I get asked a lot of questions about training, diet and getting in shape, but one question no one ever seems to ask is “What time of day should I work out?”. You’re probably thinking “Why does it matter?”, “I’d never really thought about it.” or perhaps “Work out?”
But assuming that you either already work out regularly or want to start, you really should be asking yourself this question. What time of day is best depends upon your goals, your body clock, and how late you stayed up last night watching all seven seasons of Game of Thrones.
The best time of day for your workout will vary greatly if you’re wanting to get Schwarzenegger-ized as opposed to fitting into those skinny jeans. The best time for muscle building is early in the day. Train hard and put your muscles under as much strain as possible. Then, go eat. A lot. Most bodybuilders will consume 4,000 calories per day or more while bulking, and your body will put these calories to best use when your muscles are recovering. If you wait until later in the day to train, either your body will turn those extra calories you ate earlier to fat, or you’ll be up past midnight polishing off your third helping of leftover pizza and weight-gain formula.
If, on the other hand, you want to lose fat, then the best time to train is after dinner. A minimum of 40 minutes of intense cardio will burn off your glycogen stores, leaving your body with nothing left to burn but fat. It’s vital that after your training, you eat nothing else until the next morning. You’ll literally burn fat while you sleep!
Your Body Clock
This is definitely a factor. In an ideal world, we would all train for mass in the morning and fat loss in the evening, but what if you’re just not a morning person? There’s no point in training at 6 a.m. if you’re going to fall asleep on the press bench. Your muscles simply won’t get the workout you need to see results. Similarly, after-dinner training just might not work for you. If you tend to eat late, or you find that your energy late in the day is so low that a tree sloth would look hyperactive by comparison, then this just isn’t going to work for you.
If either of these is you, then the answer to “When Should I Work Out?” is whenever you have the most energy. A great workout done at the wrong time of day will still be far more effective than a poor workout at the right time of day.
The last factor is, well, life. Maybe you’re pumped for that intense cardio after dinner but you have to drive your kids to three different practices, pick up groceries, gas up the car, stop at the drive-through teller and be back home in time to be ready to do it all again tomorrow. If a busy life is preventing you from training at the ideal time, then the answer is simply to train when you have time.
How About 'No'
I have to say I debated putting in that last paragraph. I get it. Life gets busy. I've got two teenagers. I know. But my job is to motivate you, not give you excuses not to work out. No matter what your schedule, not working out shouldn't be an option. Make time. You will live a longer, healthier, fuller life for it. I promise.