I’ve had great feedback from those articles via Email and I’m glad they’ve helped some of you.
To cut to the chase, the conclusion of those articles was the best time to take the supplements relied on what effect the user wanted from them.
In other words, there wasn’t a specific best time.
However, unlike taking supplements, research shows there is an optimal time to workout for muscle gain.
This post will cover when is the best time of day to workout for muscle gain (and why), as well as what to do if you can’t train at that time.
(We all live busy lives with work/social/family commitments after all.)
So without further ado, let’s dive straight in with the science.
Studies on the time of day of workouts and muscle gain
A 24-week study performed in 2016 on 42 men compared the effectiveness of training in the morning and in the evening.
The study compared the participants’ leg press 1 rep max (1RM), time to exhaustion (Texh) and cross-sectional area (CSA) of their quads.
Or in simple terms, it compared their strength, endurance and muscle growth.
At the end of the 24 weeks, the men who trained in the evening didn’t experience a significant difference in strength or endurance, but they DID gain more muscle mass.
Although 1 study doesn’t settle the debate, it’s interesting to see these results have been demonstrated in other studies too.
Take this 20-week study performed in 2009 for example.
Similar to the study above, it compared the participants’ half squat 1RM and CSA of their quads.
The participants who worked out in the evening gained 3.5% quad muscle mass whereas those who worked out in the morning gained 2.7% quad muscle mass.
And whilst a difference of 0.8% isn’t huge by any means, it certainly strengthens the conclusion from the 2016 study.
So as the science shows, it appears that working out in the evening results in more muscle gain.
We’ll now look at the possible reasons why this is the case.
Why the evening is the best time of day to workout for muscle gain
Although it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why the evening is best to workout, we can make some pretty good estimates based on common sense and other studies.
Glycogen stores are fuller in the evening
This reason is more down to common sense.
Think about it…
Are your muscles going to have more glycogen stored having just woke up after 8 hours of not eating (i.e. in the morning), or after a day’s worth of eating (i.e. in the evening)?
That’s right – in the evening.
Since glycogen is the main fuel source used during your workouts, it makes sense that evening workouts are more effective as you’ll have more energy.
Core temperature is higher in the evening
This is a less obvious reason that I only discovered recently.
Studies show that your body’s core temperature is at its highest between 4pm – 6pm.
You may be thinking “What the heck does this have to do with building muscle?”
Well it turns out that core temperature has a big impact on exercise.
Studies show that peak physical performances occur in the early evening, when the body’s core temperature peaks.
By now, you’re probably sick and bored of all these scientific studies, so let me put my practical, real world head on.
Evening workouts AREN’T for everyone.
For example, if you work evening shifts or have physically demanding job, then you’re most likely better off working out in the morning, as you’ll have more energy and motivation.
(Just to be clear, my job isn’t physically demanding but I don’t think anyone would want to do squats or deadlifts after carrying bricks around all day.)
The point I’m getting at is working out in the morning with 100% energy is probably better than working out in the evening with 60% energy.
So if you do find yourself in the category who find it difficult to workout in the evening, then here’s what to do…
How to maximise results from morning workouts
Take some form of caffeine pre-workout
Did somebody say coffee?!
On a serious note though, taking caffeine before your workout has been shown to reverse the morning neuromuscular decline.
In other words, it boosts the quality of your morning workouts so they’re more in line with evening workouts.
Warm up like your life depends on it
As we covered earlier, one of the reasons why working out in the evening is best for muscle gain is due to your core temperature being higher.
By warming up effectively, you can raise your core temperature to get this benefit in your morning workout.
We’ve covered a lot of theory in this article, so you may want to read it a few times to digest the information in it.
But to summarize, many studies indicate that working out in the evening is the best for muscle gain.
If you’re able to work out in the evening, like myself, then great – I advise you to do so.
However, if you can’t workout in the evening, or you’re low on energy in the evening, then worry not.
The tips above should keep your morning workouts as effective as possible.