Exercise and keeping fit is very critical, but so are rest days. Whatever exercise regimen you follow, it should include a rest day. Rest days are equally important to your workout days as they give the body and muscles time to recover and rest in preparation for another day. Protein is essential for supporting muscle recovery on rest days. Whatever exercise level you are, ensure you are taking rest days seriously.

Why is rest day essential in a fitness regimen?

  1. Allows the body to recover
  2. Improves performance
  3. Prevents injuries
  4. Improves sleep
  5. Reduces risk of muscle fatigue

Allows the body to recover

Rest day is more than just a lazy day on the couch. Although you may not realize it, the body takes the day to recover from all the torture you have been putting it through. Beneficial effects that contribute to the success of the exercise take place on rest days.

When you exercise, the body muscles experience microscopic tears which may be one reason you may feel a lot of pain in the first days of exercise. On rest day the body heals as cells called fibroblasts are produced and multiplied.

It’s also on rest days that the energy reserves are replenished. When you work out, the body uses up the carbs stored by the muscles in the form of glycogen to fuel your workout. Recovery day allows the body to replenish these carbs to be used in the next exercise.

Improves Performance

Again, too much of everything is poison. You cannot be in at your best if you are exhausted from overworking out. Rest day is therefore important to recover from exhaustion so you can resume your normal routine and challenge yourself to do better.

Overtraining, without any rest and recovery day, has a very negative effect on productivity. You cannot challenge yourself to do extra sit-ups or run another mile when you are exhausted. It’s important to take some time to rest to increase energy and give your body and mind the time to recover.

Prevents injuries

While working out can transform the body into everything you have ever dreamed of, overworking has the exact effect. Regular exercise without rest could lead to an excessive drop in weight, formlessness and even injury. Exposing your muscle to excessive strain and stress increases the chances of getting hurt. Ensure you take some time to rest and recover.

Improves sleep

Working out, without a doubt, improves your sleep schedule. However, have your ever worked out consistently without rest or recovery time? It can get hard to do anything else, including sleeping. Why is this?

According to research and studies, working out and other exerci8ces that involve physical activity forces the body to produce hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline that are meant to boost energy throughout the physical activity. Constant work out without rest means that these hormones are overproduced. You will, therefore, experience the inability to have a good rest and healthy sleep.

Lack of quality sleep also contributes to exhaustion throughout the day, which affects the quality of exercise. Rest can help improve sleep by regulating the hormones.

Reduces risk of muscle fatigue

The body muscles can easily experience fatigue from the excessive workout because they need glycogen to fire activity. When you exercise, glycogen from the muscles is released to provide energy. Over-exercising can, however, deplete these glycogen reserves, which leads to fatigue as muscles need the glycogen to function even when you are not exercising. Rest day is therefore essential to allow the body to replenish the glycogen needed for muscle activities.

What should you do on rest days?

Rest day is a day to let your muscles recover and repair themselves as they refuel for the next day’s exercise. So, what is the right way to handle exercise? Should you take the day off and binge watch Netflix on the couch all day? There is no conventional right way to handle exercise as everybody is different. It depends on your exercise routine and your lifestyle, including what you do when you are not working out.

However, the bottom line is you should not schedule some strenuous exercises. There are two types of rest day recoveries;

  • Passive
    On a passive rest day, you should not do any form of exercise at all. On that day, you are allowed to be a couch potato or whatever you want to do.
  • Active
    Active recovery day calls for some mild form of exercises such as light movement and yoga.

How do you decide between the two, especially if you have no fitness trainer? You simply need to listen to your body. If you feel extremely worked up, have a passive rest day. Is your body still up for movement even though its rest day? Active recovery it is!

When you decide on active recovery, ensure you take the activity level down a notch. The intensity and amount of workout you do on a rest day should be quite different. An expert recommends that you practice some restorative work out on rest day to ensure your muscles and body is getting a break. What do we mean by restorative?

Restorative exercise simply means exercise that will get the blood flowing to different parts of the body and bring oxygenated blood to your muscles for recovery. The exercises should also focus on lessening the lactic acid in the muscles and alleviate the tightness of the muscles. The length of the exercises is also dependent on you and what you can do on the rest day. The type of rest day you decide in also varies depending on the type of exercise routine you are into.

Rest day guidelines for different workouts

  1. Weight loss
  2. Weight training
  3. Cardio
  4. Running

Weight Loss

Exercise is a great way to use weight when combined with other means such as dieting. Even when exercising to cut some pounds, you still need to factor in rest days to meet your goals. Rest facilitates muscle growth and repair. The kore muscle you have the faster you will burn those calories in the form of glycogen. Also, recovery days ensure you are in the best condition physically and even mentally so you can bring your A-game to your weight loss game!

Weight training

Weight training exercises ensure you are working out one part one, and then you take time to rest before starting on another part. The recovery time ensures you are giving your muscles time to heal, repair and restructure before moving on to another group of muscles. Ensure you work on opposing muscles one after the otter to maintain a good body balance. You can schedule rest days by assigning each body part a different day. For instance, Monday can be the core muscles, Tuesday chest and so forth.


If you are into light cardio, there is absolutely no reason for you to have rest days. Light cardio includes exercises such as walking around and slow dancing. These exercises can be one every day as they are very moderate. The only time you should have rest days is if your doctor or trainer recommends it.

Moderate and vigorous cardio, however, dictates that you get a rest day. We recommend scheduling rest days every 3-5 days. Vigorous cardio calls for more recovery days. How do you schedule these rest days?

An adult doing cardio should have 150-300 minutes of moderate cardio and 75-150 minutes of vigorous cardio. Therefore, you need to decide how to divide those minutes weekly to have rest days. For instance, yet can have 50 minutes of moderate cardio in a week for four days and rest on the other days. You can also combine moderate and vigorous cardio in your routine.


Running is a form of cardio but needs to be taken in a different light. Running needs technique and planning, or you will burn out before you even start exercising. For a beginner, start running a week maximum thrice. Too much running could lead to overuse injury and extreme fatigue. On the other four days, you can indulge in light cardio and simple movement but remember to listen to your body. The other exercises you take on should aim at the muscles that are not exercised in the running. A workout instructor should instruct you on those exercises.

Also, if you are planning on taking part in a competition or marathon the three weeks before the race should be dedicated to more rest and less workout. This will ensure your muscles are in the best shape for exercise. Your fitness trainer should guide you on the light exercises to take on such days.

How do you know you need a rest day?

Always listen to your body. All the signs will be there, and you will hear your muscles screaming for rest. Here are signs that let you know you need to put down those dumbbells and let your muscles rest.

  • Fatigue
    Are you feeling extremely wiped off? Pay close attention to extreme exhaustion as it could be a sign that you need to rest.
  • Sore muscles
    Its normal to have fore muscles when beginning a fitness journey, but when it becomes an everyday thing, get some rest. Your muscles could be telling you that that they have not recovered from prior exercise.
  • Pain
    Pain in the muscles or any part of the body could also be an indication of shredded muscles that have not healed or overuse injury. Schedule a couple of rest days.
  • Poor performance
    If you find yourself performing very poorly in your exercise routine or even unable to get anything done, your body needs some rest to recover and refuel.
  • Sleep issues
    Fatigue messes up with sleep schedule. Energy hormones released during exercising also make it challenging to fall asleep, leading to more exhaustion.
  • Emotional changes
    Lack of rest also affects your emotions and not just the body and muscles. When you are exhausted the balance of serotonin and cortisol in your body is lost. You will start to experience irritability, mood swings and even feeling cranky every time, all feelings that are very opposite of what exercise does to your body. Ensure you schedule some time to get adequate rest so your hormonal balance can be restored.

Should you take protein on rest days?

Protein is a fav after working out. We are accustomed to grabbing our ready protein meal, drink or snack after working out to replenish the energy we have used up when working out. So, what about rest days? Do you still need proteins? What should your typical diet look like when you are recovering from a whole week of vigorous working out? In this section, we have covered everything your body needs to get the most out of a rest day. Look!

Protein on rest days

Protein is especially important even on rest days. Apart from providing energy proteins also support the generation and multiplication of news cells for the repair of worn-out muscles. Protein on rest da should be taken in quantities between 1.2-2.0 grams for every kg of weight. Ensure the intake is split evenly throughout the day.

However, watch the calories you are consuming on a rest day. The body requires fewer calories since it is not burning them at a fast rate like on work out days. Listen to your body. Do not stuff food when you are feeling full or satisfied.


You should focus on getting more carbs on a rest day to replenish the exhausted glycogen. Choose complex over simple carbs to restore the lost energy and glycogen quantities. You need to consume between 3-10 grams per kg of bodyweight depending on your activity level. If you are on passive recovery, take fewer carbs and calories.

Fruits and veggies

Some veggies offer the nutrients and healthy carbs you need. You can also take fruits in large quantities to replenish the water lost and for sugar cravings.


Water is especially important in any diet and more so for active athletes. Ensure you are drinking enough water even when you are not working out to stay hydrated. Hydration prevents muscle cramps when working out.

Protein Takeway:
protein on rest days

Taking a break from strenuous working out is essential for everyone who exercises whether a beginner or seasoned athlete. You can incorporate light exercises in your rest day if you need to or just rest completely. Proteins on rest day are also vital to the recovery of muscles. Ensure you rest and take proteins for a successful workout.


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