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Authors of a brand-new literature review sought to answer the question, “What is the best time of day for strength training and cardio training in order to improve our health and performance?” The review was published in the scientific journal Sports Medicine and examined data from 22 original research studies that included males and females ages 10 to 60.

The conclusion?

The time of the day doesn’t make a difference. If your goal is performance, muscle hypertrophy, body fat reduction, or cardio-vascular health improvements, the time of day in which you exercise is inconsequential.

Where do we go from here?

One of the most significant discoveries over the last 20 years of exercise research (both cardio and resistance exercise) is that intensity is the most important factor that drives great results. For cardio, intensity equals heart rate. For resistance training, intensity equals training to the point (or very close to the point) of muscle failure. With intensity at the center of our workouts, we are wise to pick a time of day in which we are capable of putting forth great mental and physical effort and focus. For some trainees, this is 5:30 am, while for others, the thought of a 5:30 am workout is dreadful and would lead to a lackluster intensity of effort. For others, a noon workout is a perfect break in the workday while others simply can’t be fully present at noon because their mind is caught up in the happenings of the workday. I personally prefer a strength training workout sometime between 6:30 pm and 8:00 pm; a time when most of my workday is behind me and I can fully engage in the task at hand.

So as the late, legendary, former Shakopee High School head football coach, teacher, and athletic director, Dale Vaughan (and Gracie’s grandfather – Gracie is a Principal Exercise Physiologist at our St. Louis Park location) used to say, “Know Thyself.” It turns out Socrates said the same thing.

One more interesting takeaway: there was some evidence that suggested that we might perform better in fitness or performance tests if we perform the test at the same time of day that we normally train. Thus, a distance runner hoping to improve her 5K time might consider doing some of her running (training) at the same time of day that the race will be held.

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