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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

When Is the Best Time to Work Out? (Science-Backed Answer)

When Is the Best Time to Work Out? (Science-Backed Answer)

Since you already know you need to be active, the next question is when is the best time to work out?

This article will look to answer that question in regards to the best time of day to workout and if training at specific times is better than others.

What Are the Benefits That Come from Working Out?

If you’ve been committed to the same workout routine for a while, you may forget why you were even doing it in the first place. Looking good is usually at the top of everyone’s list, and that’s still a valid reason. But here’s a quick refresher on just SOME of the many benefits that come from keeping your body active:

  • Improved lean muscle mass
  • Decreased body fat
  • Stronger bones
  • Improved cognitive function
  • Better insulin sensitivity
  • Natural hormone production such as testosterone and human growth hormone that contribute to anti-aging
  • Stress relief
  • Improved creativity
  • Better sleep each night
  • Combats depression

Honestly, this list could go on for a while, but you can see how beneficial even just a few of these things can be to your overall health and wellness. So with this in mind, let’s take a look at the question of when is the best time to work out.

Is It Best to Workout in the Morning or Night?

If you’re a morning person, this can be an easy decision as you are probably already working out first thing. If you’re not a morning person, you may want to start considering it. Working out in the morning is not just a good way to get you up and running for the day, but it can have some benefits for the very end of the day. When you get active first thing, your circadian rhythm becomes better engaged. This is your biological clock and it can be thrown off pretty easily.

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If you stay up too late at night, you don’t give it a chance to run properly. Working out in the morning helps to set things in motion, which means it will wind down right when you’re needing to go to sleep. This is beneficial because it will improve the quality, and quantity of your sleep. Falling asleep will be easier as will staying asleep.

Research from Johns Hopkins found that morning workouts improved slow-wave sleep, which is the deep restorative sleep you need to recover and rejuvenate your body.[1] The morning workout also raises your body temperature which is a signal to the body that it’s time to wake up. The rise in core temperature that comes from exercise will help wake you up and increase alertness.

If you can only workout at night, you may want to keep things less intense. Whereas working out first thing can wake you up and jumpstart your energy, the same thing can happen at night making falling asleep difficult. We’ll get more into this in a bit.

What Is the Best Time of Day to Exercise?

So working out in the morning looks pretty beneficial, but when exactly is the best time? If you’re looking for weight loss and calories burning, the research shows that there is no best time of day to workout.[2] If you’re looking to feel better and more energized, the morning is still going to be best. Not only that, but exercising in the morning makes it more likely that you are going to stick with it and be consistent.

You also need to look at what type of exercising you are doing to find the ideal time. If it’s regular cardio such as running or walking, you should be good to go first thing when you wake up. If you are engaging in more high-intensity exercise such as strength training, HIIT training, circuit or boot camps, you may want to wait for a bit after you wake up.

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Depending on your schedule, this may or not be possible. If it is, you can wait an hour or two after a light breakfast to participate in a more engaging workout. You may also want to do some low-intensity cardio first thing in the morning and save the high-intensity stuff for lunchtime or after work.

So the best time of day to workout will depend on your goals. If you want to lose body fat, earlier in the morning will be best and it will keep your metabolism burning throughout the day. If your goals are primarily strength and muscle-based, you could wait until the late afternoon. This is the time of day when your hormone levels are higher – specifically testosterone – and this is when strength levels can peak.

Whichever time you can commit to, it’s important to stay consistent with it as research shows this will lead to better performance, improve oxygen consumption, and lower exhaustion rates.[3]

Is It Better to Exercise on an Empty Stomach?

You may not be a big breakfast eater or even feel like eating that much before a workout. If your morning workout is less-intense, you should be fine working out on an empty stomach. You need to remember that you still will have muscle energy in the form of glycogen stored in your liver and muscles from the carbohydrates you ate the night before. Don’t go longer than 20-30 minutes though, and make sure you have a replenishing meal within 30-60 minutes once you are done.

If you are engaged in something more intense early in the morning, you want to have something light and easily digestible 30-60 minutes beforehand. This can be something like a banana and protein shake. Remember to drink 8 oz of water about 15 minutes before you exercise, and continue to sip water throughout the duration of your workout.

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The main thing that is important is to focus on post-workout nutrition to replenish and repair the body. You don’t need to eat the moment you finish a workout but, you want to take advantage of the post-workout window to restore muscle glycogen and start repairing muscle. This is all part of recovery, and what you do at the end of one workout helps to prepare you for the next. So as long as you get in some decent nutrition within 2 hours of a workout, you should be all set.

Combining protein and carbohydrates with this meal is an ideal way to jump-start recovery. A good rule of thumb is eating 30 grams of carbohydrates and 15 grams of protein for every hour of intense exercise.[4]

Is It Bad to Exercise Before Bed?

This will again depend on the type of exercise. If it’s a lower intensity, there shouldn’t be a problem and this may help in getting you to sleep.

Some good forms of exercise before bed would include walking, cycling, and even yoga. If a workout is too intense close to bedtime, your body will have trouble winding down. Your endorphin levels will be spiked and this makes your body awake and alert. It can take an hour or two until these endorphins are washed out. Any intense workouts need to be a few hours before bed or you risk difficulty falling and staying asleep.

A good way to wind down the day can also involve some stretching to help in muscle recovery, relax the body and improve sleep quality. This can be a good time to do any foam rolling or treat any deep tissue issues that you may have.

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Bottom Line

When answering the question about the best time to work out, you need to look at a few factors.

Your goals will be the first thing you want to consider and then what your schedule allows. For general fitness and cardiovascular exercise, it does look like earlier in the day will be more beneficial. It also allows you to not have to worry about eating first thing and could lead to more body fat burning.

If your goals are more strength and muscle-based, waiting until later in the afternoon may serve you better. This is of course not written in stone, and the most important thing is to find the time of day that you are most likely able to commit and stay consistent with. This is ultimately what drives success and results.

Featured photo credit: Autumn Goodman via unsplash.com

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Adnan Munye

Personal Trainer and Fitness Expert

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Last Updated on December 28, 2020

How to Build Muscle Fast: 5 Fitness and Nutrition Hacks

How to Build Muscle Fast: 5 Fitness and Nutrition Hacks

Building muscle isn’t rocket science. All it takes is repeatedly doing the things that are proven in the lab and gym to work. This article provides 5 great ways to build muscle fast.

None of them requires you to spend lots of money on fancy fitness equipment or nutritional supplements. All you have to be willing to do is make a few adjustments to your diet, workout, and supplement routines. Put forth the effort, and you’ll be able to gain 5-10 lbs. of muscle in a month or two.

1. Eat Enough Protein Every Day

Contrary to what advertisements for protein powders say, you don’t need to eat and drink hundreds of grams daily to build muscle. The truth is, eating this amount won’t help you build muscle faster. It can actually be stored as fat.

All you really need is enough to meet your body’s daily needs and then a little more to stimulate muscle gain. This works out to about .8 grams per pound of body weight. So, if you weigh 150 lbs., you need to eat about 120 grams of protein daily.

Don’t stress too much over exactly how many grams of protein are in everything you eat. Use the eyeball method instead. 

This is done by looking at the protein on your plate and picturing an amount that’s the size of the palm of your hand. This amount contains about 28 grams of protein[1]. Do this every time you eat, and you’ll easily be able to make sure you eat enough.

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What does 25 grams of protein look like?

    You also need to know which foods are protein rich. They include: beef, eggs, poultry, pork, and seafood. Drink a protein shake if you’re having trouble eating enough of these foods. The best type of shake for building muscle is one that uses whey and casein proteins as its primary sources.

    Research shows these are the best protein powders for building muscle. One study also shows that drinking a shake that contains casein protein before bed can actually turn on the muscle building process[2].

    2. Do “Big” Lifts

    Forget exercises like curls, shoulder presses, and flyes and training individual body parts (chest, back, biceps, etc.) if building muscle is your goal. Instead, perform strength training exercises that train several muscle groups at once. Scientific studies show that exercises that do this are better for building muscle than the aforementioned isolation movements[3].

    Exercises you should do often include: dips, deadlifts, farmers walks, kettlebell swings, military presses, and pull ups. These are the movements that will really stimulate your body to build muscle fast.

    This video below will teach you how to perform my favorite muscle building exercise: farmer’s walks.

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    3. Train Hard Often

    You don’t have to work out every day for hours at a time to build muscle fast. What you need to do is train using the exercises I mentioned above often enough to stimulate muscle growth. Lifting weights 3 to 4 times a week is plenty. Give yourself a day’s rest after every 1-2 workouts.

    Your workouts only need to have 4-6 of these exercises. Choose an exercise for every major muscle group at each workout, and you’re set. This includes your legs (squats, deadlifts, lunges), chest/shoulders/triceps (bench press, dips, military press, push ups), and back (bent over rows, pull ups).

    I like to include a total body exercise every workout, too. I find that they are the best exercises for building muscle fast. This includes exercises like kettlebell swings, kettlebell throws, and farmer’s walks.

    Perform 3-5 sets of each exercise for 6-10 reps. Use a weight that makes it difficult to do the last rep of each set but not so hard that you cannot do it without using good form. Increase the weight you use when you can do every rep of each set.

    4. Rest and Recover Between Your Workouts

    Working out breaks down your muscles and eats into your ability to recover. You build muscle when you aren’t exercising. Therefore, proper rest and recovery can speed the muscle building process.

    The best way is to get enough sleep. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night will enable you to train harder and longer, and build muscle faster. If you can’t get this much sleep daily, take a 45 minute nap during the day to make up the difference.

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    Another way to recover faster and build muscle fast is to back off a little bit with regard to the number of sets and reps you do at each workout every once in awhile. Studies show that reducing the workout volume (sets and reps) by about 50% every 8-12 weeks can help you make progress significantly faster[4].

    This means that instead of doing 12 total sets at a workout, you’ll only do 6 using the same weight. Do this for a week, and then go back to your normal routine.

    Cutting back every once in a while will help you stay mentally fresh, too. This, in turn, gives you more energy to put into your future workouts.

    5. Take Nutritional Supplements That Are Proven To Work

    Once you have the four other tips in place, you can consider taking nutritional supplements to help you build muscle fast. The key thing is to use products that work. Through my research, I have found that there are three that work best: branched-chain amino acids, creatine monohydrate, and fish oil.

    The first supplement, branched-chain amino acids, are shown in several research studies to give you energy during your workout, decrease muscle soreness, and “turn on” the muscle-building process within your body. I find that they help me increase my energy and decrease post-workout soreness. You should take about .05 grams per pound of body weight before and after working out for the best results.

    Next is my favorite, creatine monohydrate. If you’re only going to take one supplement to build muscle, this is the one. This is because there are dozens, if not hundreds, of scientific studies that show it safely helps you build muscle and get stronger[5].

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    If you decide to give it a try, make sure you buy a product that is tested and guaranteed to include nothing but creatine monohydrate to ensure its purity. When you take creatine, follow what’s referred to as the loading phase, which is taking 10-20 grams a day for 5-7 days for the best results.

    Research shows this is the best way to get as creatine into your cells as quickly as possible. You can then back off to 5 grams a day to keep getting benefits[6].

    Last but not least is fish oil. In addition to being good for the health of your brain and heart, it can also help you build muscle fast. In one study, subjects taking 2 grams of fish oil daily for 6 weeks added a couple pounds of muscle[7].

    They lost body fat, too, and all without changing their diet or exercising at all. When shopping for a fish oil supplement, make sure you buy a concentrated source that’s tested to be free of impurities and pesticides.

    The Bottom Line

    Getting fit and building muscle doesn’t happen overnight, but with some simple changes to your diet and exercise routine, you can still build muscle fast when you build from a place of motivation and persistence.

    Whether you’re working out at home or at the gym, apply the above tips and watch your muscles grow week after week.

    More on Building Muscle

    Featured photo credit: Anastase Maragos via unsplash.com

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