended warm-up time is often necessary to prevent injuries and continue making progress.
A longer warm-up isn’t a bad thing in terms of physical health, but it means you have to add five, ten or 15 precious minutes to your workout. This extra time might not be feasible if you already have a busy morning schedule. However, there is some silver lining to this disadvantage.
PRO: Fewer Distractions
If you have to warm up longer, you will have little issue extending your workouts because gyms are much emptier compared to the evening. You can power through each exercise at a quicker pace, never having to wait for a machine or “work in” with other people. You will also have fewer obnoxious gym characters to worry about.
Most importantly, a quiet gym allows you to exercise with greater concentration and intensity. You might also feel more inclined to try a heavier weight or a new exercise, which helps you learn more about your body and accelerate your progress. A longer warm-up is an easier pill to swallow in an empty gym.
Evening Workout: Pros and Cons
The morning vs. evening workout debate often boils down to schedule flexibility, which is largely why more and more people aren’t active enough. They feel like they don’t have the time or energy to work out, and thus allow themselves to become more sedentary at work and at home. However, the evening can be the perfect time for people with busy schedules, as you will see.
PRO: More Food Eaten
Higher food intake is the main advantage of evening workouts over morning workouts. Assuming you have the appropriate diet, you will have multiple meals worth of energy in your system to fuel your workouts. The nutrients make you stronger, boost your metabolism and raise your body temperature – an ideal recipe for a productive training session.
The mental aspect of a full stomach is also a key part of this advantage. Simply knowing that you ate well throughout the day can motivate you to attack a workout with greater intensity. Plus, you don’t have to worry about a pre-workout meal. Your collective food intake should create more than enough energy.
CON: More Distractions
An uninterrupted workout between the hours of 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. does not exist. The traditional nine to five work schedule tends to fill up gyms and cause a number of distractions. The machine you want might be occupied, the facility will be less sanitary and you’re almost certain to encounter annoying gym-goers.
Beginners and novices might not like the idea of exercising during the evening, but many of us don’t have much of a choice. You can either wake up earlier and exercise in the morning, or you can tolerate the distractions and keep the rest of your schedule intact.
PRO: Greater Flexibility
After a long day of moving around, our bodies are at peak flexibility during the evening. Greater flexibility will lead to better performance in the gym and may lower your risk of injury. You can also skip the extended warm-up and dive into your workout more quickly, saving time and helping you spend less time in the crowded gym.
Although the plethora of distractions might be off-putting, your increased strength and flexibility might make evenings the most ideal time for your training.
The Verdict: Any Time is the Best Time
Although the fitness community can’t agree on the morning vs. evening workout argument, we can agree on one thing: any time is the best time, as long as you’re staying active.
One time might be more beneficial for your situation, but the important thing is that you’re doing the work. You’re already doing better than the 39.4% of Americans who don’t exercise. Find the time that works for you and keep working!