T Nation

Training first thing in the morning

What do you guys think about training first thing in the morning, on an empty stomach? Many people believe it is the best way to really shed off fat. Some say to do cardio first thing in the morning, others say to lift. I’m going to start waking up earlier and training in the morning and see how well it works. My question is whether I should lift or do cardio. Whichever one I choose, I will do the other in the evening (if I am supposed to do cardio that day). My goals right now are primarily to lower my bodyfat percentage and maintain my present muscle mass.
My other question is, what is the physiological basis for this theory. I know it must have something to do with glycogen stores, and morning blood glucose levels but I would really like to know the exact science behind it. So any info would be greatly appreciated.

IS: The most advocated “empty stomach/in the am” regimen you TEND to see advocated is aerobics. The theory is that glycogen stores are depleted at that time, so that the body is “forced” to utilize free fatty acids in the blood stream derived from lipolysis (or fat breakdown and mobilization from fat cells).

That being said, a.m. RESISTANCE training ON AN ENTIRELY EMPTY STOMACH is a tougher proposition. Your weight training is not an aerobic event, but one in which you are attempting to stimulate and overload the muscles to grow. The energy and mental acuity required for this needs a little more “umph” than can be derived from the metabolism of free fatty acids alone.

I do aerobics in the am (on an empty stomach) and push the iron when I’m MENTALLY the clearset and PHYSICALLY the strongest (which for me is in the p.m.).

I would like to know what others think that push the plates in the a.m. I’m still learning!

I have been doing German Body Comp first thing in the morning and I find it to be superior to aerobics, as well as working out 2 time a day, cardio and resistance training. I have no problems completing my workouts on an empty stomach, even when going to failure on every set with high time under tension, about 60 to 70 seconds per set. I don’t really know if working out in the morning on an empty stomach is actually better than working out later in the day after a meal or two, but I have been doing German Body Comp in the morning before I eat for about 4 weeks now, 3 to 5 times a week, for about 35 to 50 minute sessions, and I have lost from 2 to 7.5 pounds of fat a week without losing much lean body mass at all.

I train every M W F in the morning before eating breakfast. By not eating in the morning I don’t sick to my stomach during a hard workout and I really think it helps with burning fat.

I’d agree with Mufasa. Don’t try to do any serious or heavy training first thing on an empty stomach. I did this for literally years - get up at 5:00 and at the gym by 5:20 with the first set by about 5:40. I then went to trying to drink a carb/protein drink with ephedrine/caffeine which worked somewhat. Finally went back to workouts after work and loving it. Strenght, endurance is way up. If your #1 goal is to burn fat then I kinda like the Body Comp idea first thing in the a.m. Be prepared to take a few weeks to adjust to things though.

Ok, my two cents, and I’ll probably get lambasted for this, but that’s fine. At night your body repairs itself and burns fat. Your body is not using carbohydrates for energy, it goes into a slower mode, and being we are fasting and not excercising, it does this quite well. We break the fast (breakfast) in the morning. If we do cardio in this empty state, we continue to burn fat more effeciently. Not because we are glycogen depleted, but because our bodies have not switched over yet. If you subject your body to strenuous excercise (weight training) your body will start to tear down muscle tissue (protein) to make glucose for energy. If you do low intensity cardio, 60-75% max heart rate, you will continue to burn fat. Your body is saying that fat is an effecient fuel for the demand.

Your core temperature is low in the morning and doesn’t make for productive workouts. I don’t have the study handy, but it is something like 3 hours and again 11 hours after you wake, that you are at your peak strength. That is why Charles Polquin had that wake up and have a steak, egg, fish caps and coffee breakfast, go to the gym and train. If you can tolerate this, then you are utilizing the same principles. No carbs, staying in fat burning (no carbs and caffeine), protein to protect catabolism and training after being awake for a few hours.

Another thing to consider is that the more often you train per day, the more you upregulate your insulin drive. Which makes for bigger muscles and lower bodyfat.

In conclusion, cardio first thing on an empty stomach (60-75%) 30-45 min; good breakfast after (soon if you are active; or after your shit/shower/shave if not); weight training 11 hours later. You can do cardio every morning, and weights your normal 4 days a week. I would probably take one day off cardio and weights (ex. Sunday no cardio and no weights).

FYI- Ian King has answered this question for his next “Heavy Metal” column. This will likely be posted at T-mag Friday.

I train 3 AM + 2 PM workouts (over 5 days) and find this works fine - for me. Everybody’s differen’t but I have little trouble “cranking it up” after I wake up/shit/shower and warm up for my AM workouts. Despite this I don’t do max benches in any of my AM workouts and warm up a little extra, including shoulder horn stuff before I start. I even squat on one of my AM workouts - no problem!

Oh man, I don’t do much in the way of aerobic exercise as it is, but I’ll tell you what, when I have to lift early, I always feel like dying afterwards. Usually I hit my last set, strip the weight and run for fresh air. I have also done some aerobic activity though, like if I sleep in too late for a Rugby game an then I have to get up, change, get to the field and then basically sprint for 80 minutes and that never seems to bother me. But weights, early, to me is a death wish, especially on leg days, which it always seems to be when I have to get it done early, obviously some people have had different experiences, but there’s my two cents.