Factors to consider when assessing diurnal variation in sports performance: the influence of chronotype and habitual training time-of-day



The aim of this study was to compare morning and evening time-trial performance, RPE and mood state of trained swimmers, taking into account chronotype, habitual training time-of-day and PERIOD3 (PER3) variable number tandem repeat genotype.


Twenty-six swimmers (18 males, age: 32.6 ± 5.7 years) swam 200 m time trials (TT) at 06h30 and 18h30 in a randomised order.


There was no difference between morning and evening performance when the swimmers were considered as a single group (06h30: 158.8 ± 22.7 s, 18h30: 158.5 ± 22.0 s, p = 0.611). However, grouping swimmers by chronotype and habitual training time-of-day allowed us to detect significant diurnal variation in performance, such that morning-type swimmers and those who habitually train in the morning were faster in the 06h30 TT (p = 0.036 and p = 0.011, respectively). This was accompanied by lower ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) scores post-warm-up, higher vigour and lower fatigues scores prior to the 06h30 TT in morning-type swimmers or those who trained in the morning. Similarly, neither types and those who trained in the evenings had lower fatigue and higher vigour prior to the 18h30 TT.


It appears that both chronotype and habitual training time-of-day need to be considered when assessing diurnal variation in performance. From a practical point of view, athletes and coaches should be aware of the potentially powerful effect of training time on shifting time-of-day variation in performance.

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Fig. 1
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Fig. 4



Habitual morning training group


Analysis of variance


Deoxyribonucleic acid




Morning type


Neither type

PER3 :

Period3 gene


Habitual evening training group


Profile of mood states


Rating of perceived exertion


Total mood disturbance




Variable number tandem repeat


Homozygous for the PERIOD3 4-repeat allele


Heterozygous for the PERIOD3 4- and 5-repeats


Homozygous for the PERIOD3 5-repeat allele


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We are grateful to the swimmers for their commitment to this study. KS received the Innovation Masters Scholarship from the National Research Foundation of South Africa, as well as a bursary from the University of Cape Town’s Research Committee. LR received grants from the National Research Foundation of South Africa and the University of Cape Town’s Research Committee. DR received an internal interim grant from the University of Cape Town and DR’s research unit receives funding from Discovery Vitality and the South African Medical Research Council.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

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Correspondence to Dale E. Rae.

Additional information

Communicated by Dick F. Stegeman.

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Rae, D.E., Stephenson, K.J. & Roden, L.C. Factors to consider when assessing diurnal variation in sports performance: the influence of chronotype and habitual training time-of-day. Eur J Appl Physiol 115, 1339–1349 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-015-3109-9

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  • Morning types
  • Neither types
  • Habitual training
  • Chronobiology