We know – for some, this seems like a crazy idea. Finding the time to work out once a day can sometimes be hard enough with a full schedule of work and children.
Unfortunately this article isn’t for those struggle to find time to work out once a day (or four times a week minimum). Instead it is geared more towards those who work a normal 9-5 schedule (or are in school still, and have more free time) and can fit in a lifting session or cardio workout most days of the week (and have a solid workout routine for a certain goal). This time round, we will also be focussing on two-a-day workouts for those who are cutting (stay tuned for the bulking version!)
While it is not necessary to have a set workout routine before wanting to work out twice a day, however when you work out on a regular basis you will already have a solid routine with a good amount of frequency and volume each week.
If the morning is your best time to work out you are probably getting up at 4 am, eating breakfast at 4.30am, getting to the gym for 5 am and leaving around 7 am. That’s an early start and a long workout. It’s just as bad in the afternoon after work or school when you get off at 5 pm, get to the gym for 5.30pm and work out until 7.30pm, when you can finally go home and eat dinner at 8 pm.
There has to be a better way? Well, there just might be for some of us.
Try splitting up your workouts
You probably saw this coming after the title. It might seem like a simple solution but this actually requires a bit of finesse to do correctly. While there are a ton of athletes that utilize “two-a-days”, we will focus on the everyday person that simply wants to build muscle or lose fat with weight lifting and cardio.
When deciding how you want to work out twice a day it is pertinent to figure out your goals whether they focus around fat loss or muscle/strength building (better known as cutting and bulking).
We will start with cutting since we are deep into the beach season and this will more than likely apply to most of us. When you’re doing an intense lifting session complete with compound movements using heavy weights and isolation workouts with supersets and drop sets, the last thing you want to do is 30 more minutes of incline treadmill walking. As you might’ve guessed what I’m going to suggest, you can actually split these two workouts up throughout the day.
The first way to do this is weights in the morning and cardio in the afternoon, as most prefer to lift on an empty stomach with some caffeine and do a HIIT (high-intensity interval training) work out in the afternoon after you eat some good carbs. If this seems good to you, all the power to you because of course we are all different and will enjoy certain routines over others.
But, the other option for splitting up your workouts for fat loss does have some benefits that should entice you at least a little bit. While some are extremely against fasted cardio in the morning, I highly recommend it for fat loss, and here is why.
After a good night’s sleep your glycogen (stored carbohydrates use for energy) should be at its lowest reserves, especially when you are in a daily calorie deficit. This is important because once your body runs out of glycogen it resorts to burning stored body fat and muscle mass for fuel.
You might be thinking, I don’t want to burn my muscle when I do fasted cardio! I bulked for six months to finally grow an inch on my calves! Not to fear, there is a very simple solution to this problem, and it is amino acids.
Specifically leucine, the main amino acid found in protein to stimulate muscle protein synthesis, and also prevent muscle break down (also known as catabolism). This is why you will drink/take a pill of a few grams of leucine 30 minutes before your cardio session to prioritize fat loss and limit muscle loss. BCAA’s work too but pure leucine is usually cheaper and more likely calorie free!
If you’re feeling particularly savvy and want to get this process down to a science, I recommend this supplement (and calorie-free) stack for crazy fast fat loss and surprisingly little muscle loss:
- 2-3 grams HMB (a metabolite of leucine that is actually 10-20 times more potent for preventing muscle catabolism).
- 200-400 mg caffeine (for energy, since being carb deprived and having to get to the gym first thing in the morning is not easy).
- 300-500 mg green tea extract (since one of the ingredients, EGCG, is able to increase our metabolism slightly along with being the most potent antioxidant in green tea).
As for the lifting, in the afternoon our natural testosterone to cortisol ratio is at its best (lowest cortisol and highest testosterone), which will result in a more alert, energetic, and stronger workout.
Also, lifting after work will give you plenty of opportunities to time your food correctly so you feel carbed up and ready instead of sluggish in the gym like you might if you try to eat before a workout first thing in the morning.
The one caveat is to be careful doing HIIT workouts and leg day in the same day. After a hard sprinting or stair climbing session, your legs will need a good 24 hours at least to recover. If you do a hard leg session one morning and try to do a heavy lifting routine in the evening, you could put yourself at risk of possible injuries and will likely result in a significant loss of strength.
This is why I recommend LISS (low-intensity steady speed) cardio in the morning before leg day, and HIIT any other day you want if you have an upper body lifting session that night.
Take Home Message
Even though we only went over one situation when two-a-days will benefit you (a lifter who is focusing on fat loss), others do exist such as a lifter who is bulking and wants to split up two different lifting session in one day. That will have to be a separate article though (make sure to look out for it come autumn).
To recap all we have learned, those who spend hours and hours in the gym with no energy towards the end and burning out, splitting up cardio and lifting into two separate sessions in one day might be the solution. While you can do it whichever way works best for you, it has to be said that cardio in the morning and lifting in the afternoon has unique benefits.
Fasted cardio in the morning with a smart supplement stack could be your answer for sustainable fat loss without the muscle catabolism. Not to mention the higher energy levels and power output when training in the afternoon/evening due to higher testosterone and more time to properly carb up.
If all this sounds good to you, don’t be afraid to try it one day a week and if your schedule permits/you actually enjoy it, there’s no reason to not split up all your workout days like this!