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Workout Timing – Morning, Afternoon or Evening?

Once question I frequently receive from patients is, “When should I do my workouts

or exercise?” My first answer is always: when you can fit it into your day and make it

a regular habit. This should always take priority. If you are rarely able to perform

workouts after work due to family commitments, then you shouldn’t plan on it being

your set time! Realistic expectations are paramount. Plan on a time that you can

truly commit to, and make it a habit.

That being said, we then dive into the discussion of timing exercise throughout your

day. Perhaps you have been a die-hard gym opener for the past 10 years and you are

in the groove at 5:00 a.m. Or maybe morning workouts are not your jam (yours

truly) and instead you prefer an after work/evening schedule. Neither is right or

wrong based on our number one rule of realistic expectations. However, there are

considerations that must be accounted for when planning your workouts and your


In a recent article published on Outside Online(1), the author dives into the research

regarding timing of exercise throughout the day. This is important for us with

regard to injury risk, energy output and performance metrics.

Core body temperature is an important aspect of deciding when to train throughout

the day. Your core body temperature is typically lowest in the morning and

gradually increases throughout the day, peaking in late afternoon and early evening.

This is important because when your body temperature is higher, your metabolic

rate is higher – which means you are more effective at generating energy. This

means more intense workouts with better results. So, if you are looking at peak

performance, late afternoon or early evening(2) should yield best results.

One other important factor is the presence of glycogen or sugar in your body

throughout the day. In the early morning, you are likely in a fasted state, meaning

your energy stores are relatively depleted(3). It should then make sense that training in

the morning on less fuel will decrease your performance and appear to deliver

worse results. However, this can be an effective strategy for improving weight loss

or glucose tolerance, since the body improves its efficiency in burning these


Finally, injury risk is an important factor for deciding when to train. In the early

morning, your core body temperature is lower, which may contribute to higher

injury risk. Additionally, since you are likely going to see relatively worsened

performance in the morning, you may be tempted to push harder than you should to

hit that time – which could lead you right into injury.

So what are our takeaways? Let’s review the research for your goals:

Goal: Improve my performance and results

- Research would indicate you are most likely to produce the best results later

in the afternoon.

Goal: Decrease my injury risk

- You will likely have a reduced injury risk by training late afternoon or

evening due to increased energy stores and increased core body


Goal: Train with very high intensity

- Again, training in the afternoon or evening will be best since your energy

stores will be up and your core body temperature will be ready to produce.

Goal: Improve glucose tolerance or weight loss

- While mixed, the research would tend to suggest early morning workouts on

a fasted state to improve your body’s ability to burn sugar and fat.

Goal: Train consistently

- Make time wherever you can! None of these suggestions matter if you can’t

actually get to the gym or get those running shoes on. Be realistic, and choose

times that help you reach your goals.

Thanks for reading!




2. Atkinson, G. & Reilly, T. Sports Med (1996) 21: 292.

3. Van Proeyen, Karen, et al. "Training in the fasted state improves glucose tolerance during

fat‐rich diet." The Journal of physiology 588.21 (2010): 4289-4302.


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