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Want to improve your time trial personal best? Ride in the evening, says academic study

Researchers in Brazil find times for 1km improved by 6.5 seconds in evening compared to morning

If you want to beat your personal best when riding a time trial, you’re much better off riding in the evening than the morning according to a new study from Brazil, which found a 6.5 second average improvement in times over 1 kilometre when ridden later in the day.

Nine male cyclists, all of whom ride at least three times a week and also take part in an average of 14 competitive events a year, were chosen to participate in the study, with the findings published on the website PLOS One.

Each undertook two timed rides equivalent to 1,000 metres on a static bike, one at 8am, the other at 6pm.

To negate the effect of nutritional factors, they were required to maintain a similar diet for the 48 hours prior to each test and to fast for several hours immediately before riding. They were also required to abstain from caffeine and alcohol for 24 hours beforehand.

Researchers found that the amateur, recreational cyclists’ times in the 1 kilometre time trial were an average of 6.5 seconds quicker in the evening than those in the morning, which equated to an average improvement of 6.9 per cent, and said the findings suggested “that time of day can affect performance during a short-distance TT.”

It’s not certain what lies behind the differences in times, although it is believed that metabolic and hormonal factors may help explain them.

The research team concluded that “performance was impaired in the morning compared with the evening, but it was not associated with a clear alteration in pacing, an aerobic and anaerobic energy supply distribution.

“Morning exercise was performed in a less favourable metabolic milieu (i.e. elevated insulin and cortisol, and reduced plasma glucose levels), combined with an exacerbated norepinephrine and plasma glucose response to the exercise,” they added.

Simon joined road.cc as news editor in 2009 and is now the site’s community editor, acting as a link between the team producing the content and our readers. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, he has reported on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, the latest developments in the bike industry and the sport’s biggest races. Now back in London full-time after 15 years living in Oxford and Cambridge, he loves cycling along the Thames but misses having his former riding buddy, Elodie the miniature schnauzer, in the basket in front of him.

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7 comments

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ronin | 9 years ago
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Going out in the morning, usually less cars = more chance of getting home  4

Some days there are less cars in the evening too, but a nice warm summer morning ride with less cars and people around is better than a ride in the evening for me personally.

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stealth | 9 years ago
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Ha! My best opportunity for training comes early in the morning, most Open TimeTrial events take place early in the morning too! My clubs evening series (obviously) takes place in the evenings (through the summer), but after a 12hour shift at work and s usually anything but fast...
That is my reality.
I do it because I enjoy the feeling when everything goes well. That is worth more than 6.5secs.

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aslongasicycle | 9 years ago
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When I was doing sports science at Liverpool John Moores I was a test subject for almost exactly this.
I'd have to ride an hour TT at either 7am or 7pm a number of times over a series of weeks.
It was a study of circadian rhythms and it found that I was very much better in the evenings that mornings, though I've always been a night owl.
Really the study said that each of us are either morning or evening people, and we should try and race to match our own rhythms, or try and train our bodies to change our circadian rhythms.
I was mainly a TT rider, which were usually early mornings, or road races which were mid mornings, so it was advised to alter them. Not easy at Uni.
I ended up running a night club after uni. I went to bed at 5am and loved it...
Now I have a small boy and get up around 6 each morning. I still find exercise easier at night...

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thegibdog | 9 years ago
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Interesting that there was a significant increase in speed but not in power.

"The time to complete the TT was shorter in the evening than in the morning. The mean values for power, aerobic power, anaerobic power, integrated electromyography, oxygen uptake and heart rate were not different between evening and morning"

I think this becomes a bit clearer when you read the linked paper [20], which states "The Fortius cycle trainer is a valid and reliable device for the measurement of power output in cyclists" but doesn't mention speed...

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Dnnnnnn | 9 years ago
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I've seen similar findings for running and sex!

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JohnnyRemo replied to Dnnnnnn | 9 years ago
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Duncann wrote:

I've seen similar findings for running and sex!

 13  13  13 I struggle to do it standing up, never mind while jogging...

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Welsh boy replied to Dnnnnnn | 9 years ago
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Duncann wrote:

I've seen similar findings for running and sex!

I remember that when i had a sex life it seemed to be quite a quick event in the evenings.

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