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.