Training

When Is The Best Time To Workout To Gain Muscle?

Updated May 2nd 2020; February 4th 2018

The best time to start your workout to begin building muscle is something you should figure out sooner rather than later.

You might not be a morning person... 

But if I put off working out until the end of the day, I won't do it. 

How can I get my workout in?

We all faced a situation similar to this.

Waking up early in the morning, feeling like you could sleep another hour or two and you have to go to work. 

Do not have enough time to work out?

No problem, just put it off to the evening. 

Then, with your decision set and your day looking a little brighter, you decided to work out later.

After a long eight or nine hours of work, you finally get home. 

Ready to relax? 

Not quite, you need to go work out.

But wait a minute, you do not feel like doing it because you are exhausted. 

There was work drama, your supervisor yelled at you and you did not have a very satisfying lunch.

Now, what? 

How can you possibly go work out now since you are not in the mood and the world feels like it is against you doing any sort of workout?

Well, thankfully there are a couple of remedies that may allow you to fit in a couple of workouts in the week.

If you are not familiar with my article of how often you should work out, you can check that out here

I go in-depth on some of the most optimal training frequencies that are most suited to your needs.

In terms of when to get a workout in for the day, there are several options for you.

Early Morning

Ahh yes, the warmth of the sun!

One option can be to work out before going to work or right after waking up. You can get the workout completed and can focus on other things later.

Another benefit is that your circadian rhythm is in sync with the sunrise, which can boost emotional and hormonal health.

However, there are some inconveniences to working out extremely early.

You will probably be training fasted, meaning that you have not eaten anything in an extended period of time.

Also, you might not be as vivid to do anything with much energy in the morning. 

So, this could potentially not be the best time to produce the best results possible.

Mid Day

Half way through the day!

Another option you may want to consider is by going during lunchtime or some break time during the afternoon.

This can be great time to work out since you are saving time. 

You are working out now and making time for other activities later on in the day.

You can also enjoy some burst of energy since you have eaten at least one meal, depending on your nutritional habits.

Again, there are some drawbacks to this time period as well.

There will be a time crunch for your workout. 

This would mean that you can be rushed, but there must be some level of flexibility in order to accomplish this as a lot of workout programs require a lengthy amount of time.

Also, there might need to be some extensive planning since coordinating a workout and lunch in a short period of time might not be suitable for some individuals.

Evening

In this option, it can be helpful to work out since you can alleviate the stress accumulated throughout the day.

Also, you can enjoy being well-fed, which can help your energy levels stay high.

Time to introduce some minor downsides since we need to find the best time possible to get a work out in.

Not being in the mood, which ties in with our introduction of this article! 

Procrastinating your workout because you do not feel like it. 

It can be a very difficult habit to change, if ever.

Another point to consider is that if your workout is close enough to your bedtime, it may disrupt your sleep schedule. 

Your body will still be at an above resting heart rate and it can take a while for your body to prep your body to sleep.

Late Night

This option is really only suitable for students or off-shift workers since it is during the graveyard shift. 

Are there any benefits for this time?

Of course! Peace and quiet along with owls hooting! 

Chances are you will be one of few in the gym, which means you can do whatever you want without waiting!

If you go to a commercial gym, this means that you can work out for longer as well since there are no people! A slight bonus for our night gym-goers.

There is always a catch as well. 

Your sleep will definitely be delayed a few hours, throwing off your circadian rhythms. 

This may affect your hormonal balance.

 

Wow, so there are pros and cons of the four-time periods, yet no concrete reasonings a certain time period to be the best time. Does science have an answer?

According to one review, it cited many studies that compared the performance between working out during the day versus working out during the evening.

The results of all the studies was very contradictory. 

After several six week training experiments, they showed in some studies that a morning workout showed more beneficial effects than evening workouts in one rep maxes, and squat jumps [1].

Inversely, other six week training experiments showed that evening workouts showed better performance with respect to the morning workouts in the following - grip strength, peak power, peak torque, and iso-knee flexion [1].

So, even science does not really have a specific time of when is the best time to train.

So, how can you get your workout in?

Well, it really boils down having the discipline to execute your workout plan and to have an extended plan.

If you are determined and attempt to try and execute your plan, you will succeed and any time period can be used in order to make gains.

Alright, so how can I get my workout in? I know the trade-offs of the time of day and science does not provide any convincing answer yet.

When is the best time to workout to gain muscle at home?

First choice, have an afternoon workout 

According to this study done on 42 trained men over a 24-week session, it was found that the evening session group had a 50% greater result of muscle hypertrophy compared to the morning group.

But this is not the only study that supports this claim.

You can also see many personal experiences of other lifters that also have the same results.

But that might not be the only reason.

Your high core body temperature

According to this study, having a high body temperature can result in better gains and greater strength exertion.

This can be achieved in several ways:

  • Doing a dynamic warm-up to heat up your body in the morning or in the winter
  • Working out in the evening, around 5:30 PM

If you follow your circadian rhythm, your body will naturally be at its hottest point in the early evening.

But this is not set in stone.

Many variables affect your body temperature:

  • Irregular sleep patterns
  • Lifestyle influences
  • Physiological influences with the environment
  • Environmental influences
  • Hormonal changes

And of course, this can get complicated and foreign when you mix multiple factors together.

 

When is the best time to workout to gain muscle ectomorph?

There is an overwhelming amount of evidence that points towards afternoon/early-evening training to gain muscle and this is no different for an ectomorph.

But as an ectomorph, you should be focused on two things:

  • Following a program 
  • Eating enough calories each and every day

And the one factor that really makes or breaks a skinny dude from gaining muscle is the consistency.

Both in following the program and eating enough food.

For an overview of how the hard-gainer can gain more muscle and make progress in the gym, you should also check out this video.

When is the best time to workout to gain muscle fast?

The best time to work out to gain muscle the quickest seems to be in the afternoon/early-evening.

However, with that said, there are many factors that go into this decision:

  • You probably at least 2 meals already, meaning that you have enough amino acid and glucose in your blood and muscles
  • You are more hydrated compared to first thing in the morning
  • Physiologically, you are more “awake” as the day goes by and you whine down as you get closer toward your bedtime

Are there other alternatives to this?

Sure, one way to simulate being more awake is by having an active warm-up to wake up your body.

Your breathing will increase.

Your heart rate will increase.

And you should (temporarily) be more awake than before.

In terms of nutrition, you can have a protein or carbohydrate drink prior to your workout and during your workout, if this is in the morning or late at night.

How long does it take to build noticeable muscle?

It took me around 4 weeks to notice my body being filled up.

8-12 weeks should be the time where you notice dramatic changes in your physique.

How do I know this?

I was once a beginner too, training to build muscle and to gain strength.

When is the best time to workout to gain muscle results?

In my 6+ years of working out, the best time to work out to gain muscle for me was during the morning, around 10AM - 12PM.

My first 6 months of training

When I first started lifting weights, I was training after-school, around 3-5 PM.

This is where I noticed that I gained muscle after 4 weeks, using a bodybuilding program.

My next 4 years of training

Then, I transitioned into college and I lifted during the morning 80% of the time.

Occasionally, I needed to lift during the evening but I was primarily a morning lifter

It was during this period that I made some of the fastest gains in my life.

This is where I ran Greyskull LP and Starting Strength and made some very fast gains in a very short amount of time.

Here are some of my training numbers that I hit during those times:

The following 2 years of training

After college, I started lifting during the evening, around 5-6 PM but I felt drained.

I thought it was important to be consistent but I had no energy or motivation after work to train.

So, I winged my training during this time period and fought off some chronic injuries.

The present

I am still lifting during the evening, around 5PM-7PM, and I am making slow, consistent progress now.

 

With that said, I believe those morning workouts were best for me because:

  1. It was one of the first things to do on my to-do list
  2. No mental energy was used on other thoughts

How much time to workout to gain muscle?

As a beginner, you can spend as little as 30 minutes per workout in order to gain muscle. This can extend to as long as 1.5-2 hours, depending on your program.

As an intermediate or advanced lifter, you can look to spend anywhere between 1-3 hours, depending on your program.

If you are a hard gainer, you need to be smarter with your training.

And if you can gain muscle easily by just doing a few pushups and pullups, these rules do not apply to you.

Conclusion

How can I get my workout in? 

The answer, whenever you want to go work out.

Let's face it, nobody can persuade you to workout or go during any time of day unless you convince yourself.

 So, only by changing your attitude about when to workout during the day, a solution can be worked on.

If you always complain about not having time to work out and how busy you are, maybe you do not want to work out. 

Maybe you are secretly happy with yourself but need some excuse to vent about.

Or maybe you are undisciplined, lazy, and unmotivated. 

Every new day is a time for a change and each new idea can make the biggest difference in our life.

You are not a morning person and you do not want to work out after work. 

Do not work out. Period. 

Unless your mindset changes, this will be an eternal circlejerk of just blaming your busy schedule.

Take responsibility for your actions and let’s get one step closer to our fitness goals.

References

[1] Seo, Dae Yun, et al. “Morning and Evening Exercise.” Integrative Medicine Research, Elsevier, 14 Oct. 2013, www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2213422013000759.


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