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These days, most of us struggle to find the time for just one workout throughout the day, let alone getting it done twice. What’s that saying, "Double or nothing?" If you manage to squeeze in your 6 a.m. boxing session, why would you go back for round two, and what benefit will it have on your body?
There are benefits and drawbacks to working out twice a day. If you do it right, you can squeeze in more activity this way and perhaps level up your training if you have a specific goal in mind. However, there are additional considerations when you're putting your body through the wringer with so much activity.
Keep scrolling to learn the pros and cons of working out twice a day, according to experts.
Meet the Expert
Is Working Out Twice a Day Safe?
While exercise, in general, provides the body with a stack of beautiful benefits, overdoing it can have the opposite effect. "Working out twice a day can be safe as long as you plan a well-thought-out program ahead of time to ensure you are giving your body ample time for recovery," says Frayna.
Exercise is a form of stress on the body, and loading up too much can result in a lowered immune system, injury, inflammation, disturbed sleep patterns, loss of motivation, and more. None of that sounds like something you'd want, so if you decide to embrace the double sweat sessions, you’ll need to ensure you’re smart about your approach.
"The frequency of your workouts depends on the intensity. If you are doing two high-intensity workouts per day that are hard on your joints and use a lot of energy, you may be overworking your body. But if you balance it out with high- and low-intensity workouts and focus on different parts of your body, you can safely do two workouts per day," explains James.
What Are the Benefits?
If you can work out twice per day safely, then you can experience benefits such as fat loss and an increase in positive mood and mindset: "Exercise is known to increase endorphins [happy receptors], which boost mood. After a workout, your body is also burning fat and stays in that state for the rest of the day, so you will burn more fat during your second workout than you may normally normally," explains James.
There are many benefits to two-a-day workouts, but the most obvious is that you will achieve quicker results, like increasing your lean muscle mass percentage faster: "EPOC [excess post-exercise oxygen consumption] is the energy our bodies use when recovering after a workout, and it's mainly known for helping us burn more calories even after a workout. If you work out twice a day, EPOC can help you lose fat and gain muscle quicker than with just one workout," Frayna explains.
Splitting your workouts into two is ideal if you can only grab a few spare minutes at a time. "If you’re short on time, two-a-days can be helpful by breaking up your workout and still allowing for a good sweat," says James.
What Are the Drawbacks?
The biggest drawback of doing two-a-days is the potential for injury, so it's vital to listen to your body and switch up your workouts, including which muscle groups you target. "If you work out twice a day, you double your chance of risk and burnout if you do not have a well-thought-out workout plan," says Frayna. She adds: "As long as you are mindful of your form, proper training, and proper recovery, you should still be able to benefit from working out twice a day. If you don't properly recover between workouts, your body will never have the chance to recover itself fully, and you will end up doing more damage."
It's vital to consider your workout split; James advises: "If you overwork your knees or are heavily focused on your back and lifting weights, you are more likely to get injured than someone who is working out once per day and rotating their muscle groups." A risk of twice-daily workouts is not having enough time for your body to recover, which also changes your workouts and muscle groups. "If you focus on the same muscle groups too often, they won’t have time to recover, and it will negatively impact your results," warns James.
How to Safely Try Two-a-Day Workouts
While twice-daily workouts are doable, there are more things to consider if you want to take them on. "Two-a-day workouts involve more than just having the energy to exercise. You have to pay attention to your sleep schedule, nutrition, and proper hydration to support your body's needs," says Frayna.
Fuel Yourself Properly
"What you eat impacts your body, energy, and recovery process, so having a nutritious and healthy food lifestyle is key to doubling up on your workouts," says James.
Supporting your body with adequate nutrition during multiple training sessions is crucial if you want to avoid burnout and promote muscle growth and repair. Depending on your exercise intensity, ensure you’re eating enough calories to fuel your body through each session and beyond. Aim to eat a balance of all macronutrients at each meal, including complex carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, bananas, and brown rice, essential fats such as avocado and nuts, and good-quality protein like grass-fed beef (vegans can include ingredients like beans and legumes as their protein source), and make sure you’re eating plenty of vegetables and fruit! Try to fill your plate with veggies first, and always choose a variety of colors, too.
Focus on Recovery
Resting enough between workouts will be the only way your body can keep up with the regime. Recovery time varies from person to person and your specific experience level, but as a general rule of thumb, it's a good idea to space your workouts at least six hours apart. Workouts too close together could result in injury. For high-intensity workouts, plan to leave even more time in between. Seven to eight hours is a suitable amount of time to stagger your workouts, and remember that adequate sleep is crucial—it's when your body goes into recovery mode. James recommends getting at least eight hours of sleep each night since you'll be working so hard.
Don't forget to take full rest days, advises Frayna: "Do not do any strenuous activities on this day—not even a low-intensity workout. Your body needs ample time to recover!"
And don't forget the warm-up and cooldown: "Stretch before and after each workout and add in recovery tools such as a foam roller or rolling stick," says James.
Structure Your Workouts Properly
Splitting your sessions by the training type, intensity levels, or specific muscle groups will help produce the fitness goals you’re after. Keep in mind that everyone is different, so you need to do what works for you and your goals. If you’re splitting by the training type, you may choose to work on your strength in the morning and cardio in the evening. Place the session you want to give more attention to at the start of the day when your body is fresh. For example, you might be training for a marathon, so your long-distance run may come first. For intensity-level splits, place workouts that require more energy output at the start of the day and those that require less toward the end to maximize efforts.
You might also like to break up your workouts by training different body parts—for example, in the morning, you could train the lower body and abdominals, and in the afternoon, focus on the upper body. James offers these options:
- Have one session be strength training and another be cardio.
- Focus on your upper body for one session and lower body for the next session.
- Do your more vigorous HIIT workout in the morning and yoga in the afternoon.
- Listen to your body. If you’re too exhausted, skip a workout or go for something lighter like a walk or yoga.
What to Avoid
Avoid jumping into twice-daily workouts too quickly. If you’re new to the twice-a-day thing, you’ll want to ensure you’re taking baby steps and gradually working your way up. Don’t be shy about lowering the overall intensity of your workouts to prevent burnout in the beginning. When you feel more confident, increase the workload.
"You also want to make sure you aren’t doing long, extended workouts for both sessions. Two-a-days provide the opportunity to do more efficient, shorter workouts than just one session. Lastly, you should not do two-a-days every day, and you should take at least one day per week off from working out in general. Take some time for your body to relax and recover. You can walk on your off day, but try not to do more than that," advises James.
Working out twice a day can be a convenient way of squeezing enough activity into a busy lifestyle. If you have training goals that require a lot of activity, sometimes splitting up your workouts is ideal. Just remember that more isn't always better and that you can get in the way of your progress if you don't take time for recovery. If you experience any pain or injury, seek advice from your medical professional, and, as always, listen to your body. If you can only fit in a walk tomorrow, don’t fret. It’s better than nothing.
Cleveland Clinic. 7 signs that exercise is actually hurting your health. Updated October 22, 2018.
Cleveland Clinic. Strenuous workouts: try these 6 best recovery tips. Updated April 10, 2018.