TL;DR: You seem to be stronger later on in the day, between 5pm and 9pm.
There is a lot of contradictory information about the best time to work out. Some people swear by morning workouts and others swear by evening workouts, but when are you stronger?
One study shows that it is more beneficial to work out in the evening, due to higher muscle activation. Another study showed that peak power and strength is higher in the evening than it is in the morning, meaning that you are stronger in the evening. (1, 2)
So you are strongest in the evening, but does it really make a difference?
One study comparing morning vs evening workouts showed that the difference is small and only reaches significance after around 12 weeks of training. (1)
This means that it is likely not worth to change your daily schedule based on this fact.
Table of Contents:
Pros & Cons of Morning Workouts
There are some advantages of working out in the morning instead of the evening, as shown below.
Earlier in the day, levels of testosterone and insulin are higher, though this doesn't seem to translate into extra muscle growth. Interestingly, GH was higher in the evening. (3)
Exercise may have a stimulating effect, helping you to wake up in the morning.
There are some other anecdotal and theorised advantages to morning exercise such as reduced morning cravings, increased workout consistency, and a relaxing or fulfilled feeling.
In the morning your muscles and joints are tight and not prepared, meaning you will require an extensive warm up before exercising.
Because you'll be fasted after you wake up, you'll have less energy and you won't be able to lift as heavy or workout as hard.
Pros & Cons of Evening Workouts
Evenings are thought to be the best time to workout, likely due to already primed muscles, enhanced energy levels and lower levels of melatonin and other relaxing hormones.
Increased energy levels from food consumption during the day can improve your exercises, allowing you to lift more weight and work out harder.
Working out in the evening might decrease your energy levels, allowing you to fall asleep more quickly later on, resulting in deeper sleep, which can promote muscle growth and recovery.
Muscle mass was shown to be somewhat higher when training in the evening versus morning workouts. (1)
Later in the day, your body is naturally more adaptive.
Evening exercises can easily avoided; it depends on your daily routine, but some individuals choose not to exercise after a long day at work.
Cardio and other aerobic activity, for example, may make it more difficult to sleep.
Motivation may be greatest in the morning and decrease during the day, making it difficult to exercise in the evening.
Some of these can be easily rectified, joining group sessions or planning gym sessions with your friends can help prevent the lack of motivation and the avoid-ability of a workout.
Doing cardio and heavy lifting earlier in the day may help prevent insomnia and difficulty sleeping.
When Should You Workout?
Based on the research and studies on this matter, it is best to do your heavy resistance training later on in the day, such as in the evening, but before 21:00 (9pm).
It has been shown that peak power and strength is highest in the evening.
Alertness and reaction times, blood circulation, and energy levels are their highest or most efficient state in the evening.
Levels of sleep-inducing hormones, like melatonin, are also any their lowest.
However, depending on your circadian rhythm and sleeping schedules, you should avoid exercising after 21:00 (9pm), this is because melatonin starts to be secreted around this time.
Melatonin is a sleep-inducing hormone which can increase sleepiness, reducing your energy, motivation and strength.
Below is the times of day at which certain traits reach their peak states, this depends greatly on a persons individual internal body clock (circadian rhythm).
10:00 (10am): At 10am, alertness reaches its peak.
14:00 (2pm): At around 2pm, coordination skills reaches its peak.
15:00 (3pm): At around 3pm, reaction times reach their peak.
17:00 (5pm): At around 5pm, muscle strength is highest and blood circulation is most efficient.
Based on this information, we can determine the best and most optimal time to workout.
The best time to workout and exercise is between 17:00 (5pm) and 21:00 (9pm). Working out in the evening increases muscle growth slightly more than working out in the morning.
However, if you undertake cardio or aerobic workouts, it is recommended to avoid doing them in the evening and limit them to around 5pm, as this type of exercise might impair sleep quality.
Written by Billy White
Billy White is a qualified Kinesiologist and Personal Trainer. He is an aspiring bodybuilder, fitness enthusiast, and health and fitness researcher.
He has multiple years of experience within the fitness, bodybuilding and health space. He is committed to providing the highest-quality information.
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This evidence-based analysis of morning vs evening workouts features 3 references, listed below.
1. Maria Küüsmaa, Moritz Schumann, Milan Sedliak, William J. Kraemer, Robert U. Newton, Jari-Pekka Malinen, Kai Nyman, Arja Häkkinen, and Keijo Häkkinen. Effects of morning versus evening combined strength and endurance training on physical performance, muscle hypertrophy, and serum hormone concentrations. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. (2016, Dec) ✔
2. Seo DY, Lee S, Kim N, Ko KS, Rhee BD, Park BJ, Han J. Morning and evening exercise. Integr Med Res. (2013, Dec) ✔
3. Fernandes AL, Lopes-Silva JP, Bertuzzi R, Casarini DE, Arita DY, Bishop DJ, Lima-Silva AE. Effect of time of day on performance, hormonal and metabolic response during a 1000-M cycling time trial. PLoS One. (2014, Oct 7) ✔
✔ Citations with a tick indicate the information is from a trusted source.
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