There’s a popular image of the early riser, up with (or before) the sun, getting in some strength training, a run, or a yoga session to start their day. They head to bed early, rest up, and do it all again the next day.

But, some of us are not morning people.

The good news? We’ve got some great research on our side revealing the benefits of exercising in the afternoon or early evening.

Like to listen instead of read? Check out the 5-minute mini podcast that inspired this article from blog author and Hyatt Training intern, Max Steele.

If you struggle to get up and make it to the gym, evenings might be your best option. For you “up-and-at-em” types, keep doing what works for you. If you’ve ever felt the need to skip a workout because it got “too late,” you might find some information here as well.

First, let’s hit on some of the big positives.

Time to hydrate

You perform better when you’re hydrated, and slamming back a 24oz bottle of water on your way to the gym doesn’t cut it. Remember that hydration is a process, not an event. Having adequate time to hydrate before you hit the gym floor is a blessing.

Changing up nutrient timing

Nutrient timing is one of the dreaded “it depends” topics. Your chronotype (time of day preference and strength of that preference) can hold a lot of sway here.

There’s a great breakdown on nutrient timing by Precision Nutrition found here. The take-away? Don’t stress too much, but there’s evidence for switching things up if you’re in a rut.

Easier hygiene

We’re fortunate enough to have locker rooms with the little amenities you may need after a session. But if you train in the evening, you can shower in the comfort of your own home. Plus, no sweaty gym clothes sitting in your bag all day.

Stress release

Work through the day’s stress with exercise. Think of it like a moving-meditation. Training stimulates neurotransmitters and reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. Plus, it gets you out of your head for an hour or so. I prefer working through a “bad day” in the gym before I get home. I’m more fun to be around, and I have a better evening.

Performance & gains

Body temperature increases throughout the day, having a passive warm-up effect. This is useful in cold to moderate climates, but a double-edged sword in hot ones–rarely an issue in Portland.

We tend to achieve peak anaerobic performance in the later afternoon. Flexibility increases as well. There’s even evidence strength and endurance training in the evening may lead to larger muscle mass gains.

Working with our schedule

The number one reason we skip the gym is the perception that we “don’t have enough time.” That’s often about priorities, but what if you struggle to get up early? What if you slept through your alarm? Your best time to train is whenever you’ll actually show up. If mornings don’t work, afternoons are still there for you.

Behavior avoidance

After work, we’re ego-depleted and our willpower is often at its lowest. Skip out on happy hour or that little bit of impulse shopping. You’ll save money and sleep better. Oh, and speaking of sleep…

The number one fear: Exercising too late will damage my sleep

Precious, necessary sleep. There’s a long standing claim that working out too late in the day will interrupt the circadian rhythm. You become too “amped” to relax, so you stay up all night, negating the benefits of exercise.

Here’s the truth. Exercise repairs our internal clocks damaged by artificial light, stress, and compromised sleep. In other words, living in the modern world. All voluntary exercise does this, even in the afternoon.

But, there are two caveats:

  • There is such a thing as too late. Studies show extreme late evening exercise may hurt sleep. No burning the midnight oil.
  • Caffeine. If you use caffeine, with or without a pre-workout blend, be mindful of how your body responds. 300mg at 6pm might not work like it does at 9am.

In conclusion

If your training schedule is working for you, stick with it. Work with your individual body, schedule, and preferences. Just don’t forget about the afternoon. A lot of us get our best work done then, and you’re always welcome to join. You might even like it.

 

Sources:

Nutrient Timing
https://www.precisionnutrition.com/nutrient-timing

Hormone Regulation
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2681273/

Stress Release
https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/exercise-and-stress/art-20044469

Performance & Gains
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21029194
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22531613
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/mus.20529
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27863207

The Number One Fear: Exercising Too Late Will Damage My Sleep
https://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/12/why-afternoon-may-be-the-best-time-to-exercise/
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22988135
https://www.sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-poll-finds-exercise-key-good-sleep


Author Max Steele is an ACE certified personal trainer and Precision Nutrition level 1 coach in the Hyatt Training internship program. He believes in the transformative power of sustainable nutrition, strength training, & game night. He aims to reignite self-discovery in those who doubt their capabilities and to prove the crucial role of “play” in the pursuit of deep health. Learn more about Max, or get in touch with him by emailing us at Go@HyattTraining.com


Hyatt Training is a collective of certified, enthusiastic and innovative personal trainers in Portland, Oregon. To read more fitness related posts like this one, follow this link.