Train Hard, but Recover Harder: Tips for Rest Day Recovery

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Rest-day fuelling has become somewhat of a taboo for many athletes out there. Being bombarded with science of what you should and shouldn’t do, cutting on carbs, forgetting the fats and worrying about protein in case you lose all your gains – we’ve all been there.

It is important to stress that how we eat on a rest day can actually impact the upcoming sessions, strength and endurance. Whilst exercise and training are essential for performance, rest is just as, if not more so important in helping you achieve your goals.

But as you already know how to fuel up on running and race days, here are my top 5 tips of how to fuel and recover on a rest day.

  1. Don’t change too much! You may think you need to cut your calories, and not even look at carbs, but restricting your intake will cause a detrimental domino effect for the next training days. Instead, simply listen to your body! As athletes, we are (generally) good at listening to our bodies, so eat when you’re hungry and stop when you’re full. Eating slower can help with both. You also want to opt for food quality over quantity, whilst finding (and sticking) to the routine that works for you.
  2. Hydration is just as important as food fuelling, and a rest day is a great opportunity to pre-hydrate. No one is saying smash 5-L all at once but keep a bottle close by and keep an eye on your urine colour to keep yourself on-track. Also, become best friends with chocolate milk! High in carbohydrates, an awesome source of protein and a high-water content help restore hydration and electrolyte balance with the added bonus of calcium, magnesium and vitamin A and D for bone health.
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3. Complex carbs and lean protein. We all understand that carbohydrates are the bodies preferred energy store, and when training at high-intensity it is vital their stores are regularly replenished. You might think on a rest day these are not necessary, due to the reduction in physiological load and overall movement, however, you are wrong! Complex carbs, such as wholegrain pasta, rice and porridge oats on a rest day will create the building blocks of energy stores for the days ahead, whilst restoring the depleted glycogen stores.

Protein is also essential as we all know are the building blocks to muscular growth and repair. Rest days are taken for recovery and lean protein sources, such as chicken, beans or a high-quality protein supplement can ensure the muscles are supported even at rest.

4. Fruit and veg beyond the 5-a-day! Whether is it 5-a-day or 10-a-day fruit and veg are essential for recovery, immunology and performance. Working at high physiological loads can decrease our immunity to ensuring we are filling up on micronutrients is key. It cannot go unmentioned that energy output on a rest day will, of course, be lower, so fuelling up on micronutrition dense foods not only supports health and recovery but is also less energy-dense giving you more room to play with. This food group also provides a win, win situation enhancing your carbohydrate intake, fibre intake and hydration status through an abundance of fruits and veggies.

5. You do you! It’s important to stress that everyone approaches a rest-day differently. What works for you most likely won’t work for your peers and that is okay! Understanding that the fuel we consume on a rest day will set you up for upcoming sessions, provide your muscles with protection and replenishment and reduce the risk of injury, rest days are essential.

You may be the fastest kid on the track, but if you don’t rest, you won’t win.

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