What's the best time of day to work out?

By Team Coach|

It's one of the most common fitness questions, and it can send both couch potatoes and fitness science whizzes into overdrive. But choosing the right time to work out is way simpler than you might think – though there is some science to consider.

The answer, according to Rhys Brooks, personal trainer and head coach at Brooks Performance, is to simply train when you can – because most of us live such busy lives that finding any time to exercise can be an achievement in itself.

"I would train when you have the most energy, that way you will get more out of your workout," Brooks tells 9Honey Coach.

"I personally prefer to train around 7 or 8am, as this is when I am at my most energetic. However, I know guys who have more energy in the evening and prefer to train then."

READ MORE: Dieting when you don't need to could raise your risk of diabetes, according to new study

Is there a best time of the time to workout? (Getty)

New studies have shown that our body's internal functions do in fact respond differently to things like food and exercise, depending on the time of day, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.

Juleen Zierath, a physiologist at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, has led some research into the area, and explains that depending on the time we exercise, different hormones, neurotransmitters, local transmitters and pheromones are produced.

The muscle clock is also involved in the activation of genes that regulate glucose and fat. While Zierath agrees the best time to exercise is whenever you can, she adds "evidence… indicates that there are certain times of the day when one can 'fine-tune' the response to exercise."

Earlier this year Zierath's research found that, in mice, exercise in the morning meant they were better able to break down fats and use carbohydrates.

In a follow-up study, she looked at how exercising in the morning or afternoon affected men with type 2 diabetes. While changes in body composition were similar, afternoon exercise was better at improving blood glucose levels while morning exercise seemed to be better for burning fat.

Long-term results come from consistency, not timing

Even if you're a single guy or girl who for some magical reason has zero family or financial constraints and is free to exercise whatever time of day you like (do these people even exist?), the real key to carving yourself out some serious gym #gainz is how consistent you are with training hard and eating well.

Man lifting weights at the gym
Often it's more about consistency than the timing of the day. (Pexels)

"The average gymgoer need not worry about the timing of their training," advises Brooks.  

"Research shows that the difference between training in the evening and training in the morning yields very similar results."

As Brooks explains, the key is to find a workout time that's really sustainable for you in the long-term.

While early-morning training before sunrise seems like the perfect way to dive into a health-kick, if you're going to quit after a week and never return to the gym again, you're much better off training in the afternoon (or even your lunch break, if you can keep it up).

"What matters is getting the workout done."

READ MORE: 5 tips to get back into exercise after a time out

How your body changes over the day

Of course, as in all things fitness, there are those who want to know the absolutely, ultra-perfect, no-fail way to make your training as optimum as possible.

(These are the same people who worry about the difference between performing, say seven reps compared to eight).

For people training for brute, ox-like strength, later in the day may be marginally more suitable for your training session.

"The body’s core temperature is higher later in the day which means the muscles are more flexible. According to studies, strength and endurance may peak in the afternoon when body temperature is at its highest," says Brooks.

"Research shows that testosterone levels are at their highest in the afternoon, this may be important for growth and strength in males and females."

There is no point working out at a time you won't want to go. (Getty)

But Brooks is quick to point out that unless you're a professional athlete looking to nail all of the "one percenters" in your training, it's probably not worth losing sleep over.

"However, it needs to be noted that the afternoon gains in strength are only mild and would make little difference to the general gymgoer's workout," says Brooks.  

"Professional athletes on the other hand may take advantage of timing and train or compete later in the day."

READ MORE: Dietitian reveals her top five low-sugar afternoon snacks

There are less-than-ideal times to exercise

Okay, so the best time of day to work out is whatever time suits you best – unless it's a time that could affect the quality of your sleep, Brooks explains.

"I wouldn’t suggest training late at night," he advises. "Most of us who work regular hours won’t have as much energy available at this time. In addition, training late at night will make you alert and prevent you from falling asleep."

If you're a morning person who loves to share a coffee with the sparrows before the world wakes up, then it might be wise to give yourself a little time to "wake up" before hitting the gym.

Rolling straight out of bed and underneath a loaded-up barbell is probably not the wisest decision.

"Training immediately after waking also has its drawbacks. If you are lifting in the weight room you won’t have the focus and drive immediately after waking – I would wait at least 30 minutes after waking before hitting the gym," recommends Brooks.

"However, I see no problems doing light exercise or moderate intensity cardio that does not require high levels of focus and intensity."

"At the end of the day what really matters is getting your workout done at a time that suits you."

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