I’m typing this at 9am on Monday morning. And if I’m typing, I’m not training.
Why not? I train in the late afternoon/evening (most times).
I’ve tried both ways of training and I can say for sure that morning training is inferior. And by quite a significant margin. From my own experimentation, I am about 33% weaker when I train in the morning.
Put into solid figures, that means if I could normally lift a certain weight for 10 reps, I’ll get a max of 7 if I train in the morning. That’s a huge difference.
And you won’t know it until you try both.
Why such a dramatic change from morning to evening?
No-one knows for sure. I theorize there are 2 main issues:
- Catabolic hormones
- Neuro-muscular efficiency
Hormones like cortisol are elevated in the morning. This can prevent you from being at your strongest.
Neuro-muscular efficiency levels are not optimal in the morning either. This refers to the link between your brain and muscles. Muscle fibers are recruited and contract via motor units. This signal is just not rocking on all cylinders in the morning – it takes time to wake up.
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By the way, doing cardio in the morning on an empty stomach (fasted cardio) is not any more effective than doing it at any time. So if you want to shred fat and get ripped, it’s your total calories and energy expenditure over the full day that matters. Here’s a study to prove that point.
If you simply can’t do your weight training in the afternoon/evening, try using a pre-workout to shake off those morning cobwebs. MyPre from MyProtein is great and Legion Pulse is one of the best on the market.
But if at all possible, train later in the day. If you need to re-arrange things, go ahead and do it. You won’t regret it.Click here to see why evening weight training produces better gains than am workouts Click To Tweet
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I made this change about 3 years ago. You are right. I was blown away by how stronger I was later on!
Oddly-enough I’m actually stronger in the morning, but I put this down to more enthusiasm and a good pre-w/o drink. I prefer fasted training anyway, and the last thing I want to do after 9 hours in the office and over an hour’s drive home is train. Plus the gym is super-busy at night so I’d rather smash it in the am when there’s less people to nick the equipment! Lol
If the goal is overload, and your sure you’re working to failure, why does the weight matter? It would tweak your workout logging if you switched between morning and evening within a week/cycle.
Am I correct that as long as you are seeing progression (weight/reps) between workouts, you are making gains, right?
Ideally I would train around 2pm. That would allow time for lunch to digest, pre workout to kick in, post workout whey, and a big meal. Then I would have time to relax and digest before sleep. My gut feel is I would be stronger and gains and recovery would be better with sleep closer to training.
In the real world, work takes up from 6-4:30. Three active teenagers occupy most evenings until around 8. I’ve tried to train after work and at night but I lose the three things I think are the most important for long term success- consistency, sleep and a happy wife/family. I’ll have to settle for suboptimal until something can change.
I can see a difference however I would compare it to training a mile above sea level. The performance suffers in relation to sea level performance but I feel that the muscles do not care in terms of hypertrophy or strength as long as intensity is the same in either case. Like a parallel universe, everything is moving in the same direction in a different level, but when visiting an evening training one should, I think, have a performance that would have been the same if they were training in the evening the whole time, perhaps even a little better. The reality is that If one can go to 10 max in the morning it should be normal thinking that you’re getting stronger and could get 2 or 3 more reps in the evening. Pushing past the raised cortisol inhibition reminds me of the weird occlusion training and using relatively light weights. The muscles are can’t get enough oxygen due to the tourniquet but they don’t care because they gave it their all. Any way….just a thought.
That’s an interesting study you cited concerning cardio in the morning in a fasted state vs. fed state. (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21411835)
I would like to see how lipid utilization is affected in the same study if a fat mobilizing and muscle preserving stack of yohimbine hcl, green tea extract, fish oil, hmb, and caffeine were given to one of the groups. There are studies showing how all these supplements either assist in lipid mobilization or have anti-catabolic properties.
I’ve been doing low intensity cardio in morning in a fasted state for about a 1 hour session 4 or 5 times a week. I come back in the evening to do my THT workout 3 days a week. I’ve got my calories dialed in for about a 300 calorie surplus, not counting the calories burned in morning cardio.
My thought is that I can burn around 500 calories in the morning of mostly fat and then the rest of the day be in a calorie surplus to promote muscle anabolism, thus hopefully burning off fat and building muscle at the same time.
Do you think my theory holds any water?
I’ve done both and can attest to Marks findings. I found my dead lift and a bunch other exercises are much much less than what I lifted the week prior when doing my routine in the morning. Now the bad news, I too have issues with time. 3 girls, a wife and work with a commute that demands my focus, will power, time and energy. Evening are very tough. Try getting to the gym at 8pm after the day is done and kids are to bed. All the pre work out in the world is no match for a tired body. LoL.
Funny enough, my intensity and achievements are 100% with feeling that way. But who wants to fight all that when you feel like snoozing when you’re about to lay down for chest? So I have to mix it up with mornings and evenings until lifestyle allows me the afternoon or something.
@Steven. The problem is that you won’t be truly overloading the muscle since you aren’t training to full capacity like you can later in the day. If you can only do 7 reps, but later in the day, you can get 10 on the same set, that’s only training at 70% intensity levels.
Furthermore, you won’t be recruiting muscle fibers maximally because of the sub-optimal neuro-muscular efficiency.
And lastly, using lighter weights means each rep completed is less intense on the muscle fibers that are recruited. This leads to less muscle damage, metabolic stress and so on…all the markers for growth stimulation.
Hope that helps.
@Bob. See my comment above. Hope it helps.
Oddly for me it’s the opposite. I’ve tried both and I can lift heavier and perform more reps when I workout in the morning before work. At first I thought it was down to being mentally exhausted after work but I recently tested the theory during two weeks leave. On Monday I hit the weights at approx 5:30 am but on the Wednesday I waited until 6:30pm. Did this both weeks and was defiantly stronger and more focused in the early sessions. Besides, by the time I’ve got home from work, cooked dinner, washed up and bathed the kids I’ve only got an a hour or so to spend with them before their bed time so all time I’m hitting the weights in the morning I can spend more quality time with my family and playing with my kids in the evening so for me morning training is my best option.