Is It Important To Take Protein On Rest Days?
After finishing a workout session, the first thing most people do is reach for their pre-prepared protein drink to fuel their muscles as quickly as possible.
But what about on your days off? Have you ever thought about having a protein shake on a rest day? On the one hand, it seems like a pretty sensible thing to do.
But on the other, if it’s not producing any benefits, isn’t it just a waste of money?
The rate of muscle growth and its recovery after exercise are determined by, among other things, the availability of protein molecules in the blood. A good level of hormones and enzymes is also down to the readiness of protein.
If you didn’t already know, protein is a vital macronutrient the body has to have in order to run a healthy immune system and boost cell growth… and in case you hadn’t noticed, your muscles are cells.
Keeping up our protein intake therefore helps to build, repair and stimulate muscles. And that leads to an improved athletic performance.
Logically then, protein is the go-to supplement for people who work out. Whether they intend to bulk or condition, most people will take on board protein either before or after a workout.
But what should we do on days when we don’t get to the gym? Doesn’t it make sense to turn the protein dial from ‘max’ to ‘normal’ on rest days?
Will taking protein when our muscles aren’t working give an adverse effect?
Do I need to take my protein supplement on Rest Days?
In short… of course you do!
Protein is an essential nutrient, one of the three macronutrients without which we’d start to get poorly quite quickly. So at its most basic level, protein needs to be taken all the time and protein powder on off days will hit the spot.
On that point, when it comes to supplemented protein, the word on the street is a little conflicting. So let’s clear thing up a little…
Protein delivers a punch of amino acids into your bloodstream. Some of those go to repairing hair and nails or vital organs while others head for your skeletal and smooth muscles. So, if you have worked your muscles hard, a delivery of the good stuff (in excess of a normal diet) will aid growth and repair.
But, while it’s an obvious go-to supplement for Gym Days it is in fact just as important on Rest Days if you are serious about getting fit.
That’s because our muscles continue to build for up to 48 hours after a gym session. Just because we’re not physically lifting weights or running doesn’t mean our bodies are not still synthesising muscle.
If you go to the gym every other day or have some other dedicated pattern to your work outs, your muscles will be almost continuously building and repairing themselves.
Most research concurs that your body builds protein chains for as much as 48 hours after a workout. A 2016 study by the University of Central Florida revealed that subjects’ muscle protein synthesis actually increased to 109% (nearly double from two hours afterwards) at 24 hours before slowly falling away.
So, in answer to our primary question:
Yes, it is essential that the serious gym bod not only keeps up a high level of protein intake but continues to take protein on Rest Days; SCI-MX recommends around 1.8 - 2g protein per kilogram of body mass.
“It is well known that resistance exercise stimulates both MPS (Muscle Protein Synthesis) and MPB (Muscle Protein Breakdown), and that if a protein-containing meal is consumed in close proximity to the exercise bout, net positive protein balance ensues, resulting in muscle hypertrophy over time.”
- The Journal of Food Science
If you don’t load with protein you won’t see positive gains in your fitness. Simple as that.
You may not get sick (unless you have a chronic shortage of protein in your diet) but your progress will be severely hampered. A lack of protein will also prevent your muscles and joints from repairing and that will have an impact on your next session.
Before you know it you’ll have given up the gym altogether.
If you use supplements to bolster your dietary regime, incorporating something like a protein shake on a Rest Day is ideal.
Protein shakes on rest days can offer specific recovery support. A product such as ULTRA WHEY PROTEIN with breakfast and between meals to kick-start protein synthesis is ideal, or our ULTRA PLANT before bed to sustain the on-going repair and growth process overnight.
The right shake can help you conveniently attain your protein needs while optimising muscle nourishment. Of course your choice of supplement is also determined by your goals. Check SCI-MXs website for an easy-to-use range of supplements.
Do I need to eat protein on Rest Days?
In short, yes, but supplement as well if you need to.
If you take one important piece of advice away with you today it is this:
On Rest Days keep your protein high but avoid loading up with carbs and starchy food (depending on your goals). You won’t be burning as many calories on your day off and, although your muscles require energy to build, they will more than likely find enough energy stored away from the previous ‘workout’ day.
- If you want to condition your body, choose 100% WHEY ISOLATE
- If you want to lose weight, choose something like ULTRA DIET
- If you want to bulk up, choose OMNI
However, unless you’re about to enter a competition, it is best to keep eating cleanly, including such things as lean meats, eggs, cottage cheese and protein shakes. Check our article ‘How many calories are found in meat’ for a list of food which is high in protein. Those types of food will also deliver nutrients and vitamins to keep you healthy and energised.
Just keep in mind that although you haven’t been to the gym your body is still working out and still needs good fuel. A good protein powder on off days delivers this fuel perfectly.
A few words about Rest Days
For those of us who are mad about working out and looking our best a Rest Day is dreaded. We feel as though we’ve lost the inertia of the previous day’s exercise and that whatever we eat is going to ruin our progress even more.
Rest Days build muscle.
In fact, they’re an essential part of the workout regime.
What’s more, over-exercising kills muscle… literally.
Not having a day of rest and then sleeping the sleep of the dead will, at best, cause you to lose your stamina and at worse cause muscular atrophy.
Your body needs to rest, so listen to what it is telling you. Some of our most successful strength athletes and bodybuilders train just four or five times a week and swear by the benefits of their resting days.
Here are just a few of the benefits to your body arising from a Rest Day:
- Increased muscle synthesis
- Restock of your store of glycogen (your body’s go-to energy drink)
- Rejuvenated nervous system
- Healthy volumes of hormones
- Healthy immune system
And all these mean improved performance, stamina and strength for your next session.
When you feel stronger you can train harder which in turn stimulates fresh growth and excellent conditioning.
If your intention is to lose weight at the gym your Rest Day diet should be quite strict. Yes, keep up your levels of protein on Rest Days (as it helps keep you feeling satiated for longer) but watch your overall calorie intake. Avoid heavy carb or sugary foods… in stark contrast to someone who wants to build their physique.
If you want to bulk up you would do well to keep your clean carb intake reasonably high. To do so will keep blood sugar reasonably abundant and spike your blood insulin. Insulin promotes what is called an ‘anabolic’ state of being: during which your body is repairing and building its vital tissues and muscle.
By favouring an anabolic state even on your Rest Day you will have created the perfect storm of post-workout recovery and construct.
A favourite SCI-MX product is OMNI: an ideal supplement for Rest Day repair. Here is a delicious meal replacement shake delivering a balanced high protein, high carb and high calorie muscle gain meal to support a mass-gain eating and training programme.
If you’re training four times a week (any more frequently would require an ultra-specific workout regime) try to arrange your sessions so that you have no more than one Rest day between them. If you worked out on the first two days of your plan you could then alternate Rest and Gym days for the remainder of the week.
Try to work harder on the days prior to a Rest Day. If you do you’ll boost your levels of muscle building hormones and minerals and they’ll stay elevated during your days off.
On your final Rest Day you should keep a healthy intake of protein and carbs in order to recover fully before the restart of the cycle.
If you’re someone who just can’t sit still here is a selection of light activities you may want to think about doing on a Rest Day:
- Light swimming sessions
But pay attention to your body.
If you feel tired or your limbs ache or you have no appetite you may have overdone it at the gym. And if you have overdone it in the gym you won’t get anything out of your next session unless you STOP.
And, while you’re sitting on your couch learning your lesson, there’s no harm in munching a SCI-MX BROWNIE.
Keep up your intake of protein on Rest Days as much as you would on a Gym Day. Do this, eat well and cleanly and know what processes are taking place in your muscles and you’ll find it easy to cope with the ‘lethargy’ of the day off.
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