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Should I eat normally on rest days?

When it comes to fitness and working out, rest days are just as important as workout days. Rest days give your body time to recover and repair muscles after intense exercise. However, many people wonder if they should be eating differently on rest days compared to workout days. Here is a quick look at how diet impacts rest days.

Should I cut calories on rest days?

Cutting calories on rest days is generally not recommended. Your body still needs adequate nutrition on rest days to promote recovery. Reducing calories can actually be counterproductive.

On workout days, your body relies more heavily on carbs for quick energy. But on rest days, it begins to use more fat for energy. If you cut calories too low on rest days, you can disrupt this metabolic shift. It’s best to keep calories moderate.

What about intermittent fasting on rest days?

Intermittent fasting is a popular diet approach that involves restricting eating to set times, like an 8-hour window. Some people choose to intermittent fast on rest days since they are less active.

Research on intermittent fasting for athletes and active individuals shows mixed results. Some studies found no major benefits for performance or body composition. Other research suggests it may help endurance and delay fatigue.

Overall, intermittent fasting on rest days is likely fine for some individuals. But make sure to meet your calorie needs within the eating window. Severely restricting intake can impair muscle repair.

Should I eat more protein on rest days?

Getting adequate protein is crucial on rest days for optimal recovery. Protein provides the amino acids muscles need to rebuild and grow stronger after training.

Research suggests active individuals may benefit from slightly higher protein intakes on rest days versus workout days. One study found active young men retaining more muscle mass by increasing protein intake to 1.6 grams per kg on rest days, compared to 1.3 grams per kg on workout days.

Aim to get around 20-40 grams of high-quality protein like whey, casein, eggs or meat at each meal on rest days. Spreading protein evenly throughout the day optimizes synthesis.

How much protein do I need daily?

The recommended daily protein intake for active individuals is around 0.5-0.7 grams per pound of body weight (1.2-1.6 grams per kg). Higher amounts up to 1 gram per pound (2.2 grams per kg) are safe and may confer additional benefits.

So for a 150 pound person, daily protein needs are estimated at 75-105 grams. Make sure to get adequate protein in each meal and snack throughout the day.

Should I eat carbs after my workout, even on rest days?

Consuming carbs after exercise is important on training days to replenish glycogen stores. Your muscles use glycogen for fuel during exercise. But interestingly, research also supports having carbs after a workout on rest days.

One study compared active young men who consumed carbs plus protein immediately after exercise on a rest day, versus delaying nutrients for 5 hours. The immediate nutrient group increased muscle protein synthesis more than delaying.

While carbs aren’t needed for immediate fuel on rest days, they still help create optimal conditions for muscle repair and growth. Aim for 0.5-1 gram of carbs per pound within an hour after exercise.

What are the best post-workout carbs?

High-glycemic index carbs that digest quickly are ideal after training since they rapidly elevate insulin levels. Good choices include:

  • White bread, bagels or English muffins
  • White rice
  • Sports drinks
  • Raisins or dried apricots
  • Sweet potatoes

How many calories should I eat on rest days?

On workout days, your calorie needs increase to fuel activity and recovery. But on rest days, your needs are lower since your body is less active.

A general guideline is to reduce daily calories by 20-30% on rest days compared to heavy workout days. However, calories should still meet your basic needs and not dip too low.

Here is an example calorie target for rest days based on workout day intake:

Workout Day Calories Rest Day Calorie Target
2,500 1,750-2,000
3,000 2,100-2,400
3,500 2,450-2,800

Determine your specific calorie needs based on your body size, training program, and goals. Adjust as needed based on your individual response and recovery.

Should I track calories and macros on rest days?

Tracking calories and macros (protein/carbs/fat grams) can be beneficial on rest days to ensure adequate intake for recovery, especially if you are reducing calories.

Apps like MyFitnessPal make tracking easy. Use a food scale for accuracy. Tracking just periodically can help you learn appropriate portion sizes as well.

What should my nutrient timing look like on rest days?

The timing of nutrients matters on rest days, although there is flexibility since you are not fueling intense training sessions.

Here are some general nutrient timing guidelines for rest days:

  • Have breakfast within 1 hour of waking up to help replenish glycogen stores at the start of the day.
  • Have a meal or snack pre-workout to provide essential amino acids for muscle repair during training.
  • Have protein and carbs post-workout to optimize recovery.
  • Have a meal or snack before bedtime to support muscle growth overnight.

Spread meals and snacks 2-4 hours apart to ensure a steady supply of nutrients. Listen to your body’s hunger cues as well.

How does nutrient timing impact muscle gain?

Properly timing nutrients supports muscle growth on rest days in several key ways:

  • Pre-workout nutrition – Provides amino acids to slow muscle breakdown during exercise.
  • Post-workout nutrition – Enhances muscle protein synthesis after training.
  • Evenly spaced meals – Provides a steady supply of amino acids to maintain protein synthesis.
  • Bedtime snack – Feeds muscles overnight to optimize growth.

Following these simple guidelines allows active individuals to recover and progress even on rest days.

Should I avoid high-fat foods on rest days?

There is no need to avoid healthy high-fat foods on rest days. Dietary fat supports hormone production, brain function, joint health and many other processes.

The key is focusing on unsaturated fats from nuts, seeds, fish, avocado and olive oil. Limit saturated fats from red meat and full-fat dairy.

Here are some examples of healthy high-fat foods to include on rest days:

  • Salmon
  • Mixed nuts and seeds
  • Nut butters
  • Chia seeds
  • Avocado
  • Olive oil

There is no set ideal fat intake. Get at least 20-30% of calories from healthy unsaturated fats each day.

Should I take fish oil supplements on rest days?

Fish oil supplements provide anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids called EPA and DHA. Active individuals may benefit from fish oil on rest days due to the following effects:

  • Reduces muscle soreness and aids recovery
  • Supports joint health
  • Decreases oxidative stress from training

Aim for 1-2 grams combined EPA/DHA daily. Or simply include fatty fish like salmon in your diet a few times per week.

What types of carbs should I focus on for rest day nutrition?

Carbs provide glucose to fuel bodily functions and replenish glycogen stores. Choosing the right carbs optimizes health and recovery on rest days.

Focus on getting carbs from the following unprocessed, whole food sources:

  • Oats, quinoa, brown rice, whole grain bread
  • Potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash
  • Fruit like bananas, berries, apples, oranges
  • Legumes like beans, lentils, peas
  • Starchy veggies like carrots, beets, parsnips

Limit refined carbs like sugary snacks, white bread, and other processed foods. Aim for 3-5 grams of carbs per pound of body weight daily from whole food sources.

Should I go low carb on rest days?

Low carb diets restrict total carbs to less than 130 grams or so per day. Athletes generally do not benefit from going low carb on rest days. Carbs help restore muscle glycogen to fuel future workouts.

Low carb diets can work for some individuals trying to lose weight. But carbohydrates are the primary fuel source for high intensity exercise. Make sure to get adequate carbs from nutrient-dense whole food sources.

Can I have cheat meals on rest days?

It’s fine to enjoy cheat meals in moderation on rest days as long as your overall diet supports your goals. Avoid thinking of certain foods as “cheat” meals – it creates an unhealthy relationship with food.

Here are some tips for managing cheat meals on rest days:

  • Have just 1-2 cheat meals per week max.
  • Keep portion sizes reasonable – have a slice of pizza, not the whole pie.
  • Time cheat meals several hours before or after your workout.
  • Balance your calories for the day – don’t overeat just because you had a big meal.
  • Choose healthier swaps when possible – zucchini pizza crust instead of regular.

Remember that no specific food is inherently good or bad. It’s your overall consistent diet that matters most for health and physique goals.

Should I avoid alcohol on rest days?

Heavy alcohol consumption impairs protein synthesis, dehydrates the body, and can negatively impact sleep quality and recovery. However, light to moderate alcohol intake on rest days is unlikely to have major effects.

Here are some tips for responsible alcohol intake:

  • Limit alcohol to 1-2 drinks max per day for women, 2-3 for men.
  • Hydrate well if you do choose to drink.
  • Avoid alcohol close to bedtime.
  • Don’t drink daily. Allow days per week with no alcohol.

If consuming alcohol, opt for cleaner choices like wine, light beer, vodka sodas. Avoid high sugar alternatives.


To summarize, here are general rest day nutrition guidelines:

  • Maintain moderate calorie intake.
  • Prioritize protein at each meal and snack.
  • Have carbs pre-workout, post-workout, and at other meals/snacks.
  • Include healthy fats like nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil.
  • Focus on whole foods and avoid heavily processed items.
  • Time nutrients appropriately around your workout.
  • Allow for occasional cheat meals if desired.

Paying attention to your diet on rest days helps ensure proper recovery so you can train consistently and achieve your physique goals.