When Is The Best Time To Train?
Some people enjoy getting up at the crack of dawn and visiting the gym. Others can’t think of anything worse and decide to tackle the weights room a little later in the day. To help you decide which ones best, we’ve teamed up with Head Sport Scientist and Co-Founder of THE PROTEIN WORKS™ Ross Edgley to look at how your body responds differently to training in the morning or evening.
When Is The Best Time To Train?
Firstly a study conducted at the Department of Kinesiology in Williamsburg, USA, set out to discover the best time of the day your muscles performed at. Researchers took 10 healthy, untrainedmen and made them perform a series of strength tests at 8:00am, 12.00pm, 4.00pm, and 8.00pm. The results show that muscle performance was greatest in the evening, but only during the exercises that involved faster movements. It’s believed this is because the activation of fast twitch muscle fibers (these are the muscle fibres that are required to lift heavy weights or run quickly) perform far better when the body temperature is higher, which tends to be a lot higher in the evening than in the morning.
Next it’s important to consider how your hormones alter during the day, more specifically testosterone levels (the muscle building hormone you basically want more of) and cortisol levels (the stress hormone that can break down muscle and increase fat, something you want less of.) Whilst experts all agree resting testosterone levels are higher in the morning, a study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology showed that the rise in testosterone after exercise appears to be greater in the evening than it is in the morning. Furthermore according to research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, cortisol levels are also lower in the evening compared to in the morning and the cortisol response to exercise is lower in the early evening (7.00pm) compared with the morning (7.00am.) Put simply this means the very best testosterone-cortisol ratio, where testosterone levels are highest relative to cortisol levels (which is ideal for burning fat and building muscle) is in the evening.
Lastly, despite all the studies in the world it’s important to note that everyone’s biology and sleeping patterns are different and this has a lot to do with your ‘chronotype’ which is essentially an attribute of human beings that reflects what time of the day their physical functions such as hormone levels, (like testosterone and cortisol) body temperature and cognitive functioning are active and at their peak. This explains why some people wake up fresh as a daisy in the morning and are immediately alert, while others have to drag themselves out of bed often to the nearest coffee machine before they can even begin to function. (Bailey S. L et al, 2001, University of Washington.) So whilst science seems to support the idea of an evening gym session, it’s important to listen to your body and decide for yourself whether you’re an early bird or night owl.
References:Deschenes, M.R., Kraemer, W.J., Bush, J.A., Doughty, T.A., Kim, D., Mullen, K.M., & Ramsey, K. (1998). Biorhythmic influences on functional capacity of human muscle and physiological responses. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 30, 1399-1407 Deschenes, M.R., Bronson, L.L., Cadorette, M.P., Powers, J.E., & Weinlein, J.C. (2002). Aged men display blunted biorhythmic variation of muscle performance and physiological responses. Journal of Applied Physiology, 92, 2319-2325 Atkinson, G., & Reilly, T. (1996). Circadian variation in sports performance. Sports Medicine, 21, 292-312 Bird, S.P., & Tarpenning, K.M. (2004). Influence of circadian time structure on acute hormonal responses to a single bout of heavy-resistance exercise in weight-trained men. Chronobiology International, 21, 131-146 Kanaley, J.A., Weltman, J.Y., Pieper, K.S., Weltman, A., & Hartman, M.L. (2001). Cortisol and growth hormone responses to exercise at different times of day. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, 86, 2881-2889 Bailey, S.L., & Heitkemper, M.M. (2001). Circadian rhythmicity of cortisol and body temperature: morningness-eveningness effects. Chronobiology International, 18, 249-261 Merrow, M., Spoelstra, K., & Roenneberg, T. (2005). The circadian cycle: daily rhythms from behaviour to genes. EMBO Reports, 6, 930-935 Sedliak, M., Finni, T., Cheng, S., Lind, M., & Häkkinen, K. (2009). Effect of time-of-day-specific strength training on muscular hypertrophy in men. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23, 2451-245