Timing Your Workouts: What’s the Best Time for Cardio and Weights?

If you’re not a morning person, getting up before sunrise to hit the gym may sound like a painful chore.

Similarly, if staying up later than 9pm makes you feel like a night owl as you’re actually quite the early bird, stopping by the gym for a 7pm spin class probably sounds excruciating.

Are either of these scenarios an issue?

In other words, are you doing yourself a disservice by not working out at a certain time of day?

Not necessarily.

There are several factors to consider here including circadian rhythm, the type of workout you’re doing to be doing and the practicality of juggling a busy schedule of work, kids, personal time, rest… and exercise!

The concept of circadian rhythms explain why an afternoon workout is best for the body. Circadian rhythms are like an internal body clock, controlling sleep patterns, blood pressure and even mood. Strength training in the afternoon might be more productive and beneficial than earlier in the day, because your muscle strength is at its peak, its highest, according to neurologist Dr. Phyllis Dee on CNN.com. “You’re going to be less likely to injure yourself. It’s also a time when people are most awake and alert.”[1]

Circadian rhythm also controls body temperature and a 2005 study in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that maximal performance is generally improved by the end of the afternoon, at the peak of the body temperature curve.[2]

Cardiovascular exercise, however, may be more beneficial when executed first thing in the morning, prior to eating breakfast.

A study published on the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health showed that fasted training is more potent than fed training to facilitate adaptations in muscle and to improve whole-body glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity during hyper-caloric fat-rich diet[3].

(And don’t forget to follow up that morning run with a balanced breakfast, demonstrative of a real paleo approach, including fresh, local veggies, wild protein a healthy dose of fat!)

            Finally, the practical factor.

Unless you’ve got nothing on your agenda on a daily basis and can fit in a workout whenever you like, you’re going to have to balance the simple fact that there often doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to fit yet another thing in with acknowledging how very important this thing really is.

If your body truly feels better exercising at night, yet you always seem to end up skipping the gym because of that last minute meeting that came up, you’d be better off biting the bullet and making it a priority to train in the morning.

There’s simply less chance of something coming up at 6am to cause you to miss a workout.

Plus, new research found that squeezing in fitness first thing can stave off cravings, propel you through a long day, give your brainpower a boost and help you to actually stick to that exercise plan in the first place.

Your will power to exercise at all may be strongest in the morning. Apparently, you deplete your tank of stick-to-itiveness during the day, according to an article in the Huffington Post[4].

Get out your calendar and make yourself a recurring date to get up before the sun rises and get thee to the nearest trail, spin class or Pilates session.

You’ll feel better, be more likely to choose wisely when it comes to what you eat and reach your health and fitness goals more quickly from your consistency.


[1] “Is Morning or Night the Best Time to Lift Weights?” LIVESTRONG.COM. LIVESTRONG.COM, 28 Jan. 2015. Web. 16 July 20

[2] “Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise”; Time of day influences the environmental effects on muscle force and contractility; Racinais S, Blonc S, Jonville S, Hue O; 2005

[3] “Training in the Fasted State Improves Glucose Tolerance during Fat-rich Diet.” National Center for Biotechnology Information. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 16 July 2015

[4] Klein, Sarah. “Morning Exercise: How Do You Stick To Your A.M. Fitness Routine?” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, n.d. Web. 16 July 2015.