Staying consistent with fitness is critical to reaping all the benefits. In fact, people who exercise between three and five times a week, for 30 to 60 minutes, tend to feel happier than people who are not as active but who earn $25,000 more income each year, according to research from Yale and Oxford.
You know it’s important to be consistent—but which time of the day will help you feel both the happiest and most fit? The short answer is, that depends on many individualized factors. Specifically, you need to consider your current stage of life and the fitness goals you want to pursue.
Consider these two critical factors that determine whether you should work out in the morning, afternoon or evening.
When to work out based on your age
In general, your muscle strength and performance momentum will reach their highest capacity, between the hours of 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. At this time, the risk of injury is also at its lowest, according to The Wall Street Journal. In addition, WSJ continues, your lungs function 17.6 percent more efficiently around 5 p.m. than at other times of the day, boosting your stamina in both cardio and resistance training.
In your 20s, that four hour block of time is the best time to work out. Your 30s and 40s, however, mark a shift. This is when you begin to lose 3 to 5 percent of muscle mass with each passing decade, Brunilda Nazario, associate medical director at WebMD, says to U.S. News and World Report. This causes your metabolic rate and growth hormone levels to decrease.
The good news is, you can counteract the effects of a slowed metabolism by exercising in the morning, which stimulates the metabolic process and keeps your muscles active. In fact, for each pound of muscle gained, the body will burn an extra 6 to 10 calories in a day, according to The American Journal of Human Biology.
Knowing when your body functions most effectively allows you to be strong, both during your workout and after. Use this as your guide, or focus instead on your fitness goals.
When to work out based on your fitness goals
Your fitness goals impact a lot more than what you do when you get to the gym. The best time to workout if you want to reduce stress is different than if you want to gain muscle mass. Here are some examples of common reasons to work out and which time of day is the most ideal for maximizing your results.
Less stress: Exercise in the morning. Starting the day with movement can both exhilarate and calm you before jumping into the rest of your to-do list. “Exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators,” explains Harvard Health.
Peak performance: Exercise in the afternoon. This is when the body’s core temperature peaks, so the joints and muscles are primed for high-intensity workouts such as biking, running or swimming, explains Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. “In neutral environments, this [daily] increase in temperature is believed to have a passive warm-up effect on improving muscle contractility and, in turn, muscle force, power and performance.” As such, this is not the case in hot climates, as too much heat can reduce the exercise capacity.
Increase muscle size and strength: Exercise in the evening. If you want to gain more muscle, the best time of day to work out is between 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Research by the Applied Physiology, Nutrition and Metabolism Journal found that muscle hypertrophy tends to increase at a rate of 50 percent quicker in the evening than it does in the morning.
Weight management: Exercise in the morning. If your goal is to achieve a healthier weight, the best time to hit the gym is before you eat breakfast. This makes it possible to burn a higher ratio of fat, rather than using carbs for energetic fuel, according to recent studies. What’s more, your body will burn more fat for the rest of the day.
Finding the best day and time for your workout
The bottom line is: exercise at any time is preferable to no exercise at all, so fit your workout regimen into your schedule wherever you can. If you have flexibility, remember these factors do have a role in determining how effective you can be. Find ways to workout when your body can work the hardest so you can become stronger, happier and healthier.
Once you figure out timing, support your fitness efforts with these supplements: