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Copyright © Michael J Morley

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Mike Morley T.Eng, BASC, Assoc UKSCA, ACAUK L4 Performance, Senior Tutor, L3 Education UKA


The following article, in a proposed series will provide another best practice-research based solution for
defining the best time of day for athletes to train. Contrary to conventional and contemporary wisdom, the
best time for athletes to train is between 5 PM and 7PM. The rationale for this preferred training time
frame is based in scientific research that suggests that at this time, the human organism is in an optimal
state of homeostasis. Accordingly, both an athletes biological and neurological functions will be at their
peak thereby allowing for the best chance for the targeted training performance and results to occur. As
evidence to these conclusions, the article will site recent scientific research that will describe the
parameters for aligning training prerequisites, and the optimal times when the training perquisites should
be applied within the optimal biochemical, neurological, and biomechanical timing for training output
capacity of the human body.

To this end, the article will describe in depth cause and effect analysis of requisite training input balances
and requirements of proper hydration, rest cycles, physical therapy, anaerobic and aerobic training,
strength training, plyometrics, and sport psychology. In particular interest there is discussion on the impact
of training times with respect to the relationship between circadian rhythms and human core temperature,
biomechanical effects for performance output and the inverse relationship with respect achievement of
optimal motor memory and motor skill adaptations. The article goes on to describe the impact an influence
of life style tendencies and behaviours on training for peak performance and in particular as they relate to
an athletes genetics, hormonal balances, physiological body mass indices, and the overall impact on
psychophysiological components as they relate to peak performance. The article concludes with a
retrospective summary of elite athlete competitive performances achieved in world-class competitions and
their demonstrative effect and endorsement of the best practice training methods prescribed herein. Also
included are comprehensive listings of the longitudinal scientific research used by the author to support
the enclosed conclusions and recommendations offered to the reader. 102604
Table of Contents

Index 2

Introduction 3

Chapter 1
The need to be at your best on the right hour of the right day 4

Chapter 2
Circadian Rhythms 5

Chapter 3
Strength 8

Chapter 4
Are you a Morning or Evening person 10

Chapter 5
Physiological Components and Psycho-Physiological systems 12


Does the time of day at which you exercise matter? And more importantly, can you improve your performance by
picking the right time for a workout? There is certainly evidence to suggest that the body is more geared up for
physical activity at some times of the day than others. This article is not just confined to the throwing events, it will be
applicable to all sports and their various body types. From Running to Rugby, Swimming to Shooting, Basket Ball to
Boxing etc

According to Dr Steve Ingham, EIS physiologist, the best time of the day to train is between 5pm and 7pm. This is
when your body is at its physical peak. Training at that time of day is when you are likely to get the greatest positive
increase in performance level. The main reason for this is that at other times of the day, your body is less prepared for
physical exertion. In the morning, your core temperatures (and environmental temperature) are close to their lowest
point. Your muscular skeletal structures are also colder, and your joints aren't in a ready state for heavy lifting or
stretching first thing this can increase the risk of injury.

Furthermore Ally McDonald EIS physiologist also points out that our concentration levels are typically lower in the
morning which can lead to mistakes or incorrect training. Your blood sugar levels will also be lower than at any other
time of the day because you haven’t had a substantial food intake for about ten hours, a long period of time. During
the late afternoon between 5pm and 7pm, you are likely to have had 2 good meals if you are in training, be physically
and mentally more ‘awake’ and your body warmer, allowing you to be in the optimum state for effective training. Do
remember, that as the temperature of the day increases, thermoregulatory considerations become increasingly
influential on performance. Training in too much heat can lead to a negative and potentially dangerous training

Here is an extraordinary example of why trainers, coaches, managers etc should have a working knowledge of how
the body works. In the UK the general public is force fed a diet of football. One of the worst aspects of this, as far as I
am concerned, is that after the games, the broadcasting powers that be think the public wish to hear the ridiculous
repetitive comments from the managers. I’m sure many viewers use the mute button.

Unfortunately just recently for me this was not possible. This is what I heard on a BBC football report in a discussion
with the manager of a particularly struggling club “Took em warm weather training, on the bus for training by 8.30am
every morning, never went out for an evening all week”.

Anyone aware of how the body works would be most surprised. As far as I am aware football in the UK is almost
always played between 3pm – 5pm, not 8.30 am. We are not told as to whether they went to the East or to the West
of the UK for their ‘training’ as there was no mention of jet lag or lead. In the UK on match day at 3pm the player has
been correctly fed and watered, food digested & is ready to play. The player with the 8.30am kick off probably still has
a stomach full of breakfast. There again it could be that this is a very clever manager and he has got the players out of
their beds at 2.00am in the morning to fool their bodies into thinking that by 8.30am is was actually 3pm. Is that why
he claims they never went out on an evening? Yes the team have dropped from the middle of the table, when the
manager took over, and are now near the bottom of the table, thanks to the manager’s training them to be there!! After
all their training dictates that they are having their afternoon siesta at 3pm!!, certainly not running around a football
pitch chasing a ball.!!

The need to be your fittest on the right day at theright time

History tells us that world and Olympic records in
sports events are usually broken by athletes
competing in the early evening, 4pm – 7pm, the time
of day when body temperature is highest. Only a few
world records, since 1900, have been broken in the
morning. (for the stats freaks see end of article, they
are also given with the time of day).

Moreover, if high performance is required at a specific
time of day -- e.g., Olympic final – for optimum results
the athlete and coach need to anticipate this well in
advance and to structure training sessions around the
time of day that the final will be held. This should be
the same criteria for all sports. Train when you play.

When one considers that the morning/afternoon
performance variation may amount to as much as 3-7
percent (1), it becomes very clear that failure to
consider this fluctuation in high-intensity performance
has the potential to drastically affect achievement of

Athletes in high-intensity sports who are training to
post specific qualifying performance marks -- e.g.,
Olympic trials standards -- would therefore be well
advised to note this article and make these attempts
later in the day or in the evening.
Most of us go to bed each night lying down to sleep for
8 hours or over. During this time the spine is relieved
of pressure. As the discs hydrate they are able to hold
more spinal fluid. This makes them larger and it also
puts more space between each vertebra. Under
normal circumstances disc hydration and height is
greatest in the morning says Dr. Sudhakar Rajulu a
researcher at Johnson Space Centre’s Habitability and
Environmental Factors Office.

Coaches need to be very aware of this 24 hourly
hydration cycle, particularly when dealing with contact
sports, taller and heavier players/athletes. The initial
height loss after morning rising is quite dramatic, but
the rate of reduction drops off as upright posture
continues. Normal daily height variation is 1.1 percent
of its average value (2).

Credit to NBAE/ Getty Images

Dr. S. Rajulu’s work is supported by Prof Stuart McGill
University of Washington, Ontario in his book ‘Low
Back Disorders’ where he warns “do not perform
demanding exercises first thing in the morning
because discs are hydrophilic.

Overnight, they tend to soak up water and swell. It's
easier to herniate a swollen, water-filled spine if you
attempt bending and lifting exercises”. He warns
against doing weight training early in the morning. He
points out that after rising, hydrostatic stresses of just
walking around and using the muscles during the day
compress your spine and the fluid is squeezed out,
decreasing the annular tensions in the disc.

So, when you wake up the extra height in the discs
areanalogous to a full water balloon ready to burst and
if you bend, you build up much higher stresses in the
disc. In fact, the stresses are three times higher than
when you perform the same bend two or three hours

He highlights that he is not talking about getting up
and going for a walk or perhaps a boxer going for a
light jog first thing in the morning. He is talking about
heavy bending and lifting exercises, like for example a
squat, the good-morning exercise or doing sit-ups.
Somehow people thought that this would be a good
thing to do in the morning?. It’s the worst possible
thing you could do to your back first thing in the
morning. Full spine bending first thing in the morning
is a great way to damage your back—an unwise thing
to do. Wait until you've been up for a reasonable
amount of time and the discs have lost some water,
reducing their stress.

1. Bernard, T., M. Giacomoni, O. Gavarry, M. Seymat
and G. Falgairette. "Time-of-day effects in maximal
anaerobic leg exercise." Eur. J. Appl. Phsiol. 77.1-2
(1998): 133-138.
2. Reilly, T. "Human circadian rhythms and exercise."
Crit. Rev. Biomed. Eng. 18 (1990): 165-180.
Chapter 2
Circadian Rhythms

Let us go back to what was probability a catalyst to the
research that is now serving our sports people so well.
When the 1968 Olympic Games were awarded to
Mexico City problems of competing at altitude came to
the fore. It is situated some 7,500 feet above sea
level, where the partial pressure of oxygen is reduced,
due to decreased barometric pressure. It is important
to note that up to 20,000 feet, there is in fact no lack of
oxygen, and the chemical composition of the
atmosphere does not change. However, because of
the reduced barometric pressure, the oxygen in the
atmosphere is not as freely assimilated by the body as
it is at sea level.

This article has deliberately not ventured into any
depth about the acclimatising models required to
stabilise the homeostasis of the body, to ready the
body for competition due to altitude, temperature and
the time change. Except to say that from the UK if we
travel sufficiently far in an Easterly or a Westerly
direction, for every 1 5 degrees of longitude a 'time
change' of one hour occurs. Inevitably, when travelling
long distances this change is sufficiently large to have
a debilitating effect. 'Jet-lag' has become a common
term in modern times to denote the efforts of a rapid
time change. (for some notes on this subject please
see later in this article P6, Col 2, para 3, and P13, Col
1, para 3) However a few notes on the subject do
appear at the end of this chapter.

For many years a significant number of fitness training
researchers have investigated time-dependent
changes in physiological variables, Aerobic and
Anaerobic exercise Chronobiology – how timing could
give you the edge, as they appear to do, and have far-
reaching implications for athletes/players. We may live
in a hightechnology 24/7 world, but the daily or
circadian rhythm remains deeply ingrained in our
physiological make-up.
There’s now plenty of recent research to suggest that
coaches and athletes ignore this circadian rhythm at
their peril when conducting aerobic and anaerobic

They found that rhythms exist that affect our physical,
mental and behavioral changes, and that they follow a
roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light
and darkness in an organism’s environment. They are
found in most living things, including animals, plants
and many tiny microbes. The researchers refer to
them as ‘Circadian rhythms’ particularly noting the
variations that recur every 24 hours.

The circadian rhythm is the most powerful rhythm
affecting humans; as well as the sleep/waking cycle, it
affects hormone secretions, body temperature, mental
alertness and physical performance capacity.
Due to these rhythmic fluctuations, many people
experience maximum mental alertness, fastest
reaction times and highest core temperature in the late
period leads to maximum fatigue/sleepiness and
lowest alertness.
afternoon/early evening period, while the peak in
melatonin concentrations in the middle of the night

They found, under strict control of possible variables,
that the majority of components of sports performanc
e.g. flexibility, muscle strength, short term high power
output, vary with time of day in a sinusoidal manner
and peak in the early evening close to the daily
maximum in body temperature. There’s also evidence
that the amplitude of these rhythms may be altered by
varying exercise intensity, and that other rhythms can
interfere with the circadian rhythm (especially the
monthly menstrual rhythm in women(3). 3. Clin Ter
2006 May-Jun;157(3): 249-64
They also found that higher work-rates are selected
spontaneously in the early evening.(3)

(Please note that there will be further information
specifically to assist the understanding of coaching
females in this area)

So it seems as far as most physiological variables are
concerned, late afternoon to early evening is prime
time for a workout. ‘In the morning, virtually all bodily
functions are at their worst, body temperature is low—
meaning your muscles, ligaments, joints and tendons
will feel stiff—lung function is poor, the nervous
system sluggish,’ As Professor Tom Reilly, a
renowned expert on Circadian Rhythms at the
Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Science at
Liverpool John Moores University points out, this
means the same level of exertion is likely to feel much
harder at this time of day than later on.

To top things off, James Waterhouse, Professor of
Biological Rhythms also at John Moores University,
Liverpool points out that ‘exercising early in the
morning will leave you more prone to injury or worse.
Research shows this is the most common time of day
for heart attacks and strokes.’

It is the influence of circadian rhythms on body
temperature that seems to yield the most control over
the quality of a workout. When body temperature is at
its highest, your workouts will likely be more
productive; when your body/core temperature is low,
chances are your exercise session may be less than

It is well known that body temperature is at its lowest
about one to three hours before most of us wake up in
the morning, in contrast to late afternoon when body
temperature reaches its peak. (Fig 1)
0000h 0200h 0600h 1000h 1400h 1800h 2200h
Time of Day



Figure 1 – Circadian variation of human core
temperature (Adapted from Reilly & Cable, 2001)

Studies have consistently shown that exercise during
these late-in-the-day hours produces better
performance and more power. Muscles are warm and
more flexible, perceived exertion is low, reaction time
is quicker, strength is at its peak, and resting heart
rate and blood pressure are low. The effects of
circadianrhythms and performance has been noted in
a number of sports, for instance swimming.

Numerous papers have identified that swimmers
performed significantly faster in the late afternoon
(5:30pm) than early in the morning (6.30am). (4, 5, 6)

As previously mentioned, the most pronounced
physiological body rhythm is that associated with body
temperature. Core temperature is at its lowest when
you first wake up in the morning (7am-9am) and then
gradually increases throughout the day until it peaks at
around 7pm hours. Thereafter the temperature
gradually decreases to absolute resting levels. How do
these changes in body temperature over 24 hours
affect sports performance? (Fig 1)

According to motor learning and performance theory,
there exists an inverse relationship between the level
of skill required in any given task and optimal arousal
levels (7). The available data suggest that for most
individuals fine motor tasks and balance skills may be
better learned and mastered in the morning (8). We
are aware that simple reaction time (either auditory or
visual) is a major component of performance.
Reaction time peaks in the early evening at the same
time as the maximum in body temperature. For every
1 deg. rise in body temperature, nerve conduction
velocity increases by 2.4 in/sec (Winget et al, 1985).

Often there is an inverse relationship between the
speed and the accuracy with which a simple repetitive
test is performed. Research shows that people learn
new motor skills more readily in the morning than in
the evening. (so accuracy may be worse in the early

In one study, subjects improved most in a newly
learned task at 9am. Short-term memory and fine
motor control (the ability to do precise or fiddly tasks)
are also superior in the morning compared to later in
the day –which may play a part in overall
performance. This shows the importance of defining
demand accuracy without speed, such as archery,
shooting, darts, snooker, putting etc.
Whereas fencers tend to perform best in the middle of
the day, perhaps because their sport depends on
mental skills, which peak about that time.

Therefore for athletes wanting to perform at their best
it is clear that morning is definitely not the time to
attempt feats of explosive strength, power or
anaerobic capacity

Circadian rhythms seem especially prone to a “post
lunch dip” (Reilly. 1990). This phenomenon describes,
atransient decline in alertness and performance
occurring early in the afternoon. Some aspects of
performance deteriorate at this time without a
corresponding decrease in body temperature and
even if no food is ingested at lunchtime. (Winget et al,

A number of studies have concluded that a short
period of sleep during the day, a power-nap, does not
have any measurable effect on normal circadian
rhythms, but can decrease stress and improve
productivity. (9, 10)

Wright et al (1969) found that the circadian variation in
stiffness (resistance to motion) of the knee joint is
similar to that of body temperature, with lowest levels
of stiffness recorded in the early evening.
Flexibility is greatest from late afternoon until midnight
and lowest from 6am-10am (11) Similarly, rectal
temperature in humans reaches a high at around 6pm
and a low at around 6am (12). (Fig 1) Thus, it is
generally more productive to perform developmental
stretching in the late afternoon or early evening.
Increased body temperature at these times creates
greater tissue pliability and permits much better range
of motion with far less discomfort, particularly when
restrictions are due to fascial tension.

Some brief notes to understand the needs for
acclimatisation of the modern athlete competing
world wide.
For the Moscow Olympic Games there was a three
hour time change, and for Edmonton Commonwealth
Games there was an eight hour time change. Events
in the Antipodes are affected by a 12 hour time
change. The existence of continental 'time zones' and
the operation of local 'summertime' can either increase
or diminish the overall effect.

The general effect of long distance flying makes itself
felt in several ways. As a result of the time change
there is an upset in the Circadian Rhythms, which
manifests itself in an upset of those body functions
which are time-linked, e.g. sleeping, waking, eating,
bowel and bladder functions. Although an aircraft
cabin is pressurised, this is not to sea level
normalities, but to about 5,000 - 6,000 feet. The result
of this is that digestion tends to be upset with a
distension of the gases in the intestine and also some
swelling effect of the feet. There is also some
dehydration due to dryness of the air in the cabin.
These adjustments add to the general upset in the
body rhythms.

The most common effect to athletes experiencing a
large time change, is the disturbance of the body's
'time clock'. It usually takes quite a while for the 'time
close' to re-adjust to the new environment. From
personal experience, a time change of more than
three hours has the most serious effect. For changes
longer than that period, there is a complete disruption
of routine, with a desire to fall asleep during the day,
and an inability to sleep at night. Athletes found
greater difficulty in sleeping soundly later than 3 a.m.
in Edmonton, until their bodies had begun to adjust.
During this period a lighter than normal training load
should be undertaken. After four to five days,
adjustment began to make itself felt. Various
authorities have recommended suitable periods of
acclimatisation to time change.

If the competition is on a single day, the athlete has
little choice but to fly in, compete, and fly out. This is
usually a satisfactory method.
Certain authorities have successfully retained the daily
routines of the country of departure for such short
stays. This has the advantage of causing least
disruption of training routines on return.

If the athlete is competing in a major games, a
minimum of one days stay for one hour’s time~
change is regarded as a basic necessity, some
authorities have recommended two day’s stay for one
hour’s time change. Whilst the latter is more suitable it
carries other problems of boredom and homesickness,
and will undoubtedly be very expensive. The former
solution of one day for one hour’s time change has
proved acceptable in the past.

1. Bernard, T., M. Giacomoni, O. Gavarry, M. Seymat
and G. Falgairette. "Time-of-day effects in maximal
anaerobic leg exercise." Eur. J. Appl. Phsiol. 77.1-2
(1998): 133-138.

3. Sports Med. 1996 Apr;21(4):292-312. Circadian
variation in sports performance. Atkinson G, Reilly T
Centre for Sport and Exercise Sciences, School of
Human Sciences, Liverpool John Moores University,

4. Rodahl, A., O’Brien, M., & Firth, P. G. (1976).
Diurnal variation in performance of competitive
swimmers. Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical
Fitness, 16, 72-76.

5. Baxter, C., & Reilly, T. (1983). Influence of time of
day on all-out swimming. British Journal of Sports
Medicine, 17, 122-127

6. Reilly, T., & Marshall, S. (1991). Circadian rhythms
in power output on a swim bench. Journal of
Swimming Research, 7.2 11-13.

7. Schmidt, R.A. and C.A. Wrisberg. Motor Learning
and Performance. Human Kinetics, 2000.

8. Gutenbrunner, C. “Circadian variations of physical
training.” Chronobiology and Chronomedicine: Basic
Research and Applications. Eds. C. Gutenbrunner, G.
Hildebrandt and R. Moog. Frankfurt: Lang-Verlag,
1993. 665-680.

9. Pilcher, J.J.; Michalowski, K.R.; Carrigan, R.D.
(2001). “The prevalence of daytime napping and
itsrelationship to nighttime sleep”. Behavioral Medicine
27 (2): 71–6.

10 Emily Rolston, Judy R. Sandlin, Michael Sandlin,
and Rosanne Keathley (2007). “Power-Napping:
Effects on Cognitive Ability and Stress Levels Among
College Students”. Liberty University.

11 Atkinson, G., A. Coldwells, T. Reilly and J.
Waterhouse. “A comparison of circadian rhythms in
work performance between physically active and
inactive subjects.” Ergonomics 36 (1993): 273-281.

12. Reilly, T. “Circadian Rhythms.” Oxford Textbook of
Sports Medicine. Eds. M. Harries, C. Williams, W.D.
Stanish and L.J. Micheli. New York: Oxford University
Press, 1994. 281-297.
Chapter 3


The study and application of research into ‘Circadian
Rhythms’ is reliable evidence to suggest that power is
optimal from late afternoon onwards (11). Nerve
conduction velocities and reaction time peak with body
temperature (12), while standing long jump and
vertical jump peak at around 6pm (13). Muscular
strength, is maximal from late afternoon onwards.
There is a strong relationship between this rhythm and
the rhythm of core temperature, although it is relevant
to note that a reduction in strength occurs during a
Post Lunch Dip. (14). Back and leg strength peaks in
the late afternoon/early evening (15)

The further implications of this information for the
exercise specialist are that in order to optimize power
and strength early in the morning, far greater time and
attention must be devoted to warm-up. It should also
be noted that performance in fine motor tasks and
balance is better in the morning when arousal levels
are lower (16). (See also Para 3, col 2, page 5)

Coldwells et al found that muscle strength,
independent of the muscle group measured or speed
of contraction, consistently peaks in the early evening.
Back strength is also higher in the evening than in the
morning. Both concentric and eccentric strength have
been measured at different times of the solar day
using isokinetic dynamometry (Atkinson et al, 1996).
The results have been consistent.

A time-of-day effect in these variables has been noted,
with peak values occurring in the early evening. Hill &
Smith (1991) measured anaerobic power and capacity
with a modified version of the Wingate test at 3am,
9am, 3pm and 9pm. Peak power in the evening was
found to be 8 per cent higher than at 3am.

To get the most out of anaerobic training, do it in the
afternoon or early evening not in the morning. A study
by Bernard et al (1998), looked at differences between
the results of three different anaerobic power tests: a
50m dash, vertical jump and max cycles sprint at three
different times of day. A group of 23 men undertook
each of the three tests on three separate days at 9am,
2pm and 6pm.

Results showed that anaerobic power and max
running speed were significantly lower in the morning
compared with the afternoon, with 5 to 7% greater
power achieved in the afternoon. In addition, this
finding suggests that the best time of day for
anaerobic training is in the afternoon or early evening.
This is consistent with other research into circadian
rhythms which shows heart rate, body temperature
and muscular strength are all higher in the afternoon
than in the morning.

In an area of associated research, the results of a
study of the immune system by Dr Lygeri Dimitriou, of
Brunel University shows that there is a morning
circadian lowering of Immunoglobulin A (IgA), a
protective chemical produced by the immune system
(17) and saliva secretory rate. There is also an
increase in the levels of the stress hormone cortisol,
which suppresses the immune system. These levels
are higher in athletes who train early rather than late in
the day, indicating
that athletes should avoid early morning training,
particularly after an injury or illness or before a big
competition. The findings suggest that a person's
internal body clock, or circadian rhythms, have an
impact on the immune system, added Dimitriou.

Other research at the Hunter Immunology Unit and the
Royal Newcastle Hospital in Australia into the
protective effects of Immunoglobulin A (IgA), found
that although the immune-system competency and
performance potential may not necessarily peak or
trough simultaneously, it is very clear that an athlete is
more susceptible to infections when immune-system
function declines, and infections can produce major
setbacks in an athlete’s overall training. This further
seems to confirm the case for not training in the
morning, particularly early morning.

The results of continued testing by the Hunter unit
showed that IgA did follow a pronounced circadian
rhythm, with low levels of IgA secretion (saliva)
observed in the morning and significantly higher rates
of secretion occurring in the late afternoon. The overall
‘flow rate’ of saliva was also greater at 6pm, compared
with 6am. In contrast, levels of cortisol – a hormone
known to compromise immuno competency – were
higher in the morning and slack in the evening.
Although cortisol tends to hamper the immune system,
it does promote the formation of glucose within the
body, and also stimulates appetite, explaining why it
tends to be elevated during the morning.

What does this mean to the coach and athlete?

Both the Hunter data and that from the Brunel-Luton
research suggest that the optimal time for training
fromthe standpoint of health (i.e., the time of day
associated with the least suppressive effect on the
immune system) would have to be the evening
(around 1800 hours). The reason for this is that
cortisol levels are low at this time, while the flow rate
of saliva is high and the secretory rate of IgA is also
elevated, both before and after workouts.

Thus, the decreases in overall salivary flow as well as
in the rate of secretion of IgA at around 6am makes
early morning appear to be a relatively risky time to
train, from the standpoint of maintaining good health.

Some athletes who have recurrent infections or who
have suffered from infections at very inopportune
times(before very important competitions, for
example), may
need to take special heed of the new evidence. Such
athletes might want to decrease their frequency of
morning workouts, especially prior to major
competitions or during the recovery from illness or
injury. A study published in the British Journal of
Sports Medicine (2002) found that early morning
exercise left swimmers’ immune systems

Endurance Sports
Performance in endurance sports is influenced by
several variables. A small number of studies have
shown that endurance training in the afternoon or
evening produces better increases in VO2 max (19)
and performance on a swim bench seems to reflect
the faster times posted in evening swim races (20).
Further references on the extensive reading of
research material into this vast subject of ‘endurance
in sports’ are indicated in the references at the end of
this article.(6, 21, 22, 23). (24, 25 26) (27 28). "Body,
Mind and Sport" by Douillard

6. Reilly, T., & Marshall, S. (1991). Circadian rhythms
in power output on a swim bench. Journal of
Swimming Research, 7.2 11-13.

11. Deschenes, M.R., W.J. Kraemer, J.A. Bush, T.A.
Doughty, D. Kim, K.M. Mullen and K. Ramsey.
“Biorhythmic influences on functional capacity of
human muscle and physiologic responses.” Med. Sci.
Sports Ex. 30.9 (1998): 1399-1407

12. Winget, C.M., C.W. Deroshia and D.C. Holley.
“Circadian rhythms and athletic performance.” Med.
Sci. Sports Ex. 17.5 (1985): 498-516.

13. Reilly, T. and A. Down. “Circadian variation in the
standing broad jump.” Perceptual and Motor Skills 62
(1986): 830

14. Reilly, T., G. Atkinson and J. Waterhouse.
Biological Rhythms and Exercise. Oxford University
Press, 1997

15. Coldwells, A., G. Atkinson and T. Reilly. “Sources
of variation in back and leg dynamometry.”
Ergonomics 37.1 (1994): 79-86.

16. European Journal of Applied Physiology, 77, pp.

17. ‘Salivary IgA Levels and Infection Risk in Elite
Swimmers’, Medicine and Science in Sports and
Exercise, Vol 31 (1), pp67-73, 1999

18. ‘The Effects of High-Intensity Intermittent Exercise
on Saliva IgA, Total Protein and a-Amylase’, Journal
of Sports Science, Vol 17, pp1-6, 1999

19. Hill, D.W., K.J. Cureton and M.A.Collins.
“Circadian specificity in exercise training.” Ergonomics
32.1 (1989): 79-92.

20. Piercy, J. and L. Lack. “Daily exercise can shift the
endogenous circadian phase.” Sleep Res. 17 (1988):
393. Abstract.
21. Hill, D.W., J.A. Leiferman, N.A. Lynch, B.S.
Dangelmaier and S.E. Burt. “Temporal specificity in
adaptations to high-intensity exercise training.” Med.
Sci. Sports Ex. 30.3 (1998): 450-455.

22. Dalton, B., L. McNaughton and B. Davoren.
“Circadian rhythms have no effect on cycling
performance.” Int. J. Sports Med. 18.7 (1997): 538-

23. Marth, P.D., R.R. Woods and D.W. Hill. “Influence
of time of day on anaerobic capacity.” Percept. Motor
Skills 86.2 (1998): 592-594.

24. Reilly, T. and R. Garrett. “Investigation of diurnal
variation in sustained exercise performance.
”Ergonomics 41.8 (1998): 1085-1094.

25. Atkinson, G. and T. Reilly. “Effects of age and time
of day on preferred work rates during prolonged
exercise.” Chronobiol. Int. 12.2 (1995): 121-134.

26. Reilly, T. and R. Garrett. “Effects of time of day on
self-paced performances of prolonged exercise.” J.
Sports Med. Phys. Fitness 35.2 (1995): 99-102.

27. Douillard, J. Body, Mind and Sport. Three Rivers
Press, 1994.

28. Van Cauter, E., J. Sturis, M.M. Byrne, J.D.
Blackman, N.H. Scherberg, R. Leproult, S. Refetoff
and O. Van Reeth. “Preliminary studies on the
immediate phase-shifting effects of light and exercise
on the human circadian clock.” J. Biol. Rhythms 8
(1993): S99-S108.

Towards an Understanding of Human Performance —
BURKE E.J. Movement Pubs. 1977.

Sports Physiology - FOX E.L. - Saunders Co. 1979.

Science and Medicine of Exercise and Sport —
BUSKIRK E.R. AND BAN D.E. - Harper and Row

Climate and Exercise - BUSKIRK E.R. AND BAN D.E.
— Harper and Row 1974.

Chapter 4

Are you a morning or an evening person?
There is general agreement in the literature that
people have distinct natural tendencies towards
‘morningness’ or ‘eveningness’. The reason that
people tend to display one or the other of these
tendencies is not clearly understood. For instance, an
individual who feels at his or her best first thing in the
morning will often exercise at that time. Since exercise
has the potential to affect human circadian rhythms (6,
28) and bright light is considered to be one of the most
potent zeitgebers (time givers) of all (14), it is
reasonable to assume that individuals who exercise
outside at sunrise are reinforcing this behavioural

Summarising the available expert data,
Reilly et al. assert that human performance in
industrial tasks is better in the morning for morning
types and vice versa (1). They also note that Post
Lunch Dip (PLD) tends to be more pronounced in
morning types.

It can be concluded that individuals who display
excellent technical skill with their exercises will
probably get more benefit from strength and power
training later in the day as body temperature nears its
peak. In further support of this Gutenbrunner showed
that strength gains were greatest when training
occurred between 6pm and 9pm (8). He also found
that training in the evening produced significantly less
post-exercise muscle soreness than training at any
other time of day.
Training at 9pm may have a phase delaying effect on
many individuals (22). For this reason it is generally
preferable to train at around 5-7pm instead. This
compromise would enable athletes to take advantage
of the circadian peak in strength and power that
occurs in the evening without phase delaying the
endogenous circadian pacemaker.

As most players/athletes under 40 display evening
tendencies and for whom heavy workouts are
planned, it will usually be more productive to exercise
late afternoon early evening. At the end of the day it
makes obvious sense to practice at the time you will
compete. With a good understanding of individual
circadian characteristics, it is possible for the strength
and conditioning specialist to produce better results in
a shorter time frame than less well-informed

According to Andrew Hamilton, BSc, MRSC a
consultant to the fitness industry and an experienced
science writer, there’s plenty of recent and ongoing
research to suggest that coaches and athletes who
ignore their daily or circadian rhythms do so at their
peril. We may live in a high-technology 24/7 world, but
the daily or circadian rhythm remains deeply ingrained
in our physiological make-up. He tells us , there’s
plenty of recent research to suggest that athletes
ignore this rhythm at their peril when conducting
aerobic and anaerobic exercises.

With thanks to Peak Performance and Andrew
Hamilton BSc MRSC I can include some examples of
the latest research into how circadian rhythms affect
performance. These are not limited to anaerobic
power/lactate studies. A 2002 UK study on the effects
of circadian rhythm on strength found that the time of
day affected maximal lifting strength in young female
subjects with an 8% increase in maximal strength at
6pm compared to 6am (29). However, this effect was
only observed in the luteal phase of the cycle; in the
follicular phase, there was no discernible effect.

10 years previous to that there was evidence from
studies that circadian rhythm affects strength. For
example, researchers from the University of Dijon on
the variation of maximum isometric elbow torque in PE
students at different times of day found that peak
torque tended to occur at 5.58pm, and was nearly 7%
higher than the averaged peak torque figure over the
whole day. Moreover, when the experiment was
repeated and spread out over a period of six days, the
peak torque figure was calculated to occur at 5.55pm
– just three minutes earlier. This led the researchers to
conclude that the circadian rhythms affecting muscular
activity are remarkably constant (30).

A more recent Iranian study, published 16 months
ago, looked at isometric and isokinetic leg strength in
eight women during the follicular phase only of the
menstrual cycle (to prevent any masking effect), under
conditions of both adequate sleep and partial sleep
loss (31). The researchers also assessed the strength
of involuntary contractions in the quadriceps produced
by electrical stimulation (this technique is used to help
screen out any effects of varying levels of motivation
at different testing times). The results showed that the
peak torque generated by the leg muscles was 4.5-
5.9% higher at 6pm compared with 6am and that the
performance rhythms were synchronised with rectal
temperature (i.e. circadian rhythm).

Furthermore, partial sleep loss did not alter the
magnitude or variations in muscle strength with
changing time of day. These results were supported
by a French study on circadian variations in strength in
men and women published at the same time and in
the same journal(32).

From a number of papers the summary of results
were as follows: The changes in power output and
core temperature were strongly associated (indicating
that this was a circadian rhythm effect). The
researchers concluded that athletes could benefit by
recording their temperature and timing their bouts of
subsequent anaerobic training to coincide with peaks
in their circadian rhythm.

Researchers suggest that athletes trying to build
strength should time workouts to coincide with their
circadian peak; that is late afternoon. Weight training
at that time produces a more favourable post-exercise
anabolic hormone profile, with higher levels of
testosterone and lower levels of cortisol (a hormone
associated with physiological stress and muscle tissue
breakdown) (33);

Circadian peaks (highest core temperatures) occurred
at 5.29pm and 4.40pm for males and females

Maximum voluntary leg strength occurred at 5.06pm in
males (increase of just over 2.5%) and 3.35pm in
females (increase of just under 3%);
In a study on male rowers, maximum peak power
tended to occur just before 5.30pm (7.6% higher than
average peak power); maximum mean power
occurred at 6pm (11.3% higher);

It is recommended, that whenever possible, schedule
important and/or strenuous workouts within an hour or
so of circadian peak; you will almost certainly gain
quality over attempting the same workout earlier in the
Remember, early morning workouts should be
performed at a gentle pace and a more thorough
warmup performed to reduce the risk of injury;

Getting up much earlier than usual (i.e. when the
circadian rhythm is in a trough) to ‘squeeze’ in
aworkout may be counterproductive; the quality of the
workout is likely to be reduced, the risk of injury is
increased and the athlete will of course be losing
sleep into the bargain! Over a period of time this will
also alter their circadian rhythm (Please also refer to
immunology re saliva levels for higher infection risks.

For competition (where the time of the event is usually
fixed), you may wish to experiment with manipulating
your circadian rhythm so that you’re nearer your peak
at the time of the event. The same applies when
competing abroad in different time zones; TRAIN AT

Circadian rhythm
The circadian rhythm is the most powerful rhythm
affecting humans: as well as the sleep/waking cycle, it
affects hormone secretions, body temperature, mental
alertness and physical performance capacity. Fig 2
below shows the typical daily variations of melatonin,
core temperature, triacylglycerol, alertness and
reaction time as a result of the circadian rhythm.

Due to these rhythmic fluctuations, many people
experience maximum mental alertness, fastest
reaction times and highest core temperature in the late
afternoon/early evening period, while the peak in
melatonin concentrations in the middle of the night
period leads to maximum fatigue/sleepiness and
lowest alertness.

A hormone produced in the pineal gland of the brain,
which is involved in the regulation of the sleep/wake
cycle. Melatonin synthesis is inhibited by light and
permitted in darkness. Melatonin has hypothermic
properties, and its nocturnal secretion generates about
40% of the amplitude of the circadian body
temperature rhythm. Melatonin has sleep inducing
properties, and exerts important activities in the
regulation of circadian rhythms. Melatonin is capable
of phase shifting human circadian rhythms, of
entraining free-running circadian rhythms, and of
antagonizing phase shifts induced by night time
exposure to light.

A compound that combines glycerol with three fatty
acids, which is used for transporting fats in the
bloodstream. Melatonin and Triacylglcerol are at their
highest at 3am - 4am. Whereas the body’s core
temperature is at it’s lowest 3.3am - 4.30am
Hormones such as testosterone (an
"anabolic"hormone) and cortisol (a "catabolic"
hormone) also vary during the day. Testosterone, for
example, peaks in the morning and drops at the end of
the day. However, while resting testosterone levels
reach a low point in the evening, the rise in
testosterone after exercise appears to be greater in
the evening than it is in the morning (34)

Resting levels of the hormone cortisol are also higher
in the morning and lower in the evening. But the
cortisol response to exercise is lower in the early
evening (7.00pm) compared with the morning
(7.00am) (35). In other words, the testosterone-cortisol
ratio (when testosterone levels are highest relative to
cortisol levels) is higher in the early evening than it is
in the morning. This, in theory at least, makes the
evening the least "catabolic" time to train (36).

29. Chronobiol Int 2002 Jul; 19(4):731-42

30. Chronobiol Int 1997 May; 14(3):287-94

31. Ergonomics 2005 Sep 15-Nov 15;48(11-14):1499

32. Ergonomics 2005 Sep; 15-Nov 15; 48(11

33. Chronobiol Int 2004 Jan; 21(1):131-46

34. American Sleep Disorders Association.
International Classification of Sleep Disorders,
revised: Diagnostic and Coding Manual. Rochester,
Minn 1997

35. Eur J Appl Physiol 2004 Jun;92(1-2):69-74

36. Med Sci Sports Exerc 2005 Dec; 37(12):2046-5

Chapter 5

Physiological Components and
psychophysiological systems
There has been a great deal of research conducted
concerning circadian rhythms in many physiological
and psycho-physiological systems (displayed in table
1) that can all affect the performance of a rugby player
(but also anyone attempting serious or sociable
training. MJM)

For example, Reilly et al. (2000) reported that,
independently of muscle group measured, muscle
strength peaks in the early evening. Trunk flexibility
was reported to peak at 1.30pm (Baxter and
Reilly,1983), but lower limb measures in knee flexion
and extension have been higher in training sessions
conducted at 6pm – 7pm (Wyse et al., 1994).

Improvements in muscle strength after training
sessions scheduled in the early evening have been
found to be 20% higher than those conducted in the
morning (Manfredini et al.,1998). Resultant data
suggests that any comparisons of strength should be
conducted at similar times of the day (± 30 mins.) Torii
et al. 1992) studied the effects of aerobic training at
different times of the day and suggested that, when
aiming to increase VO2max and decrease heart rate
and blood lactate levels, then training should occur
between 3pm and 3.30pm hours.

Rhythms in cognitive variables have relevance in
influencing strategies, decisions and recollection
ofcomplex coaching instructions (Reilly et al., 2000).
Reaction time was found to peak in the early evening
(3pm – 6pm) but information processing abilities peak
over a longer period between 2pm and 9pm.The
impact of these “windows” that enable optimal
performancecan be seen in relation to training and
scheduling in table 1

Table 1: The influence of circadian rhythms on physiological and psychological components (Adapted from
Winget et al. (1993) and Cappaert (1999))

Key references: Used by James Morris Bsc Msc
Manfredini, R., Manfredini, F., Fersini, C., and
Conconi, F. (1998). Circadian Rhythms, Athletic
Performanceand Jet Lag. British Journal of Sports
Medicine, 32,101-106.
Reilly, T., Atkinson, G., and Waterhouse, J. (2000).
Chronobiology and Physical Performance.W.E.
Garrett, J.R. and D.T. Kirkendall. (Eds.), Exercise and
Sports Science. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams
and Wilkins.

Concurrent Strength and Endurance Training (Cross
contamination or Complex Interference Effect) needs
to be understood. (See table)
Several studies have indicated that there is an
incompatibility between simultaneous high-intensity
strength and endurance training such that maximal
strength and power appear to be limited. A short
article will appear later that will look at the research
into this area.

I think an extract from an article on the body’s natural
rhythms by James Morris BSc, MSc, BASES carrying
the RFU badge, summarises this article very well.
These results are further confirmed by the following
comments from Dr Calvin Morriss Head National
Fitness Coach with British Rugby Football Union on
“We are aware that some people advocate early
morning training, UK Rugby Union do not. An early
start is 10am. The players will have been awake
breakfasted and alert for over two hours by that time.
The workout they will do will be very light. Such as
shoulder mobility and stability work, nothing stressful.
Their strength work in the gym is carried out in the late
afternoon” *

From a short news item on BBC Breakfast TV on
18.10.07. In a discussion about the England rugby
World Cup team it was mentioned that they are
altering their circadian rhythm to fit in with an 8pm
kickoff. They are going to bed later and rising later in
order to move their chances of peak performance 3hrs
later than normal. The commentators also noted that
Olympic athletes do this and that most World Records
are broken in the early evening.
World records set outside the early evening time
My thanks to Ian Tempest of NUTS for this information
Gorchakova Women’s JT 62.40 in OG qual 64
(10.20am), Gentile TJ 17.10 OG qual 68 (11.10am),
Jamaica 4x100 38.6 ht 2 OG 68 (11.05am), Tamara
Press 59.70 Women’s DT RUS Champ qual 65
(11.30am), Bondarchuk 75.48 HT small meet at
Rovno 69 (11.30am), Ter-Ovanesyan 8.35 LJ in 67
(11.00am) Fatima Whitbread JTQ (9.19am) Plus a
number of marathon records. Obviously there are
other contributors to the endurance needs, but they
will notbe discussed here.

Summary – manipulating circadian rhythm for
performance gains

Although some early studies had reported little effect
of circadian rhythm on athletic performance (37), the
weight of more recent research suggests that for high
intensity aerobic/anaerobic and in particular strength
training, circadian rhythms significantly affects
performance potential. The obvious question for
athletes and coaches therefore is how they can they
can train in harmony with this rhythm to maximise
performance, in the safest manner.

Here are some suggestions:
Initially you could measure your own circadian rhythm;
this is best done by taking your temperature every two
hours during a rest day following several days of a
normal, regular sleep pattern. Plot the figures and
observe when the peak occurs (normally late
afternoon/early evening);

Try where possible to schedule important and/or
strenuous workouts within an hour or so of circadian
peak; you will almost certainly gain quality over
attempting the same workout earlier in the day;

Early morning workouts should be performed with
caution at a gentle pace and a more thorough warm-
up being performed to reduce the risk of injury;

Getting up much earlier than usual (i.e. when your
circadian rhythm is in a trough) to ‘squeeze’ in a
workout may be counterproductive; the quality of the
workout is likely to be reduced, the risk of injury is
increased and you will of course be losing sleep into
the bargain!

Adaptation to hot conditions during a workout seems
to be more efficient during circadian peak; ensure
plenty of fluid/hydration during hot morning workouts;
Athletes trying to build strength should time workouts
to coincide with their circadian peak; research
suggests that late afternoon weight training produces
a far more favourable post-exercise anabolic hormone
profile, with higher levels of testosterone and lower
levels of cortisol (a hormone associated with
physiological stress and muscle tissue

For competition (where the time of the event is usually
fixed), you may wish to experiment with manipulating
your circadian rhythm so that you’re nearer your peak
at the time of the event. This may seem obvious but
there are many major sports that appear to be
unaware that circadian rhythms exist let alone what
the are. It has been previously mentioned in this article
that the same logic applies when competing abroad in
different time zones;
Unless you’re trying to manipulate your circadian
rhythm, try to maintain regular bedtime and waking
hours; irregular hours can disrupt circadian rhythm,
leading to a generalised drop in performance.
With thanks to Andrew Hamilton BSc, MRSC, a
consultant to the fitness industry and an experienced
science writer

37. Int J Sports Med 1997 Oct; 18(7):538-42

38. Chronobiol Int 2004 Jan; 21(1):131-46

My thanks to all who gave their time to discuss this
subject with me and my dear wife Linda for proof
reading. Mike Lauro, USA, for his continued support
and encouragement.

With Notes from America, (Apologies to Alistair

What is Circadian Rhythm and what does it have to do
with football?A paper on Circadian Rhythms by, This
paper confirms the many observations in this paper.
They confirm that it is our daily clock, which tells us
not only when we wake and when we sleep, but also
includes frequency of eating and drinking, body
temperature, blood pressure, release of certain
hormones, and even sensitivity to certain medications.

A quick summary tells us: The typical adult human
cycle is about 24 hours. Starting in the morning, our
lowest body temperature is around 4:30 a.m., and
peaks around 7 p.m. We are highly alert around 10
a.m., our best coordination is mid-afternoon around
2:30 p.m., followed by peak reaction time at 3:30 p.m.
and, here’s the important one—greatest
cardiovascular and muscle strength is around 5 p.m.

Using circadian rhythms has been a better predictor of
Monday night NFL wins than Las Vegas odds. One
study evaluated 25 NFL seasons to see if
performance on Monday night was affected by time
zone. Because game start time was typically 9 p.m.
ET during this review, the East Coast team was
playing much later than their peak cardiovascular and
strength time of 5 p.m., while the West Coast teams
had the clock advantage. Even when the West Coast
teams traveled to the East’s field, the home team still
lost to the circadian clock advantage.

1. Smolensky M, and Lamberg L., ‘The Body Clock
Guide to Better Health: How to Use your Body’s
Natural Clock to Fight Illness and Achieve Maximum
Health’ 1
edition. New York: Henry Holt and Co; June
14, 2000.

2. Smith Roger S., Guilleminault Christian, Efron
Bradley. Sport, Sleep, and Circadian Rhythms
Circadian Rhythms and Enhanced Athletic
Performance in the National Football League. Feb.
1997. Date accessed 7 Oct. 2012