Unless you’re an Olympic contender or a professional athlete, you’re probably not getting paid to workout. Instead, you’ve got to fit workouts into your work schedule. Finding that optimum hour to get into beast mode—or at least break a sweat and relieve tension—is your challenge. With 24-hour gyms the new norm, the choice gets even harder. AM or PM—when’s the best time to work on your gains?
It turns out experts only agree on this: there is no such thing as an optimum time that fits everybody. Fitness coach Eric Stevens sums up the research well: “The best time of day is ultimately a function of you—your habits, your physiology, and your energy.” Here are some other things to keep in mind while deciding when to sneak in your workout.
Pro: AM workouts can give you a buzz
An early morning workout, like a kick of caffeine, can rev up your metabolism. You’ll feel energized heading to work. And you’ll be able to focus fully on your day, no matter what interruptions and inconveniences arise, knowing that they won’t prevent you from getting to the gym—since you’ve already been. Plus, your sleep might improve. One scientific study found that aerobic exercise in the morning may “enhance nocturnal blood pressure changes and quality of sleep.”
Pro: AM workouts are great for forming healthy habits Mornings at the gym also offer the benefit of serious motivation—from other gym-goers. “In my experience,” says fitness coach Eric Stevens, “morning people don’t smile, don’t chat, don’t warm up, and don’t play games. They get right down to business.” In other words, if you’re inspired by seeing other people crush their workouts, an AM workout will help motivate you to hit your own PRs.
Con: AM workouts can leave you drained
On the flip side, if you are constantly trying to make gains at five AM, the effort might catch up with you by ten. You don’t want to be the person who looks shredded—but nods off at group meetings. You also may find yourself hungrier throughout the day because of all those calories you burned up at daybreak. And watch your head as well as your heart rate: comparing results and abilities with those pre-dawn types might actually discourage you. There’s no sense trying to inflate your biceps if it deflates your confidence.
So is evening better for a workout?
Pro: PM workouts are great for blowing off steam
There’s no better way to wind down after a busy workday than by hitting the gym. If you’re the type of person who finds it hard to go straight home after a chaotic day at the office, a gym session in between can be the perfect way to differentiate work from play. The endorphins you release will help you manage the day’s stress, and the meditative components of exercise will allow you to shift your brain away from work stressors before heading home—or to happy hour.
Pro: PM workouts could mean less injuries
According to the National Sleep Foundation, your body is one to two degrees warmer in the afternoon and evening. This means you have a lower risk of injury when you work out, because your muscles are working more efficiently. Also, with the busy day behind you, you aren’t rushing to finish. Since recovery and rest are just as important as pushing yourself, an evening workout gives you time for a nice, long cool-down.
Con: PM workouts can keep you up at night
For some people, nighttime workouts can lead to trouble sleeping later on. A vigorous workout will raise your heart rate and leave your nervous system stimulated and awake, which can be too much for certain people. Then again, the National Sleep Foundation says that engaging in strength training at night tends to make other people sleep better. The only clear answer here is that everybody’s different, so next time you work out at night, pay attention to your body and your sleep quality to see if the nighttime movement helps or hinders your shut-eye.
In sum: the best workout works best for YOU. Pick a time and stick to it, as consistency is far more critical than finding an optimum time of day. And when the day’s work is done—no matter what order you did it in—you can always come home and crash on your MOLECULE mattress, knowing that it’ll help you get more of that restorative Slow Wave Sleep, meaning that you’ll wake in the morning ready to take on the day all over again.
“6 Benefits to Being a Morning Exerciser,” US News and World Report
“Effects of exercise timing on sleep architecture and nocturnal blood pressure in prehypertensives,” Vascular Health and Risk Management
“The Best Time of Day to Exercise for Quality Zzz’s,” National Sleep Foundation