Between work, family, traffic and the day to day busyness of life, for many people the only time they have to train is very early in the morning. While training is great for the body no matter what time of day, if your goal is to build serious amounts of muscle, then early morning training may be limiting your muscle growth potential.

Unfortunately, with early morning training you may encounter a number of pitfalls when trying to get the most out of your training; and here’s why:

1. Decreased Central Nervous System and Metabolic Activity

Scientific studies have found that with early morning training the central nervous system (CNS) and metabolic activity within muscle cells do not perform at their peak. Targeting the CNS by means of intense exercise can help you to determine how your body responds and adapts to various training stimuli. By not being able to train at optimal intensity, you may not be able to reach your maximum muscular ability and will therefore be compromising development.

2. Elevated Cortisol

Cortisol levels are highest early in the morning, and as you may well know, cortisol is counterproductive to both weight loss and muscle gain. Cortisol has a powerful catabolic effect where muscle is broken down rather than built up. Couple this elevated cortisol level with exercise-induced cortisol increases and it may spell disaster for your muscle gains; especially if you have not consumed adequate nutrition to ward off catabolism which is typically the case with early morning workouts.

3. Depleted Energy Reserves

While we are on the subject of pre-workout nutrition, because you are up very early in the morning to hit the gym, there is generally no time to get in a low GI carbohydrate-based meal to provide a sustained energy to the muscles to power through an intense training session. Not just that, the food you consume the night before will more than likely be used for recovery and regeneration while you sleep rather than providing energy for the next morning’s training session. This will lead to diminished glycogen stores resulting in less energy for training.

4. Possible Sleep Paralysis

Researchers from the University of Toronto in Canada suspect that there are specific chemicals released in the body while we sleep which induce a state of muscular inhibition in order for the body to help conserve energy and prevent injury. Whether or not these chemicals still act upon the body post-sleep is still unclear, however, it stands to reason that these may still affect the body for relatively short period after waking. If this is the case, you may not be able to maximise muscle stimulation and activity, and will therefore not be able to perform your workout optimally.

5. Lack of Motivation

Getting up early in the morning is hard enough in summer when the sun is up early, but when it is dark and cold like now in winter, early morning training becomes even more difficult. The last thing most people feel like doing is getting up out of a warm bed to start lifting weights and performing exercise. Lack of motivation can lead to you slacking in the gym or worse, to missing training sessions completely.


While afternoon weight training sessions are optimal for gaining muscle mass, if early morning is the only time that you are able to make it to the gym, you will still be able to make good progress. Just make sure that you consume a pre-workout cocktail containing whey protein, a fast-digesting carb like dextrose or maltodextrin followed by a quality post-workout recovery shake. Also make sure to get in a solid meal 30-60 minutes after training to help fuel anabolic processes.

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