Rest is an integral part of any fitness regime and has benefits not only for your body but for your mind as well. Often, we get caught up chasing results in the gym and thinking that more gym = better results when really, rest is what’s going to help you perform at your best.
Why do you need rest?
Essential for Muscle Growth
Exercise puts your body through physical stress, and for results to show, your body needs time to recuperate and recover. Muscle breakdown occurs during exercise and is necessary for muscle growth to occur. Following training and during your rest period, your body works to rebuild the broken down muscle, resulting in muscle growth called muscular hypertrophy. If we do not rest, our muscles cannot go through this rebuilding process, meaning we will not see results (5).
Rest is also beneficial for your mental health. Although following a good workout, we may feel calmer and happier due to endorphins, overtraining can result in irritability, sleeplessness, diminished performance and decreased appetite, which all contribute to mental exhaustion. If we are mentally exhausted during our workouts, poor decisions can be made, which increases the risk of injury.
Replenishing Energy Stores
Glycogen is a form of energy that is stored in the muscles. During exercise, glycogen stores are depleted, resulting in muscle fatigue. These energy stores are replenished on rest days, ensuring muscles are ready for their next workout and have recovered from fatigue (2).
Signs you might not be resting enough
Here are six signs that could indicate you are not getting enough rest:
Persistent muscle pain or soreness
Feelings of sluggishness
Being unable to complete a workout
Increased injury occurrence
Changes in mood, including irritability, insomnia or mood shifts
Progress reaches a standstill
If you are experiencing any of these signs, try incorporating more rest into your regime and see if improvements are made (3). If not, you may need to talk to a doctor. It is also recommended that you see a doctor if you have sustained injury due to overtraining or if you have the constant need to exercise without rest (4).
What is a rest day?
Rest days are defined as a day when you take a break from your regular exercise regime. Usually, people do not partake in any exercise on their rest days; however, if an individual is not injured or exhausted, they may have an ARD (active recovery day).
On an ARD, you may engage in light activity that is less intense than usual, including yoga, walking, foam rolling or stretching. Active recovery days aid recovery by helping blood flow and, therefore, oxygen and nutrients to the muscles so they can repair themselves (1). An ARD is suitable for when you don’t want to do an intense session but still feel like moving your body.
How much rest do you need?
How much rest you need will depend on the type and intensity of the exercise you are doing and the lifestyle you live outside of the gym. If you are only engaging in light exercise, it is not necessary to have rest days. However, if you are partaking in moderate-vigorous exercise, rest days are necessary.
Following the Department of Health recommendations for activity may also help you plan your rest days. They recommend that the average adult engages in either:
2.5 to 5 hours of moderate physical activity weekly - such as golf, a walk or swimming
1.25 to 2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity physical activity weekly - such as jogging, fast cycling or soccer
An equivalent combination of moderate and vigorous activity
They also recommend including muscle-strengthening activities in your regime at least two days per week. So if you are engaging in 3 hours of moderate activity as per the guidelines, you may do 30-minute sessions six days a week, followed by one rest day (6).
It is important that you incorporate at least one rest day into your workout week, especially if you are engaging in vigorous exercise. With strength training, muscles are rested quite often, and this is okay. This happens because you usually train a different muscle group each day of the week, giving other muscles time to recover and rebuild.
What to eat on a rest day
On a rest day, we burn fewer calories, so our bodies generally need less food. You do not necessarily need to count calories to make sure you are eating less; your body will naturally ask for this itself.
Just because you are having a break from your usual exercise regime doesn’t mean you should fully let yourself go. It is still important to eat a balanced diet these days. Protein is essential for recovery as it acts as building blocks for our bodies and is necessary for muscles to be repaired following exercise; therefore, ensuring adequate protein intake is highly beneficial.
True WPI90 is an excellent supplement for those rest days, providing you with 25g of protein in one serving! Have it in a shake or use it in baking to create a high-protein treat. Our True Protein Bars are a convenient, high-protein snack that will help you reach your protein targets on those on-the-go rest days!
Rest is an integral part of your fitness regime and is essential for muscle growth, mental health and replenishing glycogen stores.
If you still feel like moving your body on a rest day, engage in an active rest day by partaking in a low-intensity workout.
Ask yourself if you are experiencing any of the six signs of overtraining and decide whether you need to see a doctor or not.