Tom Venuto thoughts on workout timing



I Just purchased Burn The Fat, Feed the Muscle (BFFM) and I have to tell you that I feel it's the most informative book I've ever picked up on nutrition. I just have two quick questions about working out that I didn't find the answers to in your book.

I'm an early riser and I work out at 4:30 am. I prefer to get everything done and out of the way in the morning. My workout usually consists of 45 minutes of weight training and then 30 minutes of cardio work. What if anything should I eat before I get to the weight room to help maximize my fat burning?

Also, I've heard different things about when is the best time of day to train. What are your thoughts on workout timing? I do my weights and cardio together but have been getting confused because some experts say you should split it up. Do you recommend that cardio and weights be done separately or together and which should come first?

For example:

(1) wake up, eat, cardio, lift, or (2) wake up, cardio, eat, lift later in day?

Brad E.


There's probably some truth to the idea that each individual has a certain natural biorhythm which dictates their personal best time to train (morning people vs. night people, etc). I've also seen some research literature which cited hormonal ebbs and tides as evidence for one "perfect time of day" for everyone to lift weights, but since there is so much variation from person to person, I'm cautious about making generalizations.

For example, I experimented one season with very early morning training. I gave it a fair trial for three months straight without missing. I got up at 5:00 am to eat meal one, then hit the weights at 5:30 am.

But I found that my workouts suffered greatly from this schedule. I was not mentally or physically primed to train at that early hour. I prefer to train late in the morning after I've been awake several hours and I have a couple of meals in me.

If you've discovered a certain time that "feels" good to you and suits your lifestyle, go with it. I don't believe there is a single best time of day to train.

I've seen many people get results while training at just about any time of the day or night. I even know a few people who train at midnight or in the wee hours of the morning at a 24 hour health club or home gym.

As for eating prior to workouts, if you are only doing cardio early in the morning, then it's okay to do the cardio without eating anything beforehand. Although controversial, many fitness experts believe that it's even more more effective for fat loss to do cardio in a fasted state.

However,the same is not true for strength training. Most people will compromise their workout performance too much by weight training on empty. Instead, I suggest you eat before weight training in the morning and especially if you are doing weights and cardio together in one long workout.

If you are the type of person who has trouble training too soon after a full meal because the food sits "heavily" in your stomach, or makes you feel nauseous, then at least have a light meal or a meal replacement drink that's not too filling. Then be sure to take one of your largest meals of the day immediately after training.

Judging by the number of times I've heard questions about workout timing, a lot of people are concerned about doing it "wrong." Well, the only way you can really get it "wrong" is by doing nothing, but you can definitely fine tune your workout timing approach based on your objectives.

If training in the early morning works well for you, then I'd suggest you continue. If you're not getting the results you want, you might consider experimenting with a different training time

The ideal training time will depend on:

(1) your goals/primary objective (fat loss versus gaining mass)

(2) practical considerations like job, family and time available

(3) whether you're doing cardio only or cardio + weights the same day.

When considering workout timing issues, a good rule of thumb to follow is:

"Never compromise your primary objective."

When fat loss is the primary objective, and it's just a cardio day, then doing your cardio first thing in the morning on an empty stomach has many benefits for increasing fat loss, not to mention it's a great way to start the day, physically as well as psychologically. Eat your first meal immediately afterwards.

If you're on a fat loss program and you're doing weights and cardio the same day, you have options:

One, do your cardio early in the A.M. on an empty stomach, then eat meal one immediately afterwards. Hit your weights in a separate session later in the day - late morning, afternoon or evening.

Two, since working out twice a day isn't practical for everyone, a second option is to eat your first meal, give it just enough time to start digesting, then hit the weights first and your cardio second, followed immediately by your second meal.

On a muscle growth program, things are different. I don't recommend morning cardio in a fasted state on muscle mass building programs.

In fact, I recommend keeping the cardio to a minimum on muscle gaining programs: 3 days per week for 20-30 minutes is usually plenty. Ectomorphs (skinny, small jointed, slow-gaining body types) might do even less cardio and extreme ectomorphs may do none at all.

On the muscle mass program, split up your cardio and weights if that's practical and space them out a good eight hours or so (lift in morning, cardio at night, or vice versa). Eat plentifully after each workout session.

If two separate sessions - one cardio and one weights - doesn't fit your schedule, no worries, just do your cardio workout immediately after your weight training in the same session

If you're doing cardio & weights in the same session, and your prime objective is bodybuilding, then always hit the weights first and cardio last because you will have the most strength and energy for whatever you do when you are fresh at the beginning of the workout. Put the most energy into your primary objective.

One final suggestion is to get yourself on a regular schedule rather than to train at random times that vary from day to day.

People who have a designated workout time every day, regardless of whether it's 4:30 in the morning, 12:00 noon or 10:00 pm in the evening, tend to be the most consistent in the long run and many become fiercely religious about their "sacred workout hour."

The big advantage of getting onto this kind of regular schedule is that it will begin to become a habit. Eventually, your "training time" can become as deeply ingrained into your daily habit patterns as taking a shower every morning and brushing your teeth before bed every night.

That's the point where your workouts no longer require willpower and they become more difficult NOT to do than to do... and that is a great place to arrive at.

Train hard and expect success,


posted by Diet & Body @ 3:22 AM


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