For many of us, it can be quite hard to take a proper rest day. You’re either thinking about the gym, feeling guilty for not working out or you’re somebody who just can’t sit down for a hot minute.
You might think that rest days hinder your progress but truth be told, it’s the best thing for your body. Rest days allow your muscles to recover, grow stronger and to increase their capacity to work better. Which is why it’s incredibly important to take one or two days off a week to let your body recover as a whole. Not only that, it improves your strength for the week ahead – leaving you feeling fresh and rejuvenated.
Still not sure about taking those rest days? Well, let me tell you this… Without allowing your body to rest your increasing the chances of injury, illness, poor lifts and a low mood. This is because your nervous system, musculoskeletal system and immune system slowly become weaker from the lack of rest. I hate to break it to you but, you’re not made out of steel. And once all of those systems become affected then your hormonal response rises with high levels of catabolic hormones. This hormone basically acts like a steroid and affects the growth within your muscles. Basically, the opposite of what you want to happen.
So, with that said let me tell you how to get the best out of your rest days.
What works for you?
Firstly, it’s important to determine what kind of person you are. Do you like settling down all day with a good book or netflix series? Or, are you an ‘up and get to it’ kinda person (just like me)?
Once you determine what kind of ‘rest’ day works for you then begin by planning your day.
If you’ll quite happily sit on the couch all day long then do just that – after all, it is a rest day. However, if you can’t quite sit down all day then make sure you get yourself out of the house and keep busy for a few hours. Arrange a shopping trip, brunch, meeting up with friends or quite simply make sure your rest days fall during the week when you’re at work. That way, you’ll find yourself more occupied. Just make sure you keep the evenings free for yourself to have some ‘me’ time.
Just remember, even if you plan to go for a walk on your rest day – it’s still accounted as a form of LISS cardio (Low Intensity Steady State). Are you really giving your body the rest it deserves?
Keep your protein levels up
You should know by now that protein is the wonderful nutrient that helps our muscles recover and grow. So, it’s easy to understand why people fall into the myth of believing that you should lower your protein levels on rest days. I mean, you’re less active so surely lowering your protein is right? Eh, wrong!
Think about it this way: Whilst our bodies may be resting, our muscles are not. In fact, they’re working just as they hard on the days you train – repairing themselves and growing. Protein helps our muscles grow by providing our muscles with amino acids (carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen). Amino acids are the bricks and glue to repairing and growing your muscles. If you take a brick (amino acid) out of the wall (muscles) then it’s not going to work properly. So, without amino acid’s it’s impossible to recover, maintain and build your muscles.
Therefore, protein requirements do not decrease on your rest days because your body is constantly repairing itself. I recommend keeping your protein levels the same.
Help your body recover
Recently i’ve been trying my best to incorporate more stretching into my busy week. These past few weeks my body has been feeling stiff, extremely inflexible and working at a desk all day doesn’t particularly help, does it?
So, I began some research into stretching and it’s benefits. I admit I found a few pretty good articles. This article here, from BodyBuilding.com, brought it to my attention just how important it is to stretch.
“Your muscles must work in proper synergistic fashion to obtain, maintain, and enhance performance. If you have a hitch (or five) in your giddy-up, there’s no way you’ll be able to do clean movements. Improper movements done over and over with escalating weight only lead to disaster. Corrective exercise can absolutely change the way your body performs and adapts to your workout program.”
Therefore, they suggest stretching before, during or after your workouts (when your muscles are warm). But, seeing as this is your rest day I would suggest doing some light warm up exercises to awaken your muscles – then you can get in a good stretch! I like to stretch my whole body out for at least 15-20 minutes.
Here’s a good YouTube video that I began with. Don’t worry, I was as stiff as a horse too.
Don’t restrict your carbs
The worst myth about rest days – that you should lower your carbs and calories because you’re not burning as much as you would on an active day. Well, B to the S to that is all I have to say!
I like to think of ‘rest days’ as ‘grow days’, thanks to this BodyBuilding article. I feel like many people associate rest days with a lack of progression. Almost as if you’re body freezes inside and nothing happens because you’re not working out. Therefore, you feel the need to cut the carbs. Gee, it’s something that I used to do myself!
Because you’re taking a rest day you’re allowing and helping your muscles to recover fully. In order for this to happen you’ll need your muscles to be fully replenished with glycogen and anabolic properties of insulin. So, this means that you’ll need the calories and carbs to fully allow this!
So if you’re trying to grow your muscles, then you’ll most definitely need to consume quality carbs and calories – despite it being a rest day or not. An easy way to think about it is referring your muscles to a car – it needs fuel in order for it to work properly!
Use your time wisely
Just because it’s a rest day it doesn’t mean you have to be bored out of your mind.
Use your time effectively. Whether that be meal prepping, making plans, getting some work done or reflecting on your goals. Or simply, get the boring adult stuff done. Gahh, did I even just suggest that?!
Personally, I like to use my time wisely and I get a lot of blogging work done. Plus, it means I can enjoy a Sunday morning in bed with a big stack of pancakes (typically when my rest days are taken).
You can find my delicious pancake recipe here.
So that it’s! Just do your body a favour and make sure that you: make the most of your rest day, fuel your muscles, allow them to recover and do something that makes you happy.