On Your Days Off
Rest days; we have them. They are to some necessary, to others they are not needed. Sometimes rest days come from planned time off from the gym, some come from a medical need to have a day off. We have days off no matter who we are. So what do we do during that time that ensures that in 24 hours we do not take a single step back?
Firstly and right off the bat the most important thing is diet. If we do not exercise then our diet must be our next and biggest priority during these days off. The main thing to remember is that when you don't exercise you burn off far less calories in the day. During and indeed after exercise your body is trying to find sources of energy to keep it going and so will demand calories from you. Your body can require up even up to 500 extra calorie intake during the day to maintain and build your body during and a long time after exercise. This means that what you may eat on a training day must be different to a rest day. This means calorie-heavy foodstuffs like fats must be limited in some way in order to limit the calorie intake. This is even important for people bulking up. Why? Bulking up doesn't require the need for increasing your body stores of fat. Everything when it comes to fitness is relative to what we eat and what we burn during the day. It's a very small cycle that our body goes through so adapt. That's the key word.
Our resting heart rate during training days will be about 1-5 beats higher than on days off; so it's important to expect a degree of agitation and stress. This does seem rather odd to say on a rest day but the body is a very clever and complex beast; it tries to predict as much as it can to make it easier on itself. A rest day means the body is not required to put energy into the heart as much as possible, as well as the heart and the muscles as it would when about to exercise. What this means is that muscles and the respiratory system can 'feel uneasy'. This is no cause for alarm; its just an indication that you have successfully tricked your body and made it predict wrong, which can mean when you go for a training day tomorrow or the day after the body cannot predict what is going to happen so easily and will require more revving up.
Following on from that, muscles can tighten up on rest days especially after a couple of days of punishment and/or flexibility challenges. A day or more of rest of these muscles can make them feel tight and constrained, which can bring about DOMS or induce slightly painful movements of joints. The best way to avoid such a circumstance is to keep yourself warm at long periods of the day. This is so the muscles can soften slightly which aids in muscle development, muscle maintenance and so on. Cold is not good for the body during a rest day.
What are the thresholds of rest days-training days? How much does someone have to run or walk quickly for it to become (technically) a training day? Well training days don't mean sitting in bed moving very slightly every couple of hours. Then again rest days shouldn't really incorporate very much fast movement or have resistance exerted in much of a manner aside from what you would call your minimum. Rest days should incorporate very little physical exertion aside from walking, picking things up that don't require bending your knees so much and should not make you sweat at all. This is difficult to police and to understand because it's all relative to the individual. However as a rule of thumb if you are using your joints a lot at any one time, feeling tired from something physical (I know what you're thinking and yes that too) then it's not technically a rest day.
As for supplements and protein shakes; note what was stated first about calorie intake; there's no sense in taking a calorie-heavy protein shake on a day when your body is burning almost 500 less calories during the day. If you are taking a double helping of protein shake, maybe cut that down to just 1 scoop in order to help compensate for the lower calorie-burning in the day. When it comes to pills that help with exercise, well don't take them. Do however take diet pills on rest days, in fact it would be more beneficial for you to focus taking diet pills on rest days in general because as stated above the diet is the most important thing in rest days; so that CLA tablet you are taking? Definitely do it on a rest day!
There are many things a rest day must encompass and many thing to be aware of. Rest days aren't as simple as they might seem and require some form of preparation with regards to food, what you are planning on doing and what environment you are in. Stay in tune with your body during the rest time as well as the exercise time and you will understand what is needed and what is not needed.