Overtraining – When should you take rest days?

Written by Milly Jackson
Reviewed by Erica Lee, RN
featured image for article on overtraining

Guest Blog by Hayley Madigan

Overtraining can increase the risk of injuries, cause muscle soreness/fatigue, and longer healing times for our bodies. It can also cause emotional instability and insomnia. We have to remember to tell ourselves that recovery and rest are just as important as achieving any fitness-related aspirations.

The more our body and mind get used to exercising and training daily, the more we’re able to enjoy the natural endorphin-high along with muscle building and staying fit. Although the benefits of exercise far outweigh the negatives, we sometimes overdo it and over-exert ourselves which can lead to undesirable effects on our bodies.

When should you take a rest day?

Your fitness goals will dictate when and how often you should rest.

If you’re aiming for muscle-building, then the majority of your training is centered around weight-lifting. If so, you should have at least one rest day every three days. Doing so will allow your muscles the chance to grow and repair leading to better bulking.

Muscles tear when met with constant and repetitive resistance (i.e. weight-training). Muscles only grow (i.e. bulk) when rested and have enough fuel to do so (i.e. good nutrition and rest days). Hence, if you’re overtraining with limited rest days, this is one of the reasons why you may be plateauing or not being able to see the desired effects of your training 

If you’re aiming for endurance, then the majority of your training is centered around cardio. Your rest days can be less frequent and can often be in the form of active-rest. Your body gradually undergoes cardiovascular adaptations with regular training. As your body gets used to the exercise, you will not need as much rest as you did in the beginning when you first started training.

Active-rest refers to doing a lighter workout or less physically demanding exercise session, that will not cause more damage to the body. Doing so allows the blood to circulate around the body and start to repair the muscles that are in need of recovery. The most important thing here is to remember to listen to your body and to schedule rest days into your training as they are crucial to healing.  

Here are some home workout exercises you can do at home while on your active-rest days.

Do you still eat the same amount of calories on rest days?

Depending on your goals, it may vary. Some people use rest days to have a controlled re-feed, which is to take in excess calories/carbohydrates to refuel the body with energy and to load up the glycogen stores.

Others believe that they need to decrease their caloric intake on their rest days as they are not burning as many calories due to less physical activity.

I say, do not be afraid to eat more on your rest days. Your body has already told you that it needs a rest day, so starving it of food/energy is not going to help it recover faster. Thus, keeping your calories the same or even increasing them slightly will aid your body’s recovery process. It will also help your muscles recuperate in a shorter amount of time. 

Points to remember to prevent overtraining

  • Listen to your body it is extremely smart to know what it needs and to avoid overtraining.
  • Plan rest days to suit your life outside the gym, so you don’t feel guilty about resting.
  • Remember rest allows your muscles to GROW and REPAIR.
  • Eat to recover, starchy carbohydrates, high protein sources, and unsaturated fats like Omega-3 fatty acids will help speed-up recovery. Check out this blog post on the exercise benefits of Omega-3.

This post was written by Hayley Madigan, co-founder of TheMuscleCoaches. Hayley is a WNBF PRO Natural Bodybuilder and Physical Education Secondary School Teacher.


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