Whether it’s because mornings aren’t your jam or you find it therapeutic to sweat off a long, stressful day, you prefer nighttime workouts. The good news: Working out at night is no less beneficial for your health and fitness than working out before sundown.
That said, there are certain rules to follow in order to get the most out of your evening exercise. Stick to these nighttime workout guidelines to reap the best results.
1. Don’t Go Into You Workout Hungry
If you showed up to the gym a few hours after your last snack or meal, you may need some pre-workout fuel to make the most of your exercise, says sports dietitian Kelly Jones, M.S., R.D., C.S.S.D., L.D.N.
“Without energy readily available, your body won’t be able to hit the same intensity and you’ll be more likely to overeat afterwards due to low blood sugar,” she says.
Grab a banana and peanut butter, or nosh on some dried dates (which provide quick-digesting carbohydrates) for easy fuel before hitting the squat rack.
2. Don’t Skip That Post-Workout Snack, Either
No matter what time of day you exercise, fueling up post-workout is also key.
“I often hear people say that they eat dinner before their workout, and so don’t feel they should eat afterwards,” says Jones. Unfortunately, though, this can actually compromise muscle recovery.
“Growth hormones are at their highest after a workout and when you sleep, so it’s imperative to have both proteins and carbohydrates available to replenish energy stores and repair muscles,” she says.
Even if you aren’t super-hungry, munch on some protein and complex carbs post-workout. A small smoothie with protein powder or yogurt should do the trick without upsetting your stomach.
3. Don’t Compromise Sleep
Nighttime workouts leave some people buzzed enough that they have trouble falling asleep afterwards. The issue with this: Compromising your sleep compromises your fitness and health. In turn, this disturbs hormones that impact appetite and satiety levels, says Jones.
If you’re hitting the gym within six hours of hitting your pillow, avoid caffeinated pre-workouts. Also, make sure your workout and wind-down time afterwards don’t cut into that seven- to nine-hour window the National Sleep Foundation recommends for shut-eye.
4. Do Take A Shower Afterwards
Even if you plan to wash up again in A.M., you should still hit the showers after a nighttime workout. And not just because it’ll help you avoid acne and other hygiene woes.
“A warm shower after your workout can also help you relax after you’ve gotten your heart rate up,” says Jones. This way, you’re more likely to fall asleep come bedtime.
5. Do Evaluate Your Results
Ultimately, if you regularly have trouble performing in the gym or wake up groggy and fatigued, nighttime workouts may not be best for your body.
“If evening workouts are causing you to repeatedly hit snooze and make for a stress-filled morning, it’s probably beneficial to rethink your workout timing,” says Jones. “This is a key indicator that your body needs more rest, isn’t recovering optimally, and doesn’t have the energy it needs for you to have a productive day.”
If you can, experiment with exercising in the morning, on your lunch break, or on the way home from work. In the end, the best time to work out is the time that truly works best for you.