What Is a Rest Day + 5 Ways to Optimize Them.
Rest days are defined as a day when you take a break from your usual workout regime. Rest days are considered mandatory for every fitness level and every form of workout, from bodybuilding to pilates. But how do you get the most out of your rest day to ensure you are ready for tomorrow’s workout?
Rest days give our muscles a bit of a break to recover and rebuild our muscles. It is a crucial part of any fitness regime and fitness level. Skipping rest days or simply thinking you can go without one can lead to overtraining and eventually burnout. Here are the four main things that recovery or rest days help with:
1. Allows Time for Recovery.
Rest days are when your hard work pays off; that is why it is essential for muscle growth. When you exercise, it creates microscopic tears in your muscle tissue; cells called fibroblasts repair those tears during the rest. This helps the muscle tissue heal and grow, which results in stronger muscles.
Your muscles also store carbs in glycogen, which gets broken down during exercise. This acts as fuel for your workout, and rest helps your body replenish these stores to train at optimum performance.
2. Prevents Muscle Fatigue.
Rest also aids in preventing muscle fatigue. As mentioned above, exercise uses glycogen to fuel the workout. If these stores are not replaced, muscle fatigue and soreness set in. Muscles also need glycogen (amongst the various electrolytes) for daily functioning, so by making sure you have a rest day, you give your body a chance to refill the glycogen levels.
3. Reduces Risk of Injury
Incorporating rest days in your daily regime helps you stay safe during your exercise days. If your body is overexerted, the chances of you taking a wrong step or falling out of form are increased. Overexertion also exposes your muscles to continual strain and stress without being able to repair and mend itself.
4. Improves Performance
It’s known that rest and performance go hand in hand. When enough rest is not incorporated into your regime, it can be hard to keep up with your regular exercise routine or even take on a new challenge. That extra mile or extra rep can be daunting, or even impossible, if your muscles are sore. Rest days help you keep your endurance up, increases energy, and prevent fatigue.
So, based on the above, how can we do rest days right? The “right” way to do a rest day may differ from person to person and depends heavily on the type of workout.
However, here are some general guidelines to keep in mind when slowing down.
1. Diet and Protein Intake
Generally the less active you are, the fewer calories your body needs. Listening to your body during these days instead of simply omitting a specific number of calories is a healthier way of balancing your food intake. Your body will naturally let you know if it needs more or less food. It’s also essential to eat enough protein to support muscle repair and rebuilding on days when you take it easy.
During the day, make sure to eat complex carbs to help restore your glycogen levels and drink lots of water or electrolyte-rich drinks. Keeping your body hydrated during rest days helps prevents cramps and helps deliver the needed nutrients in your body. Eating fruits and veggies also aids the recovery process and provides healthy carbs.
2. Low-Impact Workouts.
Low-impact exercise is a brilliant rest day activity. Low-impact workouts like yoga, walking, casual swimming, biking, and dancing, help you stay active without overstressing your body. It is also a great way to enjoy a more relaxing approach to fitness.
3. Avoid Alcohol
During a rest day, it’s best to stay away from cutting loose with a cocktail by the pool. Alcohol lowers your body’s effectiveness at replenishing the glycogen stores and reduces muscle repair after a workout and building new muscle. Muscle recovery requires lots of hydration, so it is vital to keep your hydration levels up during rest days. Electrolyte drinks or water are the best go-to hydration tactics out there.
4. Get Enough Sleep.
The National Sleep Foundation recommends that healthy adults get seven to nine hours of unbroken sleep. Prioritizing a good night's sleep is crucial to allowing your body the time it needs to maintain and repair your muscles and internal functions. A few tips for achieving that dreamy state of mind are:
- Enjoy a soothing cup of tea while you're winding down for the evening, but try to steer clear of any liquids an hour before bed to avoid putting your bladder into overdrive throughout the night
- No screen time for at least 30 minutes before bed
- Settle in and read a book to help you drift off; taking your mind off the act of trying to fall asleep is helpful in a smooth transition to slumber
5. Plan It Out!
Rest days shouldn’t be taken on a whim because you’re too tired. They should be incorporated into your workout regime from the beginning. This helps you get the proper rest you need and prevents you from feeling guilty for taking a day off.
Whether you’re a beginner or seasoned athlete – regular rest is crucial! Rest is essential for muscle repair, preventing fatigue, and helps you keep your performance up. Make the most of your rest days, get quality sleep, drink lots of electrolyte drinks, and if you must get your body going, lean into gentle styles of movement like stretching or an easy walk.
In closing, remember that you’re less likely to achieve the fitness goals you set for yourself without enough breaks. Letting your body rest is the first thing on the road to fitness success.