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Should Eating Habits Change for Rest Days?

When you’re working out, you want to be sure that you’re consuming enough food to satisfy your daily caloric and nutrient needs to supply the energy needed for your workouts, as well as being able to properly recover. However, what about your caloric and nutrient needs on rest days? Are you supposed to continue eating what you normally eat when you’re working out or should you reduce it? And if you should reduce your food intake on rest days, how much are you supposed to cut back?

Healthy eating is just as important on your rest days as it is when you’re working out. For folks that are looking to lose weight and tone up, it is normal for these folks to fear canceling out some of their gains when they are taking a day or two off. Today, we’re going to talk about eating recommendations for your rest days that are sure to keep you on track for reaching your fitness goals.

Should You Cut Back?

If you have seen my videos about the resting metabolic rate, you will have heard me mentioning the importance of considering physical activity into the equation. Essentially, the resting metabolic rate is pretty much about how many calories your body is burning if you were sitting on your sofa all day. If you are physically active, the equation has to be adjusted to the activity level to consider the increased amount of calories that will need to be burned for that physical activity. For instance, if there were two 30-year old males of similar heights and weights, where one is an accountant and the other is a cattle farmer, it should be obvious that the farmer would be burning way more calories because his occupation requires him to be more physically active than the accountant.

In case you haven’t seen my videos regarding the resting metabolic rate (RMR), this is an estimate of how many calories your body burns in a day to keep you alive while you are sedentary. It is adjusted by a person’s height, weight, age, and gender, but it is also suggested that if you are figuring out your own RMR, you should also include the adjustment for your physical activity. The Mifflin-St. Jeor formula is the most commonly used by health experts, and here is what it looks like:

Men: (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) - (5 × age in years) + 5

Women: (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) - (5 × age in years) - 161

The obvious answer about whether you should reduce some of your caloric intake on your rest days is “yes”, namely because your body might just store the calories that it would have burned off during your workout and recovery as body fat. However, if you are working out on a consistent basis, it’s probably not going to be that big of a deal since any fat mass that is created from what you eat on your non-workout days is going to be burned off pretty quickly for regular bodily functions.

What about protein intake? Does that need to be reduced on your off days? It depends on how much protein you’re consuming and the target caloric intake of the day. Protein is a macronutrient, so the excess protein that your body doesn’t use for building or maintaining muscle mass or one of the other main functions of protein, the nitrogen atom is cleaved off and expelled in the urine, meanwhile the remaining atoms are used for energy or stored as fat. Again, if you’re consistent with your exercises, consuming the same amount of protein on the rest days as the workout days, it’s not going to create that much of a dent on your physique.

Workout Days versus Rest Days

How does your food consumption affect you and reaching your goals? It’s pretty important, especially if you’re looking for aesthetic or athletic changes. The quality of your diet affects us more than most can imagine. I like to say this —picture yourself buying a new Mercedes. In the instructions, it specifically says that you should fill up the gas tank with premium unleaded gas. Even if you use regular unleaded, your car is going to run, but in the long-term, because it’s not getting the proper octane, this is going to damage the engine and the car won’t be performing well. Eating garbage food and trying to make up for it with working hard in the gym is going to cause more harm than good.

How often should you take a rest day? This depends on your fitness goals and your training intensity. Training seven days out of the week can be done safely, but these cannot be 3-hour workouts at Beast Mode levels since that would surely result in overreaching or overtraining complications. Personally, I want anywhere from 1-3 rest days each week, and on those rest days, I’m still getting in a 45-minute walk with my dog.

How often should you workout? Again, this depends on your goals and how you’re planning to do your workouts. Some people like dividing their workouts into upper and lower body splits, which is what a lot of bodybuilders have made famous. Others, including myself, like to do full body lifts three times a week, and I usually do cardio on the days that I’m not lifting minus Sundays (these are my total rest days to allow my body to recover). If you think that you need to train 6-7 days a week to reach your goals, know that even elite athletes, from Lebron James to the winner of the World’s Strongest Man competitions sometimes just do two workouts in a week. It’s not the quantity of your workouts, but the quality.


How much you eat on your rest days is definitely something that you will want to consider, regardless if you’re wanting to lose weight, train for an athletic event, or simply want to get in better health. However, considering that you are consistent with your workouts, understand that your body doesn’t need as much protein and nutrients when you’re on your rest days, but unless you eat like Michael Phelps on your training days, you’re probably going to be okay with eating the same when it’s a workout day or rest day. You can still gain weight on your rest days, so you don’t want to go wayyyyyy over on your calories because the excess is just going be stored as fat.

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