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You are what you eat – even on rest days!

All Areas > Health & Beauty > Looking Good, Feeling Great

Author: Will Mbanga, Posted: Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 09:00

Some of the most common reasons people train or work out is to lose weight, get stronger or fitter, or to achieve some sort of personal challenge or performance goal – to run a marathon, climb a mountain, swim the Channel.

While not necessarily a goal of training, the physiological reason we work out is to build muscle. This ramps up our metabolism (resulting in fat loss), increases our movement efficiency, strength and power (resulting in improved performance) and optimises cardiovascular endurance capacity (increasing fitness and bringing additional health benefits).

For anyone who wants a trimmer physique, six pack abs, improved performance or physical and mental health, engaging in an appropriate, progressive training program and using the right training methods is necessary to move toward your fitness goal.

Make sure you’re eating the right foods

The ‘icing on the cake’ when it comes to fitness and exercise, is making sure you’re eating the right foods. Typically, this involves planning what we eat on training days to support our workouts.

For example, pre-workout nutrition/supplements ensure the body has enough fuel to support the increase in physical activity, while post-workout nutrition is also important as it plays a vital role in muscle recovery and growth.

One area of diet and nutrition that is sometimes overlooked is what to eat on rest days. I love reading about ‘cheat days’ and ‘cheat meals’ and how these are justified or endorsed. You see, muscle recovery doesn’t only occur on workout days – muscle growth and repair continue to take place up to 48 hours post-workout; so continuing to eat the right foods to support this process ensures the muscles have the nutrients they need for optimal development.

It’s also well-documented that nutrition plays an important role in reducing training-related muscle soreness, as uptake of the right nutrients helps to regulate the body’s inflammatory response.

Key to getting your recovery nutrition right is determining what your ‘rest day’ calorie intake should be. Some people intuitively reduce their calorie intake on non-training days, however, the answer lies in the intended training goal.

If muscle growth is a goal of your training, your recovery day meals need to provide the same caloric intake as your training days. However, if you have a weight-loss focus, reducing your calories slightly on rest days can be beneficial.

Calories can be lowered on recovery days

The body still needs nutrients to aid in recovery, but as long as your body’s overall nutritional requirements are met (maintaining health, sustaining exercise routines and goals, and aiding muscle recovery) then calories can be lowered slightly on recovery days.

What about ‘cheat meals’? While maintaining caloric intake to sustain your energy requirements, muscle recovery and overall health is an important element of exercise nutrition, we are only human. If you want the odd comfort meal or less healthy treat, that’s OK! Just make sure to stay within your caloric intake range and get back to eating ‘healthier’, whole foods as soon as possible.

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