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.