What if I told you that you should NOT workout every day? That rest is vital to your weight-loss, your health, and your ability to build muscle? Would you believe me? Would you jump for joy? (Remember: jumping burns calories!)
Rest = Muscle growth.
It’s unfortunate that many people who are consistently working out are sabotaging their own efforts by overtraining. It’s this simple: if you don’t rest, your muscles don’t grow. And we already discussed that more muscle results in increased metabolism, so if your muscles aren’t growing, you are hurting your weight-loss efforts.
Overtraining makes you weaker.
Your muscle fibers are being broken down as you lift weights, so you are actually becoming (temporarily) weaker. The rest period is crucial because it’s when you get stronger. Your muscles need that time to repair and grow, and they can’t do that if you never give them a break. If they don’t have time to recuperate after a workout, then they will continue to get weaker as you train. This results in injuries as well as the opposite effect of what you were trying to achieve in the gym. Say what!?
Lack of rest leads to hormonal imbalances.
By not incorporating rest days you are offsetting the delicate balance of hormones, specifically muscle-building DHEA and the stress hormone cortisol. The two usually work together, but overtraining decreases DHEA and increases cortisol, which tears down muscle, promotes weight gain, increases your blood pressure, and can lead to exhaustion and mental confusion. So not only are you preventing your muscles from getting stronger, but you are overstressing your body and mind. And I’m pretty sure us ladies do not need anything else messing with our hormones…
How long should you rest?
Depending on your workout and how your muscles feel afterwards, you should rest anywhere from 24-72 hours after weight training. A rest day doesn’t always mean morphing into a couch potato- you can go for a walk, light jog, swim, clean your house, etc. You can get up and move, but make sure you are resting the muscles worked! I am a fan of full-body workouts to achieve my goals, so my rest days usually involve a dog walk, stretching/yoga, or 30 minutes of at-home stair stepping workouts. If you are working for hypertrophy or significant strength increase, then you can get on a split routine for weight-lifting, and you can train 4-6 days a week by splitting up your muscle groups. A good rule of thumb is if you are still sore, that particular muscle group still needs to rest!
Resting prevents plateaus.
When I hear the word plateau applied to fitness I usually think of body-builders, but this can apply to any fitness goal. Incorporating rest days will help you achieve your goals of hypertrophy, muscle strength, weight-loss, tone, or training for your half marathon! Overtraining is one of the main causes for plateaus, injuries, and frustrated exercisers!
Another important thing to remember is to get enough sleep. Your muscles are repairing as you sleep, you are fighting off infection, storing the day’s memories, and sleep deprivation is associated with decreased testosterone, energy, and growth hormone levels, along with increasing catabolic hormone (muscle destroying) levels. Overtraining can increase sleepless and restless nights.
Hands down, your body needs rest.
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Freytag, Chris. “Taking Rest Days Between Workouts.” Prevention. N.p., May 2012. Web. 23 Oct. 2013. <http://www.prevention.com/fitness/fitness-tips/taking-rest-days-between-workouts>.
“How to Build Muscle Fast.” 2BUILDMUSCLEFAST.COM. N.p., Jan. 2011. Web. 23 Oct. 2013. <http://www.2buildmusclefast.com/2011/01/importance-of-rest-and-recovery-in.html>
LeBrun, Shawn. “Never Hit A Plateau Again!” Bodybuilding.com. N.p., 21 Oct. 2002. Web. 23 Oct. 2013. <http://www.bodybuilding.com/fun/lebrun4.htm>.
Ross, Melissa. “How Much Rest Between Workouts for Muscle Growth?”LIVESTRONG.COM. Livestrong Foundation, 04 Feb. 2011. Web. 23 Oct. 2013. <http://www.livestrong.com/article/374066-how-much-rest-between-workouts-for-muscle-growth/>.
Thompson, Jonathan. “Rest Periods – A Vital Part of Any Fitness Routine.”LIVESTRONG Fitness Blog. Livestrong Foundation, 20 July 2012. Web. 23 Oct. 2013. <http://www.livestrongfitness.com/blog/rest-periods-a-vital-part-of-any-fitness-routine/>.