Wonder what to eat on rest days to lose fat and gain lean muscle? When it comes to pre- and post-workout nutrition, things are quite simple. To get optimal results, plan your meals around your workouts. On off training days, fuel your body with the nutrients needed for muscle growth and repair. There is more than one way to do that. It all comes down to your goals.
How to Make the Most Out of Your Rest Days
For serious lifters, off training days are a perfect time to rest and recover from exercise. There is even an old saying that sums this up quite nicely: “It is not how hard you train, but how well you recover.” Knowing what to eat on rest days to maximize muscle growth isn’t easy, especially for those who are just starting out. Your diet can be constructed in terms of foods, planned around macros, or both.
Some bodybuilders and fitness models have their cheat meals on rest days. Some keep carbs to a minimum on off training days. Others reduce their calorie intake. When planning your meals on non-workout days, consider your goals. Are you currently bulking up or cutting? A bulking diet plan is completely different from one designed for fat loss.
What to Eat on Off Training Days When Bulking
If you’re trying to build muscle, embrace the bulk. Fat loss takes time, so cutting for a day and then going back to bulking the next day is pretty much useless. It will only affect your overall strength and performance. Eventually, you can slightly lower your calorie intake (up to 300 calories) on rest days to compensate for the fact you won’t be training.
Keep your protein intake high at all times. Even though protein synthesis peaks within the first 24 hours post workout, it can stay high for up to 72 hours. Thus, it’s important to eat plenty of meat, fish, eggs, veggies, and whey protein.
Some athletes plan their weekly cheat meal on a rest day. Others do it on their heaviest training day so they can burn the extra calories. The decision is up to you. Consider having your cheat meal for dinner, and eat clean throughout the day.
Since you’re bulking, don’t give up carbs completely on your rest day. These nutrients will fuel your muscles and help them recover from exercise. Additionally, a moderate carb intake will keep your glycogen levels high for the next few days. Keep your fats low, especially on the days when you’re getting plenty of carbs.
What to Eat on Rest Days When Cutting
When cutting, you can slightly lower your calories and carbs. Since you’re already in a calorie deficit, don’t drop too far below maintenance. After all, you want to maintain your hard earned muscle and prevent catabolism. Eventually, stick to your daily calorie goals, but limit your carbs. Fats should make up for the rest of your calories.
Don’t forget to get plenty of protein from quality foods like chicken breast, turkey, tuna, lean beef, and egg whites. If your caloric requirements for cutting are high or if your body weight is low, then you may need more protein than athletes of the same size. Still wondering what to eat on rest days? Go for slow digesting carbs, such as those in oats, vegetables, and sweet potatoes. Avoid simple carbs are your off training days, especially when cutting.
Carb Cycling on Rest Days
Whether you’re cutting or bulking up, carb cycling might do the trick. Many athletes use this method to lose fat and preserve muscle. There are various carb cycling protocols available, so you have to choose one that matches your goals.
It’s important to know how your body reacts to carbs. Some people experience tiredness, lethargy, fatigue, and bloating on high carb days. Others are hungry, irritated, and have low energy on their low carb days. For many, carb cycling is a roller coaster ride of ups and downs. Thus, you’ll have to experiment and figure out what works best for you.
For example, going no carb on off days could be exactly what you need to break through a weight loss plateau. But it can drain your energy and affect your mood. At the end of the day, you’ll be hungry pissed off, and unable to focus.
If this approach doesn’t work for you, continue refueling on your rest days. Or you can load up on carbs after a challenging workout, go on a no-carb diet the next one or two days off from the gym, and have enough glycogen stored in your muscles for your next training session.
If you’re serious about working out, everything that you eat matters. Try different approaches, monitor your results, and switch things up from time to time. With carb cycling, you’ll be varying your intake of carbohydrates in a structured manner, so it’s worth a try.