The Best Time to Exercise

Mastermind Weekend 1/16

Hey there!

I'm Tina

I’m the owner of Carrots ‘N’ Cake as well as a Certified Nutrition Coach and Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner (FDN-P). I use macros and functional nutrition to help women find balance within their diets while achieving their body composition goals.


An in-depth, 4-week reverse dieting course for women who feel like their metabolism has slowed down, think they might have hormonal imbalance and can’t lose weight no matter what they do.

Good morning!

I’m gearing up for my first CrossFit class in 4 whole days. I haven’t taken one since Thursday. I know, I’m as surprised as you are! I’m definitely excited to get back, especially since today’s WOD involves running! Yay!

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This morning, I was thinking about how I’ve switched back and forth between morning and evening workouts. Post-college until I started CrossFit last December, I was a die-hard morning exerciser. (Morning Workouts: Tips for Getting Your Butt Out of Bed!) For me, it was the only way I could stick with a regular exercise routine. If I planned an evening workout, something (an important errand, drinks with friends, etc.) would inevitably pop up, and I’d skip my workout, so exercising first thing in the morning really worked for me. At first, it was tough to wake up at the butt crack of dawn, but, eventually, I got into a groove and it became part of my routine. If I didn’t exercise in the morning, I actually felt like my whole day was “off,” so it was easy to stick with it.

When I first joined CrossFit, I started exercising in the evenings with Mal. He planned to go after work, so I hitched a ride with him and it was fun working out together. Now that he’s off for the summer and teaching morning classes, I’m back to my old schedule. I really love starting my day off on the right foot with a workout. Plus, it frees up the rest of my day, so I don’t have a workout hanging over my head (or getting in the way of evening plans).

Clearly, I’m all about exercising in the morning, but I recently stumbled upon an interesting piece about evening exercisers in Health (July/August 2012):

A recent study published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness found that women who walked four times a week lost more fat mass when they hoofed it at 6PM compared with those who walked at 8AM. (Evening exercisers also ended up consuming more protein and eating fewer of their daily calories in the evening.) And multiple studies have found that early evening may be the best time to improve your performance and build muscle, whether you’re doing cardio or strength training. One possible reason: The body releases higher levels of muscle-building growth hormone in the early evening than in the morning, and exercise also boots levels of that hormone, so timing the two events to coincide may yield the best results.

Early evening workouts improve your performance and build muscle? Hmm… maybe I should mix up my exercise routine with some evening workouts? I do sometimes feel stronger in the evening””or maybe I’m just not totally awake for my morning workouts?

The Health piece definitely has some valid points for evening workouts, but I think as long as you’re consistent with your exercise routine, it still benefits your health and well-being””and isn’t that what’s most important?


Last night’s dinner was “leftover tacos” since everything inside them came from random leftovers from our “tiny HUGE” party. I made the taco seasoning from scratch (using this recipe), but the ground beef was broken up meat from the giant hamburger and the veggies inside were either leftover from the mini pizzas or picked out of the pasta salad, which is why you might see some little pieces of feta mixed in. Random, but delicious.


For dessert, I whipped up a batch of Banana Soft Serve and added some chocolate sprinkles to it. Mmm”¦ love.

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This morning, I woke up craving nut butter, so I whipped up My Favorite Breakfast Pancake. There was a new jar of Maranatha almond butter in the cabinet, so I was excited to break it open. I thought I liked the Maranatha brand, but, eww, it tasted like plastic. I definitely need to pick up a jar of Archer Farms from Target ASAP””that stuff tastes amazing and doesn’t cost a fortune.

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Question of the Day

Are you a morning, afternoon, or evening exerciser? Do you think what time you exercise matters? What time of day are your workouts most consistent?

P.S. My friend Patricia is giving away a slow cooker on her blog! Check it out!



  1. I saw that article in Health amgazine too. I am NOT a morning person in the least bit, but when I get home in the evenings the last thing I want to do is wrokout! I am actually an afternoon exersizer, only my work schedule gets in the way. So the morning is the only time I can really get a wrokout in.

  2. I would prefer to excercise in the mornings during the week, but my work schedule would mean I’d have to be up at 4. That isn’t happening. Plus, there are no classes at that time. So, I’ve been an evening exerciser for a few years now. There is a 7:30 bootcamp I’ve been doing twice a week. My CrossFit that I’ve been doing for month is at 8pm for when I can make it or 9am on Saturday mornings. I try to do morning workouts on the weekends, or it just doesn’t happen. I prefer running early in the mornings whenever I can. The only negative about the nights is that I’m wired up until about 11 everynight. So, this leads for me to be tired once the week plays out. I catch up with naps on the weekend if I’m lucky with my boys.

  3. I definitely prefer evening workouts. My body has been moving around all day, the blood is flowing, there’s plenty of fuel, and I always do much better than I do if I try to do it straight out of bed in the morning. Go team evening!

  4. I prefer and workout in the mornings! I’m less tired and energized. If i don’t work out in the morning- I feel all out of whack. Morning exercise it’s like my caffeine.

  5. I am a morning and afternoon kind of gal. I work only on the weekends but 16 hour shifts so I have only the weekdays to work out. I get up at 5:30 in the morning and go running and at 4:30 in the afternoon I am at kickboxing. Then I worn out and i’m in bed at 8:30 (well as long as the kids are asleep)

  6. I’m an afternoon work-outer, basically because that’s when I would have time usually when I was in college. I had my classes in the morning or evening, and my afternoons were free. I feel like when I start law school, though, I’m going to have to become a night person. I don’t think I could get up super early to do it.

  7. Interesting article! I think for the majority of us, the benefits of exercise are greatest when we actually do it. I’m a morning exerciser too and it’s worth it to me to maybe burn a few less calories or build a bit less muscle with a morning workout than to skip it altogether.

  8. I wish I could exercise every morning and be done, but I teach classes so my schedule is different every day. Interesting though about the walk at 6 pm thing. Hmmm…. Have fun at your CrossFit workout! 🙂

  9. I’m like you, I love to get my workout finished in the morning so I don’t have it hanging over my head the rest of the day. But, with that said I feel better when I do it in the afternoon. My body and muscles feel warmed up from the day and I feel like I can approach my workout better. I wish I felt that way in the morning! 🙂

  10. I was thinking that today too! I am a die hard morning exerciser (morning person in general) but I really love Crossfit in the afternoons with the bigger group. Right now I’m kind of doing BOTH – a run or something in the morning just out of habit and then Crossfit after work because it’s fun. I need to find a new morning routine so I don’t burn out!

  11. I’m definitely a morning exerciser. I work at night & don’t get home till around 9:45-10pm, so I definitely wouldn’t want to work out then. And I prefer waking up & just doing it rather than waiting around all day. Just like you, I feel like I get my day started off right!

  12. I go through stages where I’m motivated to get up for morning workouts, but most of the time I end up working out in the evening.

    I do have a slight problem with evening workouts though, which is fueling for them… I have a small window to eat a snack before leaving work but I just haven’t figured out the best one for my routine still. I’ve tried all the usual suspects (pb, fruit, etc), but I think it’s just a natural thing for my body to be hungry at that hour when I’d like to get a workout in before dinner and then relax for the night.

  13. I can’t work out at night. It just doesn’t happen. I’m too excited to go home after work to get excited about going to the gym. And I get WAY too sweaty when I work out to do it during my lunch break. I have to do it in the morning. I just don’t like waking up at 5:30am. 🙁

  14. I mostly exercise in the morning, but I have started doing one run with a group in the evening and I go to boot camp in the evening. I think if you are more likely to exercise in the morning than you should do that. I imagine consistency outweighs time of day.

  15. The time I workout depends on the workout I am doing….I run in the mornings (which means I have to wake up at 3:45am in order to get a run in before I leave for work at 5:30am) but if is any sort of strength workout or Crossfit, I need to do it at night so my body is awake and ready to go hard!

    As much as I hate setting my alarm at night for the butt crack of dawn, its awesome to run early in the morning, its so peaceful outside and it get me off on the right foot for the day. Sets a great mood for a day.

  16. I’ve read before that the best time to exercise is at the same time each day. Somehow your body prepares for it if the time is consistent making it really effective. Have a great day, Tina!

  17. I work out in the morning for two reasons: it’s easier for me in the morning because my hubby is home with the kids and when I get home from work there is so much to do, and because Savannah is HOT! I’m not a fan of heat and humidity, and there’s a lot more in the early evening than the early morninf. LOL!

  18. i’ve gone back & forth with the best time to exercise as well. i think over the last few years, i’ve figured out that morning exercise is best for me. i am a teacher though, so once the school year starts, i’ll go back to evening exercise again. i just don’t seem to have the energy in the evenings like i do in the mornings, which makes sense, i guess!

  19. I’m 100% a morning exerciser – and I honestly just feel like it’s the type of deal where – what works for you works for you. I don’t love getting up at 5am, but I’ll take that over working out at 7pm any day. As far as when it’s medically better – I feel like 1 article says 1 thing, and another says another. My opinion – every person is different, I’m a flat out morning person and just would so rarely go if I were an evening person. I think as long as you go – do whatever works for you!

    I’ve read that if you work out in the morning you burn more calories throughout the day, I’ve also read that statistically, people work out more consistently in the morning because it’s more of a habit, vs. at night things can come up more often. I’ve also read that in the evening you have more energy, can get a better, more vigirous work out in, etc. When I first started working in Boston (i.e. my first grown up job) – I attempted to go to the gym after work – and I’d SO rarely go, maybe 1x/week – then I’d come home, eat dinner, and hop into bed so late. Now, I go to bed super early – so I tend to eat dinner by around 5:30 or so – and go to bed early. I can see the more snacking thing – luckily I’ve cut myself out of the habit of snacking at night, so I just don’t eat after around 6:00.

    All that said – I DO agree with feeling gross after sitting all day, so I do try to go for a walk or something before dinner – not really a work out, just a little walk or something like that.

    But overall – my theory is – whatever works, works – as long as you are doing something!

  20. I like to exercise right when I get home from work…I need the afternoon burst of energy to keep me going! Plus, I sit alllllll day, so I am itching to move as soon as I am on my way home.

  21. I am DEF a morning exerciser. FOR sure. However, I teach fitness classes, so I often am doing BOTH. hah. I feel like I work harder in the morning, actually, and doing a tough cardio is WAY harder in the evening for me (i.e. teaching Zumba) than it is at night. Which is totally backward from what that study showed.

    Personally I think the best time to exercise is the time the person FEELS best doing it & or has made it a priority to do it at that time 😉

  22. I was a diehard AM exerciser for years (because of every reason you listed), but now that my commute is much longer, I’ve had to transition to PM workouts. I’m not too happy about it, but like you said, exercise is exercise no matter what (as long as you’re consistent).

  23. Although I know NOTHING about science and don’t know too much about the way that our body functions, I can see why this study makes some sense–if in fact, that part about the body releasing muscle-growth hormones is valid and true. So I totally believe it can be a valid study! But like you said! Whatever time we happen to be more awake and energetic is when our workouts will count the most. For me, it’s always mid-day! Unless I do some ballet inspired workouts and haven’t had a chance to work out..then I’m okay doing it at night because it’s “calmer”, but definitely not any easier! 😛

  24. I definitely like morning workouts as i feel too that it starts the day off on the right foot. I like evening workouts as well but for me, it gives me energy at a time I want to be winding down and then there’s the whole 2 showers a day thing

  25. I love working out in the morning, it’s my best time too! Thanks for the tip on the AB from Target……loves me some Target…! 🙂

  26. I just wanted to drop a comment and thank you for your constant promotion of CrossFit. I have followed your blog for a while, and I finally just took the leap to join a CrossFit gym. I was a scholarship fastpitch softball player in college, and I have missed the competitive spirit and adrenaline rush you get from the game. ONE TIME at CrossFit, and I have found my calling. I havent been this excited about fitness in a long time (I am a half-marathon runner and work out 4- 6 days per week, but it gets old after a while), and I am so thankful for all of your posts and encouragement about the sport. You rock, and I would love to talk with you further about CrossFit and the fun things you can do in the sport. Thank you Tina!

  27. Ugh, I’m struggling with this now. I used to do 5:30 am CrossFit and loved it, but now that I’m late in my pregnancy I’m so exhausted that I need the extra sleep. But it’s 100+ degrees for the night classes! It stinks.

  28. I’m an early morning exerciser. Get it done and out of the way for the rest of the day. On days that I only can fit in an after work workout, I initially dread it because of fatigue. Once I get going, I’m good. I’ve actually had some really great workouts at that time. It’s all mental really.

    Target has an amazing nut butter with cashews, almonds and peanuts. The BEST ever!

  29. Thanks for sharing the article. It was interesting. I’m definitely a morning exerciser, even though I’m not a morning person at heart. I find that if I wait until the end of the day there’s always an excuse or something truly does come up. Getting my workout in before work ensures that my workout won’t be missed. Knowing that early evening workouts might improve performance and muscle building could possibly persuade me to make an extra effort to get an evening workout in though. As long as I get some form of exercise in during the day I’m happy.

  30. Thanks for sharing the article. It was interesting. I’m definitely a morning exerciser, even though I’m not a morning person at heart. I find that if I wait until the end of the day there’s always an excuse or something truly does come up. Getting my workout in before work ensures that my workout won’t be missed. Knowing that early evening workouts might improve performance and muscle building could possibly persuade me to make an extra effort to get an evening workout in though. As long as I get some form of exercise in during the day I’m happy.

  31. If you’re interested in that theory of working out, I’d really recommend getting your hands on a copy of the article and reading it yourself. You might find the actual data to be interesting and perhaps sway you one way or the other. It’s important to remember when you read a summary of a research article in the popular media that you’re relying on the anlysis of that writer/editor and any bias they might have. I haven’t read this particular study, but I think in general for fitness pros, it’s important to be able to read and interepret the facts from the actual study. It’s good brain exercise in my opinion! That is, to be able to use your analytical skills 🙂

  32. I’m all about morning exercise – I think it’s because I’m not awake until I’m halfway through, so my body hasn’t had time to process what I’m doing. Also – if I wait until later in the day it’s pretty much all I think about. “Ugh..still gotta go to the gym…don’t want to go…oh afternoon drinks!” And then it just doesn’t happen.

    And my theory about that study: a lot of people have issues with nighttime snacking – so maybe working out in the evening prevents people from doing that? Either because they’re exercising when they’re normally snacking, or because when they get home from exercise they’re more inspired to keep going with healthy habits and not unravel their hard work; versus morning exercisers who have had their exercise high and inspiration long worn off. Just my thoughts on the subject.

    1. @Sam @ Better With Sprinkles: Totally agree with what Sam was referring, I recently switch two of my work out in the evening and those are the two nights that i have a resonable snack. I am a huge night time snacker, but something about working out at night prevents me from binge eating.

  33. I have worked out in the morning in the past. I go though phases. I have been trying to get up for morning runs but it just hasn’t been happening. But I feel like I have more energy in the evenings and even run faster then too.

  34. I don’t think it matters to much for me when I exercise in terms of results — but I’m the average exerciser so I know I’m not maximizing my potential. I’d think any differences would be undetectable in normal folks like us healthy living bloggers, don’t you think?

    I used to be compulsive and wanted to exercise first thing in the morning because I thought I’d skip out if I didn’t. Then I realized that exercise should be something we look forward to, changed my entire approach, and now I can do it any time of the day (or NOT do it) and feel great about it. I wish it was as simple a process as that just made it seem. Anyways, the best time to exercise is whenever you feel like it, in my opinion! 🙂

  35. Interesting comment about Maranatha almond butter. I’d never tried almond butter, bought a jar of Marantha brand, and HATED it. I’ll have to try Target’s for a second go-round!

  36. I mix it up, but I feel like it’s easier to get a workout in in the morning and not skip it, because I generally don’t have as much to do. But I do feel like if I workout at night it takes up an hour of my night so I don’t have time to snack.

    I love your breakfast pancake, I’ve been making it with coconut butter rather than almond butter and it’s to die for!

  37. Tried morning but it doesn’t stick. Have to get up at 4 to get my groove on and I just love that extra 1.5 hour of sleep….

  38. I think the best time of day to workout out is simply when you are most likely to do it! I workout in the mornings before my kids get up because I know once I start tending to them, it makes it hard for me to get it done, at least without interruptions.

  39. When I was in college (and never scheduled a class for earlier than 10am) I would always get my workouts in during the morning hours, but this is probably because I had the time to sleep an adequate amount, wake up, eat a good breakfast and have some coffee, then have time to workout. Not that I work, I always work out in the evening. And because I’m currently in Florida, I usually have to wait till about 8pm when it is finally cool enough (no money for gym membership=workouts outdoors). I don’t mind though, it gives me time to go home from work, and have a relaxing cup of coffee about an hour before cardio to energize me. I agree with the article also because after that I usually only feel like having a small, light dinner and am in bed before I get a dessert craving. Also, nothing feels better to me than getting all sweaty and tired, taking a nice hot shower, and hopping into PJ’s to relax on the couch 🙂

  40. Morning workouts all the way. I totally relate to what you said about having an “off” day when you don’t work out first thing. I just don’t feel as light and jumpy going through my day, and on the rare occasions I do miss it in the morning I DREAD doing it at night- which means it usually never happens.

  41. I’ve been reading “Which Comes First: Cardio or Weights,” and this week I read the section about evening workouts. Apparently a lot of research supports them!

    I love both, honestly. I love starting my day with a workout, but I also love having a good sweat session to look forward to after a crappy day at work. I think mixing it up is healthy for me…then I don’t get psyched out for harder workouts “Oh, no, this is a morning WOD and I usually do evening – I’m gonna suck!”

    But I agree with you – consistency is the most important! Getting it in a whatever times works is better than only getting a few workouts a month because you’re trying to hit that 6pm “magic” time.

  42. Evening workouts are the best for me. I need more sleep in the morning. When I workout in the evening I tend to sleep better.

  43. Hey Tina. First ever comment after like a year of lurking. Woot.

    I agree about morning exercising. I lost of good amount of weight (about 50 lbs) doing fast-paced evening walks but it was when I started trying to save my evenings by knocking out more efficient circuit-style morning workouts at home that I became passionate about exercise, getting consistent, challenging myself, and transforming my body to one I am proud of. Exercise is done fast and the day can commence without that to worry about; it’s also awesome going through the rest of the day feeling accomplished, and has been better for my mental health than anything.

    Also, Tina, want to mention that your blog has been a big part of what has inspired me to start running in the past few months. You’ve always made it sound really fun, and golly gee, now that I’ve forced myself out of my comfort zone and tried it, it truly is! Thank you for your awesome, enthusiasm-building blog.

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