Think that getting fit is all about the time you spend in the gym? Nope, that’s not even half of it. It’s what you do outside from the gym that really makes the difference, and one of the biggest factors is how you rest and recover your body. This is because exercise causes microtears in your muscles which must be repaired for those muscles to become stronger. If your muscles are not given what they need to repair and recover, then you get muscle breakdown rather than muscle building. This is why rest and recovery is so important for reaching fitness goals.
Read below to learn how to get the most out of your rest day:
1. Less couch, more active recovery
If you think a rest day means a day spent on the couch, this is not the case! A rest day should be more about actively recovering your muscles with low impact activity, such as walking, biking, and/or yoga. These types of activities increase blood flow and circulation which help to repair your muscles faster and more efficiently. These activities will also help to relieve tightness that you may have after a hard workout.
2. Give your mind a rest
Mental stress does not just stay in your head and unfortunately, that stress can travel to your entire body which can lead to tense muscles and longer recovery time. Take the extra time on your rest day to chill out for a few minutes and take time for yourself. This could mean taking a few minutes for deep breathing and meditation, or just listening to music with your eyes closed.
3. Eat protein rich foods
It is a great misconception that protein intake should be high only on workout days. This is not true, and your protein intake should be just as high on non-workout days. This is because the amino acids in protein are needed to repair and build muscle, which is exactly what your body needs on a rest day! Aim to get about a gram of protein per pound of body weight, or at least 20 grams of protein at each meal.
Sleep is one of the most important factors for adequate recovery. Sleep is when your body keeps stress hormones low and releases growth hormone which helps to repair and rebuild muscle. Take advantage of the extra time you have and sleep in!
5. Don’t skimp on calories
You may think because you aren’t exercising you need to cut back on your calories for the day, but really you want to make sure you eating enough to properly fuel your body for your next workout. You will likely just naturally eat less, so don’t worry about overeating on rest days and think about how that food will help you dominate your next workout
Rest days are meant to be enjoyed, to reset your mind and body, and to be able to maximize your fitness goals. Don’t worry about setting yourself back with a rest day, it will actually help you to become fitter faster!
About the author: Sarah-Kate Rems is an Ivy League trained board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with an expertise in preventative healthcare. She considers nutrition and exercise to be the basis of well-being and is a strong advocate for daily physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet. Sarah-Kate is also a co-founder of The Mindful Tech Lab