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What’s the best time of day to lift weights? 

Search for an answer to that question online and you’ll learn that there are basically two schools of thought on this issue:

  1. It’s best to train in the late afternoon or evening.
  2. It doesn’t much matter when you train.

Proponents of the first position point to studies that show athletes perform better later in the day and claim that if you do the same, you’ll be able to use heavier weights in your workouts and gain more muscle and strength as a result.

Advocates of the second position claim that although most people have better workouts in the evening, your body can also adjust to morning workouts over time, nullifying any benefits of training in the evening. 

Who’s right? 

Is training in the latter half of the day really superior to training in the first half? And if so, is the difference enough to matter? 

Or, can you get equally good results regardless of what time you train? 

Keep listening to learn what science says.

Time Stamps:

3:16 – What are circadian rhythms? 

4:45 – The sleep-wake cycle 

7:21 – The body temperature cycle 

9:01 – The testosterone cycle 

11:10 – What do studies say about the best time of day to lift weights? 

17:26 – Does training in the evening create an optimal hormonal environment for building muscle?

19:11 – What is the best time of day to lift weights? 

21:21 – Tips for training in the morning  

Mentioned on the show: 

Books by Mike Matthews

What did you think of this episode? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!


Hey there, and welcome to another episode of Muscle Life. I’m Mike Matthews. Thank you for joining me today to learn about what the best time is to lift weights. Now, if you search for an answer to that online, you are gonna find that there are basically two schools of thought on this. You have one crowd saying it’s best to train.

In the late afternoon or the early evening, and then you have another crowd saying it doesn’t really matter when you train, you are going to perform just as well. Either way, you are going to make just as good progress either way. Now, proponents of the first position often point to studies that show that athletes perform better later in the day.

And usually because of hormonal reasons, hormonal fluctuations. And so they say that that is evidence that you should do the same. And if you do, you’re gonna be able to lift heavier weights. You are going to probably be able to do more reps with those weights than you would otherwise, and you are gonna be able to gain muscle and strength faster.

Now people who say it doesn’t matter, train whenever it works for you, will say that while most people will have slightly better workouts in the afternoon or evening, your body can adjust to morning workouts, very early morning workouts, and the downsides of morning training and especially early morning training disappear within a month or so.

So within a month, maybe two months of switching. Say afternoon or evening workouts to morning workouts. You should feel more or less the same in your morning training as you did in. Later trading now who’s right or are both wrong and the truth is elsewhere? Well, that is what we are gonna be talking about in today’s podcast.

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So while you don’t need pills, powders, and potions to get into great shape, and frankly, most of them are. Useless. There are natural ingredients that can help you lose fat, build muscle, and get healthy faster, and you will find the best of them in legion’s products to check out everything we have to offer, including protein powders and bars, pre-workout and post-workout supplements, fat burners, multivitamins, joint support, and more head.

To buy, that’s b u y L E G I O And just to show you how much I appreciate my podcast peeps, use the coupon code M F L checkout and you will save 20% on your entire first order. All right, so the place to start this discussion is an explanation of circadian rhythms. Now, your circadian rhythm, which is also often referred to as your biological clock, is a collection of physiological processes that repeat every 24 hours or so, and they regulate many different functions in the body, including your.

Bend your eating habits and your hunger, your digestion, your bowel movements, body temperature, hormone levels. Many, many different things depend on this 24 ish hour cycle and one of the most obvious examples of a bodily process that follows the. Circadian rhythm or ace circadian rhythm is of course our sleep wake cycle.

Now, if you’re like most people, you’re waking up between maybe six and 8:00 AM and you’re staying awake for about 16 hours, and then you’re going to bed sometime between 10:00 PM and midnight. Now, a more accurate term for these processes would be circadian rhythms. Since your body has many different internal schedules running at different times for different things, and as you can imagine, many of the processes have a significant impact on your athletic performance and specifically the circadian rhythms that have the biggest impact on your workouts are the sleep wake cycle, the body temperature cycle, and the testosterone.

Cycle. So let’s talk about those. Let’s talk about this sleep wake cycle. One of the countless ways we humans differ from one another is our individual preference for what time we like to go to sleep and what time we like to wake up. And this is referred to as our chronotype. There are early birds. I’m one of those people.

Who like to wake up and go to bed early, and there are night owls who prefer to stay up and wake up late, but the vast majority of us fall somewhere between these two extremes. Now, while it’s possible to change your chronotype over time, learning to wake up early, despite being a night owl and vice versa, I was once a night owl when I was a young buck, and I could afford the luxury of going to bed between 12 and 2:00 AM and waking.

Between eight and 10:00 AM whereas now I’m an early bird by conditioning. I’ve just been getting up between five and 6:00 AM and going to bed between, uh, 10 and 11:00 PM for many, many years. Now, of course, that’s the rule, and there are exceptions. Sometimes on the weekends, I’m staying up a little bit later, waking up a little bit later if I am on vacation.

Same thing, but generally speaking, especially during the week, I’m in bed around 10, sometimes a little bit earlier, 9 45, sometimes a little bit later, 10, 15, my alarm is at six. Sometimes I wake up a little bit earlier than six, and sometimes I wake up with my alarm anyway, regardless of your current.

Chronotype research shows that matching that to your daily exercise routine can improve your performance. So for example, studies show that elite athletes tend to pursue and excel in sports that match their chronotype. People who are night owls by nature may be more inclined to take part in track and field events.

Swimming and gymnastics. Sportswear competitions typically occur in the afternoon and evening, whereas people. Early birds by nature may be more inclined to pursue triathlon and long distance running. In other sports where competitions typically occur in the morning, more evidence of the benefits of matching your chronotype to workouts comes from a study conducted by scientists at the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center, and here the researchers found that baseball players who were early birds had higher batting averages than night owls in early games.

So games four, two. While night, owls had higher batting averages than early birds during evening games after 8:00 PM Okay, now let’s talk about the second circadian rhythm that impacts how well we can work out. And that is the body temperature cycle. So core body temperature is a term that refers to the temperature of your internal organs, and many biological systems are sensitive to vari.

In temperature, so your body goes to great lengths to keep the core temperature in a narrow range of about 97.7 and 101.3 degrees Fahrenheit. And most of the systems involved in exercise the musculoskeletal system, cardiovascular system, nervous systems, function optimally when your core temperature is a little higher.

The normal, and the reason for that is a slightly higher than normal core temp improves the speed at which electrical impulses move through your nerves. It improves your ability to use glucose for energy and replenish glycogen stores. It improves blood flow in your muscles. It even improves muscular strength straight up.

Now, in most people, core temperature is at its lowest at night and then it rises when. Wake and then it reaches its peak in the evening. So in theory, this means that training later in the day should lead to more productive workouts and thus better strength and muscle gain. And that may partly explain why.

Research shows that people do tend to perform better in their. Training and athletic activities later in the day and why sporting records tend to be broken in the late afternoon and early evening versus the morning. That said, just because training later in the day may slightly improve your performance, doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to gain muscle and strength faster, and that’s something that I’ll talk more about in this podcast.

Now, the third circadian rhythm that we need to talk about is the testosterone cycle. , and this is important because testosterone is the primary hormonal driver of muscle growth. It is the major anabolic hormone in the body. Anabolic meaning building substances up, including muscle. And you may have heard that testosterone peaks in the morning and drops at the end of the day, and you may worry then if you train later in the day.

In a lower T environment, it could decrease your performance and decrease your results. And while it’s true that testosterone does reach its lowest point in the evening, research shows that strength training in the evening actually produces a larger increase in testosterone levels than strength training in the morning.

So there’s an interesting counterbalancing effect here when testosterone is naturally lower later in the day, the acute hormonal response to training is greater. Why is that? Well, it is partly because of what happens with another hormone called cortisol. Now, this is a catabolic hormone, meaning that it breaks substances down, including muscle and fat, and like testosterone, resting cortisol levels are highest in the morning.

before we wake up. It actually helps wake us up. And then cortisol levels progressively decline as the day goes on, reaching a low point in the evening. Also, like testosterone, cortisol levels spike during and immediately after we train. That said, when we train in the evening, research shows that the resulting cortisol spike tends to be lower and it tends to decline faster than when we train in the.

Now because maintaining a high ratio of testosterone to cortisol is generally good if you wanna maximize muscle growth. Many researchers and experts have theorized the training in the afternoon or evening when that ratio is most conducive to muscle gain. When it is at its best, may provide a more anabolic environment and therefore may result.

Better gains as you’ll learn in a moment though, the theory really hasn’t panned out in practice, and let’s get into that. Let’s talk specifically about that because on the whole, most studies show that you will probably gain muscle and strength a little bit faster if you train in the afternoon or the evening rather than the morning.

For example, research conducted by. At the College of William and Mary looked at how training different times of the day affected the athletic performance of 10 healthy untrained men. And the researchers had the men do a workout that involved three sets of five reps and one set of 50 reps on an isometric leg extension and a curl machine.

And each person repeated the workout a total of four times once at 8:00 AM once at 12:00 PM then 4:00 PM. PM and they were able to produce slightly more force with their leg muscles at 4:00 PM and 8:00 PM than they were at 8:00 AM and 12:00 PM. There are several other studies that have found similar things with performance with muscle growth directly.

For example, there’s a study that was conducted by scientists at the University of Beag, and there was another that was conducted by researchers at the University of YUSA that found. People’s quadriceps muscles were stronger in the evening than in the morning. There is another study that was conducted by scientists at the University of U ssa, and in this case, researchers found that strength gain was more or less the same between people who were lifting in the morning versus the evening, but the evening group.

Gained slightly more muscle. That said, the researchers found that that difference in muscle growth between the two groups only became apparent about halfway through the study, indicating that it may take up to three months or more for benefits of evening training to become apparent, at least in terms of muscle growth.

Now, if we were to just leave the discussion at that, you’d probably think that training in the evening is clearly superior to training in the. . Right. And as a corollary, you would rightly assume that training in the morning puts you at some sort of disadvantage when it comes to gaining muscle and strength.

And that’s not necessarily true because while most studies do show that most people are a bit weaker in the morning, Than in the evening. More recent research shows that if you consistently train in the morning, that handicap disappears over time. So specifically if you switch from training in the late afternoon or the evening to training in the morning, you can expect your strength to immediately dip by about five to 10%, which can be disconcerting.

But if you stay the course, it should return to normal. It should return to exactly where it would be if you were training later in the day after about a month or. And for what it’s worth, I can say that I’ve experienced that many times over the years because my workout times have changed. I have worked out early in the morning, so arriving at the gym between six or 6:30 AM I did that for a while and then I changed that to a little bit later in the morning around 8:00 AM Not that you’d expect a big difference there, but then I have changed that to a one or 2:00 PM time.

I’ve changed that to a four, five or 6:00 PM time. I haven’t. evening workouts in a while, you know, eight or 9:00 PM because I go to bed around 10, and currently I’m back to the early-ish morning workout slot. So I get there around 7 45 and I changed from a 2:00 PM. Workout time to that 7 45 time, and I noticed initially, the first week or so, the weights felt pretty heavy.

I lost a rep or two on my big lifts, but then within a couple of weeks I didn’t notice any difference in my energy levels and in my performance. And that’s reflected in my training because I’m following the Beyond bigger, leaner, stronger program, which on your primary lifts calls for specific rep targets with specific amounts of weight as a percentage of one rep max.

So I was able to see that in my 2:00 PM slot, you know, 75% of my one RM for sets of eight. Okay. I was getting those sets and then I switched to the morning, and now I was only. The first two sets, and then I was getting maybe seven reps or six reps on my last two sets. But within a couple of weeks I was back up to hitting each of my sets, getting my four sets of eight, just as I was previously without feeling like it was any harder than it was previously.

Another thing to consider regarding workout time is your personal preferences should play a major role in your decision of when. Work out. If you prefer working out in the morning, which I do over working out in the evening, let’s say, or even the afternoon, then working out in the morning may be the better choice.

Even if science with a capital S says it is an optimal, or even if you know it is not physically optimal for your body. Said if you’re like me and you like starting your day with a workout, you like how you feel after you train and it sets the tone for the rest of the day and you like just. Done so then you can focus on your work and everything else that you need to do.

And again, if you’re like me and you don’t really like breaking away from work to go work out, once you’ve started working, you like to just stick to it, maybe with little breaks for some food and some bathroom, and that’s it. Well then again, working out in the morning is probably the best choice for you.

Even if your body doesn’t like it as much as training later in the day, because you are going to enjoy your morning training more, you’re gonna look forward to it more, and that’s gonna help with compliance. And of course, sticking to the plan, assuming it’s a good plan over the long term, is the key to.

Results and there’s research to back that up. There is a study that was conducted by scientists at Sanford University that found that when people were able to train, when they most preferred to train the time of day that they wanted to work out, they were more motivated to train and they felt that their workouts were.

And so a reasonable takeaway from that study is that while the physiological benefits of training later in the day may be real, they are certainly slight, and they may be offset by your preferences. Now, what about hormones? What about claims that training in the evening optimizes your hormones for building muscle, or that the evening provides you with an optimal hormonal environ?

For building muscle. Well, in this case, research shows that that is mostly boulder dash, although training when the ratio of testosterone to cortisol is at its highest sounds beneficial. Several studies suggest that it has little to no effect on how much muscle and strength you actually gain from the training.

So for example, one study that was conducted by researchers at the University of the West of Scotland had 17 untrained male students report to the lab at nine. And at 5:00 PM and perform a five meter sprint test and a squat one rep max test on each visit and to assess levels of testosterone and cortisol, the scientists had the participants give three separate saliva samples.

So one was immediately prior to the physical test, and then another was five minutes after the test, and then there was another one an hour after the test. And what the results showed is that there was no correlation between sprint performance or squat one rep max and testosterone levels.

Unsurprisingly, considering what we have discussed so far, the researchers did find that people’s sprint times and their squat performance were slightly better in the evening, but of course we would expect that.

If you like what I’m doing here on the podcast and elsewhere, definitely check out my sports nutrition company Legion, which thanks to the support of many people like you, is the leading brand of all natural sports supplements in the world. So where does all of this leave us? What is the key actionable here?

Well, all else being equal, you probably will perform a little bit better and you may gain muscle and strength a little bit faster if you train in the afternoon or evening. But if you prefer to train in the morning, if that suits your schedule better, your lifestyle better, your chronotype better, your body will adjust regardless of the initial loss and strength and performance.

And once that occurs, you probably won’t be at any major disadvantage. If there is a downside to the early training, it’s gonna be very slight. And remember, The most important factor in getting jacked is just consistency. Of course, you have to have a good program. You have to know what you’re doing in the kitchen, you know, calories, macros, protein in particular.

But once you have plans that are good enough, once you have a meal plan that is good enough and a training plan that is good enough, consistency is the key. Consistency is the one weird trick for melting body. It is the one weird trick for adding inches to your biceps. So again, do what appeals most to you.

If you had to choose between evening and morning training, knowing that if you go in the evening, you’re probably gonna miss a couple of workouts per month because of your schedule, and you’re probably not gonna be able to give 100% in at least a couple workouts per month because of low energy levels.

Then you should train in the. , you will get better results that way over the long term. And similarly, if you just like training in the morning, if you just prefer it, if it is your favorite time to get in the gym and work out, then that’s what you should do. And you should do that regardless of what most studies.

Show or what most experts say. Now, if you don’t have a strong preference either way, if morning or evening is the same to you regarding your ability to get in the gym and put in the work, and if you like the morning workouts just as much as the later in the day workouts and consistency and compliance isn’t going to be a problem either way, then later in the day is probably going to be slightly.

Now if you want to switch things up and start training in the morning, or if you are already training in the morning and it’s not going very well, even though you want it to go well, like you really do prefer working out in the morning, but you are finding that your morning workouts are just not as productive or enjoyable as your later in the day.

Workouts. Then I wanna share a few tips that are gonna help you make this transition better and help you get the most outta your morning workouts. So there are seven of them, actually. One is to go to bed earlier and wake up earlier. Now if you wanna start waking up earlier, you first have to start going to bed earlier to ensure that you get enough sleep seven to nine hours for most people.

And aside from simply going to bed earlier, it’s also smart to create. Pre-bed routine that’s gonna help you fall asleep faster, help you get relaxed and get sleepy. You can also consider a sleep aid supplement, a natural supplement. I wouldn’t recommend drugs, like for example, Legion has a supplement called Lunar that can help, especially in the first couple of weeks as your body’s adjusting to the earlier bedtime and the earlier.

Wake time. It’s also important to stick to that new sleep wake schedule every day. Don’t sleep in on the weekends. Don’t stay up later on the weekends, at least initially, because it can interfere with this new sleep schedule, and it can make it harder for you to wake up and feel awake on the days that you’re getting into the gym.

The next tip is to try to wake up at least an hour before you. And this one is immediately obvious to anyone who has rolled out of bed, like a log off of a truck and then dragged themself into the car to the gym, and then had a pretty shitty workout. I have experienced that many times myself, and that is generally gonna be the experience.

Even if you give yourself some time, give your body some time to get used to it. If nothing else, you’re. Is going to be more productive. You are going to have better workouts even if you don’t have terrible workouts. Just getting up early, going straight to the gym. It’s gonna be better if you get up a little bit earlier and you give yourself some time to shake off the cobwebs and get fully awake.

And it also gives some time for caffeine to kick in right from your coffee or maybe your pre-workout supplement because it takes 30 or 45 minutes for caffeine to peak in your bloodstream after ingest. Now speaking of caffeine, that is actually my third tip for us. Morning trainers, use caffeine, have a pre-workout supplement, or drink some coffee.

When you wake up, give it some time to get into your blood and to start working. And studies show, of course that caffeine improves strength. It improves muscle endurance, it improves anaerobic performance. Most people know. But many people don’t know that. It has also been shown to help reverse the morning weakness experience by many people who train in the morning.

Now, if you’re not a fan of coffee, then you can go with a pre-workout. Of course, mine is Pulse. You can find it [email protected], and it has more than just caffeine. Of course, you can check out the formulation, all natural ingredients, clinically effective doses. All research is cited and linked for you to review, and I person.

Have four shots of espresso about 40 minutes before I go to the gym. So I wake up at six or sometimes a little bit earlier, and I go to the bathroom and I drink a bunch of water, and then I go into my infrared sauna and I read for a bit an hour or so, and then I get dressed. I make my four shots of espresso.

  1. Make a cappuccino basically, but it’s kind of like equal parts. Milk and espresso. I believe that would be a macchiato would be the term. But anyway, so I have my caffeine, and then I also have a serving of our stem free version of pulse. So we have pulse with and without caffeine, and I do the STEM free because I don’t need to have four shots of espresso, which is around 300 milligrams of caffeine plus.

350 milligrams of caffeine, which is what you’ll find in a full serving of pulse. You can do that if you wanna do it maybe a couple of times per week before your biggest, hardest workouts, maybe before your big polls or big squats, but that would not be advisable to do on a daily basis. On average, you want to keep your caffeine.

Below 400 milligrams per day. Research shows that that is a safe and healthy intake of caffeine below 400 milligrams per day. But if you exceed that, it can cause health problems. In some people it doesn’t, but in most people, it is not healthy to exceed 400 milligrams of caffeine per day on average. My next tip for you is to have some protein and or carbs 30 to 60 minutes before you train.

Eating around 30 grams. Protein in carbs is probably ideal. Research shows that that will probably help you perform a bit better and recover a little bit faster than if you trained on an empty stomach. But if you just like to train fasted, I would recommend considering a supplement to like HM B, which you’ll find in legions for.

Forge supplement, which also has Yohimbe and Citocoline. It is a cutting supplement. I wouldn’t recommend Forge if you are not cutting. In that case, I would say just get some bulk Hmb intake, two to three grams before you train, or about 10 grams of whey protein mixed with water works as well. Of course, that.

Does contain calories, and you are not purely fasting at that point, but the insulin response is gonna be minimal, at least. Okay, moving down the list to number five, do a thorough improper warmup before you get to your hardworking sets. Now, one of the reasons people tend to perform better, In the afternoon and the evening is their core body temperature is higher than it is in the morning.

We talked about that, and you can quickly raise your core body temperature by doing a good warmup before you get to your actual workout. And a simple way to do that is to just do five, 10 minutes of light cardio before you start lifting. That works like walking on a treadmill, for example, just enough to maybe slightly break a sweat, but not enough to feel fatigued.

And then of course, you should do a proper warmup with the exercises you are going to be performing in your workout. And if you wanna learn how to do that, head over to legion and just search for warmup and you’ll find an article in, probably a podcast on that specifically. The next tip on my list is to create a morning routine that you like, that you look forward to.

If getting up early feels like a punishment, then you’re gonna have a hard time continuing to do it. Compliance is going to suffer. But if you create a morning ritual that you like and you anticipate when you go to bed, then that can help take the edge off the. Early wake time and a few ideas for that is to listen to some of your favorite songs or maybe podcasts or audio books, radio shows, whatever.

When you wake up, when you’re in the car, driving to the gym, you can read a great book or maybe some Legion articles when you wake up. As I mentioned earlier, that’s what I like to do. Some people like to do some work first thing in the morning just to get ahead on their to-do list for the day. Some people like to prepare their food, some people like to do some meditation, do some journaling.

The point is just find a routine that works for you and that you enjoy. And my final tip is if your training programming involves. One rep max tests or AMRAP tests like in the case of beyond bigger than or stronger, every 16 week macro cycle ends with some amap. Test as many reps as possible. Tests with 95% of one rep max on your primary exercises.

Try to do those in the afternoon or the evening because even if you do all of your training in the morning, you’re probably gonna be a bit strong. In the afternoon or evening, and when you’re doing a one rep max test or an AMRAP test, the idea is to lift as much weight as possible or get as many reps as possible.

And so training in the afternoon evening for those workouts is probably going to result in slightly better numbers. Alright, well we have covered a lot here. Those are all of the key points I wanted to share with you. So just to summarize, remember that consistency is the keystone of building a great physique, the optimal.

To train is when you can consistently do it, when you most enjoy doing it, and if that’s the evening, afternoon, lunch, morning, whatever, find what works best for you and what fits your lifestyle and your chronotype and your preferences before you worry about what is scientifically optimal. Because the physiological differences between the evening workout and the morning workout are minimal.

It’s not gonna make a. Difference one way or another. That said, if you don’t much care whether you train earlier in the day or later in the day, if your schedule can accommodate any workout time really, and you don’t personally prefer one over the other, then you should know that your performance, your strength, Will probably be a bit better in the evening than in the morning.

And if you are switching from an evening time or an afternoon time to a morning time, just know that initially your performance and your strength is gonna skid a little bit, but it will rebound as your body adapts to your new schedule. So just stick with it and it will get better. All right. Well that is all I currently have to say about the best time to work.

And as for what else I’ll be talking about here on the podcast, while I have another q and a coming up where I’m gonna be addressing resistance bands, because that is becoming a bit of a trend right now. There are a couple of branded products in particular that claim to deliver better results than.

Weightlifting. And in that q and a I will also be talking about getting laid as a married man as well as female lean gaining. And then I also have another installment of says, you Coming where I’m going to be addressing objections to the incline, bench press, trap bar, deadlift and body building, accessory exercises, isolation exercises, all things that you find in my program.

All right. Well, that’s it for this episode. I hope you enjoyed it and found it interesting and helpful. And if you did, and you don’t mind doing me a favor, please do leave a quick review on iTunes or. Wherever you’re listening to me from, in whichever app you’re listening to me in, because that not only convinces people that they should check out the show, it also increases search visibility.

And thus, it helps more people find their way to me and learn how to get fitter, leaner, stronger, healthier, and happier as well. And of course, if you want to be notified when the next episode goes, Then simply subscribe to the podcast and you won’t miss out on any new stuff. And if you didn’t like something about the show, please do shoot me an email at mike muscle for

Just muscle f o r and share your thoughts on how I can do this better. I read everything myself, and I’m always looking for constructive feedback. Even if it is criticism, I’m open. And of course you can email me if you have positive feedback as well, or if you have questions really relating to anything that you think I could help you with, definitely send me an email.

That is the best way to get ahold of me, Mike, at muscle And that’s it. Thanks again for listening to this episode, and I hope to hear from you soon.

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