How to Balance Your Gym and Rest Days: What The Science Says

How to Balance Your Gym and Rest Days: What The Science Says

So, what about rest days? A lot of people (especially beginners) are initially confused as to why you would want to rest more. After all, no pain no gain right?

To some extent that’s true, and you want to be absolutely pushing yourself in the gym, especially if you’re a hardgainer trying to put on massive amounts of muscle.

But all of your effort lifting weights will be for NOTHING if you don’t understand this one critical concept:

Muscle is broken down in the gym, but it is built when you rest.

That’s really all there is to it. Once you understand the value of rest and how to maximize it with the tips and tricks in this article, your gains in the gym will SKYROCKET.

So without further ado, let’s get into it.

Why Bother Resting More?

So why even bother? The reason put simply, is that resting more has incredible benefits that can aid you on your gym journey. You can gain muscle faster, get progressively stronger on all your lifts, etc.

The flip side to this however, is that when you don’t rest enough you actually MASSIVELY sabotage your health goals.

Studies show that people who exercise excessively without enough rest, not only gain very little muscle, but also start seeing negative side effects in their mental and emotional spheres of self as well. [R]

You can tell you’re overtraining when it becomes hard to even get out of bed in the morning, physically and mentally. You feel sluggish, unmotivated, perhaps depressed, and more.

If this is the case, then what you need my friend, is more rest.

When You Shouldn’t Rest

Now, before we get into how to maximize your rest days for the best muscle growth and health potential, let’s look at some times when you shouldn’t rest.

For starters, you shouldn’t rest if you simply “don’t feel like it”. That’s not a sign of overtraining, that’s just laziness, and you will never reach the next level of training that way.

How to Balance Your Gym and Rest Days - A men is resting at the gym,

Another time you shouldn’t rest is in the middle of your workouts! You see this when people check their phones a lot in their workouts.

Numerous studies have been done on your phone’s effect on your workout. What they concluded was that using your phone could lead up to a near 50% reduction in workout effectiveness! [R]

One study states:

“Thirty-two college students participated in two conditions (cell phone and control). Vigorous intensity minutes was significantly greater (p = 0.001) in the control condition (12.94 ± 8.76 min) than the cell phone condition (7.09 ± 8.38 min). In conclusion, using a cell phone for texting can interfere with treadmill exercise by promoting greater participation in low intensity exercise and less participation in vigorous intensity exercise due to a possible dual-tasking effect.” [R]

Pretty crazy right?

In conclusion, you shouldn’t rest when you’re just being lazy. You should rest when there is something quite literally physically and/or mentally wrong with you.

Ultimately, it will come down to you being brutally honest with yourself and asking which category you are in.

Maximizing Your Rest Days: The Basics

Now we know why we should rest, and when not to do so. Now, let’s get into the good stuff.

These tips will help take you from feeling tired everyday and exhausted at the end of a workout, dreading the next one, to feeling energized and MOTIVATED to pursue your fitness goals.

How to Balance Your Gym and Rest Days - a girl is resting at the gym.

Proper rest will skyrocket your results, if you fully take advantage of these tips, you can expect to see muscle gains and fat loss DOUBLE their effectiveness!

Don’t believe me? Incorporate all of these tips for the next two weeks and see how you feel.

Optimal rest ultimately comes down to 3 things:

  • Sleep Biohacking
  • Optimized Diet Plan
  • Active or Passive Rest

If you have one of these, you will have good results. If you have all of these, you will be ahead of 95% of your competition, just by making a few simple tweaks a day.

Sleep Biohacking

In a 2010 study, two groups followed a diet and exercises regime. One group slept for 5.5 hours a night and the other slept for 8.5 hours.

The result? The group that got less sleep lost 55% LESS fat and

LOST 60% more muscle than the group who got eight and half hours of sleep.

Sleep is also the time when your body churns out all of those hormones that’s good for muscle building and fat loss. Some of these hormones include testosterone, HGH, etc.

Science shows that there are many ways to improve your quality of sleep but the best bang for your buck opportunities are as follows:

How to Balance Your Gym and Rest Days - a man is sleeping.
  • Get 7-9 Hours Of Sleep Per Night
  • Keep Your Room Pitch Black
  • Limit Exposure To Blue Light Before Bed
  • Stay Away From Caffeine Later In Your Day

Out of all of these, I’d say that getting 7-9 hours of sleep and limiting blue light are the most deciding factors in the quality of your sleep.

Blue light (light from most electronic devices) has been proven to SIGNIFICANTLY decrease your quantity and quality of sleep, so make sure to cut it out as much as you can about an hour before bed.

On top of this you can also try supplements.

Personally, what I do if I want an AMAZING nights’ sleep is I get a glass of almond milk. Warm it up, add a tablespoon of coconut oil, and then a teaspoon of raw honey to it. Then I’ll drink it about half an hour before bed.

Also, I get supplements like melatonin, (the sleep hormone) GABA, (calms the brain) 5-HTP, (Precursor to serotonin) and L-theanine (reduces stress).

In fact, I love this sleep cocktail so much that I’m going to make it when I go to bed later, as I truly believe that it will give you the best sleep of your life, so give it a shot!

Optimized Diet Plan

Next, we have your diet. Diet is the #1 determining factor of your health overall.

Whether you’re trying to lose weight, or put on mass amounts of muscle, there’s a saying out there used by both bodybuilders and athletes alike that goes like this:

“Abs are made in the kitchen”

Not just your abs however, your whole body! If all you eat is junk, then you can expect to look like junk too, it’s really as simple as that.

Depending on your fitness goals you will want to alter your diet to help you achieve them.

For example, if you are trying to lose weight, then you are going to want to calculate your BMR (look up a BMR calculator online), and start eating below that number. You might also want to give intermittent fasting a chance too!

How to Balance Your Gym and Rest Days - abs

If your goal is to build muscle, then you are going to want to start eating protein, and lots of it!

Numerous studies have been done on proteins effect on muscle building, but they all come down to one thing: you essentially CAN’T [R]

So how much protein should you be eating? Science shows that the optimal amount of protein for muscle gaining is about one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight, any more is unnecessary. [R]

So to wrap this section up with bonus tips, here’s what you want to focus on with your diet to recover faster:

  • Eat at least 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight
  • Drink at least a gallon of water per day
  • Try to stay away from sugar as much as possible
  • Cut out the alcohol
  • Eat as much organic, non processed foods as you can

When I see beginners start their gym journey, they usually make decent progress for their first few months, but then something miraculous happens…

They start to see just how important their diet is, and they start taking it seriously, and all of a sudden… their progress EXPLODES.

So make the change today, optimize your diet so that you can recover faster than ever, leaving you ready to attack your next bench press or squat.

Active or Passive Rest

Lastly, we have active or passive rest. These are all of the physical things that you do on your rest days.

Passive rest is when you take the whole day off from physical activity.

Passive rest activities could include:

  • Reading a Good Book
  • Watching Movies
  • Do some Work
  • Relax In a Sauna
  • Meditating

The idea is that passive rest is usually best if you’ve been pushing yourself extremely hard in the gym recently, or if you just want to fully enjoy your day off from hitting the weights.

How to Balance Your Gym and Rest Days - a girl has a weightlifting training.

Active rest on the other hand, is when you incorporate LIGHT physical activity on these days, to get the blood flowing through the muscles and help flush out toxins, lactic acid etc. and is often used by athletes.

Active rest can include any sort of activity as long as it is LOW intensity. Rest days, do not mean that you should go jogging for a couple miles, or help your friend move his grandmother’s piano out of her house.

Some great examples of low intensity active rest include:

  • Yoga
  • Stretching
  • Foam Rolling
  • Going For a Walk
  • A Mini Hike
  • Light Swim
  • Etc.

The key with active rest is that the activity still gets your heart pumping, but is not so intense that your body needs to recover from your REST DAY as well.

Balancing Gym And Rest Days: The Bottom Line

Overall, whether you’re just trying to be healthier, or get Greek God Abs, rest days are vital to anyone who’s serious about making progress in their gym journey.

I understand if you’re new to the gym, and it’s tempting to want to hit it every single day as hard as you can. Trust me, I’ve been there, and I’ve suffered the consequences so you don’t have to.

However you decide to split up your rest days, will ultimately be up to you and your fitness goals, and will take some poking around to figure out what’s best.