Why Rest Days Are So Important When Training

So many people, and I’ve seen this with a lot of my clients too, are so motivated when they start exercising and never want me to schedule in a rest day for them. Even when I do they sneak off on that day.

I want to explain how important it is for your muscles to rest and all the other benefits too. Don’t get me wrong I love seeing people so motivated that they want to keep going and going but we also have to understand the other side of the equation.

In order to improve performance and muscle strength and size you have to work hard, however, it is the rest that makes you stronger. Weight training breaks down the muscle fibers in your muscles. After you work out, your body repairs or replaces damaged muscle fibers through a cellular process where it fuses muscle fibers together to form new muscle protein strands or myofibrils. These repaired myofibrils increase in thickness and number to create muscle hypertrophy (growth). This adaption, however, does not happen while you actually lift the weights. Instead, it occurs while you rest.

It is during sleep where Growth Hormone (GH) levels are at their highest. Physiologic improvement in training can only occur during the rest period following hard training. This is also why consuming the proper foods and supplements immediately following such training is key.

To break it down inadequate rest may lead to over-training beyond the body’s ability to recover and none of us want that!

Rest is also a big factor in making sure you don’t hit a fat loss plateau. Along with allowing your muscles time to recover rest also aids in shocking the body so we keep it guessing, keeping us motivated and preventing injury.

It is recommended that you take 1-2 days of rest in a week and 1 week every 4-6 weeks.

When taking a break from training, it is important to note that this also means taking a break from dieting, or eating in a deficit. This means that during that week of rest, you should eat at maintenance or even above.

The reason for this dieting break ties back into the all too important role of hormones.

When you are dieting, your leptin and thyroid levels fall, which tends to lower the metabolism, and therefore fat loss. Raising calories to maintenance or even just a bit above maintenance allows the body to reboot.

This is one of the main reasons why you tend to see great results the first few weeks of a fat loss program, and then your results may plateau. This happens because of the lowering of these hormones.

If you allow your body a week of full rest, the hormones return to normal levels, and fat loss will begin to take place once again.

How Interval Training Can Help You Burn More Fat

Are you battling to lose that stubborn fat or feel like you are doing so much cardio but just not getting any results? I’m going to explain to you how interval training can take your body’s fat-burning to the next level. Research has shown that people burn more fat in a shorter time doing intensity training than those that exercise at a constant intensity level.

How interval training works

High intensity interval training (HIIT) combines periods of intense exercise with periods of rest or light exercise. By combining short bursts or sprints of aerobic effort you increase the body’s ability to burn fat. Slowing down between high intensity intervals makes the body work harder in a given time than if the activity was performed without rest periods.

Studies have shown that you need to reach between 80-100% of your VO2 max during your high intensity intervals to reap the benefits of HIIT. Your body’s VO2 max is a measurement of the maximum volume of oxygen that it can use and it’s a major factor in determining your endurance level.

To be able to measure this while you are exercising, you’ve reached your Vmax level of exertion when you feel you can’t bring in as much air as your body wants. If you can comfortably hold a conversation you’re not there.

How it burns more fat

When you do exercise your body burns far and carbs and the proportions vary with the intensity of exercise. Research shows that as exercise intensity increases you burn more from your glycogen stores for energy than your fat stores and low intensity activity like walking taps more into fat stores.

So then how do you lose more fat with HIIT?

It comes down to total calories burned while exercising. High-intensity burns quite a bit more calories than that of low-intensity and as fat loss is determined by energy balance the advantage here is clear.

It has been found that it can burn 36% more fat compared with steady state cardio and is more effective for burning stubborn subcutaneous fat than other types of exercise.

HIIT also increase your resting metabolic rate for up to 24 hours after exercise and spikes your growth hormone levels which aid in fat loss.

Tips for your HIIT workout

Cycling, rowing and sprinting have been shown to be the best but if you don’t like these or can’t perform them don’t shy away from other forms such as swimming, skipping, boxing, kettlebell movements etc.

The goal of HIIT is to go fast and hard, not slow and hard. The primary difference should be your speed and not the resistance.

Start your workouts with 2-3 minutes of low-intensity warm up. Do 20-30 minutes of HIIT and 2-3 minutes of warm down.

If you are looking to lose fat quickly I recommend 3-5 hours of weightlifting and 1-2 hours of HIIT cardio per week. This way you will lose fat and not muscle.

HIIT Workout

Complete 4 rounds with 30 seconds of work and 30 seconds of rest:

  1. Box jumps
  2. Burpees
  3. Kettlebell swings
  4. Rowing machine

*You can substitute any of these with bike sprints, treadmill sprints, mountain climbers, squats etc.

Why keep a food diary?

1. Accountability

Writing everything down and seeing your daily intake increases your perception of how much you actually eat.

2. Learn how to control your calories

The extra helping of salad dressing in your salad, the chocolate you picked up when you stopped at the petrol station, even the second drink you had at dinner. They could all add up to another 150-650 extra calories throughout the day, yet we tend to forget about these little food extras and instead focus on our main meals. When it comes to food, even a little adds up.

3. Understand your sources of calories

Calories aren’t just about total calories, but about the breakdown of protein, carbohydrates, and fat, which are 3 nutrients that provide energy for your body. You’ll also keep track of alcohol you drink, which is the other element that provides calories to your body, but is not a nutrient.

You may realise 70% of you calories are coming from carbohydrates, which is far higher than even what the USDA recommends (which is already high), or you might realise you only have 10% of your calories from protein despite being an active individual.

4. Portion control

When individuals are asked to keep a food diary, they often must measure all their food for the most accurate assessment. I find that many people measure food based on the bowl or plate the food is eaten on. For example, someone may say they have a “medium bowl of cereal” in the morning when in fact, after measurement, it is determined they actually have a very large serving. Once individuals use more accurate methods of measurement, they have a better understanding of their overall portion distortion.

5. Identify situations where you binge

There are usually a set of factors that set off eating binges, such as having too much alcohol at dinner, or having a very small lunch, or light breakfast. Sometimes eating is more emotional. By keeping a food diary and having to enter in all these foods and snacks makes you less inclined to overeat on these binges.

6. Provides a hard, objective record

Many times in our minds we will trick ourselves into believing we didn’t eat something, or we didn’t eat that much unhealthy food. When you have a written log, or journal, it takes the guess work and the guessing games out of the equation. You will know exactly how you are eating and that objective feedback can help inspire change.

7. Identify if you have a calorie surplus, or deficit

Not only does a food journal tell you the total calories you are eating, but you can also figure out how many more, or less calories you are eating relative to your calorie burn. If you eat more calories than you burn, you gain weight, and if you eat less, you lose weight.

Our habits are subconscious, so by making yourself conscious of how you eat by keeping a food journal, it makes changing your eating habits a whole lot easier.

MyFitnessPal is one of the most well known food diary programs and apps.


How to stick to your New Year’s fitness resolutions

The two most common resolutions at the start of every year are to get fit & healthy and to lose weight. As concepts they are great but as goals they immeasurable.

Instead set goals such as lose 5 kgs, complete a half marathon, increase your back squat by 25%. This helps you to find ways to achieve these goals and allows you to actually measure these results by your deadline.

Tips to achieve your goals:

1. Follow your gym program correctly. Don’t miss sets or reps or you won’t get the complete benefit of your program.

2. Never miss a workout. If you aim to exercise on Mondays, Tuesdays & Thursdays make it a priority on those days.

3. Eat clean. Most of the results will come from your kitchen rather than the gym. You can never out train a bad diet!

4. Combine weight training and high intensity workouts to maximise your weight loss and prevent your workouts from becoming boring.

5. Get professional help. Hire a personal trainer or see a dietitian if you are not getting the results you want. So many people are clueless when it comes to training and eating correctly. If there is anything you should spend your money on it should be your health.

6. Don’t give up! A cheat day or missed workout isn’t the end. Just because you had a bad day or week doesn’t mean you should give up. Pick yourself up and believe that you can achieve those goals!