There’s a great deal of research published about what times are best for working out — when will you achieve the best results, burn the most calories, or build the most muscle. However, a great many of these studies barely merit the name and produce no repeatable data across all men.
That’s a problem. In return, let’s shed some light on this debate. Here’s several viewpoints that will help you to improve your own success in the gym and on the track.
1. It’s All About Your Sleep Schedule
Before we tackle which time of day will or will not yield the best results for your efforts in the gym, it’s important to establish a foundation of general understanding. First, humans are known as a diurnal species. That means we function best during daylight, while darkness is better suited for rest. Our metabolic rates follow a curve that describes periods of high energy and low energy.
One of the big issues with modern society is that we stay up much later now than before the advent of electricity. As well, there’s blue light which is given off by most computers, cell phone screens, and televisions — all of them send the “wake up” message to our pineal gland.
As you can imagine, this wreaks total havoc on your circadian rhythms, which act like your body’s clock. Many men who have difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, and obtaining restful sleep suffer from this. And while you can attempt to regulate it with sleeping pills, the best approach for resetting your body’s clock is to close the computer, put down your phone, and turn off the television about an hour before you need to go to sleep.
This will help you to not feel like someone beat you with a stick come morning, and may actually indicate that you are more of a morning person than you ever thought. How does your body clock influence when you should work out?
It doesn’t. It does, however, impact how much you will want to work out first thing in the morning, in the mid-afternoon, or late at night. If your circadian rhythms are skewed, you’ll experience low energy when you should be active and higher energy during the time you should be gearing down for sleep.
2. Genes Are Equally As Important
When we ask the question, “Is there an optimum time of day for working out?” we are assuming that all bodies are the same. It’s important to note that when it comes to human beings, standardization is something we simply don’t do very well.
That being said, we should also understand that our bodies are complex organic machines, each subject to the rules of organic chemistry and elementary physics. This entails that our state of being, at this very moment and in every moment, is the result of a complex confluence of many events and factors.
Does that blow your mind? It should. Factors such as what you had for breakfast on Tuesday may impact how well you burn fat today. While factors such as where your distant ancestors came from — your ancestral ethnic population, may actually impact how you metabolize nutrients in general. That’s not an excuse to skip leg day, guys. Rather, it provides evidence that what matters most when working out is pattern and consistency.
If you don’t want to go for a run, chances are, you’ll find all sorts of ways to talk yourself out of it. Humans are rather lazy creatures on the whole, given our penchant for creating things to make life easier, like fire. What that means is that you have to dictate when the best time of day to work out is.
The higher your energy levels during your chosen workout time, the more efficiently your body will create more energy. You’ll also be less inclined to cut your run short or skip your visit to the gym if you pick a time of day when you are most energetic.
3. Creating a Positive Pattern
While there are some indications that late afternoon exercise yields better results for some men, you need to remember that even the most rigorously controlled study — which this was not — has limitations when it comes to describing a single pattern for a diverse species like humans. Time and again, the consistent advice from experts and people who train for an athletic pursuit, is to create a pattern. Make your workout a habit that you stick to, rain or shine.
All pattern changes involve retraining of a specific behavioral model. That will require a little self-discipline, but it’s totally possible to train yourself. If a morning workout works best in terms of time constraints, and you know that you won’t have time after work, between classes, or at any other time—train yourself to get up earlier in the mornings. Once you do it often enough, you’ve set a new pattern and it will become easier to rise early.
You’ll also contribute to a better sleeping habit if you stay away from activities that elevate heart rate and body temperature immediately before it’s time to sleep. I was referring to eating and aerobic exercise, of course. Elevated heart rate and body temperature generally perk you up, which is why some experts do discourage the late-night work out. However, if you work crazy hours and that’s what works best for you, do it.
4. When It’s All Said and Done
Is as optimal as it gets if you’re a morning person, but remember, science has yet to turn up any quantifiable findings as to a standard hour of the day that works best for every single man out there.
To maximize your workout returns, we do know that if you fuel your body with high-efficiency foods, practice better sleeping habits, and make a habit of working out on a regular basis, you will see better returns.
It all comes down to changing patterns. While there can be no set method that works for all men, that’s just both the beauty and the pain of being a highly varied species. So, take the rough with the smooth, Gentlemen, and hit the gym. You can’t achieve great things if you never set defined goals.