What is The Best Time of the Day to Lift Weights – A Complete Guide
- Understanding Your Circadian Rhythm
- Peak Performance Timing
- Body Temperature and Exercise Performance
- How Age and Gender Influence Circadian Rhythms and Training
- Cortisol and Testosterone
- Strategies for Timing Your Workouts
- Morning Workouts
- Evening Workouts
- Final Words – What is The Best Time of the Day to Lift Weights
Muscle strength tends to reach its zenith during the early evening, making it an opportune moment for weightlifting. This is supported by research conducted by Douglas CM, Hesketh SJ, and Esser KA, which delves into the relationship between time of day and muscle strength. However, this might not always align with your daily schedule or your individual circadian rhythm.
Discovering the perfect time to work out isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution because it hinges on a multitude of personal factors. Nonetheless, there are some aspects worth taking into account that can help you maximize your efficiency when engaging in weight training, cardio, or any other physical activities.
Understanding Your Circadian Rhythm
Beyond the time constraints imposed by our daily routines, a pivotal factor to consider is the functioning of your “body clock” and its impact on your hormones and various bodily chemicals throughout the day.
You’ve probably heard people say, “I’m a morning person” or perhaps more commonly, “I’m not a morning person.” While it is possible to condition the body to function effectively at various times of the day, many individuals naturally feel more at ease at a specific time, which seems to correspond with the natural sleep-wake cycle regulated by your body and brain. Some people naturally prefer to exercise in the morning, whereas others find exercising in the afternoon or evening more comfortable.
This body clock is referred to as the circadian clock and is an actual cluster of cells in the brain that release hormones and electrical signals according to a genetically set schedule. In essence, you’re born with it. The hormone melatonin plays a central role in governing this body clock, and it is influenced by the presence or absence of light.
Peak Performance Timing
Research indicates that overall physical performance is often aligned with a person’s chronotype, which categorizes them as either “morning people” or “evening people.” Morning individuals tend to excel in the morning, while evening folks may perform better in the afternoon or evening.
However, when it comes to strength performance, it typically reaches its peak later in the day. A comprehensive analysis of studies investigating the relationship between time of day and muscle strength revealed that the highest strength levels are typically observed in the early evening. This extends to smaller muscles involved in grip strength, upper limb muscles responsible for elbow strength, and the major muscle groups in the legs.
Body Temperature and Exercise Performance
Sports scientists highlight the close connection between exercise performance and body temperature, which typically reaches its zenith in the early evening for most people. Nevertheless, the response to exercise follows a cyclical pattern throughout the day, with the early afternoon often considered a less favorable time for physical activity.
The ideal exercise time is not only dictated by your circadian rhythm but also by the type of exercise, your age, health, environmental factors like lighting and temperature, as well as social commitments such as meals and work schedules.
How Age and Gender Influence Circadian Rhythms and Training
Circadian rhythms can undergo transformations with advancing age. For instance, athletes aged 50 and above often adopt a morning-centric disposition, engaging in more rigorous morning training sessions compared to their younger counterparts. This shift may be attributed to the natural tendency of older individuals to wake up earlier, effectively resetting their body clocks.
The interplay between the timing of exercise and circadian rhythms can also diverge between men and women.
In a small-scale study, men and women were divided into two groups. One group followed a workout regimen in the mornings over a 12-week period, while the other group undertook the same routine in the evenings. Upon completion of the trial, it was observed that women who exercised in the morning experienced greater reductions in abdominal fat and blood pressure compared to those exercising in the evening. For men, the evening exercise group displayed lower blood pressure and an increase in fat oxidation (the process of breaking down fat for energy).
The study further revealed that women who exercised in the evening exhibited enhanced muscular performance, power, and endurance, while men from the evening exercise group reported increased fatigue. However, it’s worth noting that this study included only 47 participants, making it imperative for further research to draw more definitive conclusions.
Jet lag and specific phases of the menstrual cycle can also influence circadian rhythms. For instance, disruptions in circadian rhythm and sleep disturbances are more likely to occur during the luteal phase, which falls between ovulation and the onset of menstruation.
Cortisol and Testosterone
Research on the hormonal dynamics of cortisol and testosterone in weight trainers suggests that evening weight training may be more effective for muscle building.
Cortisol, a hormone with various functions, including regulating blood sugar and breaking down muscle tissue when necessary (referred to as “catabolism”), typically reaches its peak in the early morning and reaches its lowest point in the evening. Conversely, testosterone, which aids in muscle development by utilizing proteins (referred to as “anabolism”), is generally at its highest level in the morning.
The research findings indicate that the ratio of testosterone to cortisol is highest in the evening due to the more significant drop in cortisol, the muscle-breaking hormone, compared to testosterone over the course of the day. This creates a more favorable, muscle-building state in the evening.
Strategies for Timing Your Workouts
When it comes to selecting the optimal training time, several factors come into play. One significant consideration is the timing of your competitive events if you are an athlete training for a sport. If your competitions are scheduled in the morning, it’s advisable to make morning training a regular practice. This will help acclimate your body to perform at its best during that specific time of day.
For recreational fitness enthusiasts, the flexibility to choose your workout time is greater. It appears that there is room to reset your circadian rhythm to some extent by adjusting your waking and sleeping hours.
This means you can condition yourself to rise early and engage in morning exercise while feeling invigorated. However, be aware that adapting to this routine may require some time, particularly if you are unaccustomed to early morning physical activity.
Mornings are often well-suited for activities like running, walking, and cardio exercises, as opposed to intense weightlifting. It’s crucial to perform a thorough warm-up before engaging in any strenuous exercise, especially in the morning. Give your back a gentle break for a few hours after waking up; avoid rushing out of bed and attempting heavy deadlifts.
Morning weight training on an empty stomach is generally discouraged since blood glucose levels can be low (although people with diabetes might experience elevated morning blood sugar). Consuming some food or a protein shake about 30 minutes before your morning workout can provide the necessary energy and prevent you from training in a catabolic state, which is detrimental to muscle maintenance and growth.
For team sports and weight training, afternoon or evening workouts may be more advantageous.
It’s worth noting that muscle strength typically reaches its peak in the evening, making early evening gym sessions a preferred choice for weightlifters. Nonetheless, this may not be a universal rule for everyone.
Engaging in exercise too late in the evening might not be conducive to proper nutritional recovery and healthy sleep patterns. Some individuals find that incorporating morning cardio and evening weight training into their routine yields favorable results.
Final Words – What is The Best Time of the Day to Lift Weights
In conclusion, the optimal time for weightlifting and exercise is a multifaceted decision influenced by individual factors, including your circadian rhythm, age, and fitness goals. Research suggests that muscle strength often peaks in the early evening, making it a favorable time for weight training. However, this doesn’t necessarily fit everyone’s schedule or natural body clock.
Understanding your circadian rhythm is crucial in determining your ideal workout time. Some individuals naturally favor mornings, while others are more comfortable exercising in the afternoon or evening. This preference is influenced by the body’s internal circadian clock, which regulates various hormones and functions throughout the day.
Age and gender also play a role in how exercise timing affects your body. Older athletes tend to thrive with morning training, aligning with their early waking habits. Gender differences can impact exercise outcomes, with men and women responding differently to morning and evening workouts, though further research is needed for conclusive findings.
The interplay between cortisol and testosterone underscores the potential benefits of evening weight training for muscle growth. Evening workouts leverage a higher testosterone-to-cortisol ratio, promoting a more anabolic state for muscle development.
In terms of workout strategies, those preparing for competitive sports should synchronize their training with their event’s schedule. For recreational exercisers, adjusting your circadian rhythm to favor morning or evening workouts is possible, offering flexibility in your training schedule.
Morning workouts are apt for cardio exercises, but it’s crucial to warm up and avoid heavy lifting on an empty stomach. Evening workouts, on the other hand, may benefit team sports and weight training, aligning with the evening peak in muscle strength. However, the timing of evening workouts should consider factors like nutrition and sleep patterns.
Ultimately, the best time for weight training depends on your unique circumstances and goals. Experimentation and adaptation may be necessary to find the most effective workout time for your fitness journey.