Should Beginners Lift Weights In The Morning? A Good Idea?
March 3rd 2020
Today, we will discuss whether or not beginners should be working out in the morning, or at night.
This might seem like a very trivial topic, but it is something that scientists have looked at to see whether there is a difference between both, and there is.
The differences between working out in the morning or at night are subtle but can have an impact on your progress in the long run.
But, outside of those who work as competitive bodybuilders or powerlifters, the timing of your workout matters a lot less than you think.
For beginners who are just getting into lifting, find what works best for your schedule, and what you can follow consistently.
In this article, we will discuss some of the reasons why you would want to choose to work out in the morning or at night, as well as what science shows.
Is lifting in the morning bad?
Actually, lifting in the morning is actually better than lifting during the evening. Since it is the first thing you do after waking up, you will be able to dedicate 100% of your focus, energy, and intensity. Depending on your lifting goals, this is the perfect storm to help you make progress.
Potential pros and cons of working out in the morning
To start off, this isn’t a black and white list of pros and cons, what might be a pro for you might be a con and vice-versa.
This is just meant to give you an idea of some of the factors that you might want to consider if you are thinking about working out in the morning.
More, or less energy
For those who work a regular schedule and sleep at night, you might feel you have more energy working out in the morning rather than working out late at night.
You might feel like you have more energy and are able to lift heavier weights than if you were to lift weights after a long day at work or school.
The flip side is, you might feel like you have less energy throughout the day because you spent so much of it at the gym.
You might find it harder to stay awake in class or harder to study as a result.
This is something you should play around with and is different for every individual.
However, it should be known that some of the greats in the fitness industry trained in the morning before going to do their day jobs.
Yes, that is right.
I am talking about Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco, and Bill Pearl.
But also accountants, lawyers, doctors, etc.
The point is that these people knew the power of working out in the beginning of the day when you are fresh.
Even though you may feel sleepy and not awake, this is the FIRST thing you are doing in the day.
As a result, you will be able to put 100% focus and intensity into your workout just because it is one of the first things you do during the day.
For the most part, gyms in the US are much more crowded at nighttime than in the morning.
Those who work out in the morning look to get in and out of the gym as soon as possible before work.
You might find the smaller crowd to be less distracting, but there is also a benefit in being in a busy gym.
As discussed in another article, your gym environment plays a role in how much effort you can put in the gym, and for some people, they may find that they lift more in a more crowded gym where everyone is focused.
This is just another factor that is different for each individual.
Some people experience achy joints first thing in the morning.
They might feel that their body needs time to move around before they can lift heavy weights with safety.
As a result, they might feel better working out at night, after their body has already got up and moved throughout the entire day.
This might be a less trivial factor but for those who workout in the morning, they might be unable to if they went out the day before.
This might result in less consistent workouts depending on how often you go out.
You could always tough it out and go to the gym, but you wouldn’t be able to lift the same amount of weight as you normally would.
Potential pros and cons of working out at night
Able to sleep better
You might find you are able to get more quality sleep if you workout at night before bedtime.
Once you use up all your energy in the gym, you might find it a lot easier to sleep with less jitteriness.
More convenient to schedule
Most people get up in the morning and go immediately to school or work.
If you want to work out in the morning, this will require you to wake up even earlier, perhaps before 6 o clock so that you can get enough time in the gym.
This is unrealistic for most people’s schedules and working out at night is usually much more convenient.
Less energy while working out
As discussed as a pro in the previous section, if you work out at night, you might experience less energy, especially during your workout if it’s after a long day of work or school.
This might make you weaker or make you feel like each exercise is a grind.
If this is the case, taking a deload week to recover might help.
But with less energy, there is less focus as well.
So, you also need to be aware of your own personal energy levels and what is more important to you.
Interferes with night life
If you plan on going out at night, say goodbye to your gym plans.
If you have an active nightlife, be sure to try your best to schedule your gym around it rather than going to the gym sporadically.
This might require you to lift in the morning at times.
Science behind working out in the morning vs night
Aside from these factors that might determine whether working out in the morning or at night is more convenient for you, let’s look at the science.
The main science behind working out in the morning vs in the night is this phenomenon called your circadian rhythm.
Your circadian rhythm is your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle which regulates when hormones are released.
For those who are unfamiliar, hormones are substances in the body that communicate with other cells.
They have a variety of functions such as Insulin which tells the cells the store glucose as fuel, Growth hormone which tells the cells to grow, and Epinephrine, which regulates the fight or flight response.
These are just some of the few hormones that exist.
When pairing this with working out, we understand that hormones are very important for muscular growth, specifically growth hormone and testosterone.
As a result, we want to be able to control our circadian rhythm and maximize the production of these hormones, or to make it so that our body is more primed to accept these hormones such as after a workout.
On the flip side, we want to avoid the hormone Cortisol, which is released during stress and actually breaks down muscles.
You still need cortisol to function but having too much before your workout might result in decreased strength while having more testosterone or growth hormone before a workout might result in increased strength.
The circadian rhythm is your body’s natural cycle and timing of when each hormone is released.
When you wake up, cortisol is released so that you are alert and have energy.
In contrast, during the night, melatonin is released to help prepare you for sleep.
The circadian rhythm is different for everyone and is something that can be adjusted based on your schedule. The most important thing, however, is that your schedule stays relatively consistent.
This means that in order to best optimize your circadian rhythm, you want to sleep at the same time and wake up at the same time for most parts of your life.
This is opposed to going to bed early one day, staying up late the next, which will drive your circadian rhythm out of sync which could result in the secretion of more or fewer hormones.
After this is all said and done, what is the most optimal time to train?
According to researcher Menno Hanselmans, the most optimal time to train is between 2:30 – 8:30 pm if you sleep a regular 8-hour schedule.
He also recommends that for those with an irregular sleeping schedule, wait at least 6 hours before lifting.
Another interesting result he found is that peak performance can differ slightly from person to person.
Those who are ‘early birds’ might find show less performance loss in the morning than ‘night owls.’
This goes back to my point that everything is individualized.
What to do with this information?
Now that you know the factors that come into play when you work out in the morning vs at night, and what the science says, what should you do?
As a beginner, the best thing you should do is to find what works best for your schedule so that you are able to do it consistently.
Training in the ‘most optimal time’ will do nothing for you if it doesn’t fit your schedule.
In addition, the differences in performance will only be slight as beginners will make a ton of progress regardless.
So, pick what works best for your schedule, and once you get more advanced, experience with what works best for your body.
You can clearly see that even science cannot nail down exactly what time you should workout or if lifting in the morning is bad.
However, we do have reference examples of the all time Greats in the industry to fall back on.
People like Arnold, Franco and Bill Pearl trained early in the morning.
Why are you not learning by their example?
If you really want progress and you have been training during the evening with minimal results, change your lifestyle a bit!
You will find that there is some adjusting period but for the most part, you will be surprised by how much you can get done.
And as you build that habit over time, expect only greatness.