One of the trickiest questions for gaining weight is this: is there a connection between training time and weight gain? If yes, what is the best time to workout for weight gain?
The way you exercise is key to the weight you put on – from building muscle to controlling the hormones behind weight gain. But, can you do more with it – can you tie it into other habits and schedule it for better results?
Today, we’re addressing these questions to discuss training time and muscle gain, performance, and recovery. Let’s start with the basics of exercise and weight gain.
Exercise and Weight Gain
The point of training for weight gain is to provide the stress your body needs to develop key tissues. The most obvious is muscle gain: if you don’t train, you won’t gain significant muscle mass. Especially during weight gain diets, this is key for better health. It also means strength, joint health, and other benefits.
When you’re trying to gain weight, exercise is a key factor in what your body does with nutrients. Regular strength training, for example, induces muscle mass gains. It also drives up the rate of collagen synthesis to support connective tissues and channels both collagen and minerals into bones.
Weight isn’t just muscle and fat. Changes in tendons and bone density are important, healthful ways to gain weight.
Exercise: What are the Benefits Beyond Muscle Mass?
Proper exercise is key to maintaining hormonal and metabolic health while you’re eating above your calorie needs. This means that training and weight gain
Most people don’t want to just gain body fat when gaining weight, though that is often a part of the appeal for very skinny people. Maintaining metabolic wellbeing while gaining weight is absolutely essential. It reduces the risk of things like diabetes and blood cholesterol, keeping you safe.
It also reduces the gain of fat, as compared to other tissues like muscle and connective tissue, after exercise. Maintaining good training habits help partition nutrients. Better training routines mean better dividing of calories to support recovery and growth processes rather than just storing energy as body fat.
1. Improving Bone and Joint Health
Bone density and connective tissue strength are also important in their own right.
These key factors mentioned above are important in maintaining joint health and resilience. They offer long-term support to reduce the risk of strains, sprains, and overtraining injuries in the joints. These are great for maintaining a consistent upward trajectory.
Nothing is as much of a problem for progress as injury. Taking time off and having to rehabilitate a joint or muscle can set you back weeks or months, even on a relatively small injury.
Building better injury resilience while you gain weight is a great way to stop short-term injury – and long-term degeneration – before they happen.
2. Maintaining Hormonal Health
The hormonal environment for weight gain is crucial. When you try to gain weight, the background of your inputs and outputs, the way you treat your body, is important.
The addition of regular exercise doesn’t just improve the balance of fat and muscle in your body. It also regulates things like metabolic wellbeing, blood fats and sugars, and function of insulin and thyroid hormones.
These are controllers for things like appetite and sleep quality, which drive results. We’ve talked about naturally improving appetite before and training was right at the center. It signals for energy needs, helps you make better food choices, and gives your diet a sense of purpose and standards.
If you’re not training, food is just there to keep you alive. Giving it more direct, clear purpose – in the form of high-quality protein, carbs, and micronutrients – is a great way to improve your habits, too. Exercise drives appetite, food-metabolism, and sleep quality.
3. Mental Health and Performance
Regular exercise even combats mood disorders, as well as regulating stress. There’s no reason not to exercise regularly, especially during a weight gain diet. Even if you don’t care about the performance and aesthetic benefits, it’s a key way to stay healthy, happy, and do both for longer.
Regular exercise and training turn your food into a happier, healthier, stronger body. There’s no drawback to being more capable, more resilient, and happier.
What is Your Circadian Rhythm?
Training times become important when you get a better idea of how your body works. The circadian rhythm is one of the most important areas for this.
It refers to the alignment of your ‘body clock’ and how you line up with the cycles of the day. We are biologically ‘set’ by the rising and falling of the sun throughout the year. We’ve evolved to regulate our bodies and their processes in these same 24-hour blocks.
Training is affected by the sun’s arc and our waking and sleeping times. When we want to get the most out of training, asking when to train is an important question. It may only be changing the finer details, but these can add up over time.
Performance Starts With Timing
The circadian rhythm and schedule of your day affect both your physical and psychological performance. You’re not as strong or alert first thing in a morning, and these two factors will peak at different times during the day.
High-performance training is built around this circadian rhythm – but also other factors. Things like your daily movement before you get to the gym or your time awake change how you feel. For an easy example, you’ll notice that your grip strength is actually far weaker early in the morning.
Your mind and muscles are potentiated by being awake and doing things. They get ready to work – think of your daily activities as hundreds of tiny warm-ups for exercise.
Give Yourself Time to Fuel and Feed
You also have to eat appropriately for exercise before you start training. This is a key factor in circadian rhythm and exercise timing.
You perform better when you’ve had food throughout the day and particularly carbs and protein. These are important nutrients especially in strength and power training, which is one more reason why strength and power performance tends to peak in the afternoon. You need to eat to get the most out of yourself.
Having the time to move and eat appropriately helps fuel the body and brain, as well as warming them up.
Stack Your Recovery Habits: Eating and Sleeping
The way you eat and schedule your training is also important on the other side – how it affects your sleep. Better sleep is perhaps the most important factor after diet, and you can use training to adjust it.
While many people prefer to practice endurance exercise in the morning on an empty stomach, strength is the opposite. Most people train after work in the afternoon or evening, which can lead to a very powerful cycle of training, eating, and sleeping deeply because of the effort and feeding.
These kinds of stacked training-recovery schedules are a great way to support the body’s needs. They’re also closely in-line with the “natural” preferences of the body and the eternal relationship between food, rest, and recovery/growth.
You’re designed to hunt and gather, eat, and then sleep. Lining your training schedule up with these habits can be beneficial to better training and recovery – and thus weight gain!
The Best Time to Workout for Weight Gain
Let’s be clear: there’s no one time of day that helps you gain more weight.
You can train whenever you want, and the main factors will still be what you do and how you do it. Even more so, the way you recover from it. These are far more important when we look at the long-term effects across a whole dieting or bulking-up phase.
The benefits of timing are indirect. They’re associated with things like better training sessions, which are important but not the most important factor. They also come in the form of improving hormones, sleep quality, stress management, and others.
These are – again – indirect methods. They all add up to the ‘big picture’ of your weight gain habits, but are quite modest. You’re not going to break through plateaus just because you’ve moved training from 6am to 6pm.s
However, you might find that those 6pm sessions can be the best time of day to exercise for muscle growth:
- Are better – and provide more strength gains to help improve your results
- Leave you feeling hungry and tired, driving up appetite and sleep quality
- Suit your schedule better – keeping you healthy, happy, and low-stress
- Help you maintain a better diet throughout the day and after training
- Just suit you better
These are the most important changes that come with training in the afternoon-evening.
If you’re focusing on cardio and endurance, then these are less important. However, coordinating resistance training, food, and sleep is how we maximize healthy weight gain. Focusing on cardio means you’ve got even more to juggle – but the principles are the same!
What Training are You Doing?
Strength and endurance training have very different timetables – and most people use them completely differently. Morning endurance exercise is a long-honored staple by everyone from elite triathletes to elite bodybuilders.
Unlike strength training, performance is not as closely associated with muscular exhaustion or with the rate of force development it requires. It’s more closely associated with low-intensity movements that depend on your passive tissues (like tendons). Not only that, but longer-distance running and cycling will depend on long-term energy stores like fats, rather than what you ate today.
These 2 major differences mean that endurance doesn’t really care as much. There are some great mental performance benefits to endurance exercise early in the day – firing your brain up for the rest of the day. There’s also just something calm and meditative about a morning run that really feels right.
Recovery from Different Types of Exercise
The recovery for the two extreme ends of the spectrum of strength-endurance also have different recovery. You will need to maintain good feeding after endurance exercise, but the type of fatigue and muscular demands are completely different.
Strength and power training are higher in post-exercise oxygen consumption, muscle tissue damage, and carbohydrate depletion. Lower-intensity long-distance running is far weaker on all of these factors.
This means you just don’t need a big protein-carb meal and 8-9 hours of sleep afterwards. Your body remains on a similar energy system to normal, and you’re able to switch back to normal far more easily.
Training Time: Building a Good Daily Schedule
If you really want to make the most of training, use it as the lynchpin in your afternoon schedule. Heavy strength training should be a fun form of self-improvement at the end of the day – and should mark the separation between stress and recovery.
Everything after exercise should be about enjoying yourself, winding down, and reducing stress levels. Go home, put your feet up, eat good food, relax into your favorite non-physical hobbies, and build towards an excellent night’s sleep.
It’s not glamorous, but this is the way you maximize muscle gains and performance improvement. When you’re gaining weight, this is the set of processes that will most effectively build muscle, reduce fat gains, and help you gain weight both consistently and quickly.
Just like other training factors, timing is a tool to squeeze out the best from your efforts. If you’re strength training in the morning, you’re not going to fail, but you do handicap yourself slightly when it comes to what you can achieve and how you’ll perform.
Frequently Asked Questions
Conclusion: Our Final Thoughts
The best time to exercise for weight gain involves smaller details. It won’t decide if you gain or lose weight, but it’s a factor you can use to control your progress, recovery, and growth. You can use it to your advantage, or you can undercut your hard work with poor timing habits.
Training time is most important in relation to the other things in your day. You need to negotiate with work, family, studies, sleep, and eating.
If you’re looking for the best time to workout for weight gain, strength training should be an afternoon/evening affair, followed by food, relaxation, and 9.9 hours of sleep (a difficult, but ideal, number to fit in).
Use your training to structure your day – and give it pride of place as the boundary between stressful activities and relaxing ones. Put it at that center point so it’s the last hard work of the day and then everything after is about healing up, re-nourishing your body, and building towards amazing sleep.
That is how you time training to gain weight, maximize results, and squeeze the most out of your day!
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Rohan Arora is a Certified Personal Trainer and Sports Nutritionist and has been actively involved in sports and fitness for over 8 years. He now leads the team of fitness specialists and personal trainers who help people around the world with personalized workout and nutrition plans, along with providing the right information on sports supplements.