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What happens if you dont get enough protein on rest days?

Getting enough protein is crucial, especially for those who are strength training and trying to build muscle. Protein is needed to repair and rebuild muscle fibers that are broken down during strength training workouts. Rest days are just as important as workout days when it comes to protein intake. Not consuming enough protein on rest days can sabotage your results.

Why is protein important on rest days?

Protein serves several important functions related to muscle recovery and growth:

  • Repair damaged muscle fibers – Hard training causes small tears in muscle fibers. Protein provides the amino acids needed to repair and rebuild the damaged fibers, allowing the muscles to recover and grow bigger and stronger.
  • Synthesize new muscle proteins – In addition to repairing damage, protein provides the building blocks for synthesizing new muscle proteins and increasing muscle mass.
  • Prevent muscle breakdown – Protein helps keep the body in a muscle-building state (muscle protein synthesis) versus a muscle-breaking down state (muscle protein breakdown). Consuming adequate protein prevents excessive breakdown on rest days.
  • Maintain muscle mass – Getting sufficient protein helps maintain existing muscle mass, preventing gradual loss, especially during periods of calorie restriction while cutting.

Without adequate protein intake on rest days, all of these critical muscle-supporting functions are impaired.

How much protein is needed on rest days?

The recommended protein intake for those doing regular strength training is:

  • 0.73 grams per pound of body weight (1.6 grams per kg) as a minimum.
  • 0.9 grams per pound (2 grams per kg) may be optimal for maximizing muscle growth.

This recommendation holds true for both workout days and rest days. Protein timing and spacing out protein consumption throughout the day matters more than timing it specifically around workouts.

Some research has found consuming adequate protein daily, but slightly lower amounts on rest days, can still support muscle building. However, most experts recommend hitting the same protein target daily.

What happens if you don’t get enough protein on rest days?

Consequences of inadequate protein intake on rest days can include:

  • Impaired muscle repair and growth – Without enough protein, muscle recovery and growth in response to strength training will be compromised.
  • Greater muscle breakdown – Lower protein intake allows greater protein breakdown, losing some of the gains you’ve worked hard for.
  • Loss of strength and muscle mass – Over time, strength levels and muscle size will decrease without sufficient protein to maintain the muscles.
  • Fatigue and poor workout performance – Muscles won’t fully recover without adequate protein, leading to lingering fatigue, weakness, and poor performance on your next workout.

Research has confirmed these negative impacts of low protein intake. One study had subjects follow a program of strength training 4x per week for 10 weeks. One group consumed adequate protein daily, while the other had adequate protein on workout days but low protein on rest days. The low protein group had impaired muscle growth compared to the group that got enough protein every day.

How to get enough protein on rest days

Here are some tips to help you meet your daily protein needs consistently, even on rest days:

  • Have a protein shake – Drinking a protein shake provides an easy and convenient way to get 20-30g of high-quality protein.
  • Eat protein-rich foods at each meal – Include eggs, lean meat, fish, dairy, beans, or other protein sources.
  • Have casein protein before bed – Casein is absorbed more slowly, providing a steady supply of amino acids as you sleep and fast overnight.
  • Supplement with BCAAs – Branched chain amino acids help stimulate muscle protein synthesis between meals.
  • Don’t skip meals – Eat several protein-containing meals spaced throughout the day.
  • Carry protein snacks – Jerky, protein bars, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are portable options.

Meeting your protein target daily provides your muscles with the continuous supply of amino acids and protein they need to recover, repair, and grow bigger and stronger over time.

Sample higher protein day

Here is an example higher protein day that provides around 0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight (2 grams per kg):

Meal Foods Protein (g)
Breakfast 3 eggs, 3 oz turkey, 1 cup Greek yogurt 60
Snack Protein shake 25
Lunch 8 oz chicken, 1 cup beans, salad 70
Snack Cottage cheese, apple 30
Dinner 8 oz salmon, quinoa, asparagus 45

This provides 230 grams of protein for a 200 pound person, meeting the 0.9 grams per pound recommendation. The protein is spaced throughout the day in meals and snacks to optimize muscle protein synthesis.

High protein foods to eat on rest days

Here are some of the top high protein foods to incorporate on rest days:

  • Lean meats – Chicken, turkey, lean cuts of beef and pork
  • Fish – Salmon, tuna, cod, tilapia
  • Eggs and dairy – Milk, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese
  • Protein powders – Whey, casein, plant-based powders
  • Beans, legumes – Chickpeas, lentils, black beans
  • Nuts and seeds – Peanuts, almonds, pumpkin seeds

Choosing a variety of these protein-rich foods makes it easier to meet your daily protein needs consistently.

Sample higher protein rest day meal plan

Here is a sample higher protein meal plan for a rest day:

Meal Foods Protein (g)
Breakfast Egg white omelet with vegetables, Greek yogurt 40
Snack Protein shake 25
Lunch Grilled chicken salad with chickpeas and avocado 45
Snack Cottage cheese and fruit 20
Dinner Pork tenderloin, roasted Brussels sprouts, quinoa 55

This provides 185 grams of protein for a 200 pound person. The meals focus on lean protein sources, healthy fats, vegetables, and high-protein snacks.

Potential problems with getting too much protein

Is more protein always better? Getting adequate protein is critical, but consuming extremely high amounts can potentially cause some problems:

  • Dehydration – Digesting high protein intake requires more fluid. Inadequate hydration may occur if fluid intake isn’t increased.
  • Weight gain – Excess calories from protein can be stored as fat, if calorie intake isn’t adjusted.
  • Intestinal issues – Too much protein causes an amino acid imbalance, which can cause gastrointestinal issues like diarrhea in some people.
  • Kidney problems – High protein may increase kidney workload and stress over time in those with existing kidney disease.
  • Calcium loss – Increased protein causes more calcium to be excreted in urine, which may impact bone health if calcium intake isn’t increased.

For healthy individuals, these risks mostly occur with excessive long-term intakes significantly over the recommended range of 0.7-0.9 grams per pound daily. Moderately higher protein intakes are well tolerated by most people. But staying well hydrated and monitoring your total calorie intake are recommended.

Key points

Here are the key takeaways on protein needs for rest days:

  • Protein supports optimal muscle recovery and growth and should be consumed in adequate amounts daily.
  • Not getting enough protein on rest days impairs repair and growth of muscle tissue.
  • Aim for 0.7-0.9 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day, including rest days.
  • Spread out protein intake throughout the day in meals and snacks.
  • Eat a variety of lean protein foods like meats, dairy, eggs, protein powders, beans and nuts.
  • Too much protein can cause issues like dehydration and kidney stress in some cases.
  • Adequate protein on a daily basis provides the essential amino acids your muscles need to recover and grow.


Protein isn’t just important around workouts – getting adequate amounts every day is key for anyone strength training and building muscle. Failing to meet protein needs on rest days can impair your results. Consuming 0.7-0.9 grams per pound, spaced throughout the day from high protein foods and supplements, provides your muscles with the continuous supply of amino acids needed to properly recover and grow. Adequate protein intake daily is essential to maximize the benefits of your strength training.