Fasted cardio first thing? Lunchtime squats? Post-work spin? The internet is awash with conflicting advice on the best time to train for optimum results. In part, that’s because a range of factors determine your body’s prime time for fat loss: your genes, body type, circadian rhythm, workout and so on.
That’s all well and good but, after a summer of drinking and relaxing there’s a good chance you don’t want to wait months on end to see #gymgains. Gratifyingly, if you’re aiming for fast muscle gains, like a bigger butt, rather than weight loss, the science is irrefutable – later equals larger.
Researchers at the University of Southern Mississippi asked young athletes to train with weights at different times of day and recorded the results. While all participants showed similar improvements in strength, the group that trained at 6pm gained more muscle mass than those who worked out at 10am. Plus, the evening group remained slightly leaner than the early-risers at the end of the experiment.
The benefits of doing your best bum-building workout later in the day make biological sense. For a start, levels of the stress hormone cortisol (useful for getting you out of bed, less helpful for your gains) peak early in the morning. Also, your metabolism slows down naturally as the day progresses, but the evening reps force it to speed up again. That means you’ll burn more energy over the whole day, which equals more defined muscles.
So make a stop at the squat rack after work, reward your reps with a lie-in and wake up to peachier progress.
Here’s how to get more from your workout day
Follow our plan to build muscle around the clock.
7AM: Morning meditation
Cortisol peaks when you wake, suppressing testosterone which is key for gains. Reboot your T-levels with 10 minutes of the Headspace app.
8AM: Walk to work
Nearly half of us are vitamin-D deficient. A cardio commute can top up your levels and increase testosterone by 25 per cent.
2PM: High-carb lunch
Not only will pasta stock your muscles with energy, carbs can help boost testosterone during resistance training.
6PM: Get that workout in
Whatever your chosen method of exercise.
10PM: Lights out
The impact of good sleep on your gym progress cannot be undervalued. Magnesium supps before bed can help you drop off easily.