T Nation

Training in the Early Morning


#1

CT,

From this week on I’m going to the gym at 6 AM.
What would you recommend for best performance/health:

  • How long before should I get up ? Is 1 hour (5AM) sufficient ?
  • Should I eat solid food or shakes peri-workout ?
  • To fit my schedule I’m gonna break my nutrition in 3 solid meals (pro+carb+fat) after workout. Meal 1 (90 min after workout), Meal 2 (1PM) and Meal 3 (9 PM). Do you any improvements on this without adding others meals ?

Thanks.


#2

I’m not CT and I definitely don’t want to steal his thunder, but I’m going to say that the first 2 points are largely determined by how you feel. solid vs shake is largely personal that near to waking up and how your stomach reacts–as long as you are actually fueling during training and not going there without any food.

Same thing with waking up. The body adapts to what it is exposed to, so it will feel like crap for a while but it will adapt. As long as you aren’t rolling out of bed and heading straight to the gym right away without giving your body a chance to wake up and move around at all. “What’s best” often boils down to what is sustainable. Won’t matte if waking up 2.642 hours before a workout is best if you can’t sustain that habit.


#3

According to Soviet research 3 and 11 hours after standing up/ waking up is the ideal time to train ! I think ( don’t remember it exactly here anymore ) 1 and 7 hours after wake up is the worst time.


#4

Interesting question since I am also about move my training from pm to am… Aiming to wake up at 4 am and start training at 4:30

4 alternate days with weight training, the other ones for restorative/active recovery

Planning to have have pre-trans-post workout 1 liter beverage made with 21 g of BCAA…(No Plazma available here to import) being 45% leucine

Then a solid meal made of white rice, fish, some veggies and avocado; and 2 other meals during the day similar to this one (maybe pasta or potato instead of rice for variety); as well as a shake (“meal” 2 and 4) between solid meals

THANKS


#5

That is a bit short.

I personally wake up at 4:20 for a 6:30 training session. Been doing this for 3 years and while I might be able to have a good workout if I start at 6:00 on some days, there is no way I would be productive with a shorter time.

3 hours after you wake up is optimal. But after some time your body can adapt to an shorter “waking up period” but there is some limit there.


#6

Fo an optimal workout, probably not. At first you (while you adapt) you will need at least 2 hours. And eventually 1:30 might be enough. I wake up at 4:20 and train at 6:30. And that works great. BUT I’ve been doing this for 2 years and my body gradually adapted. I could see myself training at 6:00 and do OK on some days but not on less time than that.


#7

I believe in solid food. I do not take any shakes except for my peri-workout protocol. Which is one of the reasons why I recommend 2 hours: it allows me to have one easily digested meal before training.


#8

Meal 1 is too late, especially if you don’t have solid meal before training (I do not recommend that but you asked for my opinion without modifying the number of meals).

I honestly do not think that it is an optimal eating pattern if you want to eat to grow muscle at the fastest possible rate. You’d have to have another meal at around 5PM. 9 hours is too long between the last two meals. For fat loss it might work, but no optimal for performance and growth.


#9

@Aragorn thanks for your input. Totally agree with on both points made.
@Akidara thanks.

@Christian_Thibaudeau
I’m gonna set my alarm clock to 4 AM from now on.

For the pre-workout meal I’m gonna have solid food and have it as soon as I wake up. What would be an easily digestible solid meal ? I can only think about fruit.

Regarding meals I was set on those 3 meals because it fits my routine perfectly, but man, I can’t ignore an advice from you.
What eating pattern would you recommend ?

Some info that I think you need to make such recommendation:
My goal right now is to get used to a balanced diet and training in the morning. I set my calories 15*BW (what seems to be maintenance) and intend to keep it for next 8 weeks before I decide to up/down any calories. Initially I thought about taking some ideas from the diet you described on Lean as Possible thread but you made pretty clear that those guidelines are for someone with a lot of muscle (not me).
I’m training 4 times a week, Mon (Press), Tues (Squat), Thurs (Bench) and Sat (Deadlift) as you recently recommend in your article and do 1 hour walking on others days.
For body composition goals I haven’t set any yet. In a way i think I’m looking for performance and growth as I definitely don’t have a lot of muscle. But, I also have some fat to lose and never looked lean like 10% BF. If this helps you have some idea I’m 1.72cm and 80kg, and look average not skinny/not fat.
Thanks for the help you already provided.


#10

I normally have white fish (sole), spinach and berries


#11

If I were able to make 3 clones of you and had one workout at 6:00 am, one at noon, and one at 5:00 pm - I would bet that after a year of training YOU WOULD SEE ZERO DIFFERENCE IN PROGRESS if all of these clones know what to do in the gym.

Unless you’re planning to go pro sometime soon… - I know you said you don’t have a lot of muscle yet - Just fit your training around your school, work, and family obligations. That stuff comes first. Be flexible. Don’t get all caught up in the minutia about optimal conditions… It’s a road toward fixating on the small stuff.


#12

I generally agree. I “programmed” my body to train at 6:30 or even 6:00am by training at that time for 3 years. Heck, the few times I trained at a “better” time (8:00am and 13:00) I had worse workouts.

The body can adapt by becoming more efficient at a certain time. Which is why olympic athletes tend to train at the time they compete.

But you still need more than an hour awake to be ready to workout, even if your body is adapted to training early.


#13

Christian, I hadn’t really thought about it. I’m naturally an extreme morning person. It’s my most alert time of the day. I wake up at 5:00 most days, feeling great. It still takes me 1.5 to 2 hours from the time I wake-up, get the rugrats on the school bus, eat, and am at the gym warmed up and lifting, so that would follow what you’re saying. I will add that it’s probably more important for people who train in the morning to make sure all your spine and joints are warmed up.

To the OP, sorry if I sounded harsh to you about majoring in the minors. You can absolutely be successful training in the morning. If I tried to train in the evening, I’d miss a lot of workouts because that’s a busy time for family. As much as possible, I don’t want my time in the gym to take away from that.


#14

What is your trick to getting up with so much energy? lol Shit I have a hard time early in the morning. I start work at 11 am, but I force myself to get up at 7 am on training days to be at the gym by 8/830 and I wake up 830 on non training days.

Idk, just not one of those morning people I guess.


#15

I was the exact same way, then a few years ago I decided to use DST to my advantage. Instead of using it as an excuse for an extra hour of sleep, I just got up at the same time (now an hour earlier). Obviously, in the spring I had to deal with an hour earlier wake up, but it was pretty simple at that point.

Also, on hard days, where I am up late the night before working, I have a caffeine pill next to my bed for when the alarm goes off.


#16

I think that some people are either natural ascenders (wake up with less energy, and energy level rises up throughout the day) and descenders (wake up with more energy which goes down throughout the day).

Personally regardless of my wake up time and activity level, by 5pm my brain starts to switch to OFF and by 8pm I’m totally non functional. I often go to bed at 9PM.

My wife is the opposite. She normally can’t go to sleep before midnight regardless of when she woke up and what she did during the day.

I think you can learn to become more functional in the morning by establishing the habit over time, but I think that ascenders will never be at their best early morning.


#17

Yes, I’ve finally trained myself to NOT hit the snooze button anymore. I make sure I get up now when I need to.

I get off work by 8 pm so after eating dinner around 9, I’m ready for bed by 11 pm. Usually do not fall asleep until at least midnight though. My girl likes to browse on her phone in bed and any type of light keeps me up lol.

Can’t remember the last time I got in to bed by 9 pm. . .


#18

For me it’s just my natural circadian rhythm. On the upside, I’m pretty sure there’s something fortunate going on with my neurotransmitters because I wake up with a general feeling of well being. Like I seriously feel REALLY happy in the morning. I fall asleep VERY fast at night. The downside (if there is one) is that I CAN’T sleep in. EVER. I’m pretty sure I’m going to be one of those old ladies who’s outside sweeping the sidewalk at 4:00 am!

It’s interesting. I think Christian is right in that you can train yourself to some extent to be more of a morning person - nudge your schedule one way or the other - but we all have a genetic biorhythm. My mom and my brother are like me. I can call them at 6:00 am and they’ll be wide awake. My dad would love to sleep till 10:00 and then slowly drag around until noon reading the paper and drinking coffee. Haha! He thinks the rest of us are annoying as hell.

My son is living in Finland right now and he’s had trouble adjusting to the polar day in the summer (no darkness) and polar night in the winter (no daylight). If this is largely genetic, if would be interesting to know if our ancestry makes us more likely to be active in the morning, or at night. It would makes sense that people at the equator might evolve to cope with this a little differently, right?


#19

As I grow older, I too cannot sleep in, I am also no longer a sound sleeper unless I am at that point where I am just exhausted! I have trouble falling asleep at times, but not as bad as I did two years ago.

Although sleep is nice, if you wake up energized then sleeping in wouldn’t be so great. You get to enjoy the day for more hours. I don’t like to sleep in on weekends because time flies and than back to work!

Rainy days are nice for napping and lounging around though.


#20

I don’t drink coffee and always thought caffeine in the morning had no usefulness for me since I don’t have trouble waking up, BUT I started experimenting with pre-workout caffeine a couple of years ago and I can absolutely work harder in the gym if I take it 30 minutes prior. I have adjusted to taking the full 200 mg pill now. At first it would make me feel really jittery, and I could get the same effect with 100 mg.