Are you a morning person or a night owl? The time of the day that you choose to you exercise depends on your schedule and your energy levels. Some people burst out of bed in the morning and head to the gym. Others fumble in the dark until they chug enough coffee to open their eyes.
So, when is actually the best time to work out?
That depends partially on your circadian rhythm. Throughout the day your hormones fluctuate. Sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen), cortisol, and melatonin are some of the most well-known. When you wake up your cortisol levels are high, when you go to bed your melatonin levels are high. Your body uses hormones to make you sleepy or energized.
A study published in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found that early evening was the best time to work out, based on hormone levels. That’s when researchers saw the best performance overall. However, they note that it’s completely different for each person.
Your circadian rhythm changes based on what you do throughout the day. Our bodies like to have a schedule. If you consistently work out in the morning, your body will get used to it. If you work out in the evening, that’s when you’ll have more workout energy.
Changing your workout schedule too much can throw off your circadian rhythm, so it’s best to stick to one general timeframe. If you’re a morning person, researchers recommend warming up more, because the body is still stiff and not used to moving from your night of sleep.
Evening warriors can cause disturbances in their sleep if they do an intense workout within an hour of going to bed. For that reason, make sure you include some buffer time between your workout and when you want to fall asleep. With that being said, working out in the evening can actually help you sleep, as long as it’s over an hour before bed.
If you have to switch your schedule around, or if you want to experiment, give your new schedule some time. Your body takes a few days or weeks to adjust to a new schedule (think about jetlag). However, feel free to experiment, you might discover that you’re more of a morning person or night owl than you thought!