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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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July 20 2011

What is the Best Time of Day to Exercise?

By Mark Sisson
126 Comments

Many people, myself included, prefer streamlining fitness to obsessing over its minutiae. Although I’m no fan of their footwear, Nike’s “Just Do It” really does capture my view of what exercise should be. Find what you like doing and what works for you, and simply go do it. But not everyone is that way. Tons of people truly enjoy the nitty gritty details. They like the research, the nutrient timing, the supplementation. They’re the ones discussing the respective differences between sumo deadlifts, regular deadlifts, and Romanian deadlifts. They’re the ones who want to wring out every last drop of performance.

I get that. I used to be like that, too, but now I take more of an academic interest. That’s not to say I don’t pay attention to what I’m doing, because while I like to think I’m just going with the flow and doing what I enjoy, I also like knowing that what I’m doing is effective. Basically, I don’t like wasting time. Plus, many readers fall into the latter category of those who want the details.

Today, I’m going to look at the effect (if there is one) of workout timing. Should you lift in the morning upon waking, or at night? Are the effects of morning exercise different than the effects of afternoon exercise? Does working out right before bed disrupt sleep or improve it? Let’s explore these and other questions as we decide which is the best time of day to work out – if such a thing definitively exists at all.

I’ll go down the line and examine the effect of diurnal variation on various aspects of exercise. Let’s dig in.

Performance

If you’re interested in performance, some evidence seems to point toward the afternoon and early evening as the best time to exercise. In one recent study, ten and eleven year old boys performed better in the afternoon than in the morning. Grip strength improved 5.9%, squat jump performance increased 3.5%, the “5 jump” test improved 5%, and performance increased 5.5% (peak) and 6% (mean) during the Wingate test (which measures peak anaerobic output) from morning to afternoon. They also tested the boys in mid afternoon (2:00 PM) and early evening (6:00 PM), but found no difference in performance. This study found a similar result in morning and afternoon PE students using the Wingate test, but the authors suggest that longer warmups during morning sessions could mitigate the performance deficit. So, morning workouts require longer warmups? I can buy that.

Sprinting? Try afternoons for maximal power, but don’t think you’ll have any extra stamina. This study found that maximal power was highest during the first three sprints (of ten total) in the afternoon when compared to morning sprints. Fatiguability was no greater, though.

Another cycling study found that afternoon power output was greater than morning power output in trained cyclists. Fatigue was not affected by time of day, however.

Another study compared the knee extensor strength (via the mighty half squat!) of two groups of trainees. The first group had spent 10 weeks training in the morning, while the second group had spent 10 weeks training in the evening. Both groups improved over baseline, but the evening trainees enjoyed greater strength gains.

I wouldn’t assume that all exercise is better in the afternoon, however. The authors of this study suggest that submaximal exercise – like jogging, walking, hiking, or anything that relies on stamina and little else, really – is not negatively impacted by diurnal variation, which makes sense in light of the previous studies showing that while maximal power decreases in the morning, stamina does not.

Takeaway: Raw power and performance in weight lifting, cycling, and sprinting is highest in the afternoon and evening. Stamina does not increase or decrease, however, and the changes in performance may be mitigated by more extensive warmups. If you’re a high level athlete or really interested in how you perform, afternoons and evenings are best. If you’re just trying to get and/or stay fit, strong, and healthy, morning workouts are just fine.

Hormonal Effects

How does timing change how a workout affects your hormonal profile?

One study found that lifting heavy things in the evening, as opposed to the morning, resulted in a more anabolic (strength and size-building) testosterone/cortisol ratio. Baseline cortisol values were lower in the evening (which is normal) and higher in the morning (also normal; cortisol is necessary for morning wakefulness), which probably explains why evening training worked better. If you’re starting with already elevated cortisol, some intense training is only going to spike it even more. If you’re starting with moderate cortisol, intense training won’t have as negative an effect and your testosterone levels will likely be sufficient to counteract the rising cortisol.

Not all research is so clear-cut, though. In a study on muscular hypertrophy (growth), both morning and afternoon weight-training worked equally well at growing muscles and increasing maximal strength. There was a slight, but statistically insignificant advantage to training at night.

Takeaway: Don’t hop directly under the bar in your pajamas with bleary eyes. Take the time to wake up and relax before working out. That might mean pushing your morning CrossFit class to an afternoon session, or at least a late morning one. We know that cortisol is normally elevated in the mornings, and exercise increases cortisol, so be aware of how the two interact.

Health

How does diurnal variation affect the general health benefits of exercise? Obviously, if you can perform better and reap bigger strength gains in the afternoon, you’ll probably gain more lean mass and lose more fat, but what does the research show?

There are mixed results. Post-menopausal women were split up into two groups in a recent walking study. One would walk in the morning, while the other would walk in the evening. At the end of the study, evening walkers had lower fat mass despite eating larger breakfasts. Both groups improved their aerobic fitness, but the evening walkers did better overall.

Recently, much has been made of the neuroprotective effects of exercise. In other words, the pursuit of brawn appears to lead to brain, too. A recent study found that the neuroprotective effects of aerobic exercise were modulated by its timing. Rats ran for 20 minutes on a rat wheel, either early in the morning or in the afternoon, after which their HAT/HDAC ratios were measured. HAT are histone acetyltransferases, and HDAC are histone deacetylases. The HAT/HDAC ratio indicates how much acetylation is occuring. Higher ratios indicate more histone acetylation and greater neuroprotection, while lower ratios indicate less neuroprotection. So, high is good, low is bad. Both exercise protocols increased the ratio, but the afternoon session increased it more than the early morning session.

But the time of day doesn’t always matter. Check out this study, in which morning and afternoon treadmill sessions were tested for their respective effects on blood fluidity post exercise: blood fluidity improved across the board, regardless of when the exercise was performed. Another study found that resistance training (3 sets of 7 reps at 80% of one rep max) improved platelet function, irrespective of time of day. Morning and afternoon sessions were equally beneficial.

Takeaway: Evening/afternoon sessions seem to be somewhat more protective and beneficial, but morning sessions are also helpful – just less so. And there are other parameters on which diurnal variation has no effect, so it’s not a clear cut answer either way. Let’s put it this way – both are good.

Sleep

Everyone can agree that exercise in general improves the quality and incidence of sleep. Simply put, if you’re on a regular exercise regimen, you’ll probably sleep better, deeper, and easier. But what about working out right before bed? Will the cortisol spike and keep you awake? Will the increased heart rate keep you from settling down? Let’s find out and look at some studies.

Here’s one that found a 5:00 pm 30-minute session of moderate exercise improved sleep in elderly patients who normally had trouble falling asleep. They fell asleep faster and enjoyed greater satisfaction with the quality of their sleep. Another, using underwater exercise in untrained subjects, found that late afternoon (4:30 pm) exercise had no effect on sleep. Even late night, “vigorous exercise” may not negatively impact your sleep, as a study in trained cyclists showed. The subjects were able to get to sleep 30 minutes after three hours of cycling at 65-75% of their max heart rate without issue.

Takeaway: Unless you personally find that late night exercise negatively impacts your sleep, don’t worry about exercising at night.

Sustainability

We’re all individuals here, but there may be patterns of workout consistency that correlate with the timing of workouts. Do morning exercisers work out more consistently than afternoon or evening exercisers?

One study found that people who exercised in the mornings were more likely to exercise in general, while people who said they exercised at night or in the afternoon were less active overall. I wouldn’t read too much into this, and I think a likely explanation is that people who are willing to wake up early to work out are more likely to stick with something – like a workout regimen. Early risers are generally more consistent, I think most people would agree, and this research bears that out.

Takeaway: Epidemiology is nothing to hang your hat on. Correlations may indicate something about populations, but if you, yourself, find you exercise better at a particular time of day, they are almost useless.

As for me, I like late morning workouts, but that’s just because late morning works best for me and my schedule. I’m not trying to optimize my hormonal responses, boost my metabolism, or maximize my workout grip strength. I’m just working regular exercise into my daily routine, when and where it fits.

You can read the research and follow the links, but ultimately, the best time of day to exercise is the time of day that works for you. If you’re dead tired after work, perhaps a morning session is the answer. If late night workouts keep you buzzed and awake, move them back an hour and go from there. Also, as the context of your life changes, you’ll have to mix up your workout schedule on the fly. Get a bad night’s sleep? Your cortisol is raging, and a late afternoon workout is probably better than an early morning one.

When do you workout? Does it work for you? Thanks for reading, and be sure to let us all know about your workout schedule!

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126 thoughts on “What is the Best Time of Day to Exercise?”

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  1. I’d think getting workouts done first thing in the morning is ideal because if you wait until afternoon/evening there are likely to be more excuses or distractions that come up during the day that cause you to miss the evening workout.

    I used to be too tired by the end of the day to ever workout, but going Primal helped me with that and I’ve been pretty consistent. I’d like to be one of the morning workout people because the gym is less crowded, but I can’t seem to drag myself out of bed that early.

    1. Totally agreed!

      I found I make more excuses if I wait until the afternoon, and not even good ones (i.e. “my stomach is upset”, “I’ve got a headache”, and of course, “damn, I’m tired!”)

      1. I love how timely some of Mark’s posts are. Worked out this morning for the first time in … ever, I think. Felt horrible doing it; felt great when I was finished.
        I was surprised to find that, after changing the way I worked out (fewer times per week), I practically CRAVE working out. It’s something to look forward to. I find myself making time for it. During the school year, with two little ones now, I don’t normally get time to myself until 9:00 PM or later, and I work out outside, so this past winter was fun. Not a whole lot more bracing than sweating outside at 10 at night in below-freezing weather. Since my workouts tend to be more of the short and intense variety, I don’t much care for performance–I’m not trying out for a sport. I like Taleb’s points about minor stressors improving fitness. There have also been many times I’ve done a pre-workout fast, through necessity by working out later and pushing dinner off, and really wrung myself out.

        So far as building fitness, strength or cardiovascular performance aside, isn’t it like eating and sleep–“your body doesn’t care what time it is”?

      2. I agree with you. The other good thing about morning work outs is it starts your day off with something productive. Anytime I start my day off doing something good I do a lot more than days when I don’t. When I don’t start my day off doing something productive I tend to make excuses like in your example. PS, I love your avatar. A lot. 🙂

    2. not only that but morning workouts make me feel better during the day. I just feel more energized and fresh.

    3. I totally agree! That’s why mornings work for me; there is ALWAYS something happening in the afternoons and evenings to keep me from it.

    4. I find that if I can just pick one of the 5 Primal exercises a day and do a set once an awhile throughout the day, never to failure, I can reach my goal of total reps for the day, whatever it is, 250 pushup, 100 chin ups, it gets done and I get to feel good about it. Works for me and that is what it’s all about. Walk the dog for an hour most evenings, we both sleep better. Get Vet visits, “nothing but muscle and bone is his report and healthy as a horse.”

    5. sorry, i just hate moving in mornings.
      how some people can do that is beyond my comprehension. i’m so lethargic in morning. haha.

    6. I have an incrediably stressful job, after work I am fried and exhausted. I stick to AM exercise, sometimes as early as 5a. Ideally I perform better running at 7a, but there isn’t always time for that.

  2. The last part of this is brilliant. “Get a bad night’s sleep? Your cortisol is raging, and a late afternoon workout is probably better than an early morning one.” I completely agree. If I’m stressed (finishing grad school…) and don’t sleep well, early morning workouts destroy my day. If I wait until the afternoon, its great! If I DO sleep well, nothing gets me pumped up like a morning session. I gotta make the call on the fly, and not everyone can do that, but hey – being a student sometimes has its advantages!

  3. Sorry to diverge, but this question is somewhat related. If I’m going to “treat” myself to something a bit higher in carbs, is it better to workout AFTER or BEFORE ingesting those carbs? I’ve heard conflicting things…

    1. I’ve heard that some carbs pre workout can boost yourperformance. Just a little such as a half piece of fruit. It makes sense to me. You have some extra energy.

      Then you want to eat most of your carbs post workout. So you might eat 10 about 15-30 minutes prior to a workout but then you may eat 50 or more after your workout depending on what your goals are.

      Does this make sense?

    2. From what I understand, higher carbohydrate intake is more useful AFTER a workout (between 15 and 30 minutes). Your body is ready and eager to replace stored energy, and so you should be happy to give it some. Not too much, of course, and make sure it’s a good source (fruit or starchy veg, as opposed to grains or processed sugars).

      1. Women need a recovery meal within 30min, men 60 min. Don’t forget leafy greens and water, they are huge in recovery and often forgotten about as post recovery.

    3. I believe carb intake PWO would be better at least from what i’ve heard. It stimulates protein synthesis. Fat intake will do that same but it will take longer.

      Why this is important im not sure. Why should it matter if one methods takes less time than the other. Isnt it accomplishing the same thing at the end of the day?

  4. I have tried every time of day, and honestly, morning is the worst for me. I’m not a morning person, I hate eating in the morning, I hate working out in the morning. I always feel sick when I do either of these things in the early AM right after I wake up. 10:30 or 11 is a great time for me, I’m awake and have more energy, and can eat a great lunch right after. If I can’t do it at that time for some reason, 2 pm is also an optimal time for me. I am a stay at home mom, so anytime that naptime is here, I’m ready to workout. I tried going to the gym after bedtime, around 8 pm, but that just didn’t work. Since then I’ve gotten weights at home so I can do it when I have time during the day.

    I used to go right after work around 5, and did that for years, but any later than that and it just didn’t work. Too many people at the gym! But the big factor there is, that if I went home after work, I never wanted to go back out to the gym. If I didn’t go on my way home, that was it. So basically, the moral of “just do it” is great, just get it done whenever you can. You’ll ultimately feel better for getting some activity in, and the majority of the people just starting out need the movement more than the timing.

  5. I used to workout first thing in the morning every day. I then started to change it up a bit and workout prior to lunch, then prior to dinner and then just whenever.

    Ive begun to like the randomness.

    I will sometimes workout in the morning within an hour of waking up, sometimes I’ll workout pre lunch, pre dinner, etc.

    I always used to be in high fasted state since I worked out in the morning after sleeping.

    Now it does not matter. I tend to do best with a little fuel. Most of the time I will have gone 3 or so hours without food. But doing it for 12+ makes me not perform as well.

    I say one needs to look at their schedule and then workout when its best for them. There are unlimited factors that go into what is best for an individual.

    1. I’m a flip-flopper. My workout patterns fluctuate based on what I’m dealing with in life at any given time. When life is relatively “low-emotional impact” I’m more organized and structured. But when I’m wrestling with stuff emotionally, everything’s all over and I have to roll with the punches to make stuff happen.
      In my organized zone, I LOVE working out in the morning. I’ll get up at 4:30am, have a snack and give myself about an hr to fully wake up before CrossFitting. 3-5 days a week. And boy, do those endorphines make me feel soooooo good all the way up til about 4:30/5pm when I’m ready to wind down for the day and crawl back into bed … admittedly, before the sun sets. 🙂 My eating and sleeping and all other life-activities are like a fine-tuned machine of fluid regularity. It’s nice. I can focus on performance, setting and working toward athletic goals.

      But when life has me pushing through heavy stuff, my workouts are a background support rather than a focus. I’ll tend to need more sleep, have a harder time eating well/enough, body hurts more and pain tolerance is lower, energy is down, etc. So I workout when I can, when I know it’ll boost me rather than drain me. I try to keep it at least 2x/week, whenever it’ll fit my flighty-ness. 🙂

  6. I wish I could walk through the forest 5 -6 hours a day. This would make me extremely happy. Being on my legs, hiking up hill, climbing over rocks is my preferred exercise…and I don’t care what time of the day it happens.
    I like to lift heavy things here and there but working in a large garden, plowing the earth over and digging holes by hand is a LOT more satisfying than spending time in the freakin’ gym.

    I regret signing up for a gym membership for 1 year, thinking lifting heavy things and ‘working’ out would be beneficial to my overall health. Instead, it’s a pain in the butt to get dressed and put shoes on, to exhaust my muscles at a place that’s boring and tedious and lacks imagination.

    As far as time goes, I don’t care when I’d have to get up and go for a 10 mile hike…if someone would wake me up in the middle of the night I’d be up and ready to go. Although I think performance would be best later in the day, starting 5 pm.

    1. I find for the gym you’ve got to have goals, and a program to get you to them (or at the very least a program.. and a program that makes you feel good afterwards… and there is a lot of variation) then you have something to focus on, and trust me once you have that your not bored, theres plenty to think about and focus on.

  7. I work out in the early evening – mostly out of convenience. But I also wonder if working out in the evening helps with getting your body limbered up. After all, you’re moving throughout the day, as opposed to lying still for a long tract of time. It kind of makes sense logically that your limbs may have loosened up.

  8. “but ultimately, the best time of day to exercise is the time of day that works for you.”

    That is really the bottom line for me!
    I am up here in the land of 24hr Sun right now and soon it will be back to darkness… so working out when I feel good.. paying attention to my “chi” has always worked for me.

  9. I’m also in the “do what works best for you” camp. I’ve been a strong proponent of the idea that the best possible exercise program a person can be on is the one that they will stick with. And there is no better motivator to sticking with it than results. So you get into a really nice positive feedback loop. I’ve been doing Slow Burn since last August, I have stuck with it very consistently (with a few exceptions here and there), and the results have been so awesome that I keep going back, even look forward to the workout.

    Dana and I were thinking we would lift this morning, but we didn’t. Instead, I’m about to head home for a 1pm session. Usually we go at more like 5 or 6, so today is a little different. But there have been a few times that we said, “let’s just do it in the morning,” and it never happens. No science there, just, once again, what works best. 🙂

  10. I like to workout first thing in the morning before breakfast. It wakes me up, gets me energized, and sets the tone for my day. I also don’t have to worry about showering/changing/doing my hair all over again later on. Working out at night (8 or later) almost always guarantees a bad night of sleep for me.
    I was actually surprised that the afternoon/evening came out slightly on top according to most of those studies. But you are absolutely right, Mark, JUST DO IT! No sense in fussing over the clock.

  11. Interesting post–slightly bummed to see that for the most part, benefits are slightly greater in the afternoon, as I absolutely need to work out in the AMs or it simply doesn’t happen. I guess I have to live w/the fact that a slightly less beneficial workout that I actually DO is way better than a more ideal one that I end up scratching 5 times out of 7 b/c I am tired, busy, etc. Besides, I have to think that the peace, quiet and beauty an early AM run, walk or bike ride provides its own kind of mental/spiritual benefits, at least for me.

  12. I really can’t do much activity in the evenings, a small after dinner walk usually is nice, but more than that and I am all energetic and can’t settle down enough to go to sleep!

    Morning usually doesn’t allow much time, due to the whole getting kids up and ready for the day!!

    I sorta let my activity really be the PLAY that goes with my day! Picking up kids, walking the stairs a million times a day, playing tag outside….it all goes with the territory of being a Stay at Home Mom! PLAY PLAY PLAY!! Throughout the day!

  13. I have always been a morning exerciser. I like to get it done and move on with my day. I will schedule appointments for afternoon so it doesn’t conflict with my workout time. I walk or ride my bike outside, so it’s cooler too. I do like an evening walk in the summer though.

  14. With a heat index of 120 this week, I’ve been exercising before the first crack of dawn (when the heat index is only 85!)

    Otherwise, I love the early evening because I always seem to have more pep for workouts at that time. I avoid the 3:30 slump–that’s never been a good time for me, not since the days of middle school track practice!

    1. oooh yeah. 3:30 slump. this got me EVERY time in college when i was playing ultimate 20+hrs/wk. practice was at 4. and i was invariably confronted with the 3:30 nap-attack that would have me soooo groggy for practice.

  15. I’d say the best workout is whenever you get one! I used to be a first-thing gym-goer, I loved getting my blood moving around. It was great to start my day feeling like I’ve already accomplished something useful. And there’s no way in a million years I would ever go to the gym after work!!!

    My husband lifts after work, and he finds that he feels really drained. He always feels stronger on vacations/weekends.

    Now I don’t get to go to the gym because I feed breakfast at the horsebarn before work instead. Knowing the horsies are hungry is a great motivator – I would never stand them up! And with 35 trips up and down the aisle to bring them to the pasture each morning, it’s a good bit of walking. If I feel really good, I throw in some sprints, pushups, pullups, whatever. Better than the gym!

  16. Doesn’t a high morning cortisol equate to better workout drive in the mornings?
    Just like how your body takes about 3-4 weeks to switch from carb fuel to fat fuel, I wonder if you give it enough time the performance might even out.

    1. I was wondering the same thing. I typically get up early enough to digest something light, drink some water to hydrate, maybe have a cup of black tea, then head to the box to workout. I’m usually up at 4:00 AM and I’m at the gym around 5:30 to start warming up. I would think this would be enough time to at least wake up and keep the cortisol levels at bay… but then again, I’m no expert.

      I wonder if there’s research on those who workout immediately after they wake up, and those who wait an hour or two after they wake up…

  17. I think the bottom line, as Mark say, is stick with what works in your schedule. Personally I prefer early to late afternoon.

    I play competitive tennis and the thought of playing early isn’t appealing. Possibly because I am not a morning person, but maybe because it is a power sport and the research Mark cites shows peak power to be lower in the morning.

    Also the mental concentration required is a factor for me. I do go into the odd 10-km race which are invariably in the morning but running is somewhat “mindless” and I can handle it.

    I do want to mention one point that Mark did not discuss, and that is mechanical. Overnight your spinal discs reabsorb fluid after 16+ hours of being compressed in a gravitational field. Some researchers (e.g. Dr. Stuart McGill) suggest this disc expansion does increase instability of the spinal column and argue that heavy lifting is probably best done in the afternoon or evening. I add some CrossFit workouts into my regime but usually late morning or afternoon. If I plan to lift heavy I will always do that later in the day.

  18. My favorite exercise by far is playing golf. I walk 18 holes every day which is basically walking 6-7 miles while playing a game.

  19. I always loved working out in the mornings because that was when I had the most energy and I found it easier to be consistent. But now after going back to work several months ago, I have had to switch to late afternoon or evening workouts and it took months to get used to it! I also find it’s harder to get up and go after a long day. On weekends I still like to exercise in the mornings.

  20. How are you all working out in this horrible heat? I would go to my local pool to swim, which is my go-to workout in the summer, but it’s packed with folks, so I can’t really swim, it’s more like stand around in warm water.

  21. I prefer exercise in the morning: you have the rest the day to recover and have more time to play or be with your family in the evening. Also if you missed your workout you have the rest of the day to include it (in which case I prefer noon).
    In my case I recognize an advantage to workout in the evening: it is much better for flexibility (yoga, stretches).

  22. Nice, Austin. You getting better from playing so much?
    People underestimate how golf mimics a primal hunt. I am an instructor and let every student know about that.

  23. What about the CW argument that working out in the morning on an empty stomach burns more fat than working out later in the day after you have ingested carbs? Would this apply equally to someone who is Primal? My thinking would be no….

  24. I’m notoriously sucky at mornings (except when somebody ‘sleeps over’ though), but I’ve tried to keep exercise early in the day to be sure to do it before eating. This got me to skip workouts too much though 😉 How does eating and exercise mix then? Working out just after a meal never works, and I always thought the order was primally logical (Grok would have to chase and kill before he could eat, right?)

  25. The best time for me in on my lunch break around noon. I find that I can maximize my sleep squeezing in every moment before I have to go to work. and when I get off work I want to spend time with my wife and pets.

  26. Personally, even though its almost impossible for me lately, AM before breakfast has always given me the best results, and puts me in a “powerful cheerful” mood for the day. Lately I’ve been going when I can. During the week, that is usually after 5. Horrible workout, no desire to even be working out after living a whole hectic day. It doesn’t make it too much easier to “just do it” – in about three months, have not seen any improvements, clothes don’t fit much better, and I miss how after just a couple of weeks of crazy morning cardio followed immediately by lifting heavy things used to get me compliments….

  27. I used to get up early to workout but that did not last long due to distractions that kept me up late. Plus, I’m not a morning person during the week.

    Recently I started biking to the train station four miles from my house to get a morning workout in before work. Then in the evening I bike home, rest for a few minutes (ride home is much harder because it’s on an incline and I’m over weight) chat with the kids, and either do 20 minutes of KB, body weight exercises, WOW or yoga, free weights or nothing at all. It depends how I feel after the ride.

    On Saturday, I enjoy a morning workout around 9ish before the household comes alive…this is like my Zen time. I live across from a park and sometimes, I have a field all to myself.

    Last weekend I lifted big rocks (got strange looks from people it was great!) which left me so sore the next day but extremely happy.

    So, in a nutshell I hate weekday morning workouts. Love them in the evening. Weekends I love morning and evening workouts.

  28. Glad to read that evening walking was good for menopausal women . I used to walk early all the time, but like walking later these days.

  29. Even if hormonal response yada yada yada really mattered, I don’t have enough spare time in my schedule to plan around it. I have time in the morning, so I work out in the morning.

  30. I have read that people who work out in the morning are more consistant in maintaining regular workouts – that is number 1 in my books!!

  31. But, apparently, if you do happen to eat carbs, the Glut-4 receptors are opened up and they won’t be turned into bodyfat.

  32. I get this. I’m a matter of a fact kind of girl and though most of the stats are terms for young lads this easily translates to the ladies as.

    It would make sense if performance is up during the after. Simply because I’m more awake.

    I think first in foremost it’s attitude.

    If you believe you are going to do better in the afternoon than you will. If it’s in the morn then you will too.

    That’s a belief system. Strengthen the belief and I think everything else follows. And you gain more energy and vitality. Like they say energy goes where attention flow. 🙂

    Great article.

  33. Hello everyone,
    I know this sounds childishly simple but I’ve found that the best time to workout is whenever I’m feeling highly motivated.This is not to say that I don’t have a daily workout program, but we all get to that point where we get a little bogged down with hitting the gym.But then there are times in the early mornings when I cannot sleep and I’m feeling a surge of energy. That is the perfect time when I will get in there and crush my workout. Or go for a latenight walk or bike ride.

  34. I workout the best first thing in the morning and at lunch. I am one of those people who wakes up 5 min before the alarm goes off at 4 am, bright eyed and bushy tailed and ready to go. Definetly not after 2 pm. At best I can do a walk or a leaisurly swim after work between 4 and 5 pm. I have my favorite Zumba class at 6:30 pm, and it is a trial for me to attend it. Then I get so warped up I can’t sleep. I drop it for the summer, and I relax and use steam room before it starts in the winter…

    I used to abuse my ability to start up quickly by doing stuff like 30 Day Shred at 3:30 in the morning, then teaching an hour-long Boot Camp at lunch and going for a run or walk after work. I was chronically overtrained, lol. So, even if your body does go, let it REST!

  35. Most people (not PB types, of course) just need to move whenever they’ll get off their carcasses to do it. Nitpicking about what time of day they do it is like worrying about what brand of bottled water to give a guy who’s dying of thirst. Just give him some water, Man!

    I’ve always exercised first thing in the morning because then it gets done for certain. The rest of the day can go to pot but at least I’ve gotten that exercise task off my list. There’s something empowering about that.

  36. I used to exercise before I ever went primal. Now it just seems obsessive and boring. Just throwing out the tv, leaving the house, and eating well is pretty inspiring for energy and natural movement. I am stronger than I ever was in my old days of weight training and sprinting and I don’t do anything formal at all, just play, walking, biking, swinging from the monkey bars… The time you eat according to the time you play is really neither here nor there.

    I guess some people have their reasons for a strict exercise routine but I can’t personally find one these days.

  37. My primal ancestors used to fish, so I like to workout based on the wind and the tides. I usually do two-a-days when the moon is new and full.

  38. Since I am at work by 6:15 during the school year before work is not possible I already have to wake up way before my body is ready and as one other posted stated if I don’t hit the gym on the way home there is no going back out. Now summer is a different story I workout whatever time I feel like it. Sometimes in mid morning on an IF to try to jog some fat stores loose(I have about 100 to lose still) and sometimes in the early afternoon after a doctor’s appt or something just to save gas and do things in one trip. My home workouts are whenever the mood strikes me like listening to podcasts on Paleo/Primal and doing a workout in my living room just depends on what I want to do but I just have to do it!

  39. I enjoy getting up at 0400, stretch, use my TP rollers, intu-flo joint mobility warm ups, swing clubbells (CST), all done here at home and then get on the bike and go… somedays it is race walking. Never have been good at exercise durning the evening…. I rise naturally at 0400, so this is the best time for me!

  40. My work has this great policy that allows employees to combine their lunch and their breaks together for workout purposes. So, I get 1.5 hours at lunch everyday which gives me ample to workout, freshen up and eat lunch!

    I’ve grown to really enjoy working out at lunch – I’ve found that it keeps me focused and more alert during the afternoon and then I have my evenings to do whatever I want!

  41. I think it’s great that all the detail and links are here for those who need them – it’s great info, all very well researched.

    For me, I’m happy to be at about the same place as Mark: “I’m not trying to optimize my hormonal responses, boost my metabolism, or maximize my workout grip strength. I’m just working regular exercise into my daily routine, when and where it fits.”

    Fairly recently, I changed by sacred, much-loved early morning bike ride to much later in the day – for 2 reasons: 1) I found (by experimenting) that early morning is the time I get my best writing done; 2) After I’ve been writing for a few hours, the best way to recharge is with a bike ride.

    So I resequenced, and things work better because of it. But I happen to like early morning rides better. So I treat myself to early morning rides on weekends.

    Great post!

  42. I definately find that as I get older(58) and workout in the mornings…I need a good warmup, if I am going to ramp up and do some hard work. Doesn’t matter if it’s hot or cold outside…I still need the warmup…I didn’t used
    to feel it was that important…but now I do…

  43. Being a fitness expert I’ve pretty much heard it all when it comes to exercise timing for weight loss, performance, etc. In the end, I think the best thing you can do is figure it out for yourself – we’re all different. For example, I do really well mentally in the morning. I can be more productive between 6-7am then I can all evening. But forget about working out in the morning, I hate it, I can’t do it. I give my best effort, and therefore get the best results, when I workout in the evenings.

    I think that’s the key right there – workout when you feel you give your best effort, because it is only then that you will achieve the greatest results.

  44. Crack of dawn or nothing: I was out the door at 4:30 or 4:45am all freezing winter(but now that I’m jobless, it’s more like 5 or 6 am). Anyway, I can’t even conceive of running any other time (5 kids, crazy schedule) but in college I would often run at midnight. Three cheers for reflective vests 🙂
    A time and a season for all.

  45. Great article. I generally workout late afternoon. I can’t wait to get home from work and hit my gym. On the other hand, in the am I’m a slug. I get told all the time that one must workout in the mornings or there is not much benefit (not that I listen to them).

    Except for hiking, I like pm workouts.

  46. I like to workout at noon or early afternoon. If I workout to early I feel like my strength is compromised. If I workout to late then it messes up my sleep.

  47. According to the spinal biomechanics expert, Dr.Stuart McGill, in his book “Ultimate Back Fitness and Performance” he states that you should avoid doing anything that involves bending and twisting in the first hour after waking up because spinal discs fill with fluid overnight the extra fluid magnifies whatever stresses put on the discs.

  48. I crossfit at 6:30 every morning. When I go to an evening class due to a morning conflict such as a doctor’s appointment, I find that I do not perform as well. I think it depends on what your body is used to. If you have a sleep schedule and are used to waking up to work out, and not used to working out in the afternoon evening, I think you will find performance better in the morning. It is all in what you have trained your body to do.
    I have also found that I am weighed down by food and overly tired after a long day at work. I like my morning banana and a few nuts before Crossfit so I do not have too much in my stomach.

  49. I found doing my CrossFit WOD in the morning (i’m talking the 6am class) tends to give me a ton of energy throughout the day, even though it hurts like hell getting out of bed that early.

  50. I like to workout right in the middle of the afternoon! It kind of splits my day up and I always have the most energy for my workouts around this time as well 🙂

  51. I prefer working out earlier in the day just because your more likely to get a good workout in and not skip it instead.

    The longer the day goes for most people the more tired they get and then come the excuses.

  52. I workout in the late afternoon but would prefer late morning if I had my druthers. It makes it easier to work out in a fasted state and then it is over with and won’t potentially limit anything else I want to do that day, as opposed to feeling like, “If I do this or that, it will ruin my workout later.”

  53. I love an early morning workout, but I stay too busy to get up that early in the morning, so now I am a late afternoon workout person. I love the gym, it hot in there like it would be outside. On Saturday mornings, I love to get up and walk. I agree with Mark, just do it…that counts for more than anything!

  54. Just my quick n = 1 experience. I’d exercised for many years (about 15 years at the time) almost exclusively in the late afternoon or early evening. Because of job requirements, I switched to early morning (between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m.). The first few months are a foggy blur as I was much weaker and slower—-physically and cognitively! After a few months, however, my body apparently adapted (big shock) and I was back to normal. When I had an occasional evening session, I was not as strong as I was in the morning. After about two years I switched jobs and my exercise went back to afternoons (usually during a late lunch break around 2:00); I went through the same adaptation experience.

    So my guess is that your body will adapt to whatever you throw at it. Otherwise, we could just keep doing the same thing over and over and we would improve; and anyone that exercises can tell you that doesn’t generally happen. My own experience is that, for me, if I stick to a consistent time, I make better improvements. Maybe because of a stabilized cycle for hormones changes, maybe diet, or maybe something in my head, who knows for sure? I think the consensus here is to keep on Just Do(ing) It!

  55. Jack Lalane. 4:30 am to 6:30 am. 7 days a week, from age 15 to 96. (I guess he did lighten up and started at 6:30 in his late 80’s).

  56. i work out before most people even think of waking up. it’s simply because that’s the only time i have. in the rare case that i get to workout later, i’ll tell you i am AMAZED at how much MORE strength, power, flexibility and speed i have. i’m like a different person.

  57. I do much better with an afternoon work out. I find that a 3pm work out gives me a boost into the evening activities of preparing dinner/helping with homework/etc. and with a much better state of mind ( if I had a bad day at work, I can kick box it away) and centers me.
    I tried the morning work outs and would find myself dragging in the late afternoon/evenings and then ended up having trouble sleeping.

  58. I was an aerobics and gym instructor for many years I took morning and evening classes, jogged for an hour most days and weight trained and never had any trouble sleeping. I gave that up 11 years ago to become a lab analyst, I still workout, intervals, sand bag etc but have a lot of trouble getting enough sleep. I’ve tried training in the evenings and morning. I’m very resistant to taking drugs but when desperate I will. I’m leaner now than ever just need to get enough sleep.

  59. i always do my workouts in the morning because it gives me agood drive for the day and about the meal issue, i had better have agood carb diet after my workouts giving my body what it needs to feel energised and ready to go!

  60. I never work out in the morning…hiking,golf,Mtn Biking maybe, but for the most part morning = waking up, reading,writing & doing paperwork…I row at noon break & ride (usually stationary) between 4 & 6. This works best for me!

  61. More moms with kids could get to the gym if they realized that they could work out at 5:00 a.m. and be back home by the time the kids woke up.

    That’s how I figured out a time of day just for me to get in really good shape in 2007. I’m still going strong ever since!

    🙂 Marion

  62. Since I work in a management position, which is largely administrative, I do Crossfit at 1130 religiously everyday. Then in the evenings for mobility sake, because of the sitting, I enjoy a brief three or four mile run to get the blood flowing again. Plus it is relaxing. Try as I might, I have never been the type to workout in the mornings.

  63. I workout at night. I’m not much of a morning person and every time I do attempt a morning workout, I never have the energy I need. I’m always entirely too lethargic, then I find the workout just makes me more tired and delays my waking up and being productive on other things throughout the day. Working out at night seems to help me sleep better and I have a lot more energy to put effort into my workout.

  64. I love working out in the mornings! I am straight out the door for a few miles of off-road running. Not only the fitness but being out in the country helps to ground me before a hard days work. It gives me the kick start to my day. i notice that if I work out later I perform better. But like you mention in your write up, I too exercise for pleasure and not just for fitness. Interesting post and thank you!

    Sassie 🙂

  65. I’m a mid morning worker-outer as well. Ever since eating more primally, I can postpone breakfast no problem and work out on an empty stomach. I remember the days I HAD to eat before working out or I would fatigue so quickly but it’s the opposite now. If I eat first (carbs) my blood sugar drops quickly. I think the key is finding a time you will stick with and getting in a routine.

  66. Mid morning, around 8 or 9 after a couple cups of strong joe. Drink lots of lime squeezed water during and after. Then after protein and more protein. Works great.

  67. Morning sucks. In fact, anything before 10:00 AM sucks. If forced to get up early – especially before the sun is up – I spend the first 15 minutes sitting on the pot trying to figure out who the heck I am, and spend the rest of the day sick to my stomach. I repeat: morning sucks. There’s no worse sight than the sun rising – new day ahead notwithstanding—

    I’ve never been a morning person for anything, and after almost 67 years, nothing seems to have changed. I still working out in the early afternoon, enjoy hiking or just walking my daily walk during the mid-afternoon and do my best work physically and mentally in the early evening. I “wake up” as the sun goes down.

    When in college, I did my best studying at night until about 3:00 or 4:00 AM. I guess I’m half-assed backwards.

    Anyway, now, I work out and walk/hike during the mid-afternoon/early evening. Since it’s just me and DH I (read: “retired”) I can afford the luxury of not having to worry about kids/job and can afford to do what I want to do when I feel like doing it. Somehow there’s no better feeling than that, IMHO. I put in my time and don’t need to even think about going back there again.

  68. I actually LIKE my Nike Free’s. They protect my feet enough to run the trails in the CO Rockies (where I live), but they are light, breathable and let my foot feel the earth. (This is in response to Mark not liking Nike’s–a little off topic, I know.)

    I favor morning workouts because:
    1) fits my schedule
    2) I’m consistent with it
    3) great way to start the day
    4) no sunburn!

  69. Seems pretty logical to me that the evolutionary expression of our genes with respect to exercise, would be for it to be somewhat variable throughout the day as well as from day to day.

    Our paelolithic ancestors were likely physically active at various times of the day depending on the state of their environment (weather, hunting, gathering, playing, surviving, etc.).

    I think we should exercise whenever we have an opportunity to do so. So although most of us are tied to a structured schedule within our modern neolithic lifestyle, we should strive for irregularity and randomness when it comes to our exercise goals.

  70. I am a trainer myself and I have the convenience of traiing morning, afternoon, or evening. Personally I prefer late mornning mid-afternoon. Everyone is different relative to their ideal time of day to train.
    By the way, I enjoy training in the heat and elements. That is part of being primal!

  71. For me, I never worked out when I tried to do it in the evening. Too many other things vying for my attention. What works for helping me be consistent with my workouts is to make it part of my regular morning schedule. Most of the year, that means dropping the kids at school and heading to the gym. During the summer, it means the kids get me up and we all head to the gym together. I do what works for me, but if something else works for someone else, good on them. Why split hairs over something personal like that?

  72. I definitely prefer morning workouts. It’s such a positive way to start my day. Unfortunately, my schedule doesn’t always allow me the option, so I’ll take whatever time I get.

  73. With 3 kids under 4, the mid-morning gym-session works best for as that’s when the gym-creche is open. I’m thinking anytime between 9-11 am. But I do my walking at 7 pm daily. It still my busy mind and make me sleep better once I go to bed at 10 pm.

  74. I’m a morning girl. I cannot start my day until it’s done! 🙂 It’s a cup of coffee… ha, without the cup and the coffee!

  75. I do both

    usually 3 or 4 evenings in the week (about 5pm) and then saturday or sunday morning (around 9am – although I’ll be awake from 6.45am)

    I dont really notice a great difference, I think alot of it can come down to mental attitude. If you think you cant train at a particular time you wont be able to.

  76. Great Article….and my take-away- CONSISTENCY IS THE KEY…. from my own body I realized that whenever I worked out in the evenings, I could almost always lift more. However, I have also found that I become much more erratic and irregular when I go in the evenings. Basically, Life/Demands made by others/Work related crises tend to come in the way at least a few times per week whereas whenever I go in the mornings…I stick to it like clockwork, So morning it is for me as it never gets edged out due to other priorities…

    Plus, sometimes I am so buzzed after the gym, breakfast and a shower in the mornings that I literally breeze into office singing Bollywood songs…..The good Vibe usually stays till lunch 🙂

  77. Wow! I always thought I was strange because u feel best working out in the afternoon, but everyone I know prefers the morning. In just too stiff and groggy! I actually started the whole thing, running at midnight to relieve new mom stress.

  78. I definitely cannot work out before bed. A great workout makes me full of energy instead of drained… I want to clean, cook, dance around after a great work out. Kind of odd huh?

  79. I definitely try to get mine in in the morning, or else I rarely get to the gym. But I’ve been SLACKING lately. Gotta get on that.

  80. My husband and I LHT in the evenings once the kids are in bed. I think we remain consistent because we have a great partnership to spur each other on. Plus, with having three kids…a good night sleep is few and far between so I’m glad that evening workouts are better for cortisol. It’s working for us…..thanks Mark – I appreciate your approach to this so much!

  81. I’m a new reader to the blogs and I love what I’m learning so far. Personally I’m one of those people who has to work out in the morning. During the school year its as soon as my son is on the bus, in the summer it has to be before he gets up. I’ve tried running or working out in the early to late evening and it makes it so I can’t sleep. Where an early morning workout helps me go to sleep at 9 or 10.

  82. What’s all this about “workouts”. What’s happenend to just “move frequently at a slow pace”. Peggy the Primal Parent’s view makes the most sense to me. I don’t even think about what time of day it is when I walk, sweep the paths, lift logs, dig the garden, carry heavy shopping etc. I don’t even think of it as exercise, just part of my daily life.

    1. Most definitely agree.

      Just like we should add variety to the way we incorporate eating into daily life, we should also add variety into how we add exercise into daily life.

  83. Great post Mark. I’ve definitely noticed better performance in the later afternoon and evening personally. Like you said, it all comes down to what works for you individually.

  84. Interesting, but I would like to see if there is a dfference based upon people who have desk jobs versus other types of work. As an office worker, I find working out between noon and 6 pm breaks up my day and keeps me better focused on the intellectual side of the job. If/when I work out in the morning, I still need to take a second workout break later just to clear my head. It is inconvenient to accomplish all of the post-workout grooming our society expects for a professionally attired female but you gotta do what you gotta do!

  85. Thanks for this! I’ve always noticed I run, lift, and play harder and better in the afternoon and evening. My morning exercise is always suboptimal, and I just thought I was crazy. 🙂

    FYI – For fat burning, my understanding is that it’s best to workout prior to eating which usually only logically happens in the morning. I try to do this at least once a week.

  86. The recognition of cortisol levels typically being elevated in the A.M and exercise increasing cortisol further is particularly helpful for those of us beset with visceral fat problems. For many years, as an endurance athlete. I typically ran between 10 and 30 miles starting at sun up, and before breakfast. Some of the results were low subcutaneous fat, but high visceral fat. Since converting to the PB plan, I’ve been doing HIIT running before breakfast, but now think I will move this to late morning. Thank you!

  87. I’ve always read research like you have above that evening workouts tend to hold more benefits, but I also think working out first thing in the morning is one of the best ways to stay consistent, which is of more benefit to me than evening benefits.

  88. I used to workout in the early mornings. I love walking before the world wakes up…there’s a stillness this time of day you don’t get any other time.

    I then shifted toward doing an hour-long weight training and cardio program. After a few months, I would head home about 6:30 and just crash…feeling like I was hit by a truck. I since found out after a saliva test that I had adrenal fatigue, which points to cortisol levels in the mornings.

    My take-away? If you’re dealing with a lot of stress in your life, early morning workouts may be more harmful to your body than helpful. I’ve since modified and workout after work or in the mid-day if I can get away.

    1. Your decision to move your exercise sessions from the A.M. seems appropriate.
      For many of us, given the nature of modern society stress scenarios (being abstract/less physical), and the discordance of these scenarios with our evolutionary heritages ( physical flight/fight stress), we may not do well unless we strategically plan when to exercise. Both stress and cortisol, for instance, will increase glucose production and likely fat storage as well as appetite, beyond what is required to deal with the stress. This process leads to cortisol responsive abdominal fat accumulation and disease.

  89. Have I totally missed the point, I just don’t understand all the “workout in the morning to get it out of the way”. Why are people trying to get moving around out of the way? Grok didn’t even know what cortisol was. I assume he just went about his daily duties/play as and when he needed to/wanted to. Is it only me who doesn’t think about cortisol levels, calories burnt and all the rest of it while walking the dog or tending the garden?

  90. You should work out when your body clues you too. Trust your instincts. For me, it’s late afternoon.

  91. I have found that for me a workout at about 5 pm when the sun has gone behind my house is much more enjoyable and I have a lot more mobility. It also helps me sleep much better.

    Working out in the afternoon has become a family thing where my little girl and I will work out and when mom comes home from work she will jump in as well. It has become a fun time of day for us…. (family time) we play and talk and best of all it is getting us fit.

    we do a lot of balancing exercises , TRX , kettle bells , medicine ball and body weight exercises . We also do some High intensity training a few times a week (not my little girl, she’s only 10)

    At the end of the day though it is like all things. Everyone is different and as with diet you have to play around with things and find what works for you. We are all different and will respond very differently to what and how much we eat and so it also applies to How and when we exercise.

    Great article Mark thanks

    Scotty

  92. Well, I did some swiming before in the morning, which is great exercise and gave me lot of energy during the day, but for my crossfit sessions i prefer the afternoon or even early evening. Then I feel more powerfull and i handle better the “lift heavy things” routine. I practice Aikido as well after work, wich is working better, becauses it frees my mind from the daily stress.

  93. I am 61 years old and with arthritis early morning is not my friend. I have trouble going to sleep and staying asleep….but if I “dance” or work out before bed it really helps me relax and sleep longer periods of time. I wake up a lot and then have trouble getting back to sleep…but only if I don’t dance before bed. I am always very tired and uncomfortable when I wake up so that is a bad time for me.

  94. When working out in the morning I find myself getting nauseated easier. I stated cooking myself 2 eggs before the workout and it seemed to help the nausea. One of the downfalls I found was by 4:30 my body had enough. So I was not a happy person to be around in the afternoons. Working out at noon has become my forte and it seems to be right for me.

  95. I wonder if the results would be different with regard to Hormonal Effects and Sleep if the exercise researched was yoga. Yoga (depending on the type) should reduce cortisol and can help relax the body into sleep mode.

  96. I want to know how I mean the ingredients to lose weight damn need a help here

  97. Hey Mark this information was really helpful. I play football so we always workout in the afternoon and I was debating on whether to add an early morning workout or late night workout to my regimen. I took your suggestion and tried both and the late night workout actually calmed me down and helped me sleep as well as made me feel better in the morning. Thanks again Mark

  98. Hi Mark, I’ve been reading your blog for a while now, this is he firt time I’m commenting. You always give food for thought. I have workouts scheduled 3 times per day. Rediculusly Early morning, noon, afternoons … And .yes I work a regular 7 – 4 job.
    So depending on my schedule if I miss a workout, it’s not detrimental. Usually do HIIT on mornings, weights at midday and afternoons.

  99. I would say, evening workouts gives me a better result, than morning or afternoon workouts. Day Light hours are good for free hand exercise and running or even jogging. Coming to weight lifting for muscle growth it is an entirely different issue.

    Such cases where people intend to do heavy weight lifting for muscle growth, I would say usually evening time should be the best for them. Of-course hormonal secretion is an important fact if you are looking for the best output for your work out. But also keep in mind, that psychological and mental prep is the basic initiative that actually controls on how much work you can carry out. Here is the difference, when people go to work out during morning or afternoon (day light hours), their brain is occupied with a million things, which is quite normal. And when there is so much going on up there, it is a little pointless as to how many reps you do at that instant, because focus counts.

    Now, moving on to evening work out, it is comparatively more work done without disruption. While you are determined to do the work out, you can remain sure, you are in no hurry of anything, and you can practically take all the time you need for your satisfaction. The day is over, with no more important phone calls or no deadline to meeting in office hours, and all that is left for you is your training and than whatever you want to do. Just the thought of being independent at this time of the hour, will enormously help your work out. This however will give you a positive mind set to apply your strength for something productive of which you can enjoy the benefits later. 🙂

  100. please told me, what is the best time-table for gym workout

    because i confused that

  101. Best time to train is in the evening betrween 6:30 pm or 7:00 pm to 8:00 Pm or 9:00 pm, 30 to 60 minutes after training eat your healthy food and drink and an hour or two later go to sleep.