I’ve recently been transferred to the 11pm-7am shift at my work and this is going to throw a wrench into my workout schedule. Is it better for me to hit the gym after work at 7am in the morning or should I wait until I wake up at around 3-4pm in the afternoon to get my workout in?
This really comes down to your overall energy levels and how you feel during the day. If you work a strenuous and labor intensive job, like working in a warehouse, then you will probably be dead tired after a full day of work. The last thing you will want to do is bust out a super high intense weight lifting workout at this time. However, there are some people who catch their second wind after work and they are able to keep going hard.
Let’s take a look at both options to see which one fits you the best. The first option is to workout after your shift is over at around 7am in the morning. This means you will work a full shift which could be physically draining if you have a job that requires manual labor, but even if you sit behind a computer all night long, the amount of mental focus it takes to work at this type of job can also drain your energy as well.
Your other option is to train first thing after you wake up in the afternoon at around 3-4pm. This will allow you to get a good amount of much-needed sleep before tackling a hardcore workout. You will be fresh and awake to focus 100% of your energy on your workout with very little added stress that can occur if you’re training after a long day of work. The other key benefit of working out at this time is your post-workout meal. This is one of the times during the day that you really want to take advantage of a window of opportunity to maximize muscle gains.
After your weight lifting workout, your muscles are starving for nutrients in order rebuild and repair torn down muscle fibers. It’s paramount that you provide the right macronutrients within 15-30 minutes after your workout in order to saturate your muscles with the quickest form of protein and carbs available. Your goal is to spike insulin during this time with high glycemic carbs and quick acting sources of protein. Since eating a whole food meal will take time to digest, your focus should be on a liquid shake for the fastest utilization of nutrients. Choose fast acting carbs like dextrose, waxy maize starch and maltodextrin for the best carbohydrate sources along with a fast acting protein source like whey protein powder. Limit your fat intake during your post-workout feeding since fat slows down digestion. Your goal is to spike insulin which will rush all of those carbs and protein to your starving muscles.
One of the negatives of working out after your shift is over is that your post-workout shake will be consumed right before going to bed which is not the most ideal time to drink it. You want to allow a few hours to pass after drinking your shake in order to let the nutrients get fully utilized. You might also run into some issues with gaining additional body fat since you will be going to bed so soon after spiking your insulin levels. This is something you should be concerned about especially if you tend to hold onto more body fat and have a tougher time leaning out.
I personally like to get my workout finished first thing in the day in order to get it out of the way so I don’t have to worry about it later. I basically roll out of bed, throw on my workout clothes and head off to the gym to train. I have zero extraneous issues to deal with at this time (phone calls, appointments, housework) and I literally have tunnel vision for getting my workout completed. Once I’m done, I feel so much more refreshed and active for the rest of the day. I have tried to get my workout in later at night and it just doesn’t feel right. I spend the entire day dealing with all those mundane issues with work stuff, focusing on projects and trying to fit everything else in during the core hours of the day, just to be left totally spent later in the day. When the day is finally over, all I want to do is curl into a ball on the couch with my favorite cozy blanket and watch an episode of Breaking Bad. The last thing I want to do force myself to get in the car and drag my butt into the gym for a hard workout. The bottom line for you is going to be gauging how you feel during the day and you will quickly learn when the ideal time is for you to harness the most energy to get a great muscle building workout in.