If you’re a beast in the gym at night, we’re not here to rain on your parade. You do you. But if you’ve hit a plateau or want to level up your fitness game, it might be time to reset your alarm clock. Morning sweat sessions could be your new best friend.
Hear us out: They’re no magic bullet, but a.m. workouts are the real deal.
We’re talking good vibes that last all day, amazing sleep when you finally hit the sack, and faster gains in the gym.
So how exactly will switching your workout time change your life? Let us count the ways.
1. Level up your fat-torching prowess
Instagram’s fitness influencers have been talking “fasted cardio” for a while. It’s definitely not a one-size-fits-all strategy, but working out before breakfast could really rev up your fat-burning potential.
Research suggests that sweating it out on an empty stomach helps you burn up to 20 percent more fat than if you worked out after a meal.
2. Wave goodbye to cravings
Exercise at any time of day decreases your level of the “hunger hormone,” ghrelin. But morning workouts do something even more magical.
One study of the brain activity of 35 women suggested morning exercise made participants less emotionally responsive to photos of food. The next week, the same women skipped their morning workouts and had stronger responses to the same food photos.
More research is necessary to understand this sorcery, but there’s just something about morning exercise that banishes cravings.
3. Stay more active all day
Morning classes jump-start your activity for the whole day. In the same study of women looking at food photos, researchers found that participants were more likely to stay active all day if they exercised in the morning.
It’s a mind game, really — you just start feeling it when you’ve been working on your fitness.
4. Keep blood sugar under control
If you have type 1 diabetes (T1D), you know managing blood sugar is a big deal. And since exercise messes with your sugar levels, scheduling healthy workouts can be a challenge.
A 2015 study concluded that morning workouts are the safest bet for people with T1D. Researchers think it’s because your level of the hormone cortisol, which helps regulate blood sugar, is higher in the morning.
So set your alarm, hit the ground running, and sweat it out while your body is primed to keep blood sugar in check. Safety first!
5. Sleep better
Ever noticed how evening gym sessions wake you up? That’s not just your imagination. Exercise revs up your heart rate and body temp. It takes time for your body to relax after a workout, so why not switch to mornings, the time you need that jolt of energy?
A 2014 study suggested adults who exercise at 7 a.m. fall asleep faster and sleep harder than those who hit the gym in the afternoon or evening. In other words, you’ll sleep like a baby (well, one who actually sleeps through the night).
6. Lower your blood pressure
Regulating your blood pressure probably isn’t your first order of business most mornings. But maybe it should be. About 1 in 3 Americans have high blood pressure, and it puts you at risk for all kinds of health complications later in life.
One of the easiest ways to manage your blood pressure is by exercising. According to at least one study, 7 a.m. workouts keep your blood pressure more steady than workouts later in the day. Who knew?
7. Be happier
Yep, exercise gets those endorphins flowing. It’s just science. Imagine starting your day with good vibes instead of clutching your latte like a life preserver until 10 a.m. It’s worth a shot.
8. Get in the zone
Regardless of when you exercise, physical activity will improve your concentration and focus. But wouldn’t you rather be laser-focused at the beginning of the day?
In one study, researchers found that morning cardio specifically improves attention and decision making skills. The study also suggested that it’s good to take quick exercise breaks throughout the day. Even 3-minute bursts of activity every half-hour helped participants stay focused.
9. Build muscles faster
OK, so you might not be in iron-pumping mode the minute you roll out of bed in the morning, but the National Institute of Fitness and Sport reports that’s actually when your testosterone levels are at their highest. And testosterone means your body is primed for building muscle.
Take advantage of that morning time slot if you’re trying to get stronger.
10. Fight off sickness
Research shows that exercise boosts immune system activity. Even short workouts — less than an hour — can lower inflammation and speed up your body’s response to germs.
Why not start each day by revving up your immune system?
11. Wake up faster
Remember how cortisol, which keeps your blood sugar in check, is highest in the morning? Cortisol also helps you wake up and stay alert.
So work with your body’s natural rhythm. Take advantage of morning cortisol for high energy workouts. Endorphins and cortisol are like a one-two punch to boost energy that will last for hours after your sweat session ends.
12. The healthy habits effect
Ever wonder whether morning workouts would just tempt you to smash a greasy burger and cupcake at lunch? Think again. Research actually suggests that one healthy habit has a domino effect on the rest of the day.
In a 2019 study of more than 2,000 college students, those who completed a 15-week workout program automatically started eating healthier — less fried food, more fresh stuff. More research is needed, but it seems like exercise could make you crave healthier snacks. #winning
13. Fewer distractions = better workouts
Imagine the moment you wake up. You haven’t started scrolling through Instagram or Twitter. You haven’t started anything yet. You’re still unplugged from the world. This is the time for a focused workout.
In the mornings, you’re less likely to get distracted by work or friends. Seize the moment to squeeze in a workout before the day truly begins.
14. Beat the heat
If you’re #blessed enough to live in a warm climate, you already know afternoon workouts can get a little steamy. The hottest part of the day is usually between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., so schedule sweat sessions before or after those times.
Or maybe heat isn’t your problem. If it’s cold in your area, mornings are still the best time to exercise. Working up a sweat first thing in the morning will warm you up for the chilly day ahead.
15. Energy boosts for days
Cardio gets your blood pumping, shuttling oxygen and nutrients to your heart, lungs, brain… you name it. Basically, more exercise = more energy. Morning workouts get the whole day off to a happy, energetic start.
Exercising on an empty stomach can help you burn fat, but it’s not healthy for everyone. You need to make sure your blood sugar is stable.
Snacks that combine carbs and protein are ideal before a morning workout to boost your energy and prime your muscles for exercise.
Some great options include:
- banana and nut butter
- oatmeal with berries
- Greek yogurt with fruit (apples or berries work best)
- avocado toast
Nosh 1 to 3 hours before hitting the gym so your workout doesn’t interfere with your digestion and cause cramping during your sweat session.
Don’t go to the office hungry! You’ll need to replenish your energy after a morning workout. Try to refuel within 15 minutes of your workout.
Here are some of our favorite post-workout snacks:
- green smoothie with protein powder
- yogurt and berries
- egg and veggie sandwich or wrap
- PB & J protein pancakes
Let’s keep it real: The best workout is the one that actually happens. You know your schedule. Are you an early riser or a night owl? Do you work a 9-to-5 or a late shift?
For most people, a morning sweat session is more beneficial than an evening workout. It’s just easier to get it done if you tackle it before the rest of the day gets in the way. You’re more likely to feel tired or discouraged after work. The longer you wait, the more excuses pile up.
Of course, evening workouts have a few advantages:
- Your body is already warmed up at the end of the day, so you might be able to jump into muscle-building exercises immediately.
- It’s easier to convince a buddy to join you after work than before the sun’s up.
- You might like decompressing with a run or workout class after a stressful day.
You do you. Consistency is more important than time of day.
Once you feel the benefits of a.m. exercise, you probably won’t need extra motivation. But getting out of bed is tough at first. Here are a few tried-and-true hacks to get the ball rolling:
- Catch enough Zzz’s. Go to bed earlier so you can still get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
- Ease into it. Adjust your mornings gradually. Maybe start with 7 a.m. workouts and move back 15 minutes each week.
- Prep the night before. Set out your gym clothes, shoes, water bottle, etc. before you go to bed. It’s hard to make excuses when all you have to do is roll out and go.
- Make breakfast to go. Prep a yummy breakfast the night before. Stash it in the fridge or on the counter so you can grab it and get to the gym ASAP.
- Recruit a buddy. Rope your friend or partner into trying morning workouts with you. Buddies keep you accountable.
- Keep it fun. If spin class isn’t your thing, don’t aim for a 5:30 a.m. appointment with the bike. Try new workout styles until you find one you love. It’s easier to get out of bed for something you truly enjoy.
If you’re hoping to start or improve your fitness routine, consider morning workouts. Exercising first thing in the morning could help you feel happier, more energetic, and healthier for the rest of the day.
But remember, there’s no right or wrong time to move your body. Pick a workout time that works for you. Consistency counts more than timing.