There is a large body of evidence behind the idea that “time of day” influences athletic performance, particularly higher intensity athletic performance, such as interval training, sprints, resistance training, or performance in any sort of intermittent field sport like soccer, lacrosse, basketball, tennis, etc. where there are periods of high-intensity activity coupled with periods of recovery. This is generally the case for longer bouts of steady-state work (20-30+ minutes running/cycling inside/outside as an example).

Traditionally, peak anaerobic performance (high-intensity performance/I am huffing and puffing and need to take breaks throughout) is strongly correlated with core body temperature (1). 

The general trend of core body temperature in most people is that it is at its lowest around 4:00 am (prior to waking for most folks) and at its highest between 4:00-6:00 pm (1). Putting two and two together, several studies have demonstrated that time and time again, athletes tend to perform about 5-10% better in the afternoon/evening than they do in the morning (1,2,3) in regards to strength and power performance, which, again, is predominantly anaerobic in nature.

Summarizing the paragraphs above: All things remaining equal, you are able to run faster and pick up heavy things better when it’s after 4:00 PM relative to earlier in the day. 

What about the early riser/go-getter morning exercise enthusiast?! I love a 5 AM OTF workout!

So is it possible to get around this if you’re an early riser? According to a recent study by Ricardo et al (link here), the answer is yes.

What does this article tout as the solution? Caffeine. Wonderful.

Although this study targeted “highly resistance-trained men”, it bodes well for the frequent exerciser, regardless of gender, if their focus is some form of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) or resistance training in the early morning (Louisville boutique fitness options such as OTF, F45, Shred415, Cyclebar, CrossFit, etc).

The dosage utilized within the study I just referenced is 3mg per kg of body weight.

So, for example, I personally weigh 188lbs, which equals 85kg, and thus 255mg of caffeine.

Equation: (Your bodyweight in pounds/2.2)(x3) = mg of caffeine per kg needed to reproduce the effects of the study.

Let’s put that into perspective: One Tall (12 fl oz) brewed coffee at most coffee shops contains approx. 142-248 mg of caffeine (Source here). 

Brews of coffee do vary in caffeination based on the roast/type of bean etc. Use the google to help you identify the caffeine content of your preferred type of coffee bean/roast.

One minor limitation of the study is that the dosing was administered via oral administration of a pill. (These two articles will help to clear up the idea that coffee and capsules have very similar rates of absorption and bioavailability: Here and Here). Long story short: Coffee as a substitute is 100% fine.

In closing, my advice, if you do not have a pre-existing heart condition, are not against caffeinating, typically exercise earlier in the day: TRY IT.  Run with reckless abandon whilst witnessing the sunrise. Set some new personal bests in your favorite lift, regardless of the time of day. Run, lift, spin, row, rep it out with caffeine coursing through your veins. Then, come in for your Daily Wellness Service with us at Club Recover.

Until next time.

  1. Racinais S, Blonc S, Hue O (2005) Effects of active warm-up and diurnal increase in temperature on muscular power. Med Sci Sports Exerc 37(12): 2134–9. 
  2. Racinais S, Blonc S, Jonville S, Hue O (2005) Time of day influences the environmental effects on muscle force and contractility. Med Sci Sports Exerc 37(2): 256–61. 
  3. Taylor KJ, Cronin B, Gill N, Chapman DW, Sheppard JM (2011) Warm-up affects diurnal variation in power output. Int J Sports Med 32(3): 185–9. 
  4. Mora-Rodríguez R, Pallarés JG, López-Samanes Á, Ortega JF, Fernández-Elías VE (2012) Caffeine Ingestion Reverses the Circadian Rhythm Effects on Neuromuscular Performance in Highly Resistance-Trained Men. PLoS ONE 7(4): e33807. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033807