What's your goal for going to the gym? Do you want to be that person who is always in the gym killing it, setting new personal bests, and looking and feeling great while doing it?
The thing is, there's more to it than just hitting the gym hard.
For your hard work to pay off, you need to make sure you're hitting the gym at the right time. Otherwise, you might risk not seeing the results you're working so hard for.
So, when should you train? There's a lot of debate over when exactly the best time to work out. Some say workout in the morning, and others say workout in the evening.
Like everything else, there are a lot of factors that go into figuring out which exactly is best for you. So, let's look and see when you should go to the gym!
Your circadian rhythms are the physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle.
They're regulated by the hypothalamus, part of your brain.
The hypothalamus responds to light and dark signals it receives from your eyes. These signals help set your body's natural clock (or circadian rhythm.)
Now, because this natural rhythm of the body controls your biochemistry and the activity of the central nervous system, it's easy to see that at one point in the cycle we'd have performance.
Studies suggest that muscle strength exhibits a circadian pattern. The research shows that the maximum isometric strength varies during the day and peaks in the late afternoon (from 4 to 8 PM.)
So, according to your circadian rhythm, it'd be best to do your strength workouts in the late afternoon!
So we first considered the phase of your natural cycle when you are working out, but that's only one of many factors!
A second thing to consider when figuring out when you should work out is - do you have the fuel to get the best possible workout?
Your body's primary fuel source for heavy workouts is the 'muscle glycogen.' Essentially, muscle glycogen is the stored version of carbohydrates (the body stores whatever it doesn't use.)
If your muscle glycogen is depleted, you're more than likely going to have a not-so-great workout.
Unfortunately, your blood sugar and muscle glycogen are at their lowest in the morning.
So if you're thinking about strength training first thing in the morning, you might perform at a lower level than you would after having a meal or two with quality carb sources leading up to your workout.
The third (and possibly most important) consideration is this: Are you recovered from your last workout?
During weighted workouts, we inflict micro-damage to the muscles and ramp up our nervous system.
All components engaged in strenuous exercise will need time to recover before they can get their peak output and capacity back (or with some more added to it, which we call GAINS.)
With this in mind, you'd want to optimize the recovery times between your workouts to perform at your best every time.
Generally speaking, most of us require 48 to 96 hours between each training session for each muscle group.
This means that if you train your pushing muscle groups Monday at 4 PM, you'd be best off doing this workout again later in the week (on Thursday or Friday.)
So, when is the best time to work out?
The answer isn't always straightforward and can depend on how your body uniquely works and feels. Hopefully, this article has helped you by giving you some new perspectives to consider.
If you want to get in shape and don't mind sweating it out during prime-time TV hours, then evening workouts might be right for you.
If you prefer peace and an earlier bedtime, mornings may be better.
Ultimately, it all comes down to what works best for your schedule and fitness goals. The most important thing is making sure whatever you decide that you stick with it - consistency is key!
Is there a reason you prefer one time of day over the other? Let us know in the comments below!