As with many athletes I like structure, and a clear set of rules to work to. I believe in evidence-based rules. Carbs: 6-10g/kg body weight/day. Protein: 1.2-1.7 g/kg body weight/d. Fat: 20-30% total energy. Recovery: 1-1.5 g carbohydrate / kg body weight/30min. Hydration: 500ml/ 0.5kg body weight lost during exercise. Eat 2 hours pre exercise. Eat within 30min post exercise. Thanks ACSM for giving us structure to our training week.
But what about rest days? There are no guidelines as there are no studies around this, so what do we do? My clients tend to go to either extreme on rest days. There are those who can only justify eating through exercise and cut back on calories, carbs and frankly spend most of rest day thinking about food and feeling hungry. Then at the other end of the spectrum we have those that embrace the freedom to break free from ‘the rules’ and have a cheat day – pizza, pasta, ice-cream, burgers, fries – and that’s just breakfast So how do we get the balance right?
It’s actually a lot simpler than you might think. Don’t change a thing. Your body needs nutrition on rest days to recover and refuel. The calories you are not expending on exercise will be used for topping up your glycogen stores, and continuing the muscle repair which carries on for 24hours post workout. The only reason to change what you are eating would be if you are trying to lose weight and you find yourself constantly hungry on rest days. In this case the best thing to do is to focus on healthy fats and protein as well as filling fibrous foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Think eggs & beans for breakfast, avocado on rye for lunch, and quinoa salad for dinner.
Find it hard to take a rest day at all? I find yoga a great way to recover and stretch – a perfect activity for any athlete who finds it hard to sit still and has a tendency to overtrain. Gentle exercise such as yoga is also an appetite suppressant, so good for those watching their weight.
Fancy a tipple on rest day? Go ahead! Alcohol inhibits glyconeogenesis (and therefore prevents you stocking up your energy stores post workout), as well as inhibiting protein synthesis, so should ideally be avoided during training days. Rest day is therefore the best day to enjoy a glass of wine without leaving your legs feeling heavy & unresponsive at the next training session.
Here’s my favourite recipe from that clever man Jamie O’s new recipe book Superfoods. I love all the tasty recipes in this book, as well how the nutritional properties of the ingredients are celebrated. Each recipe also has it’s nutritional breakdown so you can plan your 4:1 carbs: protein recovery meals and snacks, and check you’re reaching your 20g protein recovery target. Also packed full of healthy fats and wholegrains, perfect for rest day nutrition. I modified this recipe to boost the healthy fats and protein and simplify the prep.
- 250g quinoa
- 1 ripe avocado
- 300g tomatoes
- 2 limes
- extra virgin olive oil
- 2 corn on the cob
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 fresh red chill
- 2 salmon fillets
- 20g feta
- 1/2 bunch fresh coriander or mint
- Cook the Quinoa according to packet instructions
- Peel avocado and roughly chop with tomatoes
- Toss with lime zest and juice, 2bsp olive oil, salt and pepper
- Grill corn cobs on a direct gas flame, then slice off the kernels
- Peel garlic and slice with chilli, add to pan with oil and fry salmon fillets skin side down until cooked and the skin has gone crispy (about 10min)
- Remove skin and slice into ‘salmon crackling’ strips
- flake salmon into veg, add quinoa and corn and toss together
- Sprinkle with feta, herbs, and salmon crackling
Front of Pack Nutrition Labelling:
|Nutrient||per 100g||%RI||per 307g serving||%RI|