The Importance Of Rest Days
The Importance Of Rest Days
When it comes to reaching for our goals, it is often a mistake to think that the more exercise you do, the better. You'll lose the weight that much quicker, you'll get stronger faster… But actually, when it comes to exercise, rest and recovery are so important to reach our goals in the most effective and efficient way.
A rest day allows our muscles to recover, adapt, and get stronger, it allows our nervous system to regenerate, and it helps to prevent plateaus in our regime.
BENEFITS OF REST DAYS:
Prevents Muscle Fatigue
We store carbohydrates as glycogen in our muscles for use as fuel. During exercise, we diminish our glycogen stores. Rest allows us to replenish and restore, which helps to prevent muscle soreness and lethargy. Muscle fatigue affects us throughout the day and we unlikely to get a great workout in.
Reduces Risk Of Injury
When our bodies are overworked and our muscles are fatigued, we're more likely to drop weights, lack support in our joints and fall out of the correct form. We also run the risk of exposing ourselves to repetitive stress or strain injuries.
When your body lacks rest it's likely that you'll start to experience a loss in endurance, slower reaction times, and poor agility. Resting allows your body to boost its energy and prevent fatigue for longer, thus allowing you to consistently train well and increase your performance through progressive overload.
Supports Muscle Growth
When we exercise, we cause trauma in the muscles and create microscopic tears in the muscle fibres. Most of this muscle repair and growth happens during the spike in growth hormone (GH) we experience during deep sleep. Additionally, on days we work out, all of our resources are devoted to energy for the physical activity, on rest days those resources are directed at balancing hormones, growth, repair, and energy storage for the next workout.
HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF YOUR REST DAYS
A big issue a lot of people have is that they feel lazy or guilty on their rest days, so instead of thinking of it as a rest day, think of it as a growth day, a day you’ve set aside to prioritise growth in your fitness and your muscles.
Growth days allow our muscles to recover and repair, they allow us to replenish glycogen stores to optimise our training, they allow our nervous and hormonal systems to reset, meaning we can train harder, and at a greater performance thus optimising our strength and fitness gains.
You’ll see a lot of coaches/people in general dropping calories on rest days, and if fat loss is your main goal there may be some benefit to this. But if your goals are improving fitness, strength, or body composition, then ideally we still aim to nourish our bodies on rest just as we would on training days. In order to replenish glycogen stores and optimise muscle recovery and growth, our bodies need the resources to do this.
Insulin (the hormone released following carbohydrate intake) is the most anabolic (muscle building) hormone in the body, it basically shuts down catabolism (muscle break down), it also activates mTor (a cell regulator) which triggers muscle growth and glycogen uptake into the muscles. All of this basically highlights the importance of eating enough carbohydrates on rest/growth days.
A rest/growth day doesn’t necessarily mean to sit on the sofa for a whole day. You can encourage blood flow and resource distribution with massage/foam rolling, light cardio (walking/swimming), or with yoga and mobility. These type of exercises encourage the rest and relax hormones to flow, helping your hormonal and nervous systems to replenish, give your body a break from stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, and help to oxygenate and feed the muscles, whilst aiding waste removal.
WHEN SHOULD WE REST?
We would always recommend at least one full rest day a week, but depending on your training split. how many you take can vary. You want at least one day of rest between training the same body part.
It’s best to avoid two rest/growth days in a row, as studies show that performance stays fairly flat after having one, so you aren’t gaining anything by adding a second rest/growth day. And you don’t want two heavy training days back to back as you won’t have optimal neural recovery.