One of the most common questions that I often get from people is “When is the best time to workout to build muscle”? The fact is…there are a lot of right answers. However, I think the best way to sum it up is with one key thought and that is…whenever you are most likely to consistently and reliably get your workout in.
If I suggest to you that the “best” time to train is first thing in the morning, but you resemble something between a zombie and hibernating bear at that hour, then I’m not sure I’m going to get any kind of productive exercise from you which would totally negate the benefits that this time might offer.
On the other hand, if you’re workout leaves you wired for sound and I tell you that late night workouts are the best thing in the world…I’m not sure that would be good advice for you since you’d probably find it difficult to get to sleep, which would negate any of the benefits of the workout again since recuperative sleep would be sacrificed.
There Is No One Size Fits All
So you see…there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to the best way to add size and new muscle growth. That said, I do think that one rule of thumb generally applies that works in nearly every instance. This states that the body usually finds itself in the most anabolic state between 6 and 12 hours after waking up.
The reason behind this is that during this time, you’ve had a chance to properly fuel yourself with at least 2-3 meals (creating an anabolic hormonal environment) and your level of mental alertness and focus is at it’s highest. Beyond this time, you’re most likely to have some mental fatigue, physical fatigue, or both set in.
That said, again…it comes down to primarily when you can schedule your workout so that you can first and foremost get it in consistently.
For me, this happens to be at around 6 PM at night. In my case, it also fits the criteria discussed above. Having woken up pretty much every day at around 7am, I am still within the 12 hour window of that time. I have had 4 meals by that time in the day (breakfast, lunch and two snacks) so my blood sugar is very stable and the muscles are at peak glycogen capacity (which can fuel me for a high intensity workout).
Finally, since I time this for after a long day at work, this time provides me with an “unwinding” that allows me to release the tension that might have built up during the day without being overly exhausted by waiting to late into the night.
For Those Early Morning Risers
For those early morning risers who choose to workout first thing (and sometimes before even the sun has woken up yet!) , the one benefit you will find is that of increased fat loss. With very little circulating blood sugar (from the overnight fasting while you slept) your body will be able to tap into stored fat quicker and you’ll have a slightly easier time burning fat than if you performed the same workout later in the day after a few meals.
Again, it depends on what your primary goal is. The tradeoff for this is with the lower circulating blood sugar and muscle glycogen stores, attempting to lift heavy and with intensity is dramatically compromised so building muscle becomes that much more difficult.
The bottom line is however, regardless of what time you choose to train make sure you find a time that works consistently well for YOU. I can’t understate that enough. Attempting to follow the advice of a friend, fitness expert, or magazine article simply because it appears to work for those individuals would be the worst thing you could do.
The square peg round hole analogy never fit so well! Find what works for you and get started. The only way to get into a groove is to get that first workout in…and then just find a way to repeat it!
Are you already working out at the time that works best for you, but aren’t sure if you’re following the right workouts? Find more information about what type of workouts produce the best results for building muscle at /best-workout-program-for-men Discover how choosing the right time to workout but the wrong type of workout for your body, can bring results to a standstill…and most importantly, how to prevent it.
Jeff Cavaliere M.S.P.T, CSCS
Jeff Cavaliere is a Physical Therapist, Strength Coach and creator of the ATHLEAN-X Training Programs and ATHLEAN-Rx Supplements. He has a Masters in Physical Therapy (MSPT) and has worked as Head Physical Therapist for the New York Mets, as well as training many elite professional athletes in Major League Baseball, NFL, MMA and professional wrestling. His programs produce “next level” achievements in muscle size, strength and performance for professional athletes and anyone looking to build a muscular athletic physique.