Summary: athletic performance is generally better in the afternoon than in the morning. Caffeine timing may be important. Caffeine levels peak in the blood stream 30-60 minutes after ingestion. Muscles are more responsive to caffeine in the afternoon over morning. Caffeine abstinence before-hand gives stronger effect.
Compete, if possible, in the afternoon over the morning.
Athletes perform better in the afternoon and early evening than in the morning. This is the case for weightlifting as well as for endurance exercise like running, swimming and cycling. Even penmanship is less precise in the morning. Possibly it’s a warm up issue. But it looks like a circadian rhythm issue too. The circadian rhythm is an internal clock that regulates what you do during a day. It regulates sleeping patterns. Also body temperature, hormones and fluid regulation. Muscle response to stimulation is stronger in late afternoon. A 2012 study (Mora-Rodriguez et al.) looked at electrically-induced response in weight lifters. And they looked at voluntary contraction too, comparing morning and afternoon response. All weightlifters were men. All were described as highly trained elite weightlifters. The weightlifters lived in a research facility and were denied caffeine for 4 days before testing. (That must have been tough.) The study also compared voluntary and electrically induced response in the morning with and without caffeine. If you are wondering “what is caffeine” get some coffee. Lifters were given caffeine on a body weight basis. Caffeine was taken 60 minutes before performance testing.
Study Details: Caffeine Timing, Weightlifting and Performance.
- Test times were at 10:00 am and 6:00 PM. Caffeine intake was 3mg per kg. (if you weigh 80kg. that’s about 240 mg or about one 12 ounce cup of extremely strong starbucks style coffee.) Caffeine was taken 45 minutes before lifting.
- Morning performance vs. evening performance
- Morning performance with Caffeine supplement vs. Placebo.
Caffeine Timing Results
Strength and power output with placebo was better in the evening by 3% to 7.5% over morning strength and power output. Caffeine in the morning increased strength and power output by 4.6% to 5.7% for squats when compared to no morning caffeine. Electrically invoked response increased by 14.6% and nerve activation jumped 96.8%. Squats seemed to be more caffeine dependent than bench press. Maybe mornings are just meant to be spent drinking coffee.
If you are doing Crossfit Open competitions:
This site started as a site for Crossfit Masters Athletes, so here is the info for Crossfit readers: For people trying to qualify for regionals or the CrossFit Games 2013 this could be important. Do your Open CrossFit WOD’s in the afternoon. If you can. Caffeine in the morning will get your muscles up to the level they’d be if you did your workout in the afternoon. So when you are competing during a morning WOD, have some coffee 45 minutes before the event. And don’t forget the four days of abstinence before hand.Last note: caffeine peaks in your blood stream 30-60 minutes after its taken.
- Abstain from coffee for 4 days before your event
- Drink Coffee 30-45 minutes before you start
- Do your event in the afternoon if possible
Note: Tablet or pure caffeine may not give the same results as coffee.
The study discussed here was of the effects of caffeine on athletic performance. Coffee may provide additional benefits. You can read more about the effects of coffee vs caffeine here.
Mora-Rodríguez R, García Pallarés J, 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) PMID: 22496767