Should you do powerlifting workouts in the morning?
January 10th 2019
I workout in the evenings usually but I have done strength training in the mornings, afternoons and late nights. I always wondered this, should you do powerlifting workouts in the morning?
Deciding to do workouts in the morning, night or anywhere in between is up to the lifter’s preference. However, many lifters advocate lifting in the morning for various reasons, including being fresh for a workout, getting the workout out of the way, and having way more energy. There are pros and cons for doing powerlifting workouts on either time but it greatly depends on your life schedule and what your lifting goals are.
Is lifting in the morning better?
There are many tradeoffs between lifting in the morning and lifting in the evening. While some lifters and experienced gym goers may have their biased opinions, the cold hard truth is that the best lifting time is the one that you can maintain consistently. For example, if the best lifting time was at night but you cannot workout at night due to work and lifestyle obligations, then what? There is no cookie cutter time to fit everyone’s needs. As a result, the best time to do your workouts, whether it is for powerlifting, bodybuilding, Crossfit, strongman, etc, is when you are able to do it and make it a consistent schedule.
But that does not mean we should not try to improve our habits and learn about new ideas. So, here are some benefits for both morning workouts and evening workouts. Regardless of which you choose, you will know which times are best for you. We do know one thing for sure - they both help with improving your sleep quality. So, as long as you keep lifting weights, you will have improved sleep quality.
Morning workout benefits
One benefit is that you can get the workouts out of the way. That way, you have the rest of the day to work on other projects and assignments rather than worrying about pumping iron.
Another benefit is that it could help you with weight loss. Working out early promotes better habits in your life as shown in this 2012 BYU study, where women made healthier food choices and ate less at breakfast after doing 45 minutes of exercise in the morning.
Another benefit you can count on is consistency. If the first thing you do in the morning is getting a workout in, you can be sure that it will get done. There are no external variables that will impact your workout. It is just you and your motivation, determination and will power to get through the workout.
Some lifters will attest that they feel energized in a morning workout. After the sleepiness wears away, you feel full of energy in your morning workouts. Actually, I can also vouch for this as I did feel noticeably sharper during the morning. This reason for this could be that since the workout is one of the first things you do, there is no other stress that has impacted you yet.
Evening/Late night workout benefits
A relaxing morning is always one benefit. If you love to sleep in and complete your morning routine without any lifting stress, this is a huge bonus.
Another benefit of evening workouts is that you are fueled up and ready to go. Your body is warm and you are ready to kick the workout’s butt. You ate lunch already and maybe even a mid-day snack or dinner, so you have an ample energy source.
You can also relieve stress during evening workouts. Unreleased anger and rage from work, or even during your day sucks and can be really draining. Fortunately, lifting weights can be a perfect outlet for all that negative energy to be released.
Evening workouts can make you workout harder. One study done by the University of Chicago revealed that gym goers who exercise intensely in the evening or late nights showed a higher potential of strength and endurance compared to working out at any other times during the day. This is a huge benefit for the late night owls.
Heavy squats in the morning
So, you are powerlifting or strength training and you need to do heavy squats in the morning. Great, sounds like a lot of fun… only that it is not.
Heavy squats in the morning can be absolutely brutal. You just woke up from your cozy bed and the first thing on your agenda is to do heavy squats. Being that there is no time for excuses, you get yourself out of bed and prepare. But hold on one second, there should be a couple of things you should decide before you go to the gym.
Eating or not?
This one goes to the lifter’s preference. If you only have one hour before training, there are not too many options. You really only have two, maybe three - train fasted, eat a light snack or eat a heavy meal and train on a full stomach.
I decided to do more research on this topic as I was curious about the research out there. I found that there was a mixed bag of opinions. It still stands that it should be up to the lifter’s preference but almost all sources recommended that you should never train fasted. You should always eat something before you do heavy workouts in the morning. Why? The reasoning was because since you just woke up about an hour ago, you have not broken your fast yet, meaning you have no “energy” left in the tank. You have no food in you for hours and will suffer from that by not fueling your workout.
I personally trained fasted for many years. There were some days, where I felt like I just ran out of steam midway through the workout. But for the most part, I felt okay. I was, however, like a vacuum after the workout. I ate huge quantities of food for my post workout meal.
Safety of Early Morning workouts
If you are doing heavy squats in the morning, you need to be cautious if you are doing them. After a good nights rest, you have been sleeping on your back for a while now. So, your spine has decompressed and collected water. This is the reason why we feel so stiff in the morning. I was also curious about the recommended time to wait after waking up to perform heavy workouts.
What I found was a clear cut answer. 30 minutes.
That’s right. If you are looking to do heavy squats, wait at least thirty minutes after waking up to go to the gym. But what if I do not have extra time to sit around and wait? Well, that puts us in a bit of a pickle. You can still start training, but do the heavy sets towards the end of your workout. So, you can start doing your dynamic warmups and doing all your lighter exercises and sets in the beginning. Once you have been moving around and are feeling warmed up, it is time to do your heavy sets of squats.
Leg day in the morning
If you have leg day in the morning, it is no different than heavy squats in the morning. You should have at least heavy deadlifts or heavy squats in your leg day if you decide to have one.
So, you need to make sure you are doing the following:
- Get a good nights rest, at least 7 hours
- Eat something or train fasted, your preference though there are many opinions that seem to favor always eating something before your workout so that you have some energy source to draw from
- Wait at least 30 minutes before doing any heavy sets
Weight training in the morning, what to eat?
There seem to be mixed opinions about what to eat. I see this as a good thing as there is more variety of breakfast options to choose from. However, there is a general guideline - your breakfast or snack should include some form of carbohydrate, protein, and fat. This can range from small snacks to huge breakfast combinations. Here are some simple choices you can make in the morning quick:
- Oatmeal and eggs
- Fruit and yogurt
- Bacon, egg and cheese sandwich
- Peanut butter and jelly sandwich with milk
- Scrambled eggs with buttered toast
I also did some research to see what food combination would work best for a morning workout. I found that it is really up to the lifter’s food preferences and that morning nutrition should at least contain some form of protein, carbohydrate, and fats so that he/she can have necessary fuel to hit their training hard.
Fasted weight training in the morning
This is a controversial topic for lifters. So, let us drive straight into it, the pros and cons of fasted weight training in the morning.
- No indigestion
- Potential to burn more fat, although this is also a controversial topic.
- Not being able to train as hard
- Feeling as if you have no more energy mid-workout
Overall, should you train fasted in the morning? Again, this really depends on you. All the research could say that training fasted in the morning is the best thing to do, but if you are seeing stars when you workout fasted, you need to eat. This might be an extreme example but I hope you see my point. You need to listen to your body and find what works best for you.
There are plenty of lifters who can train on a full stomach. I have not trained on a full stomach yet, in fear that I will throw up. On the other side of the extreme, there are plenty of lifters who train fasted for years (Yup, around 4 years?). So, you really need to see if training fasted works for you. Hell, there are some people who are forced to train fasted due to a time constraint. So, it depends on too many variables and you need to understand what works for your body and how you can optimize your nutrition, training style and lifestyle to best meet your fitness goals.