T Nation

Early AM Lifting

I have to switch my training schedule to early morning (like 4:30am) and it seems like I’ve heard some reports that lifting early morning like that is not condusive to hypertrophy. I will be sipping a half serving of Surge during my lift (I usually do anyway) but I’m wondering if anyone has any information on whether or not this is simply going to provide maintenance or if there is some other nutrition plan I could use to assist with an early morning lift.
Thank you.

I don’t see any reason why you shouldn’t lift in the mornings. Assuming you get to bed in a reasonable hour and get your 7/8 hours of sleep and your body adjusts to this new schedule you are good to go. I think people run into problems lifting in the mornings because their bodies aren’t use to going to bed at 9 PM and getting up at 4:00 AM or whatever. So they end up being groggy and sleeping through half of their workout.

I remember reading somewhere that by lifting in the morning you have the whole rest of the day to supply your body its needed nutrients to build. Compare this with lifting at 6PM where in several hours, you will be starving your body as you sleep. Also in the morning, given the premises stated above, your mind will be clear and you will be more focused (you aren’t tired and worn out from a frustrating day at work and in the commute etc.)

I have been lifting at 5~5:30 AM consistently for the past year or so now and now my body and sleep schedule adjusted, it works out great. I get the stuff done early and out of the way so I can come home from work and just chill.

Oh and I also know a couple of amateur ex-bodybuilders (all natural) who use to lift at 4:30 AM. It’s great, who the hell lifts at 4:30 AM? You get the whole bloody gym to yourself, no sleazy chicas to distract you, no perfume to stuff up your nostril… no one to wait for at the squat rack… =)

I have trained in the morning in the past and for some reason it didn’t work out very well for me. I felt as strong as when I used to train later in the afternoon.

I think there was a scientific study done not long ago that spoke to this very issue. Something about hitting your maximum strength between 1:00 and 4:00.

Can someone verify this?

Keep in mind that if the morning is the only time you have to train then you need to somehow adjust.

I’ve been lifting in the early am (5:30ish) for the past year as it’s the only time I can get into the gym most days. At first I was going in there 10 minutes after waking up on an empty stomach, and I was paying for it. Now I get up a half hour early, grab a bowl of cereal/oatmeal, and bring a carb/protein shake to the gym with me. Seems to work much better. Some days I do feel like crap (like tomorrow after I stay up for the Sox game tonight), but considering my evening schedule, I’d rather go in tomorrow early morning for a quick half hour chest workout than not go at all tomorrow night. It just works better for me.

ZEB, you may or may not be referring to a comment made by Charles Poliquin a number of years back to the effect that the best time to train is 3 to 11 hours after waking…

My own experience seems to confirm this…

In my opinion, the only thing that is going to hold you back from having kick ass training sessions in the morning AND inducing hypertrophy is your MIND.

If you think you can, you will.

If you think you can’t, you won’t.

You know that the only time you have to train is early a.m. so it doesn’t really matter if there is a study suggesting that you aren’t at your peak at 4 a.m.

Fuck it, cause it’s the only time you’ve got.

Get to bed early, tear the weights up, then feed FEED your body for the rest of the glorious day.

Have fun!


Mister Spine
An interview with Stuart McGill, Part 2
by Marc Demers


You also talk about our increased risk in the morning hours after waking. Can you explain this?

SM: As you know, you?re taller when you wake up in the morning than when you go to bed at night. This is because the discs are hydrophilic, that means they suck up water while you sleep and when there are no stresses present.

After rising, hydrostatic stresses of just walking around and using the muscles during the day compress your spine and the fluid is squeezed out, decreasing the anular tensions in the disc. So, when you wake up the extra height in the discs are analogous to a full water balloon ready to burst and if you bend, you build up much higher stresses in the disc. In fact, the stresses are three times higher than when you perform the same bend two or three hours later.

Now I?m not talking about getting up and going for a walk or perhaps a boxer going for a jog first thing in the morning. I?m talking about heavy bending exercises, like for example the good-morning exercise or doing sit-ups. Somehow people thought that this would be a good thing to do in the morning. It?s the worst possible thing you could do for the back first thing in the morning. I personally have a more favorite morning exercise, it?s what I like to call a “great-morning,” but I don?t think my wife would appreciate me talking about it! Full spine bending first thing in the morning is a great way to damage your back?an unwise thing to do.

I, too have trained early mornings in the past and didn’t particularly like it.

Zeb, I believe Franco Columbo has also said that we are at our strongest between 1-4 pm. In my experience, I agree. I feel much better training in the afternoon.

That being said, I did get results and made strength progress working out early mornings. I just didn’t “feel” as strong that early. I also found it hard to be motivated to work out, when I could just lie in bed instead.

But, if that is the only time you can go, then do it, and make the best of it.

Wipe the sleep out of your eyes,

I, too, work out in the morning. I’m up at 7:30 and in the gym by 8:30. I love it! But, I’m so pumped in the morning, if I didn’t get to the gym, something would be guaranteed to be flying out my 3rd story window.

As far as nutrition is concerned, I mix up 1 and 1/2 servings of Surge and start drinking it on the drive to the gym (15 minute drive). JB outlined this procedure in one of his App. For Constrution articles, he mentioned a serving of Surge, plus 25 - 35 extra grams of quick digesting carbs.

I make sure to have most of it gone by the time I get there. I then lift, sipping the little bit of Surge I have left, and have a 1/2 serving of Surge post workout. I follow that up with a P + C meal one hour later, and keep those same nutrient combos for the next 6 hours, before switching over to P + F.

I love it because, as someone stated, you’re feeding your muscles for the rest of the day. I used to lift in the afternoon, and after having switched to the morning, I’ve experienced much quicker recovery periods.

Also, if you need an extra boost, you can always have some Power Drive right when you get up.

I’ve worked out early for years and I’d suggest you try a whole serving of Surge about 20 minutes before you start your workout. I usually workout ~ 5:30am and the difference the amount of a pump (with and without surge) is very significant. I used to always drink a whey and skim milk shake first thing and that helped a little, but I was always amazed at the better pump I would get if I even hit the gym later in the day. If I take a full serving of Surge first thing before I go to the gym then my morning’s workout pump is similar to an afternoon workouts. Also, my endurance/stamina seems to be better also.

I don’t have anything to back it up with but my own experience (and a little reasoning), but if think about it when you first wake up you haven’t eaten in > 8 hours and your muscles are starving (you’re in catabolic state) that’s probably somewhat similar to a postwork out state (not exact but similar). So a postworkout drink first thing probably makes sense.

Give it a try,