Rest & Bodybuilding

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By Medifit Education




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When we think of bodybuilding and building huge biceps or pecs, we tend to think of people slaving away in the gym and pumping out as many repetitions as possible while grunting and groaning at the top of their voice. Indeed this does make up a large part of bodybuilding, and if you do not push yourself in the gym then you will find you do not grow. However at the same time all this pushing yourself is only one side of the equation, and what is equally important is rest. This rest needs to be good quality and high in quantity, and you need to ensure you do it in the right ways. A big part of bodybuilding is pushing yourself and sweating in the gym, but a bigger part is lying in bed resting.

The first reason that rest is so important is that that is when your muscle actually grows. When you are training in the gym, what you are actually doing is tearing your muscle fibre, that is to say that the neurons in your arms are actually being ripped in half in what are called micro tears. Returning to train these muscles in this state then would mean you were relatively ineffective, and would mean you actually made yourself less likely to grow as you kept doing damage. What you need to do instead then is to rest the muscles so that they have a chance of recovering and building themselves back up to full size meaning you could eventually do permanent damage. And of course the harder you push your muscles, the more you need to rest them. This is why professional bodybuilders and serious amateurs will not train their whole body in a single session, but will instead train each body part on a set day of the week. This way each body part can have an entire session to work it meaning it is trained as hard as possible – but that it then has a whole week to recover. If you train this way you can also avoid training every day of the week and make do with just four days or five days. Stallone to be in the shape he was in for Expendables or Rambo still didn’t train every day of the week, but instead allows himself the time he needed to recover.

Another technique some bodybuilders use is to take a whole week off every couple of months. This is something they do in order to shock their body out of a plateau, but also to give their muscle and their body a chance to recover. While not every bodybuilder does it, many swear by it, and you will find that if you take a week off of your training you tend to actually grow rather than slimming down as you might expect.

Taking rests like this also helps to prevent something that every bodybuilder fears – overtraining. This is something that is very much how it sounds, and describes occasions when you train yourself too much and end up tired and achy and with many of the symptoms of a flu. This happens simply because you have pushed yourself too hard and it will result in your inability to train as much as you should be subsequently as you have to wait for your body to recover before you can put effort back into your workouts. In this sense taking time out is an investment as it allows you to put more time in the rest of time.

Sleep is also important when you are bodybuilding as it is your most ‘anabolic’ state. An anabolic state is any point in which you are building muscle rather than burning it, and when you are repairing wounds etc. This is seemingly one of the main purposes of sleep – to heal and recover after the day’s events, and during this stage your body produces large amounts of growth hormone, which cause your body to burn fat, build muscle, heal wounds and generally make repairs and alterations – which is of course crucial after you have done a workout. Lots of healthy sleep will also give you the energy you need to be able to put lots of zest into your workouts.

There are ways that you can make your resting periods more effective, for example by eating lots of protein and amino acids, as this is what your body will use to make its repairs. Similarly you can increase your growth hormone with supplements such as GABBA or with hot baths, and naturally with hot showers. In short though any type of rest will help and it is time to stop thinking of it as slacking off, and instead as a crucial technique for improving in size and definition.


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People who lift weights and perform other bodybuilding exercises are able to prevent a gradual loss of muscle mass that takes place during aging and makes the body more prone to weakness and injury. Bodybuilding workouts offer a variety of other health benefits — including less risk for back pain — although working your muscles too much minimizes your gain and can cause deterioration. Understand how allowing your muscles one or more days of rest is essential to a healthy bodybuilding regimen.


Bodybuilding for Better Health

While most physical activity benefits your overall wellness, people who perform regular bodybuilding workouts, or strength training, gain muscle and improve their bone strength. Stronger bones help you avoid the fractures caused by osteoporosis and improve your balance. Larger muscles improve your appearance with a toned physique but also help you eliminate unhealthy fat and burn calories more efficiently. Lifting weights to add muscle significantly decreases the likelihood that you’ll suffer from depression, diabetes and even the pain of arthritis.


Mandatory Rest

The Cleveland Clinic reports that one of the most common bodybuilding errors is failure to provide adequate rest time for muscles after a workout. A healthy routine works each muscle group no more than three days weekly — and never on consecutive days. Strength routines require your muscles to work against resistance — weighted barbells, resistance tubing or your own body weight, as when you perform pullups and pushups. An effective workout results in minimal bleeding and tearing of your muscle fibers that often leads to soreness. This damage is an essential part of bodybuilding and indicates that your muscles are repairing and becoming stronger. Muscle repair usually takes two days, which makes 48 hours of rest essential to allow growth and prevent injury that includes muscle deterioration.


A Perfect Balance

You’ll build muscle — and get sufficient rest — by adopting a bodybuilding regimen that alternates activity for different muscle groups. The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library suggests training your lower body during your first weekly workout and reserving the next workout for upper-body routines. You’ll also ensure you work both sides of a muscle and prevent overload by performing both pulling and pushing repetitions. Aim to lift only as long as you can maintain intensity and proper form, as attempting additional repetitions when you are fatigued opens the door to injury and limits the effectiveness of your exercise.


Effective Time Off

Meet with your doctor before starting a bodybuilding routine to ensure your muscles are up for the increased workload, particularly if you have a heart condition. Consider devoting your time away from the gym to aerobic activities like basketball, cycling or swimming. Cardiovascular exercise aids your strength workouts by increasing your stamina, and also lowers your cancer risk.




So you’ve been lifting hard all week and it’s time for your hard-earned day of rest. No gym to think about today (aside from looking forward to tomorrow’s workout), but what about the other major component of shredding: nutrition? Ever heard anybody say “the gym is 30% training and 70% diet”? Well, despite it being a moronic statement in the sense that it’s impossible to quantify things like this, the message stands true. That message being that diet is just as important, if not more important, than training – and that’s every day of the week, not just training days! So how should you go about altering your diet on a rest day? Should you alter it at all? As ever, it depends on your current goals.



One of the main reasons to have a rest day is to recover. If you’re trying to add mass, embrace the bulk. Don’t attempt to drop your calories below maintenance levels in an effort to offset some of the excess fat gain brought on by bulking. Fat loss – like muscle gain – is a long process, so hoping to cut for a day then go back to bulking the next day is ludacris. It will only impair growth. The aim is to get in some valuable recovery you can hit the gym the next day feeling revitalized. Ergo, it is imperative that you stay in calorie surplus. You can account for the fact you won’t be training if you wish (you will be growing however!). For example, if you eat 500 calories above maintenance on a training day, drop it down to around 200-300 above for rest day.

As for macros you should be adjusting them ever so slightly, nothing dramatic. Keep the amount of protein you consume the same as on training days. Protein synthesis will peak within the first 24 hours after training, but can remain elavated for up to 72 hours. That means you can’t afford to sacrifice any protein on your rest day! If you do choose to reduce your calories slightly, you will have to do it by reducing carbs and fat, since protein will now be making up a larger portion of your calories. Don’t go crazy on a carb drought though, you need them to fuel the muscle repair that will be occuring and you want to keep glycogen levels nice and high for the next days training. Remember, you’re only tinkering, not having an overhaul.



Altering your diet on a rest day while cutting isn’t necessary – providing that you’re still in calorie deficit of course. If it is only the calories burned during your workout that take you below maintenance levels then you need to reduce calories further on a rest day – in the form of omitting some carbs. As before, nothing too drastic, so don’t drop too far below maintenance. This is partly because you want to stay well away from the realms of muscle wasting, but also because being in too much of a calorie deficit will only leave you feeling energyless and lethargic at best, which totally defeats the object of a rest day anyway.



Ideally, it would be a good idea to split up your cheat meal and your rest day so they don’t coincide. The reason being that if you’re indulging in a meal full of sugar and/or saturated fat on a day when your caloric intake will be less than normal anyway, it may be difficult to fit in all the protein and other essential food groups you need, while keeping your calories from spilling over. In keeping with this, have your cheat meal on a day when you’ve had a particularly heavy session. Leg day for example, since you’re likely to burn more calories on this day than any other, not to mention needing more to help fuel the recovery process. It could also help to have your cheat meal as your last meal of the day. That way you’ll be less likely to cheat again, and your cheat meal won’t turn into a cheat day! After all if we had a full cheat day every week, that would constitute almost 15% of our lives (provided we start lifting from birth and don’t stop until death).

Lastly, when cheating, cheat good. Adding a squirt of mayonnaise to your tuna does not constitute a cheat meal. Eat whatever the hell you want to eat, or those cravings will be back at your door sooner than desired.



Healthy eating is a key component to any exercise plan, especially when weight loss is the goal. Taking rest days at certain intervals during the week gives your body a chance to recuperate while growing stronger. But successful weight loss means continuing with your food plan even on the days you do not exercise. A balanced diet with appropriate caloric intake is the key to long-term success.



Cut down on carbohydrates on rest days. Healthy carbs give you energy to achieve your exercise goals, but on days when you are resting, cutting down on carbs can help you maintain or continue to burn fat calories to achieve weight loss. According to, a healthy 2,000-calorie diet contains about 250 grams of complex carbs each day. This provide 40 to 50 percent of the energy required for moderate exercise during the early stages of a fitness program. Reducing that number by 50 to 100 grams on exercise rest days helps you reach your fitness goals faster.



Focus on lean proteins such as fish, poultry and eggs, which give you sustained energy between meals and helps reduce blood sugar spikes. Getting some lean protein with every meal on your rest days gives your body what it needs to rebuild lean muscle and recuperate from strenuous activity. U.S. News Health and Wellness recommends eating protein at all three meals to help you eat less overall, especially on exercise rest days. Starting the day with a protein-rich breakfast can help you eat up to 200 fewer calories throughout the day.



Increase your consumption of nutritious produce and legumes. Sports dietitians Bethanie Allanson and Benita Lalor for the Australian Sports Commission cite the important role that vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables play in the recovery from strenuous exercise. Dark green, leafy vegetables are rich in iron. Red and orange fruits and vegetables provide beta carotene and other antioxidants and reduce inflammation. Dried beans and legumes are a low-fat protein source with lots of healthy fiber for lowering cholesterol and improving digestion.

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Getting a sufficient amount of deep, restful sleep on a consistent basis is a far more important factor when it comes to maximizing muscle growth, fat loss and overall health than most people realize.

Ensuring that you get an adequate rest each night will…

  • Keep your energy levels, mood, concentration and motivation at its peak for improved performance both in and out of the gym.
  • Optimize the output of important muscle building and fat burning hormones such as testosterone and IGF-1.
  • Improve the efficiency at which your body utilizes fat for energy (rather than muscle) through a reduction in RER (respiratory exchange rate).
  • Reduce levels of the muscle-wasting, fat-storing hormone cortisol.




Although the standard “8 hours a night” guideline is typically a good recommendation in most cases, it ultimately just comes down to the individual and can vary quite a bit from person to person.

My simple advice is to just aim for an amount of sleep each night that allows you to feel fully rested and energized throughout the day without any noticeable fatigue or an obvious need for more rest.

Whether that means 8 hours per night, 10 hours or 5, it really just depends on you. If you have no issues at all sleeping, for example, 6 hours a night, I certainly wouldn’t say that you need to go out of your way to sleep an extra 2 hours if you don’t actually need it.


7 Bodybuilding Sleep Tips: Quick Review

So, here’s a quick recap of the 7 tips we just covered…

  1. Maintain a consistent schedule by going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day.
  2. Avoid doing work or other “mind stimulating” activities in bed. Reserve your bed for sleep and sex only.
  3. Cut off all electronics, such as television, smartphones and laptops 30-60 minutes before bed.
  4. Avoid going to sleep too full or too hungry. Consume a medium sized meal within a few hours of nodding off to improve melatonin production and overall comfort.
  5. Keep your room cool (between 60-67 degrees), as dark as possible, and eliminate sudden background noises by sleeping in total silence or using white noise.
  6. Do not consume caffeine and other stimulants within 6-8 hours of sleep.
  7. Supplement with one or more of the following: magnesium at 200-400mg daily (in the form of magnesium citrate, gluconate or diglycinate), lavender oil at 80mg 30 minutes before sleep, or melatonin at 1-3mg 30 minutes before sleep.

Employ some or all of these tips and you should notice a definite improvement in your sleep quality that positively carries over to your fitness program and your overall life in general.

By Medifit Education

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