If you are confused about the best time of day for you to schedule your workout then you are not alone. With all of the opinions, advice, and tips on this subject available, you will find conflicting views on this topic. If you are going to spend hours in the gym each week then you want to get the best possible gains and optimal results. Scheduling your workout session properly can help you achieve better results and bigger muscles. Picking the wrong time of day to engage in training can be a costly mistake because you may need to cut the session short due to lack of energy.
Your circadian rhythms are one factor that can help determine the ideal time for your weight training and workout sessions. The right time for you may not be the best time for someone else. You will find those who prefer morning sessions, others who insist on afternoon workouts, and some who believe evenings are the best possible time to train. Choosing the best time of day for your workout is not difficult but it may take some careful thought and consideration.
What are Circadian Rhythms and Why Do They Matter?
Circadian rhythms are the natural cycles that your body follows in a 24 hour period on average. These rhythms determine the periods when you are most alert and when you are more likely to be tired and sleepy instead. You want to schedule your sessions during the time when you are in an alert state and not when you are most likely to be tired or low on energy. Some individuals schedule a workout first thing in the morning in order to take advantage of the energy felt after a good night of rest. The sleep and wake cycles are not the same for each person though, and you may find that you have the most energy in the afternoon or even later in the day. You will get the best results and the biggest muscles when you time your workout with your wake and sleep cycles. Think about the time of day that you seem to be most energetic and then choose this for your workout time. If you have more energy, you will generally go longer and at a higher intensity level. If you time your training for a period when you are near a sleep cycle, you could end up cutting the session short or find that your low energy level is a hindrance to a great session.
Your Job and Daily Schedule Should be Considered
The type of work that you do, the hours that you work, and your usual daily schedule are all factors that are important when you are deciding what time of day you will hit the gym or lift at home. If you perform hard manual labor all day long then the evening hours after a day at work may not be a great option. If you sit at a desk all day and get little physical exercise then you may still have plenty of energy after you leave the office. Do you spend several hours a day on tasks other than working or training? If you usually spend around 1-2 hours a day running errands and performing household chores, or you dedicate several hours a week to a romantic relationship, then your workout schedule will need to take this into consideration.
Morning Workouts Can Offer Some Benefits
If you spend all day engaged in mental activities then you may choose a morning workout in order to improve your mental alertness and keep your metabolism high. If you work in a physical occupation then this time may be a good idea because you are not exhausted after a hard day of labor. For many people, the hours before noon may be the ones where you are the most alert and have the highest energy levels. You will find that early mornings often mean facilities that are less crowded so you may not have to wait for any of the machines or try and fight your way through the locker room. Most men have the highest testosterone levels in the morning and this hormone is critical for muscle growth and repair. You will also have better mental focus and clarity after a full rest. If you consume a light breakfast then your body has not had time to digest much yet and this could mean more fat burning as well. You may also find that you begin each day with a better mood and more optimistic outlook.
Are You an Afternoon Person?
Afternoon workouts will have a number of benefits but also some potential drawbacks. This is usually when you will have the highest threshold for pain and that can mean a longer or more intense session. If you are trying to get past a plateau then many experts recommend a workout during this period. You will need to take your individual circadian rhythms into account though. Most people experience a sleep cycle in the afternoon and that is why this is the time when many people wish they could take a nap. If you try to train when your energy is lowest during this part of the day then you may be able to take the pain but unable to get the intensity needed to see the gain.
Are Evening Workouts a Good Choice?
A smaller percentage of the population will prefer an evening workout. This may be a good choice in some cases but for most bodybuilders and weightlifters, it is not the ideal time. There are still some potential advantages if you wait until evening to train though. You may notice that you are at a peak level of coordination and stamina. Your body temperature is ideal and most, if not all, of your body should be warmer. In the evening, you also have optimal lung performance and you should be flexible. Your alertness will be ebbing though.
What Time of Day Works Best for You?
Whether you are an early bird, a night owl, or somewhere in between, there is a time of the day that is perfect for your workout. You will need to look at all of the relevant factors and your own energy levels and circadian rhythms. Instead of listening to all of the advice out there, listen to your own body instead.