At boot camp, we are often asked ‘what’s the best time of day to train?’ The answer is a simple one, and if you actually have the opportunity to choose, then you’re in a really fortunate position.
There is a huge amount of scientific research that has gone into working out when is best to train, but in most cases it just comes down to the individual.
Some people swear by being able to hit the gym or go for a run at 6am – and if you can do that, it’s a great way to start the day and you’ll find you’re particularly alert and refreshed throughout the rest of the morning. Even walking or cycling to work can help perk you up for the day ahead.
On our residential camps, we do start our training early, prior to breakfast. There is a theory that this will kick start our metabolism and help our bodies become more efficient at using fat as a source of fuel.
However, in the real world, there are many of us who claim not to be ‘morning people’, and the idea of doing anything pre-breakfast is horrifying. If that’s the case, don’t even try, just wake up and eat which will also kick start your metabolism and then train when you have more energy and are more likely to have an effective session.
It can vary wildly – even a quick straw poll around the three people in the room as I write this, one person prefers training first thing, another says just before lunch, while the third likes an evening run.
As for the science? Yes, you may have a metabolism that performs better at certain times of the day, or you may be more alert at 9am than you are at 7pm, or vice versa. You might find you’re better at strength work at a certain point, and aerobic at a different time.
In each case, there will be a lab test that supports your preference. However, lab conditions don’t exist in the real world. Unless you’re an elite athlete, able to pick and choose your training slot, then the best time for you to train is whenever you can fit it in.
The difference in how effective your training is, between different time slots, is likely to be negligible: the most important fact is that you get out there and train at all.
So remember: the best time to train is when, practically and motivationally, you are most are likely to get out and work hard. So don’t worry about time of day, worry about what you do in your session and do as much as you can, when you can.