Recoil - - Contents - BY RYNE GIOVIANO, M.S.ED., NSCA-CPT

Fit­ness Q&A

You’ve de­cided that you want to start build­ing some mus­cle, but which time of day should your train­ing ses­sion be to sup­port this? Does work­ing out after an overnight fast lead to bet­ter weight loss? There may be a few more things you haven’t thought about re­gard­ing fit­ness that can im­pact your per­for­mance and suc­cess. That’s where we come in. In this col­umn, we dis­cuss some in­ter­est­ing top­ics that may sur­prise you.


The first thing that has to be said is work­ing out is bet­ter than not work­ing out. So be­fore you read on, know that as long as you’re train­ing reg­u­larly, that’s a good thing. Don’t stress that you’re not op­ti­miz­ing your time in the gym just be­cause you’re not do­ing it at the re­search-sup­ported time.

If you re­ally want to know, though, the an­swer is that it de­pends, which is prob­a­bly not what you wanted to hear. It de­pends on a bunch of fac­tors, such as testos­terone lev­els, cor­ti­sol lev­els, body tem­per­a­ture, alert­ness, and sev­eral oth­ers. For per­for­mance, the best co­or­di­na­tion, re­ac­tion time, car­dio­vas­cu­lar ef­fi­ciency, and mus­cu­lar strength hap­pen later in the day (1). There’s a rea­son why you tend to find so many sport­ing events in the af­ter­noon to evening. This is also when body tem­per­a­ture and neu­ral drive (the ac­ti­va­tion sig­nal to the mus­cle from mo­tor neu­rons) are high­est. It makes sense that you’d want to pri­or­i­tize ath­letic events later in the day, as th­ese both lead to im­proved per­for­mance.

With re­gard to hor­mones, testos­terone and growth hor­mone are very im­por­tant to per­for­mance in the gym. Testos­terone is well known to be im­por­tant for build­ing mus­cle. It hap­pens to peak in the morn­ing, and slowly de­crease over the course of the day (2). Growth hor­mone, another hor­mone re­spon­si­ble for build­ing mus­cle, pri­mar­ily is re­leased while you sleep, and con­tin­ues for a lit­tle while in the morn­ing.

Th­ese two hor­mones are also re­leased from a train­ing ses­sion. Based on that, if your goal is to build mus­cle, it may be a bet­ter op­tion to train ear­lier in the day to take ad­van­tage of the in­creased lev­els of both testos­terone and growth hor­mone. If you’re train­ing for any spe­cific event (Spar­tan Race, marathon, etc.) the time of day of the event should match your train­ing sched­ule. So, pri­or­i­tize that over what the re­search says. In other words, it all de­pends on your goals.


It’s very com­monly thought that work­ing out on an empty stom­ach can lead to more fat be­ing used as fuel for ex­er­cise. The the­ory is that the overnight fast causes lower stored glu­cose (glyco­gen) lev­els, which makes your body shift en­ergy use away from car­bo­hy­drates in fa­vor of fat. This isn’t fully sup­ported by science, un­for­tu­nately. There’s quite a bit of con­flict­ing data to sup­port both sides of the dis­cus­sion.

It’s likely that if you’re work­ing out in a fasted state, en­ergy lev­els should also be taken into ac­count. With­out food for any length of time, it’s likely that the ef­fect low blood sugar has will be detri­men­tal to per­for­mance, as it’s un­likely that your ex­er­cise out­put will be com­pa­ra­ble had a meal been eaten be­fore train­ing, which has been shown in re­search (3). There was another study that showed even the per­cep­tion of eat­ing food prior to ex­er­cise with a placebo re­sulted in bet­ter per­for­mance com­pared to wa­ter alone (4).

If you’re in a sit­u­a­tion where food isn’t as plen­ti­ful, how­ever, this shouldn’t dis­suade you from ex­er­cis­ing. Be­ing phys­i­cally pre­pared is of ut­most im­por­tance. A fasted work­out is bet­ter than no work­out at all, and at the very best, there’s a small dif­fer­ence in out­come.


There are some dif­fer­ences to be aware of be­tween men and women when it comes to train­ing. No, th­ese won’t sub­stan­tially af­fect how you would go about train­ing; they’re more like some­thing to be aware of. When we’re talk­ing about ex­er­cis­ing in a hot en­vi­ron­ment, women tend to have a higher sur­face area-to-body-mass ra­tio (5). This can al­low more heat to be evap­o­rated, which would re­sult in bet­ter cool­ing.

That be­ing said, men usu­ally have a higher sweat rate, which can be both good and bad (6). On the one hand, this means bet­ter cool­ing, and on the other hand, it leads to greater fluid loss. So, men should be more aware of this and make hy­dra­tion a top pri­or­ity. This in­creased sweat rate re­sult­ing in greater fluid loss is mainly due to in­creased testos­terone, caus­ing sweat to oc­cur quicker than es­tro­gen.

Speak­ing of hav­ing higher amounts of testos­terone, men gen­er­ally have about five times as much as women, while women have higher amounts of es­tro­gen. Testos­terone tends to be bet­ter for strength-based ac­tiv­i­ties, but es­tro­gen can be im­por­tant for en­durance events. In fact, when com­pared to seden­tary men, en­durance-trained men have roughly three to five times the amount of es­tro­gen re­cep­tors, which has been shown in an­i­mal stud­ies to cause an in­creased glu­cose up­take into the mus­cles.

On the other hand, the in­creased testos­terone in men leads to greater gains in strength and mus­cle size. Women have about two-thirds the mus­cle men do (7). There is, how­ever, a much larger dif­fer­ence in up­per body mus­cle than lower body, with women hav­ing about half the mus­cle men do in their up­per body, and about two-thirds in the lower body. This is pri­mar­ily the rea­son why men tend to be stronger, es­pe­cially in up­per body ex­er­cises.

It’s more likely that the dif­fer­ences be­tween men and women from a per­for­mance stand­point has more to do with body com­po­si­tion (mus­cle and fat mass) rather than gen­der alone (8). From a train­ing stand­point, there isn’t much dif­fer­ent that you would do with women com­pared to men. Each will re­spond well to train­ing fo­cused on their goals, so re­gard­less of your gen­der, good train­ing is good train­ing.


When a train­ing ses­sion oc­curs, or after sub­stan­tial phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity in gen­eral, we both break tis­sue down and use fuel. It’s im­por­tant that both of th­ese be ad­dressed in your post­work­out nu­tri­tion be­cause they both ul­ti­mately re­sult in im­proved per­for­mance and fit­ness. The re­pair part of the equa­tion hap­pens when pro­teins

get bro­ken down and new ones are made through a process called pro­tein turnover. This is why pro­tein after a work­out is im­por­tant; with­out it, you would be lim­it­ing your abil­ity to ad­e­quately re­cover.

For the av­er­age per­son, what does this look like? Well, in terms of pro­tein, there’s noth­ing very sub­stan­tial in lit­er­a­ture point­ing to one form of pro­tein over another. So, you could drink a whey pro­tein drink or scarf down some an­i­mal pro­tein and it wouldn’t make that much of a dif­fer­ence. Men should shoot for two palm-sized por­tions of pro­tein, while women should eat one.

The other part of the equa­tion is the fuel used to com­plete that ex­er­cise ses­sion. This fuel is made up of stored car­bo­hy­drates. So it may be easy to see that eat­ing car­bo­hy­drates after a work­out is some­thing that will also help re­plen­ish what you’ve lost. It has been very pop­u­lar­ized to pro­mote fast­di­gest­ing car­bo­hy­drates post-work­out, such as white bread, white rice, or a bagel. It’s ac­tu­ally a bet­ter choice to eat some whole-food (less pro­cessed) carbs with some fruit. This way, you’ll get the added ben­e­fit of fruc­tose

(the sugar in fruit) to help main­tain or re­store the stored car­bo­hy­drates (glyco­gen) in the liver (9). For a serv­ing size, two cupped hand­fuls of carbs for men and one for women are good places to start.


Hope­fully, you took away some tid­bits that you may not have thought about. It’s not so com­mon to think of some of this stuff, but it cer­tainly can im­pact your per­for­mance in the gym or other ath­letic en­deav­ors.

An ex­er­cise pro­gram specif­i­cally for women? Don’t bother. Men and women both re­spond well to good train­ing. AJ_Watt/

Peo­pleI­mages/ Strength train­ing isn’t the only type of ex­er­cise to boost hor­mone lev­els. High-in­ten­sity con­di­tion­ing can also do the trick.

Heav y, multi-joint move­ments are great for caus­ing in­creases in testos­terone.

Want to in­crease growth hor­mone? Look no fur ther than the dead­lift.

WARN­ING! The ex­er­cises and con­tent ex­pressed in this col­umn are for il­lus­tra­tive pur­poses only. Con­sult your physi­cian be­fore try­ing any phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity or nutri­tional plan. RE­COIL and its con­trib­u­tors are not re­spon­si­ble for any harm or in­juries...

No need to scarf down a bowl of Fruit Loops. Stick to high­qual­ity, whole foods post-work­out. REF­ER­ENCES Raci­nais, S., Per­rey, S., De­nis, R., & Bishop, D. (2010). Max­i­mal power, but not fa­tigua­bil­ity, is greater dur­ing re­peated sprints per­formed in...

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