When is the best time to train and how long you need to rest

By Vladimir Marchenko

The argument between supporters of morning and evening workouts has been going on for ages. While hardly anyone doubts the benefits of moderate exercise, working out during inappropriate time can do more harm for your body than good and negatively affect your rest and sleep routine.

Physical exercise and sleep

Some healthy lifestylers believe that doing sports in the evening is a universal sleeping pill, especially for people who are involved in mental work. They help to distract your brain from work and negative thoughts. Regular physical activity makes you sleep more soundly. In their opinion, aerobic exercise a few hours before the bedtime is optimal for the body. However, there exists a risk that you will overload yourself or finish training late which may result in not being able to fall asleep for several hours.

Supporters of the "morning theory” are convinced of the opposite - sports is not for relaxing before going to bed, but to warm up the body and get energy at the beginning of the day. According to them, sports encourages you to get up early and come to work already fully prepared for the new day. Also, morning workouts contribute to good appetite, so you would probably prefer to have a good and nutritious breakfast, and increase stress tolerance for at least a day, hence make it easier to deal with work and household responsibilities. Although, we have to admit that for many people such a schedule can be impossible to adhere to.

when to make workout

Physiologists are on the side of another “win-win” option - daytime workouts. Indeed, at noon, a person reaches the peak of his activity (unless he is an "owl"). However, only professional athletes or people with a free work schedule can afford such a routine. In addition, such factors as the climate (it may be too hot during the day), the chronotype, the goals set, work schedule, etc. may also impose their limitations. Therefore, for many people, aerobic and strength training in the fresh air in the morning or evening can be more suitable.

Morning and evening workouts - pros and cons

The time for your workouts will depend on individual factors. Each time of the day is different, which we gonna discuss in more detail.

The benefits of morning workouts

1. It is not as hot outside as during the day or evening, which means it is easier for the body to handle a workout.

2. It is more efficient to burn fat in the morning. Exercising prior to having breakfast increases the metabolism of body fat. At this time, the cells consume more oxygen (excess tissue oxygen consumption, EPOC) and calories, especially after 30-40 minutes of workout. The levels of hormones are also at their optimum - cortisol and growth hormones are at their peak, and the body draws energy reserves precisely due to the breakdown of adipose tissue. In addition, after morning exercises the appetite decreases for the whole day, which also contributes to losing weight.

3. Morning exercises increase productivity. In the morning, nothing distracts the brain, and this is a great time to get an energetic boost for the whole day.

4. It can replace a coffee. Morning workouts improve cognitive abilities and help to start your new day actively.

5. They strengthen your discipline. Waking up early to have a workout makes you more self-disciplined and encourages to live a healthier lifestyle (switching to a healthy diet, planning a workday, and falling asleep early and at the same time).

Disadvantages of morning workouts

1. It can be hard for "owls”. Waking up at 6-7 am could be a difficult task, especially for an "owl". If in summer it is still not as difficult, in winter almost everyone struggles with waking up early. At this time, blood circulation is slowed down, and both lungs and brain do not work at their full. It would be extremely stressful for the body, hence, the brain will try to avoid it in every possible way. You can try to gradually accustom the body to small warm-ups in the morning, and then, step by step, switch to running or swimming, etc. However, if the exercises don’t bring joy, but only suffering, it is better to workout in the afternoon.

2. Before training, you still need to have a snack, which makes it necessary to wake up even earlier.  In other words, you need to wake up, eat at least a protein bar or a banana, or some cottage cheese or yoghurt, then wait for at least 20-30 minutes and only after start exercising. However, if you are working on losing weight, you don't need to eat before training.

3. Load on the heart. At night, the body minimizes its activity and blood thickens, since a person is almost motionless, does not eat food and does not spend energy on burning calories. A sudden shift in physical activity can negatively affect the heart and other internal organs. Before training, it is recommended to drink one or two glasses of plain water without gas and only then start exercising.

warm up the muscles
In order to activate muscle growth and accelerate the bloodstream in the morning, try "explosive" exercises, such as lunges, jumps, squats, push-ups. Make sure you warm up all the muscles beforehand

The advantages of evening workouts

1. Reboot. Training in the evening is a good way to switch from fatigue and stress and reboot the brain by distracting it from work or school.

2. There is no need to rush anywhere. Not only do we feel sleepy in the morning, but we are also concerned about how to have time for a shower, breakfast and also catch the train on time. In the evening, on the contrary, you can work out at your own pace and calmly go home.

3. It is easier to fall asleep after a workout. However, there is a very fine line between working the body out and overstimulating the organism. The latter can actually cause sleep problems, therefore, you should have your training 3-4 hours before bedtime.

4. Losing weight while sleeping. For another 8-10 hours after training muscles will need additional energy to recover. They will consume reserves, including adipose tissue, while you sleep, which will have a beneficial effect on your shape.

5. The evening is a better time to build muscle. Toward night, the body accumulates more glycogen and amino acids, the body temperature and strength indicators are higher, hence, you build muscles more efficiently.

What are the disadvantages of training in the evening

1. It is easier to find and excuse in the evening. Extra working hours, family assignments, headache, fatigue, and laziness often predominate in the evening and can sabotage your workout.

2. Problems with falling asleep. Even though it is hardly possible to overwork during cardio, for example, still it may be difficult to go to sleep after an intensive workout.

3. You can provoke overeating. This is especially true for weight gain workouts, after which you need to eat well.

Thus, the best time to exercise is the time that fits your schedule, habbits and body characteristics best. It is necessary to take into account the climatic conditions, the goals set, the state of health, and personal circadian rhythms. In this regard, Dr. Steven Holfinger, sleep medicine expert at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, believes that noon is the best time for exercising. During this period, afternoon drowsiness sets in and concentration drops, so active exercises is a good way to overcome them. However, we repeat, everything is very individual.

How long should you rest after the training

Professional athletes have long known that rest and rehabilitation are just as important as training. It is crucial to avoid overtraining, which causes pain in muscles, unwillingness to exercise, fatigue, weight loss, and susceptibility to colds. Muscles also need to rest and recover from microdamage, which makes them grow. Rest is also needed to replenish nutrient reserves (especially carbohydrates, which are consumed first), microelements and water (which comes out in the form of sweat).

young girl sleep after training
Chronic sleep deprivation often leads to excess weight gain and slows down muscle protein synthesis. It also increases cortisol levels and decreases insulin sensitivity

Try to have at least 24h between the workouts. After strength training on a particular muscle group - at least 48-72 hours. During this time, the body has time to restore the glycogen in muscles. To maintain the required supply of water in the body, for example, 1-2 hours of rest are enough. However, more general recovering processes take at least 12 hours, one of the main ones is a sound and healthy sleep.

How to improve sleep after a workout

Sleep quality remains one of the most important components of post-workout recovery. This is especially true for those who exercise in the evening and occasionally cannot sleep. For them, we can recommend the following:

  • replace evening exercises with less intensive ones. For example, strength training for aerobic exercises, or aerobics for yoga and stretching. Intensive workout raises your body temperature, increases sweating and prevents you from falling asleep. 20-30 minutes of moderate exercises are enough for a calm sleep; doing more sets, while working with smaller weights and reducing the time of the exercises can also be helpful;
  • don’t forget to warm up and cool down before and after the training;
  • before going to bed, saturate your muscles with carbohydrates and don’t be afraid to eat after 18-00. Carbs are absorbed faster than, for example, protein. Hummus with vegetables, muesli, yoghurt with berries, nuts, cereals, apples, etc. are suitable for an evening meal;
  • take a hot shower or bath after exercise. This will help you cool down, lower body temperature, and fall asleep faster;
  • stick to a daily routine and end it with meditation practices. In particular, do not alternate between morning and evening workouts, but choose one that is most suitable for you. Among meditative practices, visualization and listening to affirmations or relaxing sounds before bedtime, as well as yoga, are suitable.

You can also exploit the functions of the Hypnopedia application, which comprise a whole complex for improving your mental health during sleep. For relaxation and early falling asleep, there is a set of soothing sounds and melodies that can be composed into sets and compositions. They are adjustable in volume, both overall and individual, and the playback stops automatically. During your sleep, based on the data received from your Apple Watch sensors, short motivational affirmation sets on one of the selected topics (health, love, relationships, etc.) are automatically played. This happens without waking you up, and the effect of affirmations lasts, strengthening your mental health in the longer term.

Ссылка App Store

By the way, the app has a nice bonus for those who prefer morning workouts. It is a smart alarm clock that wakes you up at the most optimal time based on your personal biological indicators, within a specified period that you select for yourself (for example, from 6-30 to 7 am). Hence, after waking up, you do not feel drowsy. Such a soft and light awakening is more productive and pleasant and allows you to work out in the morning and be in a good mood all day.

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Thus, when choosing the time for training, you need to make sure it suits your routine and body characteristics. It is important to rest and, especially, sleep well. It is important to remember: exercises are for the sake of strengthening the body and spirit, not for Olympic games, so don’t be too harsh on yourself.

Hypnopedia Sleep Well-being Self-awareness