Centr x Lifespan.io
What's the best time of day to work out?
Centr has partnered with Lifespan.io, a nonprofit leader in longevity science journalism and advocacy, to bring you the latest research on aging and rejuvenation. Learn more about our partnership below.
For most of us, the perfect time to train is whenever we can fit it into our schedules. No matter when the magic happens, exercise brings plenty of benefits.
But if you’re looking for an edge, or an excuse to switch up your schedule, it turns out there are some pros and cons to morning, midday and late-night training sessions – including emerging research on the impact training time could have on mortality risk.
Let’s explore the benefits and drawbacks of working out at every time of day – plus advice from nutrition expert Angie Asche on how to fuel for your chosen timeslot.
Morning workouts: The early bird special
How can you tell if someone’s a morning workout person? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.
Morning workout benefits
Luke Zocchi loves a morning workout for its ability to set the right tone for the day. “You get up, you do your thing and you’re on the right track for the day,” he says.
- Want a turbo-charged brain to power your morning meetings? Exercise can help boost your brain power by increasing blood flow to the brain, triggering mood-boosting chemicals like dopamine, and helping improve memory and focus for up to 3 hours after your workout.
For some of us, morning is the time we’re least likely to be interrupted, which makes early workouts a great way to get it done before other people start making demands on our time.
Looking for an extra boost? Join Alexz for some Good Morning Affirmations.
Morning workout drawbacks
- Rising early to hit the mat can intrude on valuable sleeping time. Being underslept won’t just leave you feeling low on energy, but can also mess with your muscles and mental health. Consider going to bed earlier if you want to introduce morning workouts.
If you roll straight out of bed and onto the mat with no breakfast, training at maximum intensity or hitting personal bests can be tricky. “Your performance can suffer without the proper fuel,” Angie explains. Read on for her advice on fueling your morning workouts like a pro.
What to eat before a morning workout
Angie says as long as you don’t feel your performance is suffering, a moderate-intensity fasted workout isn’t necessarily going to do any damage.
“Many people can tolerate an early morning workout just fine without eating anything before, as long as you’re drinking fluids throughout,” she says.
But if you’re training at high intensities or for longer than an hour, it’s a slightly different story. “Eating something beforehand could help you to see improvements in both muscular endurance and strength,” Angie explains.
If you don’t have time to eat a full pre-workout breakfast and let it digest, Angie recommends something with simple carbohydrates that isn’t too high in fiber or fat. “A simple option is a banana. A smoothie can also work wonders for early morning exercise – protein, carbs, fluids and electrolytes all in one glass!”
Light, refreshing and packed with electrolytes, Dan’s Kiwi Coconut Rejuvenating Smoothie is a great pick for an early morning pre-workout smoothie.
Midday workouts: Calling all lunchtime legends
Is the middle of the day the sun-drenched sweet spot?
Midday workout benefits
- Sneaking in a lunchtime workout can boost your mood and help you avoid the afternoon slump.
- New research from the UK linked midday exercise with a lower mortality risk. The study found that people who did the majority of their movement in the middle of the day had a reduced overall mortality risk, compared to people who moved in the morning and evening. People who mixed it up, spreading their movement throughout the day, had a similar reduction in mortality risk. Keep in mind that the people studied only had their activity tracked for a week, and like all populational studies it’s not possible to determine cause-and-effect. More research is needed to determine if there’s a guaranteed benefit to midday workouts.
This 30-minute bodyweight session with Alexz and Luke is the perfect way to squeeze in a workout on your break.
Midday workout drawbacks
The lunchtime rush at the gym is real, and if you like to take it slow and steady you might not have the time you need to complete all of your desired sets.
Go too hard there’s a risk you’ll feel wrecked for the rest of the day. Just make sure you bring a change of clothes if you’re heading back to the office after training, okay?
What to eat before a midday workout
What you eat before a midday training session will depend on what you had for breakfast and when you’re having lunch.
“If all you had for breakfast was a handful of almonds or a protein bar, then having extra fuel before a midday workout can absolutely help you train harder and longer, without feeling hungry or fatigued,” says Angie.
“If you’re going to have lunch shortly after your workout, aim to have a small snack 30-60 minutes prior to training. It should contain carbs and protein, with minimal fat.”
Evening workouts: The overnight success
Prefer to unleash during a late-night workout?
Evening workout benefits
After a tough day, working out in the evening can help you to unwind and de-stress, thanks to the mood-boosting effects of working out.
- And while you might have heard that exercising in the evening can sabotage your sleep, we’re here to bust that myth. As long as you avoid high-intensity workouts right before bed, you're golden. Evening workouts can actually help you to fall and stay asleep.
Evening workout drawbacks
Dragging yourself to the gym at the end of a long day isn’t easy. If you struggle with motivation, you might find that leaving your workout for the end of the day means it’s easier to ignore.
The evening can also be a busy time for people with family at home or social commitments, so it might not be possible to squeeze in a session at the end of the day.
What to eat before an evening workout
If you haven’t eaten since lunchtime, consider a pre-workout snack.
“I know a lot of my clients who are consuming an energy bar, yogurt with berries, or a shake in their car on the way to the gym,” says Angie. “It’s a common scenario, especially if lunch was at 12pm or 1pm, and they’re not working out until 6pm.”
“If you eat a slightly later lunch and work out closer to 5pm, you may find you still have enough energy from your lunch and don’t need the extra snack before training. If this is you, I would suggest making sure you eat dinner within an hour or two of training, so you’re not left feeling extremely hungry late at night.”
If you regularly find yourself having a huge appetite right around bedtime, it could be caused by the type of exercise you’re doing.
“For many people, intense exercise can temporarily blunt hunger hormones, causing you to not have much of a post-workout,” Angie explains. “But with cardio especially, your appetite can shoot up several hours later, leaving you feeling starving right before bed. So it’s important that you take note of how exercise affects your appetite and plan accordingly.”
Chef Sergio’s Smoky Tomato & Chicken Pasta Bake is the ultimate hunger-crushing post-gym comfort food.
So, is it better to work out in the morning or at night?
At the end of the day, the best time to work out is whenever you can make it happen consistently. Any physical activity is associated with significantly reduced mortality, especially when you hit that sweet spot of 150 minutes a week.
And if your weekdays are jam-packed, don’t despair. A new study suggests that “weekend warriors” who got most of the recommended 150 minutes over 1-2 days could enjoy similar heart-health benefits to those who work out daily.
So whether you're an early bird, a midday mover and shaker or an evening energizer, the most crucial factor is getting those muscles moving regularly.
Disclaimer: This Centr content is adapted with permission from an article written by Lifespan.io. The content herein represents Centr’s interpretation of the original source material.
Centr x Lifespan.io
Centr has partnered with Lifespan.io to bring you the latest in longevity research. Lifespan.io is the leading source of industry news and a nonprofit advocacy foundation whose mission is to accelerate progress toward overcoming age-related diseases. Since 2014, the organization has focused on responsible journalism, high-impact advocacy, and media initiatives that make longevity research and education more accessible to all.
Sign up to unlock your full potential
All your tools in one place
Expert-training to fuel your fitness, nutrition and mindfulness.
Limitless ways to fuel your mind & body
Access to over 3,000 workouts, recipes, and meditations – all tailored to your goals.
Tech that keeps you moving
Download Centr on all your devices to level up and track your results live.