Double Dipping: Is Working Out Twice a Day Right for You?

The answer isn’t quite so cut and dry, but here are the pros and cons to working out twice a day.
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Did you click on this article because you’re wondering about the etiquette for double dipping a celery stalk into hummus? That’s easy: Never double dip in mixed company. But if you clicked in hopes of learning about the pros and cons of working out twice a day, then the answer isn’t quite so cut and dry.

The Pros

“One of the main benefits to twice-a-day workouts would theoretically be reaching your goal faster — as long as you’re making sure to recover adequately between workouts and from day to day,” says Tyler Spraul, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and the head trainer at Exercise.com.

Also, depending on your goals and level of experience, Spraul says working out twice a day could mean less time per session. For those who only have 20 to 30 minutes to spare here and there, this approach allows them to break things up instead of trying to fit a single longer training program into a busy day.

The Cons

“The biggest pitfall to double dipping is that you’re increasing the stress and demand that you’re putting your body through each day,” Spraul says. “This is going to make it very challenging to recover not only from day to day but also between workouts.”

Because your body can only handle so much stress, it’s important to monitor your progress and be very intentional about your recovery habits if you’re going to make two-a-days work. Essentially, if you’re not recovering properly, you’re just going to wear yourself out faster.

Who Can Benefit the Most

If you’re training for a specific goal that’s more advanced than general fitness — for example, a decreased race time, gaining specific strength or building up high-end endurance — and struggling to carve out large chunks of time, then double dipping might be a good choice.

How to Divide Up Your Workouts

Spraul says you’ll want to put your main goal first (whatever it might be: cardio, strength gains, speed, etc.) so that you can focus your best energy and effort there. Then for your second workout, he recommends sticking with a “maintenance mode” approach rather than trying to improve in two different areas at the same time.

“You’ll improve faster if you focus on improvements in one key area at a time while leaving other secondary goals at that ‘maintenance’ level where you still can get some work done but keeping your intensity lower so it doesn't interfere with your main goal,” he explains. “Strength training twice a day can be very taxing on your nervous system — especially if you’re lifting particularly heavy. If you’re going this route, make sure to monitor your progress over time so that you can keep an eye on how this volume is affecting you.”

Monitoring Recovery and Tracking Progress

A relatively simple way to keep track of your overall fitness level and recovery effectiveness is to monitor your resting heart rate over time. “Make sure to take your measurements at rest,” Spraul says. “A simple way to do this is to consistently measure your resting heart rate immediately after waking up so your readings are taken under similar circumstances every day.”

As your fitness level increases, your resting heart rate should slowly trend downward over time. An increase in your resting heart rate indicates that you may have overdone things and could be headed toward burnout.

The Final Verdict

Whether double dipping yields faster results or leads to burnout is largely up to you. “The key differentiating factor will be your ability to maximize your recovery between workouts,” Spraul says. “This includes your food intake as well as sleep — if you don’t have the discipline to keep a healthy diet and get enough sleep at night to fully recover, you’re most likely going to burn out. If you’re young enough, you might not notice any issues for quite some time, but you’ll be building up a debt that won’t be fun to pay when the time does come.”   

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