Performance vs Time of Day

Hey everyone.

I’ve noticed that when I do a ride in the early morning, it takes at least an hour for me to be able to get to my regular levels of performance. I never seem to have this problem in the afternoon/evening.

My theory is that my breakfast has not had sufficient time to turn into fuel for the early morning ride.

Is there such a thing as a morning person cyclist vs an afternoon person cyclist?

I really want there to be to explain away my terrible FTP test this morning,

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Only thing I can contribute is that I don’t perform well in hard workouts (let alone FTP test) in the morning either.


Unless I’m going outdoors for a ride, I will always try avoid doing my turbo session first thing in the morning. Even if I do it after breakfast and giving that time to hit the system, I know I will still struggle.

Early evening seems to be my preferred time. Don’t know whether that’s just my general mindset, or whether physiologically there is some improvement during the day, beyond that first carb hit of breakfast.

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Purely anecdotal, but I once did a full analysis of my all time best performances, power records etc based on the time of day. GoldenCheetah has that functionality, it’s a bit clunky but powerful piece of software. Turns out I am performing the best if a workout is around 2PM. Which kind of makes sense, I’m an early riser but takes me a while to get into a full workout mode.

I wish someone did a big meta study on how time of day translates into individual athlete performance - TR definitely have enough data points to make this happen! @Nate_Pearson :wink:


Thanks for the replies. Based in anecdotal evidence, it would appear that I don’t need to put too much stock into this morning’s test.

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There can be multiple factors influencing your underperformance so just wait a couple of days and re-do it in the afternoon, good luck! We’ve all been there!


+1 here

RPE is at least 2 points (out of 10) higher in the morning, compared to afternoon/early evening workouts.
This means that Z2 rides feel like tempo, Sweet spot workouts feel like threshhold, etc…

Same for HR. What is normally Z2 HR in the afternoons is Z3 HR for the same power numbers in the mornings. The average numbers for the same power is up to 10BPM higher!!
And that’s not a once off! it happens all the time…
The difference in HR is so significant that my Garmin tells me I need to rest (even though I feel fresh)

And these are not fasted rides. They always start after a generous carb-heavy breakfast.
I also start my day with plenty of hydration, so it cannot be due to dehydration…

I’m thinking it’s just physiological… the vast majority of my workouts are in the afternoons/early evenings so perhaps the body is not used to morning rides??

Good to know I’m not alone…


Thanks for the replies.

Just to add some more context, my 2022 FTP high point was 334 in September. I was ill over Christmas and took 8 days completely off. I tested on the 1st of Jan at 307 and have diligently stuck to my plan for 5 weeks.

I expected to, at worst, match my post illness ftp. Instead, it fell to 288.

AI ftp set me at 314, which feels about right. I put my performance down today to a bad test, but I can’t put my finger on the cause. I’m was well rested, well fuelled and prepared.

My best guess is that it was just due to the early morning.

Might also depend on whether you’re a natural morning or evening person. Saw a study once where training against your circadian rythm led to decreased performance and increased injury risk.

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Been doing early morning workouts now for about three weeks. The first couple of ones made me consider I was having a heart attack, but I’m getting used to it now. Still, my weekly VO2 max workout I do in the evening.

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I’ve historically done most of my riding and training in the early morning, and the thing that’s made the single biggest difference for the hard workouts is I don’t eat any solids before getting on the bike. I start drinking carb mix while loading up TR/Zwift and I’m usually feeling pretty good by the time the warmup is done.

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I wouldn’t be alarmed… The AI detection is probably closer to your potential as opposed to sub-optimal morning testing. I hop on the trainer every morning at 4:30am. It’s not fun but it’s when I can get in the time before work in the winter months. If you do it consistently you will acclimate to some extent, and the most difficult thing is usually just the getting out of bed and pushing through the first couple minutes of warm-up when your body is talking back like a teenager. I can get through really hard V02 workouts, etc. but - as others have stated - RPE is significantly higher, HR is higher (but typically settles after a few efforts), and I would estimate I’m missing out on a few watts. But I know these things and feel comfortable with the fact that if I can get through it in the early a.m., then all the numbers are totally surpass-able in the afternoon/evening. That said, the only thing I definitely carve out time for later in the day, is testing.
And just a side note as far as fueling goes, I generally don’t do much. I’ll eat a few extra carbs the night before if I have a tough session the next morning but if it’s just 90-120 min Z2-3, I generally don’t eat. Maybe some small snack or liquid cals after awhile of pedaling. If it’s a V02 or threshold session, my body does OK with a couple rice cakes topped with a little honey (1 tbsp), a very little smear of peanut butter (1 tsp), and banana slices (1/3 fruit), right before I kit up, and then some sugars during.

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As someone who is commuting almost every workday with both a HR strap and a powermeter I can confirm that there is clear difference in both power, HR and RPE between riding in the morning and in the afternoon.


I find it easier to go hard in the afternoon. My way of dealing with morning group rides that leave at 8am is to wake up at 5:30am and eat breakfast. Some fruit and orange juice to replenish glycogen stores in the liver, and granola. That definitely helped me with morning group rides.


I’ve started doing workouts almost exclusively in the morning starting around November. I eased my way into it by doing a couple of weeks of just Z2 work, then a bit of sweet spot. In the beginning there was no way I wanted to do any hard workouts. Now after a few months, I can perform at 5am just as I would in the afternoon. In my opinion you just have to do it for a while, get a routine and you’ll be able to get through the workouts just fine.


I hate morning rides. The only thing I’ll do in the morning is our local club runs and I swear it takes NINETY MINUTES to warm up.

I’ve tried everything from getting up super early and eating loads to doing them fasted to carb loading before bed and none of it makes any difference.

I’m definitely an owl not a lark :grinning:

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It used to be called biorhythm in the 1980s, circadian a more modern term. There’s all sorts of biological clocks in the body’s cell machinery , together with a master clock that can reset them. These clocks control when hormones are released etc.

Thus there can be optimal periods in the day for your training. But these can be upset, for instance too much blue light at night by looking at led screen can confuse the body clocks, and prevent someone getting a decent nights sleep. The clocks can be reset by enough time in natural light. Hence the health articles about getting time outside each day (and not behind a windscreen).

I prefer workouts in the morning. But some days I start them and it’s just not happening. If that’s the case, I’ll try them later that day. If it’s still not working and I don’t have anything scheduled next day, I might try it 24 hrs after originally scheduled. If I have another workout scheduled next day, I’ll just write off the one that wasn’t happening today.

Some are slow to get going in the morning, some have a slump in the afternoon. My thinking capacity tends to slump in the afternoon. Thus I try and schedule work meeting for then, as they don’t require much brain power. Then I can have a productive morning actually getting stuff done, whilst the brain is firing on all cylinders.


Perhaps a bit late, but here are a number of related posts:


I train 95% of the time within 15 minutes of waking up in the morning. The days that I am able to do it later in the day I always enjoy as my RPE is lower for sure.

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Recently I was listening to a podcast, might have even been TR, where they mentioned a study showed people’s peak performance tends not to be first thing in the morning. Pretty sure it was in response to a question about what’s the best time of day to workout. But, obviously if that’s the only time you have in your day, well that’s when you are going to workout regardless. If I can remember the pod, I’ll share the link.