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Are Rest Days Important For Weight Loss? What To Know In 2023


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Medically reviewed by Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

are rest days important for weight loss

Exercise recovery plays an important role in health and wellness, thus rest days are extremely essential for weight loss progression. Many fitness lovers are so focused on how good it feels to exercise that they forget to check in with themselves physically. 

It may sound silly,  but the body needs time to heal.

No fitness goal is too urgent to put your body at risk of injury, even if you’re trying to lose weight fast or burn more calories. 

Here’s why you should be giving yourself time to recover between workouts, as well as essential tips to keep yourself occupied while you rest.

How Often Should You Take A Rest Day?

A rest day is a day off from formal exercise. A rest day is meant to break a long string of consecutive workout days—we love our long weekends away from the gym, but scheduling them strategically throughout the week may be more beneficial to your long-term progress overall.

How often should you take a rest day? One or two rest days a week[1] between workouts and weight training is considered to be ideal for most ordinary people. More important than the frequency of your rest days, however, is the timing of your rest day schedule. 

Rest days help athletes minimize both training and performance fatigue[2]. The muscle fibers repair themselves, your glycogen is replenished, and you become much less prone to injury after you’ve recovered fully.

Why Are Rest Days Important?

When you work out vigorously, microscopic tears develop in your muscles. The movement from exercise reps the delicate strands of your muscular fiber apart with each pump or row.

The contraction of your muscles during an exercise called concentric contraction, and the lengthening of the muscles to their resting state, eccentric contraction, participate in a full-on tug-of-war[3] with one another. Your muscle tissue is at the center of it all. 

After an intense workout session, a process called hypertrophy occurs in the body. This is the system of processes that restores your glycogen (stored glucose) levels and increases the strength and endurance[4] of your musculoskeletal system again. 

Giving your body time to rest by taking a rest day is an essential part of any exercise regimen.  When you refuse to rest, your body is not able to recover and rebuild its muscle strength and stamina.

In short, rest days are vital to meet your fitness goals without burning out.

Myofibrillar Hypertrophy, AKA Muscle Repair and Growth

After a vigorous training session, cells called fibroblasts repair muscle tissue. This regenerative effort is what makes building muscle after exercise possible—gains, meet thy maker.

Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy, AKA the Restoration of Your Glycogen Stores

On the other side of this coin: sarcoplasmic hypertrophy, wherein the body’s energy stores are renewed. After repetitive stress, the glycogen in your muscles is broken down and expended. Without these stores of glycogen, our capacity for exercise decreases dramatically[5].

The Benefits of Regular Rest Days

Professional athletes and bodybuilders are able to attain peak physical performance because they strike a balance between training days and rest days. 

You can do this too with your own training regimen, so you truly maximize the work you’re putting in. How do you strike this balance? You can do this by fitting in periodic rest days. 

Incorporating rest days into a workout routine have been shown[6] to reduce the risk of injury in professional athletes and performers by reducing cumulative fatigue. 

Overtraining for an extensive period of time without rest perpetuates a negative cycle[7]. The more overworked your muscles are, the more damaged they may become. This will make it harder for them to regenerate later on, which can negatively impact your muscle gains. 

To avoid this, we recommend managing your training schedule actively, taking rest days into consideration along with active exercise days. Some of the benefits of taking a rest day include:

  • Less soreness after training
  • More tangible improvements in flexibility
  • Better performance during subsequent training sessions

Taking a day away from the gym shouldn’t cause you distress, especially if the quality of your workout is something that you value. Your recovery days will bring more energy, more muscle, and more progress. 

With this, you’ll put your body in a much better position to succeed and see the results you aspire to.

Signs When Rest Days are Needed

For people used to regular exercise, the feeling of pushing your body too hard at the gym is undeniable, even if you don’t actually end up sustaining an injury. 

For the sake of your health, be on the lookout for any of the following red flags that point to something called an overtraining syndrome[8]. If any of the following apply to you, a recovery day might be just what the doctor ordered:

  • Heavy, sore, or stiff muscles
  • Muscle pain
  • Muscle fatigue
  • A distinct lack of drive
  • Hypertension
  • A reduction in motivation
  • Insomnia
  • Agitation and irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating

You’ll be astounded by how much better you feel after even just one day of rest. On your rest days, you can enjoy gentle activities like walking, using a foam roller, or bedtime yoga if you prefer to do something active on a daily basis.

What to Eat on Rest Days

Plenty of evidence suggests that adequate protein intake on a regular basis stimulates both types of hypertrophy[9], which allows your body to heal more thoroughly on your rest days. Protein isn’t the only thing you should be eating, however. 

Peri-exercise nutrition is the art of planning the way that you eat around your workouts. Focusing on good quality nutrition at the right time will help maximize your results. 

Depending on your macronutrient goals, you may be able to optimize[10] your body’s performance during workouts through the way that you feed it, both on your off days and on the days when you’re extremely active. 

Fat burners for men (and women!) may also be highly beneficial to your health and your body; many contain protein, vitamin supplements, and other ingredients that help your body recover. 

It all comes down to your own personal health and fitness needs, habits, and goals.

Take a Break: Why Active Recovery Is Essential

Most people can feel when it’s time to recover and take a rest day. By taking a rest day just a couple of times a week, you’ll see a noticeable difference in your exercise performance, progress, and energy levels.

The studies we shared in this article prove how important rest days are. Any personal trainer would also be able to attest to the beneficial effects of rest days. 

So the next time you find yourself burning out at the gym, try skipping your workout the next day. Remember that it is okay to do so, and it will truly help your performance in the long run.

+ sources

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  1. Yang, Y.J. (2019). An Overview of Current Physical Activity Recommendations in Primary Care. Korean Journal of Family Medicine, [online] 40(3), pp.135–142. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6536904/
  2. Angela Mary Calder (2010). The scientific basis for recovery training practices in sport. [online] ResearchGate. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/234000504_The_scientific_basis_for_recovery_training_practices_in_sport
  3. LWW. (2022). Effects of Exercise on Senescent Muscle : Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research®. [online] Available at: https://journals.lww.com/clinorthop/Abstract/2002/10001/Effects_of_Exercise_on_Senescent_Muscle.25.aspx
  4. Taber, C.B., Vigotsky, A., Nuckols, G. and Haun, C.T. (2019). Exercise-Induced Myofibrillar Hypertrophy is a Contributory Cause of Gains in Muscle Strength. Sports Medicine, [online] 49(7), pp.993–997. Available at: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-019-01107-8
  5. Journal of Applied Physiology. (2020). Postexercise muscle glycogen resynthesis in humans | Journal of Applied Physiology. [online] Available at: https://journals.physiology.org/doi/full/10.1152/japplphysiol.00860.2016?url_ver=Z39.88-2003&rfr_id=ori:rid:crossref.org&rfr_dat=cr_pub=pubmed&
  6. Orlando, C., Levitan, E.B., Mittleman, M.A., Steele, R.J. and Shrier, I. (2010). The effect of rest days on injury rates. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports, [online] 21(6), pp.e64–e71. Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1600-0838.2010.01152.x
  7. Carfagno, D.G. and Hendrix, J.C. (2014). Overtraining Syndrome in the Athlete. Current Sports Medicine Reports, [online] 13(1), pp.45–51. Available at: https://journals.lww.com/acsm-csmr/fulltext/2014/01000/overtraining_syndrome_in_the_athlete__current.13.aspx
  8. Kreher, J.B. and Schwartz, J.B. (2012). Overtraining Syndrome. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach, [online] 4(2), pp.128–138. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3435910/
  9. Moore, D.R., Tang, J.E., Burd, N.A., Rerecich, T., Tarnopolsky, M.A. and Phillips, S.M. (2009). Differential stimulation of myofibrillar and sarcoplasmic protein synthesis with protein ingestion at rest and after resistance exercise. The Journal of Physiology, [online] 587(4), pp.897–904. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19124543/
  10. Cintineo, H.P., Arent, M.A., Antonio, J. and Arent, S.M. (2018). Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training. Frontiers in Nutrition, [online] 5. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6142015/

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

Emma Garofalo is a writer based in Pittsburgh, PA. A lover of science, art, and all things culinary, few things excite her more than the opportunity to learn about something new." It is now in the sheet in the onboarding paperwork, apologies!!

Medically reviewed by:

Melissa Mitri

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