The right nutrition plan for your workout-free days helps you reach your fitness goals faster. Let’s dive into why that is, what to eat on rest days, and what to avoid.
Rest days are just as important as training days, because they’re when your body has a chance to recover. It repairs your muscles, breaks down harmful substances, and improves your strength so you can start your next workout even stronger. This effect is called supercompensation and it’s essential for making progress toward your goals.
What to eat on rest days for maximum recovery
In order to benefit from the supercompensation effect, your body needs energy and the right macro- and micronutrients. An electric car doesn’t run without enough charge in its battery. And an electric engine doesn’t run on gas. The right nutrition determines how quickly you reach your goals. But if you feed your body right, every recovery phase will come with gradual improvements in your fitness and strength.
Tip: Your body can’t start the muscle repair process fast enough, which is why your food choices after exercise play an important role in your recovery. An extra serving of amino acids, and easy to digest carbs to cover your energy needs, will switch your muscles into recovery mode right after you’re done working out.
Rest Day Calorie Deficit or Surplus?
Your calorie intake on a rest day should be about the same as days with an exercise routine. Besides, both muscle building and weight loss aren’t about perfectly hitting your daily calorie totals. In the end, your weekly total calories and distribution of macronutrients are what counts.
Listen to your body and eat your fill without overdoing it. Focus on healthy foods and don’t confuse your rest day meals with a cheat day. Since you don’t exercise on a workout-free day, your body has enough energy left to regenerate. This is also true if your diet includes a calorie deficit.
Tip: To ensure long-term weight loss success, your daily calorie deficit should be between 300-500 calories. With our Body Check, it’s easy to calculate how many calories you need for your goal.
If you’re in a muscle building phase, you can reduce your daily calorie surplus by about 10-20% on a non-training day. But make sure that you’re still providing your body with enough protein for muscle protein synthesis.
6 Tips for the Perfect Rest Day Nutrition for Your Body
Now that we’re done with the theory and background information part, let’s talk about what you should actually eat on a rest day.
#1 Listen to your body
Pay really close attention to what your body needs at rest. Eat slowly and mindfully, stop when you’re full, and only eat when you’re hungry. Don’t give in to every chocolate craving! They rarely have anything to do with actual intuitive eating.
For the most part, food cravings signal that your body is lacking something. Chocolate contains zinc and readily accessible carbs in the form of sugar. Good news: healthy alternatives, like oatmeal, include carbs, zinc, and even more micronutrients.
#2 Eat foods with a high nutrient density
That means cutting out empty carbs and low-quality fats. Instead, eat foods with a higher nutrient density, so lots of vitamins and minerals.
Vegetables, legumes, and whole grains are always a good choice. If it has to be pizza, go for our vegan Protein Pizza.
Nutritional supplements aren’t the same as fresh vegetables. But when you can’t manage to eat a balanced diet, our Daily Vitamins can help compensate! They’re made from freshly harvested fruits and vegetables from sustainable agriculture.
If you’re doing a lot of cardio, make sure you’re also getting enough potassium! This electrolyte is the counterpart to sodium and is essential for the production of energy (ATP) and glycogen stores.
Foods rich in potassium include: bananas, apricots, raspberries, carrots, cabbage, cashews, almonds, and peanuts.
Tip: Especially during intense cardio workouts over the summer, you’ve got to keep drinking water and paying attention to your protein needs.
#3 Reduce carbs
On non-training days, you don’t need the same energy intake you need pre-workout. That’s why it’s okay to eat less carbohydrate-heavy throughout the day. Fuel your muscles with high-quality protein and healthy fats instead! It’s also the perfect opportunity to try out healthy low-carb recipes.
Tip: With ourprotein powders and snacks, you can easily meet your protein needs.
#4 Adjust your macros to your goal
The distribution of your macros, i.e. fat, carbs, and protein should always be aligned with your workout nutrition goal. As an athlete, you always need all three nutrients: it’s only their proportions that vary. If you do a lot of cardio exercise, you’ll need a higher carbohydrate percentage.
If strength training or weight loss is your focus, make sure you get enough protein and a balanced supply of amino acids alongside your fat intake.
#5 Eat meals with high-quality ingredients
Want your body to be at its best? Then you’ve got to give it the best! Avoid foods with extra added sugars or chemical additives, and go for fresh fruits and vegetables instead. Basically, the more natural a food, the better.
Legumes like chickpeas or grains like quinoa give you complex carbs, protein, fiber, and a varied mix of nutrients all in one. No idea what to cook with them? Our fitness recipes are a great place to start!
#6 Cover your protein needs
To recover optimally and start building muscle, your muscles need protein. As a guideline, 1.2g protein intake per kilo of body weight is a good amount for any day. This also applies when you want to lose weight instead of building muscle.
While post-workout Whey Protein shakes are a good solution for muscle growth, protein powders that provide the body with nutrients over the long term, such as casein or Vegan Protein, are a better choice on a non-training day.
Recipes for Muscle Building on Rest Days
Protein Pizza Bianca | 74% fewer carbs
Pizza doesn’t have to be greasy and unhealthy. Our summery Pizza Bianca tastes just as delicious as the one from the Italian place next door, and it’s got the perfect combo of macros for your rest day.
Light and Cheesy Pasta | Quick meal ready in 25 Min
It’s quick to prepare and packs a whole 53g protein and only 27g carbs per serving, so it’s our perfect pasta recipe for your rest day on a muscle building diet.
Recipes for Weight Loss on Rest Days
Banana Waffles | Fluffy, vegan waffles
Our vegan waffles have protein instead of added sugar, which makes them perfect for breakfast on a day off. And they’re ready in just 15 minutes.
Stuffed Sweet Potato | Healthy & easy
Healthy, delicious, vegan, and easy to prepare. This recipe isn’t quite low carb, but it gives you tons of complex carbs including many valuable micronutrients. Perfect for lunch on a non-workout day.
Field Salad with Sweet Potatoes and Avocado
This salad provides you with high-quality fats, vitamins, and minerals, and it’s easy to digest, so it fits perfectly into your nutrition plan for weight loss. Avocado and sweet potato add calories, but thanks to their high nutrient density and fiber content, they’ll also keep you fuller longer.
- Your meals on rest days should have a high nutrient density.
- Nutrition is an important factor in your muscle recovery.
- Maintain your calorie deficit, or your calorie surplus minus 10-20%, when you’re not exercising.
- Workout-free days are perfect for trying out low-carb recipes.
- Rest days are not cheat days.
We at foodspring use only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Although intuitively you might think you don't need as much food on your rest days, it's important to eat as you normally would between workouts to replenish your glycogen stores for energy, promote muscle recovery and growth, and support your body's essential daily functions.Should I eat a lot of protein on rest days? ›
Generally speaking, the recommended amount of protein consumption on rest days is between 0.3 – 0.7 grams per pound of body weight or 15 – 25% of total daily calories. For example, a 130-pound woman who consumes 2000 calories per day should aim to consume approximately 156 grams of protein on her rest days.What should I drink on rest days? ›
Protein is essential for supporting muscle recovery on rest days. It's important to consume high-quality protein sources on non-workout days to optimize recovery. One high-quality protein source to include on both active and rest days is protein shakes.How can I recover faster on rest days? ›
- Listen to Your Body. First things first, no one knows your body as well as you do. ...
- Get Adequate Sleep. Mental and physical rest is equally important when letting your body recover. ...
- Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. ...
- Eat Right. ...
- Stay Active. ...
- Stretch or Foam Roll.
Protein. “All tissue needed to heal your wounds comes from the protein in your diet,” he says. “Protein helps build and maintain muscle, produce new tissue for healing, and helps support the immune system to reduce risk of infection. Try and eat foods with protein at each meal and with each snack.”What is the best drink for muscle recovery? ›
- Water. That's right, water. ...
- Chocolate milk. It's not just for kids! ...
- Fruit juices. ...
- Fruit smoothies. ...
- Sports drinks. ...
- Coconut water. ...
- Vegetable juices. ...
- Green tea.
On rest days, you don't need to focus as much on meal- and snack-timing since there are no pre-workout, intra-workout, or post-workout considerations. Just ensure you're eating every 3-4 hours to supply the body with adequate energy and recovery nutrients.How many rest days are too many? ›
Rest One or Two Days Per Week. For the best performance and to reach your goals in the safest and most effective way possible, plan for one to two rest days per week. Olenick recommended spacing these out — take one rest day mid-week and the other on the weekend, or in between bigger workouts.Why are you so hungry on rest days? ›
“On training days, an athlete typically expends more energy through physical activity,” McIntyre says. “On rest days, however, they may still have a high metabolic rate due to the body's need to repair and rebuild muscle tissue, which can increase hunger levels.”Should I drink a protein shake everyday? ›
It is okay to drink protein shakes everyday, however it's important to remember that they are a dietary supplement and should not be used to replace food.
A recent, small scale study concludes that protein shakes, compared with high carbohydrate drinks, do not reduce muscle pain or speed up muscle recovery after a workout.How much protein is too much? ›
General recommendations are to consume 15–30 grams of protein at each meal. Studies show higher intakes — those more than 40 grams — in one sitting are no more beneficial than the recommended 15–30 grams at one time. Don't waste your money on excessive amounts.What not to do on rest days? ›
“Avoid strenuous activities which would put more stress on the body. Rest days can consist of normal activities such as walking, light cardio, etc. since they do not stress the muscles that need the most rest. These activities also help lactic acid to move out of the muscles,” Debra said.Should I eat carbs on rest days? ›
“It takes 24-48 hours for the bulk of recovery to occur after a challenging workout, so it's important on a rest day to consume enough carbohydrates to use as energy to recover, enough quality fats to bring inflammation down and support the heart and joints, and enough protein to repair body tissues,” she says.What is a good drink to have every morning? ›
- Honey and cinnamon drink. Have a glass of honey and cinnamon drink first thing in the morning. ...
- Lemon Juice. ...
- Cinnamon Green Tea. ...
- Coconut water. ...
- Aloe juice. ...
- Pomegranate tea. ...
- Fruit smoothies. ...
- Green tea lassi.
Rest days allow the muscles to replenish their glycogen stores, thereby reducing muscle fatigue and preparing the muscles for their next workout. Preventing injury: Overexercising puts repetitive stress and strain on the muscles, increasing the risk of injury.How can I recover faster naturally? ›
- Sleep more. Sleep gives your muscles time to recover from exercise. ...
- Massage. Many athletes incorporate massage in their training to reduce muscle soreness. ...
- Compression garments. Wearing compression garments has become common among athletes over the past several decades. ...
- Contrast water therapy. ...
In effect, yes. As you exercise, your aerobic fitness improves, allowing your body to meet the demands of increasingly difficult workouts. These same aerobic adaptations also teach your muscles to repair themselves faster; the fitter you are, the sooner you recover.What are 7 perfect foods for survival? ›
- Peanut Butter. ...
- Whole-Wheat Crackers. ...
- Nuts and Trail Mixes. ...
- Cereal. ...
- Granola Bars and Power Bars. ...
- Dried Fruits, Such as Apricots and Raisins. ...
- Canned Vegetables, Such as Green Beans, Carrots, and Peas. ...
- Canned Beans.
- Sugar-Sweetened Beverages: Empty calories.
- Salty Snacks (Potato chips, Cheese doodles, etc): Too much salt and preservatives.
- Packaged Sweets (Candy, Packaged cookies and sweets): Empty calories, preservatives, additives.
- Processed Meats (Bacon, Sausage, Cold cuts): Linked to cancer, heart disease.
- Get Some Rest. Getting a lot of sleep can help wounds heal more quickly. ...
- Eat Your Veggies. Healthy food and nutritional supplements are said to boost your immune response and prompt the wound healing process. ...
- Don't Stop the Exercise. ...
- Quit Smoking.
Wounds heal faster if they are kept warm. Try to be quick when changing dressings. Exposing a wound to the open air can drop its temperature and may slow healing for a few hours. Don't use antiseptic creams, washes or sprays on a chronic wound.What is the best vitamin for tissue repair? ›
Tissue repair and regeneration within the body are influenced by vitamin C. A critical role of vitamin C is the synthesis of connective tissue, particularly collagen . It also provides tensile strength to new collagen formed which would otherwise be unable to stretch without tearing .What is the fastest muscle recovery? ›
Getting proper rest is easily one of the most effective ways to recover from any form or degree of physical exertion. Sleep allows your body to repair its muscle tissue. Hormones, such as human growth hormone and testosterone, increase during sleep, which helps you perform even better the next day.What is the best protein for muscle recovery? ›
Casein is a slow-digesting protein that is beneficial for your muscles and helps them grow and recover. On the other hand, whey is a bodybuilding protein that helps gain muscle mass and burn fat. Casein is a slow-digesting protein that is beneficial for your muscles and helps them grow and recover.What fruit is good for muscle pain? ›
Cherries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, cranberries and strawberries all contain anthocyanins, an inflammation reducing compound. Berries not only help reduce inflammation but they contain many nutrients which help prevent diseases.Should you eat more when your muscles are sore? ›
Having enough available glycogen in your muscles is essential for optimal athletic performance, so it's important to replenish these stores after workouts. This is especially true for athletes participating in exhaustive exercise ( 31 ). Eating carb-rich foods promotes muscle glycogen replenishment.Can you drink alcohol on rest days? ›
As much as you might think your rest day would be the perfect opportunity to take the edge off with a drink, alcohol is no good for recovery.Should I eat protein if I don't workout? ›
The doctors say that incorporating protein supplements in your diet with no workout at all is not recommended. “If you go overboard, you may end up gaining weight — especially if you have a sedentary lifestyle.Do muscles grow on rest days? ›
Contrary to popular belief, your muscles grow in the rest period between sessions, which may give you an incentive to take more rest days between workouts (if preventing injury isn't good enough for you!).
One night of poor sleep shouldn't have to impact your workout routine, but chronic sleep deprivation leading to multiple days of exhaustion is another matter, experts say. It may not be wise to hit the gym or play a sport when you're barely putting one foot in front of the other, said sleep specialist Dr.Is it better to eat less on rest days? ›
If they want weight loss along with muscle growth, reducing calories on rest days can help. The body does still needs nutrients to aid in recovery. As long as these needs are met, calories can be lowered slightly.How do you recover from not eating enough? ›
- eating meals more frequently throughout the day.
- eating meals high in protein.
- eating more complex carbohydrates, such as rice or pasta.
- consuming more monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats, such as nuts and avocados.
- including a good selection of vegetables in the diet.
Some people skip meals when they're trying to lose weight, which is often counterproductive, as waiting too long between meals may lead to overeating. As such, it's important to eat when you're hungry — not wait until you're ravenous.Can I drink Premier protein everyday? ›
To be clear, there is no hard-and-fast rule about drinking protein shakes, and having too many of them in one day likely won't have any long-term detrimental effects. For most people, anywhere from one to three protein shakes per day should be plenty to help them meet their nutritional needs.What should you put in your protein shake? ›
- Frozen Banana. Ice cubes certainly chill out a smoothie, but they also tend to water them down. ...
- Almond Butter. When it comes to your blender creations, it's time to go nuts for almond butter. ...
- Greek Yogurt. ...
- Raw Cacao Powder. ...
- Hemp Seeds. ...
- Matcha Green Tea Powder.
There can be health consequences if you drink protein shakes without exercising are: (1) less muscle gain, (2) unwanted weight gain, (3) increased risk of kidney-related problems, and (4) abnormal spike in blood glucose level.Is peanut butter good protein? ›
Peanut butter is rich in heart-healthy fats and is a good source of protein, which can be helpful for vegetarians looking to include more protein in their diets. A 2-tablespoon serving of peanut butter contains up to 8 grams of protein and 2 to 3 grams of fiber.Do you recover faster if you eat more protein? ›
Helps Your Body Repair Itself After Injury
Numerous studies demonstrate that eating more protein after injury can help speed up recovery ( 36 , 37 ). more protein can help you recover faster if you've been injured.
Soreness seems to be an indicator of the muscle breakdown that occurs during and after exercise, so feeling that pain all the time could mean you're not getting the protein your muscles need to rebuild.
You can eat as much protein as you want in one sitting. There is a limit in how fast your body can absorb protein, but any excess protein will simply reside in your gut.Is 200g of protein A day bad for you? ›
“Yes, there is such a thing as too much protein,” Nicholas says. “The general consensus is that two grams per kilogram of body weight is the upper limit for most adult males.” So, if you weigh 185 pounds, you shouldn't be eating more than 168 grams of protein per day.What are the symptoms of low protein? ›
- Brittle hair and nails, often the first sign of deficiency.
- Feeling weak or hungry, since protein supplies energy and satisfies the appetite.
- Getting sick often without protein to boost the immune system.
“On training days, an athlete typically expends more energy through physical activity,” McIntyre says. “On rest days, however, they may still have a high metabolic rate due to the body's need to repair and rebuild muscle tissue, which can increase hunger levels.”Why am I so hungry on rest days? ›
"Strength training makes you the most susceptible to a larger appetite on rest days because your metabolic rate is increased for about 36 hours after the activity as your body is trying to recuperate the strained muscles," says Goldsmith.How many calories should you burn on a rest day? ›
This means that, at rest, he'll burn approximately 1,769 calories in a day (Equation: (9.99 × 81.6 kg) + (6.25 × 183) – (4.92 × 40) + 5 = 1,767). For females, use the following equation: 9.99 × weight + 6.25 × height – 4.92 × age – 161= RMR for females.How many rest days are OK? ›
The Answer? Rest One or Two Days Per Week. For the best performance and to reach your goals in the safest and most effective way possible, plan for one to two rest days per week. Olenick recommended spacing these out — take one rest day mid-week and the other on the weekend, or in between bigger workouts.Should you eat less on rest days? ›
If they want weight loss along with muscle growth, reducing calories on rest days can help. The body does still needs nutrients to aid in recovery. As long as these needs are met, calories can be lowered slightly.Why do I feel skinny on rest days? ›
That's due to your muscle fibers starting to dwindle and your body retaining some extra fluids. But for the most part, you're not feeling too bad. If you head back to the gym now, you probably won't even notice any significant changes in how fast you can run or how much you can lift.Do you lose weight on recovery days? ›
If you allow your body a week of full rest, the hormones return to normal levels, and fat loss will begin to take place once again. When I was on a fat loss program, I often would lose fat in my rest week, even while eating my maintenance level of calories!
Binge eating may occur during recovery from anorexia. However, with a moderation approach that embraces incorporating all foods into a regular meal plan, the likelihood of engaging in new or different eating disorder behaviors during the recovery process decreases significantly.Do you gain weight on rest days? ›
If you drink your usual amount but do not sweat it out, the fluid gets stored as water weight. This minimal amount of excess weight can make you feel heavier, and your muscles may not respond as well as they normally do because they've had an extra day off, but weight gain in the form of excess fat is still unlikely.How many calories should I eat a day by age? ›
|Female||4-8 9-13 14-18 19-30 31-50 51+||1,400-1,800 1,800-2,200 2,400 2,400 2,200 2,200|
|Male||4-8 9-13 14-18 19-30 31-50 51+||1,600-2,000 2,000-2,600 2,800-3,200 3,000 2,800-3,000 2,400-2,800|
Example: If you exercise more to burn an extra 500 calories each day, you'll lose about one pound of fat in a week (500 calories x 7 days = 3,500 calories). You can workout more or just add more movement into your daily lifestyle.How many calories does 10,000 steps burn? ›
02/9Calories burned by 10,000 steps
Most people burn around 30-40 calories per 1,000 steps, which means they will burn around 300-400 calories by walking 10,000 steps.