Whatever your fitness goals, rest days are crucial to recovery. Taking time off from intensive workouts helps you get the most out of your exercise days. A rest day allows your muscles to repair and grow, helps prevent soreness and risk of injury, and even improves your performance when you get back to exercising.
But what exactly should you do on a rest day? Let us walk you through it.
1. Eat a Protein-Rich Diet
When you work out, it causes small tears in your muscle tissue. Our bodies need protein to repair those tears, so it’s important to keep consuming enough protein on rest days as well as active days.
As an active person, you should try to get between 1.2 and 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight throughout your day as part of a balanced diet (for a 125 pound person, that would be between 69 and 113 grams per day). Buddy Nutrition’s personalized protein powder is an easy and convenient way to integrate the protein you need into your meals and snacks — try it in a smoothie for breakfast or in water as a mid-afternoon snack.
2. Stretch It Out
Stretching is an important part of exercise recovery. You probably already do it every time you work out, but it also helps to get in an extra stretching session on days when you’re not hitting the gym or the track.
If specific muscles are feeling tight, try to hold each stretch for a total of 60 seconds for maximum efficiency (you can break that minute up into chunks if you can’t hold the full 60 seconds). Additionally, investing in a foam roller may help you loosen those tense muscles, as well as improve your flexibility.
3. Try Gentle Yoga
Practicing some gentle yoga on rest days is a great idea, even if it’s just for 10 minutes. This form of exercise will help you relax, be aware of what your body can do and recognize its limitations. Yoga also promotes flexibility and better breathing, as well as helping you sleep more soundly. Make sure to choose a gentle form of yoga, such as yin or Iyengar, especially if you’re feeling fatigued.
4. Do Some Light Exercise
If it’s been a while since you’ve had a rest day, but you still feel like moving your body, you don’t have to lay on the couch all day. The idea of a rest day is to take it easy on your muscles, so low-impact exercise is totally fine to practice on those days.
A good active rest day workout might look like a nice walk around the park or a hike, or you could go swimming or rollerblading. Not feeling the great outdoors? A dance around your room to your favorite tunes will do the trick.
It’s always important to hydrate appropriately — women need approximately 11.5 cups of fluids daily, while men need approximately 13.5 cups. When you exercise, you lose additional fluids through sweat, so in the hours and days afterwards, you need to drink extra fluids to replenish your energy. You also lose sodium through sweat, which is why you often hear that you should drink electrolytes after a workout. You can supercharge Buddy Nutrition’s protein powder with an electrolytes boost, making it the ideal post-workout and rest day addition to your water for ultimate hydration.
6. Rest Up
On rest days, you should… rest. It shouldn’t come as a big surprise, but sometimes all you need is to lay on the couch and do nothing. Sleep is also very important for every aspect of your health, and not getting enough shut-eye could affect your performance and recovery. The average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night.
Your rest days are the perfect opportunity to relax, do a little light exercise and replenish your energy to come back faster and stronger. You can make the most of them by following these simple guidelines.
Iris Goldsztajn is a London-based writer and editor with six years of experience creating content for various outlets. Her work has appeared in InStyle, Stylist, SheKnows, Cosmopolitan, Alma, Her Campus and more.