If your goal is to build muscle mass and increase endurance capacity, then training early evening may be the best time to work out, especially if you combine weight training and cardio.

This was reported in a study published by Finnish sports scientists in applied physiology, nutrition and metabolism. Their study was conducted on 42 students, none of whom had done strength or endurance training within 12 months prior to the study. 32 of the students had to do a combined session of strength and cardio training 2-5 times per week for 24 weeks.

The additional 10 students did not train and functioned as the control group. The researchers found that the students who trained in the evenings built more muscle than those who trained in the morning and that the order in which they workout (cardio first or weights first) made no difference. While training order had no effect in this study, exercise order does make a difference when it comes to trained individuals as cardio has been shown to reduce the effects of strength training.

The researchers then divided the 32 weight and cardio training students into four groups.

mE+S - participants trained between 6.30 and 10.00 hrs. - They started with cardio training and then did their resistance training.

mS+E - participants trained between 6.30 and 10.00 hrs. - They started with strength training and then did their cardio training.

eE+S - participants trained between 16.30 and 20.00 hrs. - They started with cardio training and then did their strength training.

eS+E - participants trained between 16.30 and 20.00 hrs. - They started with resistance training and then did their cardio training.

While the eE+S group built more muscle than the eS+E group, the difference was statistically insignificant. The researchers also measured the student’s endurance capacity. What they found was that those who performed their workouts later in the day had built up greater endurance. This, however, was only seen in the students who trained cardio first.

The timing effects of training are subtle and can only be seen after a number of weeks of training. While this may not make a difference to the average person, it may be statistically significant enough for professional athletes who are competing at highly competitive levels.

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