Your day off–whether it’s from lifting, running, your favorite exercise class, or hardcore training–is absolutely necessary for recovery.
But do you know how to make the most of a day when you don’t exercise? Sure, sitting on the couch with a burger feels great, but there’s more you can do to max out your rest day potential.
As a personal trainer and bikini competitor, I take my rest days pretty seriously because they help me stay in line with my fitness goals. Keep reading to learn my top tips to make your rest days work for you and your goals.
No, don’t go running back to the gym! If you’re Type A about your exercise, you might find it difficult to take rest days. Well, you’re in luck: a rest day doesn’t mean doing nothing at all. There are some double-duty physical activities you can do to recover from your previous workouts and prep for your future ones at the same time, all without overtaxing your tired bod.
You can foam roll every single day if you love it, but a lot of women find foam rolling a little uncomfortable, not to mention time-consuming on a day when you’ve already devoted an hour to a workout. Well, now there’s no excuse: your rest day leaves you plenty of time to try out this super beneficial form of massage!
It’s true that foam rolling can be uncomfortable. Think deep-tissue massage: it hurts so good. But the benefits of foam rolling can’t be denied.
If you foam roll on your rest day, you’ll speed your recovery by releasing built-up lactic acid and increasing the blood flow that carries away toxins and brings in oxygen to all of your tired muscles. Plus, you’ll do yourself some good when it comes to tomorrow’s workout by increasing your flexibility and keeping yourself limber.
You’ve probably noticed that you get a little stiff when you sit or lie down all day, right? Foam rolling just might be the answer to this rest day problem. You’ll find that you feel looser and more relaxed after a foam rolling session, and the benefits will last for hours.
Foam rolling might also be easier than you thought. Check out this simple routine for your lower body. It’s perfect for runners or anyone who just did “leg day.”
Yoga or stretch
Like foam rolling, doing yoga on your rest day improves your flexibility and keeps lactic acid from building up in your muscles when you’re more sedentary than usual. And yoga can really improve blood flow!
You can even target different areas of your body with particular yoga moves: headstands for your head and neck, pigeon pose for your hips, eagle pose for your shoulders… the possibilities are endless.
But what if yoga sounds like a workout? You’re not supposed to work out on your rest day! Well, you can always do some stand-alone yoga poses without diving into a full sequence that makes you break a sweat. And you can always just stretch!
You don’t need any props to get your stretch on: just a soft surface and your own body. Consider developing your own stretch routine based on where you tend to be sore or tight on days off.
Sure, you walk every day. To and from the kitchen, to and from your desk, to and from the bathroom if you’re drinking plenty of water! But taking a brisk, deliberate walk on your rest day can reduce soreness and prep you for tomorrow’s tougher workout.
I love taking walks on my rest days and bringing my little boys with me. Walking makes for a great family activity!
Like any form of exercise, walking comes with a slew of benefits to your health. But if you already have a more “serious” workout routine, walking may have fallen by the wayside for you as a form of exercise. Don’t discount it, especially on your rest days!
Like stretching and foam rolling, walking gets your blood flowing, which sweeps away lactic acid and prepares your muscles for the harder work you’ll be putting them to soon.
If you usually hit the gym for your workouts, walking has other benefits, too. It gets you outside–maybe even in the middle of your workday when you’re usually hunched over your lunch!
Try hitting a trail you’ve never used before, going to a pretty park, or exploring the downtown area on foot. You’ll feel better during tomorrow’s workout and enjoy a new perspective on your rest day.
Remember that saying, “Good abs are made in the kitchen?” It holds true on rest days, too. This isn’t the time to “eat whatever” since you aren’t working out. Not only will a poor rest day diet sabotage weight loss efforts, it can make you feel sluggish and bloated when you work out tomorrow. Everyone deserves treats in their diet, but every rest day shouldn’t become a food free-for-all.
You probably already know how important protein is when it comes to recovery and building lean muscles. And since your rest day is your body’s primary opportunity to recover, it makes sense that you should get plenty of protein on your day off. Eating some extra protein on your rest day will also make up for the reduced carbs in your diet and keep you from feeling too hungry between meals.
Protein gives your muscles the fuel to recover and repair, not just build. This is especially important after a serious workout day, or when you’re feeling particularly sore.
Rest days are the perfect time to enjoy a grilled salmon steak, a hot breakfast with eggs, or better yet a super high-quality protein source like IdealLean Protein, made with whey protein isolate and fortified with vitamins and minerals for women.
Check out all of our recipes for some deliciously protein-rich rest day treats!
Cut the Carbs
Okay, don’t cut them out entirely. You know what we mean! You should consume fewer carbs on rest days than you do on workout days.
Why? Because carbs provide your body with its primary source of energy and fuel. Your body burns the carbs you’ve consumed first, before fat or muscle, which is why many women choose to fuel their workouts with carbohydrates. It’s why marathoners eat gummies and guzzle sugary drinks during a race. Carbs give you quick, easy-to-burn energy for your exercise.
So it makes sense that on a day when you don’t work out, your body needs fewer carbs. If your body has no reason to convert the carbohydrates you eat into energy, guess what happens? That’s right: FAT. Excess carbs are converted into fat cells for later use. Too bad it’s so tough to convince your body that it’s time to use them once they’re stored that way!
By lowering your carb intake on rest days, you lower the chances that your body will take this opportunity to create fat stores.
It’s easy to forget about your water intake when you’re not hitting the gym, but hydration is no less important on a rest day! Hydration isn’t just key to a great workout, it’s also one of the keys to fast recovery and reduced fatigue.
What’s more, you can’t expect to be hydrated if you only drink water before a workout. Your body needs water all the time, whether you’re active or parked on the couch. Staying hydrated reduces muscle soreness, improves your energy levels, and helps your body flush out toxins including lactic acid from your fatigued muscles.
And you don’t have to stick with water if it bores you. Try indulging in plenty of water-rich fruits on your rest day, like watermelons, grapefruits, peaches, and pineapple (which all have great vitamin and mineral content, too!).
You should also consider drinking IdealLean BCAAs in refreshing Green Apple and Raspberry Lemonade flavors. These BCAAs not only speed recovery, they include powdered coconut water for serious hydration benefits. They’re ideal for non-training days.
LET’S WRAP IT UP
Just because it’s your rest day doesn’t mean that you can’t keep your nutrition on point to maximize your results. Rest days are the perfect time to use IdealLean BCAAs and IdealLean Protein to supercharge your recovery.