Do you exercise in the morning or at night? Before or after breakfast? Does it matter? It might, depending on your individual goals and how your body responds to exercise. Whether you work out in the morning, afternoon, or evening is largely a matter of personal preference, but there are benefits and advantages to each option. The most important factor is to choose an exercise time that works for you and that you can stick with — if you can make it a daily habit just like taking a shower in the morning or brushing your teeth before bed, you’ll have the greatest chance of long-term success with your exercise regimen.

Morning workouts

Studies have shown that people who exercise in the morning sleep better and have deeper sleep cycles. Working out in the morning may also help you build muscle more efficiently, reduce your risk of diabetes, and reduce your blood pressure. Be sure to give yourself plenty of time to stretch if you’re exercising in the morning, since your muscles will be stiff after waking up.

If you exercise first thing in the morning, you probably don’t want to eat breakfast first, as it will make you feel tired and bloated. Plus, working out on an empty stomach may help you burn up to 20 percent more fat. If, however, you find that you need a little more energy, you may want to eat a small snack to provide fuel — such as some yogurt or a banana.

Working out in the morning may have an added benefit in that it can help control hunger throughout the rest of the day. In a 2012 study, women showed less desire to eat after they exercised for 45 minutes in the morning than they did on days they did not exercise. People who work out in the morning also tend to exercise more consistently — likely because there is less chance of unexpected distractions popping up and interfering with plans.

Afternoon workouts

If your workout involves exercises like running, swimming, and strength training, you may have better performance in the afternoon. You’ll have time to digest your lunch and get energy from it — just make sure you wait 2-3 hours after eating to avoid any digestive trouble. Body temperature also tends to peak later in the day, which may improve performance. And because you’ve been moving throughout the day, you may be at a decreased risk of injury if you exercise later in the day.

The hardest part about working out in the afternoon may be the psychological factor. If you’re feeling tired after a day at work, it may be hard to motivate yourself to exercise. But if you can get past this mental hurdle, you may be surprised by how well you can perform.

Evening workouts

Working out in the evening has its benefits as well. Studies have shown that individuals who walked during the evening lost more weight and more body fat compared to people who walked in the morning. Evening workouts may also provide better results — research has shown that people tend to exercise 20 percent longer in the evening and at a higher intensity. And because muscle function and strength peak in the evening, you’ll also tone up faster. Nighttime workouts can also improve the quality of your sleep — just don’t exercise too close to bedtime if you find that you’re too energized afterward.

As with dietary recommendations, there are people for whom the standard fitness advice just doesn’t work. If your workouts aren’t producing the results you want, genetic fitness testing can provide insight into the best types of exercises for you, so that you can focus on the activities that deliver the best results. Download a sample report from Vivaliti DNA to see how your personalized genetic blueprint can help you make smarter decisions about your fitness and well-being!