Reality check: when you exercise doesn't matter nearly as much as how often you exercise.
"We all know exercising has a long list of benefits," say Russell Wynter and Crystal Reeves, NASM certified Master Trainers and co-owners of MadSweat personal training services. "But if you aren’t exercising consistently you won’t receive any of the benefits- no matter what time of day."
That being said, exercising in the morning may provide a few extra physiological benefits that are well worth waking up an hour or two earlier for.
According to Wynter and Reeves those benefits include, improved mental clarity, enhanced mood, reduced stress and improved self-esteem throughout the rest of your day.
"Now throw in the physical benefit of a 10 percent reduction in blood pressure, a 25 percent dip in blood pressure at night, sleeping longer, and more beneficial sleep cycles when compared with working out at any other time of the day and you can see why we would always recommend a morning workout first," they said. “Plus, kicking the day off with all these benefits leads many people to be more productive throughout their day.”
See also: How to Become a Morning Runner
But what if your schedule just doesn't allow for you to get your sweat on before officially starting your day? Well, you're not completely out of luck. One of the best benefits of mid-day workouts is the potential for improved performance.
“Research has shown that consuming 4.5g/kg of carbohydrate, four hours before exercise can improve performance by 15 percent,” Russell and Reeves point out.
That means, depending on your goals, if you start your day with a well-balanced meal and adequate carbohydrate consumption, a mid-day workout might yield more benefits than a workout performed in the early morning before fueling up.
As for exercising in the evening, Wynter and Reeves recommend avoiding it if you can.
“Many people experience heightened energy levels post workout which can interfere with the ability to get enough sleep,” they said. “Adequate sleep is necessary for proper recovery and is often overlooked. During sleep muscle tissue is repaired and growth occurs. Additionally, we are more likely to skip workouts after the day progresses. Obstacles such as work, family and exhaustion start to present themselves making exercise less of a priority.”
Of course, if you have no other choice but to work out at the end of the day after all of your other priorities have been taking care of you should certainly take advantage of the opportunity, because no matter what time of the day it gets done, choosing to exercise is always better than not working out at all.
Maybe all of the above makes the answer to this question seem complicated, but the ultimate message conveyed by Wynter and Reeves is simple: “Whatever time of day you can commit to is the best time to work out.”