What Is The Best Time Of The Day To Exercise For Weight Loss And Muscle Growth?


MARCH, 2021

The best time to exercise is at 7am or 7pm – but it depends on the individual!

There is heavy debate about when you should exercise. This is further complicated by how individuals respond to exercise, health conditions and other factors. It’s imperative to understand that there are different benefits to exercising in the morning and evening, and these should be considered on the individual level before making a concrete decision.

Benefits Of Exercising In The Morning:

This is for the before work crowd – the morning people. Personally I’m still half asleep at 6 in the morning, but for some people, the day starts early. Exercise is a great reason to get out of bed and start the day strong. Despite feeling lethargic, this feeling quickly subsides as exercise induces adrenaline, which quickly switches the body ‘ON’.

Exercise wakes us up and promises a productive day ahead. It also decreases blood pressure (especially cardio exercise that engages the whole body). This serves as a great benefit to those suffering from hypertension. When we are lying down in sleep, blood pressure is passively low, but as we start our day our blood pressure increases as the blood now needs to pump blood against gravity.

By doing cardio exercise in the morning we can reduce the abrupt increase in blood pressure for some time, as cardio exercise, especially, induces an expansion of blood vessels (vasodilation). This increases the total volume of the circulatory system, thereby reducing the pressure in it. This benefit is not seen when doing exercise at night as sleep is just around the corner.

Sleep is another factor to consider. This one is somewhat controversial though. Some people find that exercising too close to sleep can impair sleep quality due to the increased adrenaline. Others find exercising before bed expends all their energy reserves, and actually helps with sleep.

Building a morning exercise routine can give our whole day a healthy angle. When we exercise in the morning our whole day is structured differently, and we tend to continue healthy behavioural patterns well into the day.

water bottle weights

What Is The Best Time Of The Day To Exercise For Weight Loss?

It’s best to exercise in the morning to burn fat. Why? Because the body has 2 main stores of energy: carbohydrates and fats. Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy and will be used up preferentially. Therefore eating before exercise will increase carbohydrates stores, and will reduce the amount of fat burned.

Training on an empty stomach can increase the amount of fat burned, and the easiest way to exercise on an empty stomach is to exercise in the morning!

sandbag exercise

Benefits Of Exercising In The Evening

The morning seems hard to beat at this point, but certainly exercising at night is great for a number of reasons as well!

The first is to do with muscle length. Muscles are elastic and regularly change shape, especially if held in certain positions for extended periods of time. When we sleep many muscles are lengthened beyond their usual length and some are shortened. Sleeping in funny positions can also put strain on certain muscle fibres.

Exercising immediately after sleep can cause injury, as muscles are not primed to exercise. An extensive warm up can bring the muscles back to their natural length. In the evening, however, when you’ve used your muscles for the entire day, your muscles are closer to their natural length when under load, warmer and better primed for exercise.

Body temperature typically peaks at between 2-6pm. Moreover, the temperature during the evening is typically somewhat warmer than in the morning. Increased temperature is great for the muscles. Muscles are elastic, and a few degrees in temperature can contribute to better dynamic range and can reduce risk of injury.

In addition, human enzymes facilitate metabolic reactions faster at higher temperatures, leading to slightly increased performance. For cardio exercise however, increases in temperature can lead to decreased oxygen saturation in plasma, and can make it slightly more difficult to complete cardio exercise.

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When Is The Best Time To Exercise For Muscle Growth?

Muscle growth requires muscles to rest and recover following intense training. During exercise muscles break down and the repair process is actually what causes them to grow in size. Logically the best time for them to rest is during sleep. Therefore, training for muscle growth is best done in the evening.

Written by Vic

Melbourne-based Personal Trainer, Calisthenics Athlete and the Founder of Street Workout St Kilda. Super passionate about bodyweight training and the art of movement.
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