When it comes to meticulous exercise questions, not many are more common than, “Whats the best time to workout?
Common wisdom is to simply workout whenever you can as long as you adhere to the schedule.
If there was a time-of-day planning hierarchy of importance, unquestionably adherence is the most important.
Following immediately is choosing a time you personally feel that you can perform the most effectively, be it morning, noon, or night.
No point in scheduling workouts at times you know that you won’t be able to perform.
But, going from here, there still lies some importance to selecting an explicit time.
One notion is to base our workout scheduling on circadian core body temperature cycles, considering that research have shown that daily peak performance patterns tend to follow similar curves.
Based on the data, we should train when our body is the warmest, which is roughly between 4 to 7pm.
But the thing is, findings have shown that these strength and aerobic performance patterns can be heavily influenced by adaptations to temporal specificity.
Simply put, temporal specificity means, to achieve the greatest performance improvements, it’s best to always schedule your workouts around the same time of day, allowing your body to specifically adapt to and prepare the body for training at that time.
In other words, if you choose to workout at 6am or at 6pm, your body will adapt.
This is especially imperative for competitive athletes.
They probably want to train around the same time of day as their typical events.
The general consensus of the research shows this, with a 2012 review of such studies distinctly issuing this practical application above all else.
Train at the same time of day as much as you can.
However, this is in terms of performance only.
The same cannot be said about muscle growth.
When looking at muscle growth in the quads, a 2009 study found a slight trend towards favouring training in the evening between 5 to 7pm.
This goes against beliefs at the time that considered morning workouts superior when testosterone levels are higher.
Apparently, acute spikes of test don’t tell the full story.
Comparatively, it was only a .8 percent difference between morning and evening groups over a span of 10 weeks, drawing no statistical significance.
Fast-forward 7 years later, though, we HAVE new research that might shed some extra light on the matter.
Likewise, after 12 weeks, there wasn’t much of a difference in muscle growth between morning and evening training but trends again favour the evening.
But unlike the 2009 paper, this study continued the experiment for an additional 12 weeks.
In this second set of 12 weeks, there WAS a significant difference in growth, with the evening group achieving on average twice as much growth as the morning group.
Throughout the entire 24 weeks, the evening group had on average, 5.3 percent more total growth.
Let’s recap: Nothing’s more important than finding time in your schedule to fit training sessions you can stick to.
Make exercise a habit first.
As a coach I personally prefer to train in the morning as do many of my clients because before the busy day can take away our willpower, we slot in something for ourselves before the mad day ahead. In an ever hectic world this seems to work for most people although it may take a little getting used to the 5:30am alarm clocks.
Next is choosing a time where you can perform your best physically and mentally so that you get quality training sessions done.
This is based entirely up to personal preference.
Then, if possible, try to regularly set each of your training sessions at around the same time of day. Routine is key!
As we know have found out today, your body can benefit to time-specific training adaptations.
And finally, if you still have some wiggle room, try to make that specific training time in the evening between 4 to 7pm if you want a slight edge in muscle growth and for sporting performance try to stick to the time that you will be competing.
But do note, it’s not necessary to get all of the 4 steps done.
Simply going to the gym regularly and trying your best will probably be enough for most.
If you are the meticulous kind however, that wants to squeeze out every possible 1% “gains” you can muster, then certainly give all four a shot.
What time of the day do you find best for your workouts?
Share your thoughts in the comments!
As always, thank you for reading and eat your proteins & greens.
– Coach Wilson