A common misconception people make during their fitness journey is how many times they need to train during the week. Believe it or not, the common view is not to undertrain, but to overtrain. As a result, people decide to train every day because they feel that if they don’t, they will not burn enough calories during the day to lose fat and improve their body shape.
The secret to success lays somewhere in the middle. While you do need to train more than once during the week, overdoing it is only going to lead to exhaustion, lack of enjoyment, and burnout. Not only that, but those needless extra sessions will not have any positive impact on your results and instead your time will have been better spent resting and recovering.
So, why are rest days so important and how can they impact your results?
To achieve great progress, it is not all about training, exercise, and nutrition. Rest and recovery are vital to your routine and something that should not be taken lightly. Firstly, you do not need to train five to six times per week to make progress. Two to four resistance training sessions are perfect for building up strength, adding muscle, and burning fat. Anything more than that is not only unnecessary but also unsustainable and arduous. The process should be manageable, enjoyable, and effective and training too hard is going to lead to your body being exhausted and overworked.
This is where recovery comes in. During the resistance training sessions, you will be breaking down muscle tissue, but the real progress happens in your recovery. This is when your body replaces old muscle tissue with new ones and continues to burn fat, so long as you are in a calorie deficit. What many people don’t realise is that you still burn calories from the recovery of your session the next day. Therefore, as long as you are doing a form of steady-state cardio every day (eg. walking, cycling, swimming), you will still be burning plenty of calories on non-training days too.
In order for the process to be sustainable, you have to give your body time to recover. This does not just mean sleeping well and enjoying an evening on the sofa, it means having proper rest days where you incorporate plenty of low-intensity cardio but avoid an intense training session or any other rigorous activity such as HIIT and other forms of high paced exercise.
Given that resistance training should be the priority, this will then allow your body to recover well for the next session, which also means that the productivity and quality of your sessions increase as a result of having more energy. Performing 2-4 resistance training sessions per week makes the process realistic and manageable, which then leads to long-term consistency and results.
Another reason why rest days are very important is from an enjoyment aspect. Throughout the process, one of the best ways to stay consistent is to think positive, have fun, and love the feeling of training and improving. Many people don’t particularly like training, which is fine, but they love the way it makes them feel and if you can find the positives from the journey, you are far more likely to stick to the plan.
However, if you overdo your training and decide to do high-intensity exercise every day, not only will it be bad for your physical health, but you will most likely end up becoming bored and unfulfilled with the process, which leads to a higher chance of quitting altogether. Aside from being necessary, rest days will keep you motivated and positive without feeling drained and bore every day. Consistent high-intensity exercise every day will catch up with you at some point.
So, how do you do rest days? What are the key things to consider?
Calories Stay The Same
Firstly, if you are in a calorie deficit, you do not need to change your calories on rest days. Dropping calories further is totally unnecessary as you will still be burning plenty of calories from low intensity cardio, recovery and other daily activities.
It will also keep the process simpler and more enjoyable. Constantly increasing and decreasing your calories can be hard to follow and is an unnecessary stress to place in your life. In addition, keeping calories the same will mean you can eat the same amount of food and not go through stages of severe hunger, which can be very hard to sustain.
On your non-training ‘rest days’, you will still want to be active and moving around, so that you continue to burn calories throughout the day. One of the best, most sustainable ways to do so is staying consistent with your low intensity cardio, which you should be doing every day. This can be a number of things, with the most popular being an hour to an hour and a half of walking each day (8-12k steps), but playing some sport, going for a light jog, going swimming or for a bike ride are also excellent options.
This is beneficial not only for your fat loss goals and your cardiovascular health but also for your mental health, as it goes you out of the house or office and provides fresh air and time to reflect. It’s also a great opportunity to mix with friends, learn through podcasts, meditate with some quiet time, or lift your mood with some upbeat music. Make sure you are incorporating this into your rest days to see the best restults, both physically and mentally.
So, rest days are vital to your progress and they should not be underestimated. You do not need to do intense training every day to see results and it will most likely have negative effects if you do so, due to the risk of burnout and boredom. Rest days will make the process enjoyable, manageable, and sustainable throughout, whilst aiding your goals by allowing your body to recover, which is where physical progress is made.
On your rest days, keep your calories the same, there is no need to decrease them, but make sure that you are still active. You can do this by staying consistent with your low-intensity cardio, which acts as a support to your resistance training sessions, as well as playing some sport if you wish. Prioritise these points and you will find that you enjoy the process more, stay consistent, and be closer to your goals each week.
Photo Credit: Getty Images