T Nation

Evening Training Time

Greetings Coach T!

As someone who has been following your programmes for a decade, with great success, I
could not have passed this gem at the end of the “Best Damn Diet…” :

"Notice I didn’t add an evening training time. For a natural it’s the absolute worst time to train"

Can you please elaborate? As someone who’s schedule tends to run late (genetics+work) I’d like to know what detrimental effects late training might be having.
merci bien!

Training elevated cortisol.

The normal cortisol rhythm is that it is elevated in the morning. The reason someone wakes up without an alarm clock in the morning is the spike in cortisol that elevated adrenaline, which wakes you up.

That causes three problems:

  1. Cortisol increases adrenaline, that’s one of its main functions. If you spike it in the evenening, you will also increase adrenaline which will make it much harder to get to sleep. And to acheive deep sleep.

  2. If cortisol becomes chronically elevated in the evening/at night (when it should be low to allow for optimal recovery) it can eventually either lead to lowered testosterone (cortisol and testosterone are made from the same hormone, pregnenolone, if you overproduce cortisol you will not have enough raw material to make a lot of testosterone) and could lead to a reverse cortisol circadian rhythm (low in the morning and high in the evening) which comes with its own set of problems.

  3. If you live a normal lifestyle with a full time job and maybe life stress (financial stress, relationship, kids, etc.) then cortisol likely stays high during the day, So if you keep it high in the evening you essentually always have high cortisol, no down periods. And chronically elevated cortisol can:

  • increases muscle protein breakdown, slowing down muscle growth
  • Increases the production of myostatin (which limits muscle growth)
  • decreases the conversion of the T4 thyroid hormone into the T3 thyroid hormone (which will slow down metabolic rate, making it harder to lose fat and easier to gain it)
  • inhibits the immune system (which is key for muscle damage repair, and not getting sick)

I’m not saying that you can’t progress with evening training. Some people will be able to pull it off. But objectively, physiologically, it is the worst time to train.

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Hello again and thanks for the detailed answer!
Then what would your suggestion for optimal training time be for someone who tends to wake up and go to sleep on the late side - let’s say 10-11 and 02-03?
If we remove the external factors like work schedule etc.
Merci encore.

90-120 min after waking up

Thanks!

Any ideas why some people seem to be more fired up to train in the evening time than morning?

This likely has to do with inverted cortisol circadian rhythm. See, cortisol increases adrenaline levels. Specifically by increasing the action of the PNMT enzyme that converts noradrenaline into adrenaline. When cortisol spikes, adrenaline follows. Normally cortisol is higher at the beginning of the day (to get you jump started), is lower during the day with some peaks here and there depending on your stress level and then comes down in the evening to allow you to unwind.

There is also a connection with melatonin production. Melatonin brings cortisol down (which will also bring adrenalin down). People with a low melatonin production can also stay more neurologically active in the evening.

So if you have low melatonin and/or a reverse cortisol cycle you will have a hard time getting started in the morning and get more and more activated as the day goes by. Nornally this is a bad sign because it is a symptom of overstress. BUT I believe that some people are actually born like that.

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Very interesting! Thank you for the explanation.

I always prefer to train in the evening because usually in the morning, I feel like I am dragging ass and the momentum is just not there (even after a good nights sleep). In the evening, I just feel wired to workout.

idem here. This explains it. I feel the most wired to train between 6 and 9 in the evening.