Today’s the day — the day you get to sleep in an extra hour and wake up AFTER the sun rises for once. No, it’s not Daylight Saving. It’s your rest day, the one day a week you skip the gym to give your body a break from all the training you’ve been pushing it through the past six straight days.
What’s the first thing you’ll do when you wake up? Hopefully it’s not reach into the fridge for a leftover slice of pizza as your first meal of the day. It’s your day off from training, not an excuse to eat like you did before you started working out (remember how awful that felt?). Treat today like any other day: start by eating a decent breakfast.
How you spend your rest days is just as important as how you spend your training days — especially when it comes to eating. If you want to make progress, you don’t get to ease up on your meal plan just because you’re steering clear of the gym for a day. What and how you eat today won’t just impact your recovery from yesterday’s workout. It will affect tomorrow’s workout, too.
Here are the healthy eating rules to follow if you want to stay on track with your training goals — even on your days off.
1. BALANCE OUT YOUR MACROS
Protein is good. Protein builds muscle and gives you energy. But it isn’t the only nutrient you need to heal and build muscle. So cutting down on carbs, especially on your rest days, is about the worst decision you can make nutrition-wise. This is not the day to decide sugar is the enemy. You need to prep your body for burning energy again tomorrow, and that means you need to fuel up on complex carbs in addition to eating plenty of protein for optimal recovery. Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are all excellent sources of the kinds of carbs your future self will thank you for.
2. DON’T CUT BACK ON CALORIES …
Today isn’t the day to eat fewer calories than usual, even though you’re not burning nearly as many. You need just as many calories on rest days as you do on days you work out. Fuel is your friend. Your body can’t use protein it doesn’t have, for example — and if it doesn’t have protein, your muscles have no way to repair or build up. Keep your calorie intake consistent. You’re still recovering from this week’s training, whether it feels like it or not. Give your body the fuel it needs to recover properly, or you’re going to suffer a miserable workout when you get back to the gym tomorrow.
3. … BUT DON’T EAT GARBAGE
This also isn’t the day to overindulge on your favorite cheat foods. Remember that slice of pizza you thought about having for breakfast this morning? Who’s to say you wouldn’t have just gone for it and finished off the last half of the whole thing and called it a meal? All that saturated fat isn’t helping your recovery along. Rest days aren’t “cheat days,” at least in the sense that you can eat all the junk food you want to without consequence. Foods rich in complex carbs, lean protein, and healthy fats should be your go-tos today, especially when it comes to snacks. Your body runs best on fuel that promotes muscle recovery and growth. If you want to show up to the gym tomorrow rested and ready to dominate, at least eat a vegetable with your leftovers.
4. CHOOSE ANTI-INFLAMMATORY FOODS
Sore after a yesterday’s interval training? A little inflammation after a workout is normal, but too much can be painful. While you’re giving your muscles and joints the chance to heal on your day away from the gym, fill up on antioxidant-rich foods to help ease inflammation and promote muscle recovery and growth. Blueberries, cranberries, pecans, and even dark chocolate all have anti-inflammatory properties to help your body rev up for its next workout.