Time to Train
Q: Whatís the best time of day to train? I work flexible hours, so I can train whenever I want. I want to get the best results for my training efforts.
A: Studies have shown that maximal strength levels reach their peak values at three and 11 hours after awakening. In other words, if you wake up at 7 a.m., you should train at 10 a.m. Circardian hormonal fluctuations and neural facilitation explain where the strength-enhanced hours fall.
Another reason you want to wait a few hours before weight training is synovial fluid temperature. Synovial fluid is basically joint lubricant. Apparently, it takes three hours for the joints to reach an optimal level of warmth and viscosity.
If you canít train at those hours, donít be overly concerned with the statistics. Many professional bodybuilders have trained at very odd hours and yet displayed very impressive physiques. Bill Pearl trains at 3 a.m. So did Boyer Coe in the late í70s and early í80s.
In a normal person, cortisol levels are high in the morning and diminish progressively during the day. They reach their lowest point around midnight. The problem with training too late is that working out raises cortisol, and elevated levels of cortisol interfere with sleep. At that point during the evening your cortisol should be low so you can sleep better. If youíre going to train late, I suggest you do what I call a yin stack, which will help your nervous system calm down in the evening. Strength training is a very yang activity; the following stack will build your yin reserve. If yang is fire, yin is oil. The more oil youíve got, the more yang you can put out. So here it is:
Magnesium glycinate, 450 milligrams. Given that strength athletes who are experiencing elevated catecholamines are often insulin resistant and that insulin resistance retards cellular uptake of magnesium, itís crucial to use highly absorbable chelated forms of magnesium, such as glycinate. Magnesium has been demonstrated to suppress the heartís release of catecholamines, which is an indirect index of sympathetic efferent neuronal activity. Magnesium calms the nervous system and makes us less irritable under stress.
Taurine, 3,000 milligrams. Along with GABA, taurine is a major inhibitory neurotransmitter, specifically acting as a modulator of GABAnergic function. Increasing your taurine intake increases glutamic acid decarboxylase, the enzyme responsible for GABA synthesis. Taurine also has the ability to improve insulin sensitivity, thus promoting faster rebuilding of your glycogen stores and improved insulin sensitivity.
Phosphatidylcholine, 1.5 grams. This completes the stack. It helps the nervous system calm down by diminishing sympathetic nervous activity. I learned about how useful phosphatidylcholine is for promoting weight gain from Robert Crayhon. Eliminating neurotoxins requires that the cell membrane be nourished with balanced essential fatty acids (4-to-1, plus HUFAs) and supportive phospholipids. Phosphatidylcholine is the most abundant phospholipid of the cell membrane and is a hepato-protectant. Since the liver has 33,000 square me≠ters of membrane area, itís crucial to protect it from toxicity and infection. Furthermore, phosphatidylcholine detoxifies xeno-estrogensówhich would help your legs get leaner, as receptors for estrogens are mainly in the lower body.
Take the stack twice in the evening, at dinner and with your bedtime snack. Your sleep will improve as sympathetic nervous system activity calms down. [Note: To get the yin stack, contact Judith@CharlesPoliquin.com.]
Q: Iím presently in chiropractic school. I have been enjoying your articles because you combine science and experience in designing your programs. Using your principles I have put on 22 pounds in the past five months. In the summer I trained three days out of five. Now, during school, I can do only two one-hour workouts per week.†I want to at least maintain my mass (I am 5í11íí, 210 pounds with 12 percent fat). From reading your column, I think I have a pretty good idea of how to vary the tempos, sets and reps, but I have a bit of hesitation regarding exercise choices. Can you help me?