Is evening workout better than morning?

AndRecently, when FitnessVolt.com’s analytics team looked at Google search data, they discovered that the most popular time for Americans to exercise is 6 p.m. But are evening workouts better than morning ones? After all, we hear a lot about the benefits of exercising early in the day.

If your goal is simply to get fit, both experts and science say that the best time to exercise is the hour that allows you to do it consistently, regardless of where the clock falls. For some goals, however, there are things to consider as you work.

Benefits of a morning workout

We know from research that people who exercise in the AM move more overall. Your naturally high cortisol levels in the morning make it easier to conserve energy earlier than later in the day. Studies show a link between morning workouts and lower blood pressure in people with high blood pressure.

If you have a hard time getting motivated to work out, doing this first can help you get over the hump. “Morning is the time of day when our dopamine is at its highest, and a lot of cognitive reserve is built up throughout the night, enabling us to push harder at the gym than at night,” says Luisa Nicola, a neurophysiologist and female human performance expert for Momentus.

According to Nicola, another big advantage of working out in the morning rather than the evening is that it helps you sleep better. “It helps prime your circadian clock,” she says.

But, if the evening is the only time you can exercise, it’s okay. “There’s always an advantage to working out, so if you have to do it in the evening, that’s fine,” says Nicola. The key is to understand how to change your afternoon routine so it doesn’t mess with your sleep.

How to optimize evening workouts

First, it’s important to understand why evening workouts can work against you. “When you exercise, your body releases a lot of hormones and you activate your sympathetic ‘fight or flight’ nervous system, which can interfere with a wind-down routine, which interferes with sleep,” says Nicola. “Depending on what time you eat dinner can also disrupt the entire circadian rhythm.” This happens primarily because both eating and exercise raise your body temperature, which would otherwise drop as your body prepares for bed.

The best way around this is to time your workout so you’re able to finish dinner at least 1.5 to two hours before bedtime, says Nicola. “You don’t want to be working out at 9 p.m., whether it’s cardio or weights. It will disrupt sleep and throw you up the next day,” she says—unless you’re a serious night owl.

So what does this mean for the majority of American practitioners? “If you can workout at 6 p.m., that gives you enough time to rest, recover, eat dinner and get ready for bed.”

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