Samantha has a B.Sc. in nutrition, and has spent two years working as a personal trainer. Since then, she has embarked on a mission to conquer the blogosphere. When not in the gym or on the track, you can find her on Ripped.me, or in a tea shop. She also blog for the Natural News Blog.
The Importance of Rest DaysWhen they take up a weight-training program, many people are extremely eager to see the first results of their strenuous efforts very soon. This is a common source of disappointment and frustration, as muscle building is a gradual process that won’t happen overnight, so many inexperienced bodybuilders resort to overtraining, and even steroids, thus harming not only their chances of gaining size and building strength, but also compromising their health. Rest days are essential for muscle growth and preventing injury, so if you want to take advantage of all the benefits of strength training, you need to learn to take it easy and allow your body to recuperate.
Take a day offIt’s great when you’re dedicated to sculpting your body and when you can’t wait to hit the gym and start with your exercising. Still, if you want all your hard work to be effective, you need to stick to that ancient saying advising us to enjoy all things in moderation. It seems natural to assume that experienced bodybuilders should know better than to train 6 or even 7 days a week. Instead of increasing their performance and growing muscle, overtraining only makes them weaker, prone to injury and fatigue, and even depressed. When you’re doing a full-body workout, you shouldn’t train more than four times a week. However, if you decide to train certain muscle groups, you should allow them to rest for at least one day, and focus on another group. Remember that the most important part of bulking up doesn’t happen while you train, but when you rest. This is a common misconception, and many people who practically don’t get out of the gym are puzzled when they don’t see any results. The trick is to find the right balance and not to overburden your body.
The science of sleepWhen it comes to muscle growth, rest and a good night’s sleep are an absolute must. Namely, while you train, your muscle fibers are damaged and broken down. Then, after the workout and especially while you sleep, your body starts repairing those fibers and growing new, bigger muscles. So, basically, even though it seems that you’re packing on some serious mass while you’re lifting weights and sweating at the gym, the truth is that this process takes place while you’re sleeping. Namely, that’s when the pituitary gland produces growth hormone, responsible for tissue growth and muscle repair. Lack of sleep or disturbed sleep patterns reduce the body’s ability to regulate hormone excretion, which in turn interferes with the process of healing and regeneration.
Keep injury at bayWeight training is a demanding activity, so staying injury free can be very difficult given the strain your body has to endure. That’s why it’s extremely important to be aware of all the possible risks and do everything to prevent them. Glycogen is the substance which provides the body with ready-to-use energy sources, and it’s mainly stored in the liver and muscles. In other words, glycogen is the fuel your body uses during exercise, and if we bear in mind that a strenuous workout session depletes almost 70% of your glycogen stores, it’s clear that they need to be replenished. Glycogen depletion is associated with fatigue and injury, so you need to give your body time to refuel and renew its energy levels. Easier said than done, because adrenaline is still high after the workout, so it can be difficult to relax and quiet your body and mind for the optimal effects of rest. There are several things you can do to help you relax: meditate (you can find a bunch of useful instructions online), do everything you can to sleep better (I personally use a great air purifier for my allergies and light lavender candles), and leave your phone in the other room when you hit the sack.
Feed your musclesWhen discussing the importance of rest days for building muscles, it’s impossible not to mention proper nutrition. Although it sounds illogical, it’s a big mistake to lower your fat and carb intake on the days when you’re not training. People are convinced that they’ll gain fat by not avoiding these nutrients, but this couldn’t be more wrong. Your body needs carbs in order to replenish the glycogen stores in your muscles. This means that besides being high in protein, the diet of a bodybuilder should contain complex, slow-burning fats, which are great sources of energy. All this means that you should fill your plate with lean protein, whole grains, oatmeal, sweet potatoes, bananas, pears, oranges, and dive in. When it comes to fats, you should stay away from processed fats, limit saturated fats, and stick to monounsaturated fats. Olive oil, flaxseed, sunflower seeds, and canola oil are excellent options packed with healthy fats.
Naturally, when you are prepping for a meet, you will need to tailor your diet accordingly, so don’t view these guidelines as set in stone.
Don’t underestimate the importance of your rest days, since overtraining and not allowing your body to repair will prevent your muscle growth and damage your health.