When Is The Best Time To Train?
It all depends on the individual and what works best for them. Personally, I can’t train early morning. I’m an ‘owl’ not a ‘lark’ and I lack energy and feel sluggish before noon. I’m most definitely an ‘owl’ and for me, training at mid afternoon means I do the best quality workout possible. If I train in the morning it usually results in a pretty miserable workout and I’m really tired for the rest of the day.
Larks and Owls
Larks are those people that are more alive in the morning. They get up at the crack of dawn and are raring to go but are usually flaked out in the afternoon evening and then go to bed early. Compared to owls who are bleery eyed early in the morning, need loads of caffeine to get going but are still going strong late into the evening. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, your chronotype (or preference) is decided in your genes and there’s not a lot you can do about it.
Exercising in the morning is great because it gets it done and you can then focus on the rest of your day. The problem is, especially if you train very early, you’re exercising on empty. What I mean by this is; you haven’t sufficient energy to exercise properly. The last meal you’ll have eaten would have been at tea time (anything between 5pm to 8pm) therefore you’ll be exercising in a fasted state. If you haven’t got good energy you’ll have a pretty listless and rubbish workout. I don’t recommend to any of my trainees that they should exercise first thing in the morning. At the very least have some breakfast then give it an hour or two to digest and then you can have a decent workout.
Afternoon / Evening
The ideal time to exercise, from a physical perspective, is mid afternoon or early evening. By this time you will have had two meals, breakfast and lunch, so you’re adequately fuelled and have plenty of energy. Plus, you’ll have been awake for a long time time so your muscles and organs are ‘warmed up’ and primed for exercise. The downside of training later in the day is; life gets in the way. We’ve all been super motivated and can’t wait to hit the gym after work, only for our session to be scuppered by some personal or professional crisis to hit. Also, if we’re honest, we’ve all got up in the morning and packed our gym bag with good intentions and then, when we’ve had a busy day, decided against it. We’ve all done it so there’s no judgement here, believe me!
I strongly advise not to train after 8pm because the nearer you train to bedtime the more chance you’ll struggle to get to sleep. Exercising increases your heart rate for a couple of hours after you finish so you won’t be able to relax. Plus, you should always eat after training and late eating energises you and will delay tiredness. Also, you don’t want to be trying to digest food whilst sleeping either, this will affect quality of sleep.
The ideal time to train is to find a time that suits your circadian cycle and fits in with your daily commitments. Without a doubt ‘larks’ should train earlier in the day and ‘owls’ should train later in the day to be in the best physical shape for the session. I also ask my trainees to look at their weekly schedule and try to pin point a practical time to train. Can you sneak off work for an hour in the afternoon for a workout and then make the time up later? Or, train at lunchtime and then have a sandwich ‘El Desko’ when you get back? I then advise that they should treat a training session as an appointment that they can not miss unless there is an absolute ‘dire straights’ type emergency. Put the time in your diary and stick to it. Give it as much priority as a family or professional responsibility.
A good example of this is former U.S. President Barack Obama’s attitude to his exercise regime. When he was president he used to work out every morning at 8am, six morning a week, and gave strict instructions that he was only to be interrupted if there was a ‘911’ scale of emergency.
Training on a regular day and at a regular time works well because it becomes habits forming. From my experience, when it becomes a habit and part of your weekly / daily schedule you’ll stick to it. When you treat it as a priority and work the rest of your life around it you’ll do it regularly and most importantly, you’ll start seeing the results!