5 actionable tactics to improve your morning workouts
written by Philip Stefanov | FEBRUARY 2, 2021
Like with most other aspects of training, the best time of day to have your workouts and get the best possible results will be somewhat individual.
If you’ve chosen to train in the morning or plan to do so in the future, here are five actionable tactics to make workouts safer and more productive:
1. Hydrate as soon as you wake up.
Dehydration has been linked to decreased athletic performance and cognitive function (1, 2). Upon waking up in the morning, you will be somewhat dehydrated, so it’s a good idea to drink 0.5 to one liter (17-34 oz.) of water as you wake up.
You should also get a bottle of water to drink during your workout.
2. Have a small meal or train fasted/take some leucine.
Food digestion takes time, especially when the meal is larger and contains protein, slow-digesting carbs, and fats. Unless you eat two hours before your morning training, having a big breakfast beforehand could make you feel sick during the workout.
Instead, either have a small meal of 15-30 grams of protein and 30-60 grams of carbs, or train fasted. If you do train fasted, consider taking 2-5 grams of leucine before your workout as it has been shown to stimulate muscle protein synthesis. (Or, at least, in your case, slow muscle protein breakdown.)
3. Use coffee as a pre-workout.
As a stimulant, caffeine can give you the kick in the butt you need for morning training. A dose of three mg per kg of body weight has been shown to increase neuromuscular readiness close to afternoon levels (3).
But there is one drawback:
Consuming caffeine regularly makes you develop a tolerance to it, and the potential performance boost can decrease over time.
4. Warm-up extra well.
Your core body temperature is lower in the morning. Couple that with the fact that you’ve been inactive for several hours beforehand (well, sleeping) and you’ve got your result:
You feel stiff and immobile.
To get yourself warmed up and fluid for your workouts, you need to spend extra time. An excellent way to kill two birds with one stone is to bike or jog to the gym.
If that’s not an option, do some cardio for 3-5 minutes when you get there. Walk on the treadmill, jump a rope, or cycle on a stationary bike. You’ll raise your body temperature, get your heart rate going, and loosen up your body a bit.
After that, you can proceed to your dynamic warm-up. You should also spend extra time warming up your shoulders. Once that is done, begin your warm-up sets on the first exercise.
Back when I used to train in the morning, I would have days where I barely warmed up, and believe me, the 10-15 minutes you’ll spend doing so are going to make a huge difference.
I’ve also heard that having a hot shower in the morning before hitting the gym helps raise body temperature and loosens you up, but I don’t have experience with that. You can reply to this email if you’ve tried it.
5. Consider lowering the weight.
When you first start training in the morning, you’ll most likely notice something:
You’ll be weaker than usual. And that’s normal. Decrease the weights as needed to get your repetitions in and don’t worry because you will adapt.
Sedliak et al. reviewed the literature and concluded that short-term strength decrease is about 5-10% in the morning (4). The term is ‘morning neuromuscular deficit.’ But, the neuromuscular deficit can be eliminated if you persistently train in the morning. Research suggests that it takes about five weeks to get in the groove (5, 6, 7). For me, it took less than two weeks to start lifting my standard weights in the morning.
Until next week,
P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about the best time of day to train, read the article I wrote on the topic.
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