The Rhythm of Peak Athletic Performance

The world’s best athletes don’t simply train hard – they also train smart. In fact, Olympic athletes often rely on the science of circadian rhythms and body cycles in order to maximize their athletic ability. One of the best ways to maximize athletic performance is by both regulating and following your body clock.

Is The Early Bird Faster Than the Night Owl?

While we tend to associate athletes with gruelling early morning workouts, there may be a reason why they tend to be early to rise and early to rest. Research published in Current Biology found that those who sleep late and wake up late were up to 26 per cent slower when they sprinted in the morning, as opposed to in the evening. For top athletes, this makes the importance of a regulated body clock and good sleep hygiene absolutely critical for peak performance, and ultimately, victory.

At the same time however, individual differences in our circadian rhythms likely changes when we are best able to perform athletically. In the same study, the authors note that early risers were best athletically around noon, and late risers did best in the evening. For the majority of the study cohort, who represented the more typical sleep cycle – performance was best in the afternoon.

 While circadian rhythms may be affecting athletic performance overall, its effect is mediated through physiological changes. In particular, athletes should look towards the ability of their lungs to take in oxygen and the ability of their hearts to distribute that oxygen to the body. 

With respect to circadian rhythms, research shows that our lungs are best able to take in air at 4 pm. In particular, our airway conductance and bronchial reactivity peak at this time, making it easiest to take in air around this time. While we may not feel able to breathe better in the afternoon, our bodies are certainly able to – making this time the best time for athletic performance. More scientifically, the authors of the study note that the effect of the calming parasympathetic nervous system causes the airways to relax at this time, leading to the increased ability to take in air in the lungs.

The Rthm app is able to help you find the best time of day to include athletic performance, by taking into account your body clock and circadian rhythm, to maximize your aerobic intake. Simply tracking your body clock and timing your athletic performances may be the difference between a crushing defeat and a glorious athletic victory.