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Published July 26, 2008

Morning exercise vs. evening exercise

This is a question that so many of my clients have asked before.  Some have heard exercising in the morning is best because if you exercise before you eat breakfast, you won't have all those carbs in your body, and you'll burn off a lot more fat as a result.

Exercise To set the record straight, this is completely false.  Exercising on an empty stomach is about the worst thing you can do because without energy from food, your body will start pulling energy from the stored protein in your body.  You know what stored protein is?  Muscle.  You body will break down your muscle in order to get the energy it needs, and when it comes to burning off fat, muscle is your friend.  It's your calorie burner, so if you're allowing it to be eaten away, your fat loss potential is going away with it.

So what about evening exercise?  Though exercise does help with achieving better sleep, exercising right before going to bed can actually cause you to have a hard time falling asleep.  The body gets so revved up during exercise that trying to calm it down quickly, in order to go to bed, can sometime be very hard to do.

The truth is, exercise when you like to exercise.  If you're a morning person, exercise in the morning; just make sure you allow yourself some time to eat something before working out.  If you're and evening person, it's probably going to be a lot easier for you to stay consistent to an evening routine compared to a morning routine; just don't exercise too late.

The key is consistency.  Success comes from consistency, not time of day, so make sure you choose a time that you like.  Now with that being said, if your goal is to see a great strength or muscle mass improvement, working out in the late afternoon or early evening will be most beneficial because your muscles will be warmest then, and muscles perform better when they're warm.

For any other goal, the time of day doesn't matter.  If you do work out in the morning, make sure you allow your body to "wake up".  This should be done for any workout, but when talking about morning workouts, you have that extra task of getting out of bed and jump-starting the nerves and muscles even more.

As far as doing cardio or weights first, again, if your goal is to increase strength or mass, perform your lifting first because if you do cardio first, you'll actually drain some energy out of your muscles and they won't be able to perform at peak potential like they would if cardio were done after lifting.  Also, for building mass, you don't want to get in the habit of doing too much cardio because cardio burns off a slight amount of muscle with the fat, and that's definitely counterproductive for building mass.

For any other goal, the order in which you perform your cardio and resistance training is up to you.  Whatever you enjoy more is the order that you should do it in.  Remember, consistency is more important than order.

Dan Falkenberg is the cofounder of Your Live Trainers.  He can be reached at

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Tags: cardiovascular exercise, exercise selection, muscle gain, weight loss

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