Workout Type vs Time Of Day: How It Impacts Results

time of day

The workout type vs time of day debate is ongoing, and let’s be honest, it’s damn confusing!!! I’m sure all you want to know is: cardio workouts – better in the morning or afternoon? And weights sessions – better in the morning or afternoon?

So let’s break it down into simple facts and eliminate all unnecessary confusion!


Concept 1: Do your cardio in the morning

This is perhaps one of the most controversial topics in the health and fitness world. The general concept is that smashing out your cardio session in the mornings on an empty stomach (known as ‘fasted cardio’) is best for burning fat. This theory holds some credit. 

For those in the bodybuilding world who are on immensely strict diet regimes, fasted cardio is completed in order to burn fat as the primary fuel, rather than glycogen (the body’s first source of stored energy) which is unavailable. 

HOWEVER, on a regular, healthy diet, there is no difference in how much fat you will burn when doing your cardio in the morning compared to the afternoon (when you’ve already had multiple meals). 

So what are the REAL benefits of doing cardio in the morning?

  • Exercising in the morning has been linked to greater productivity, lowered blood pressure and better sleep. 
  • It speeds up your metabolism, which can improve calorie-burning throughout the rest of the day.
  • It means getting your cardio out of the way as early in the day as possible! Putting it off until later in the day creates too many opportunities for other ‘priorities’ to replace your workout. 

Concept 2: Do your strength workouts in the arvo

Unlike the ‘cardio in the morning’ theory, completing your strength workouts in the arvo holds a lot more validity. Numerous studies go into great detail about why this is the case, including this one

Here are the key factors to understand:

Circadian Rhythm

Our bodies have an internal clock that regulates and decides when to activate every system: aka our circadian rhythm. This daily cycle of biological activity influences many bodily functions, including optimal training times. See this time map below: 

time of day

Hormone levels 

Testosterone & cortisol are two important hormones involved in exercise readiness. Exercise is best performed when testosterone levels are higher, and cortisol lower. A measure called the T/C ratio helps to measure this. Your T/C ratio is higher (ie. testosterone levels high and cortisol levels low) later in the day. So, by doing your weights session at this time, you’re promoting better anabolic metabolism; the system responsible for building and strengthening muscles and bones. 

Core body temp

Having a higher core body temperature improves muscle activation levels, joint mobility, glucose metabolism and muscular blood flow, all valuable factors in a great strength session. 

These higher core body temperatures usually occur in the late afternoon to early evening. That’s when flexibility, power and muscular strength reach their daily peak. 

So, considering all this, what’s the optimal time for strength training?

The guidelines are from 2.30pm – 8.30pm. 


If you usually smash out your weights session in the morning and feel great (my hand is in the air!), then you don’t need to change a thing! The most important thing is that you’re doing the session, regardless of what time of day!

The bottom line 

The most important factor for achieving training results = ACTUALLY DOING YOUR WORKOUTS. 
Getting in your workouts in the first place is 99.5% of your results. The other 0.5% is the specific timing of your sessions. So focus your energies on getting into a routine that works for you and your schedule. Because as long as you’re getting your workouts done, no matter the time of day, you are putting yourself in the best position to see results.

Also read: Is Strength Or Cardio Better For Weight Loss?

Stephanie King BAppSc (Ex&SpSc), MBus (Marketing)
With a strong passion for human health, nutrition and physiological functioning, Stephanie lives and breathes all things wellness. Her Bachelor of Applied Science in Exercise and Sport allowed her to delve deeply into the inner workings of the human body and develop a strong understanding of how to integrate physical activity with disease prevention and the promotion of good health, rehabilitation, nutrition and sports performance. If she’s not training at the gym or going for runs, you’ll find her sipping on an iced long black near one of Sydney’s harbour or beach spots!

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