Definition: "An ergogenic aid is any substance or phenomenon that enhances performance "

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Endurance performance better late in the afternoon than early in the morning

If you’re free to choose what time you get on your bike or put on your trainers, then let go of those romantic notions of early morning training sessions and get a good lie in instead. You train better at the end of the afternoon, sports scientists at Liverpool John Moores University discovered a few years ago.

The researchers got 8 male cyclists, who trained more than 3 times a week, to cycle 16.1 kilometres: once at 7.30 in the morning and once at 18.30. As fast as possible.

The cyclists performed less well in the morning than in the afternoon, as the table below shows. The cyclists completed the distance 56 seconds faster in the afternoons than in the mornings.

The cyclists’ body temperature was lower in the morning. When the researchers got the subjects to do a warming up first – by cycling for 25 minutes at 60 percent of their VO2max – their body temperature rose, but it made no difference to their performance. Warming up first in the afternoon made no difference either.

The researchers put forward a theory that the body’s metabolism is a little higher in the afternoon than in the morning – and that’s why you perform better in the afternoon.

Studies on the effect of time of day on strength training also show that morning training sessions are slightly less effective than afternoon or early evening sessions. Finnish sports scientists discovered that you build up a bit more muscle mass if you train in the afternoon rather than pumping iron in the morning. A small American study showed that bodybuilders who trained after 18:00 build up more muscle mass than bodybuilders who trained before 10:00.

A possible explanation for these – subtle – differences is that you are stronger later in the day than in the mornings, so you can put more effort into your training. On top of that, the balance between your anabolic and catabolic hormones is more favourable later in the day than in the morning. [Chronobiol Int. 2004 Jan;21(1):131-46.] [J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001 Jun;86(6):2881-9.]

J Sports Sci. 2005 Mar; 23(3): 321-9.

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