Should you have a protein shake on your rest day?

Rachael Attard Lean Legs Program – Sunday Week 4

Today I’m halfway through Rachael Attard’s program (yay!) which I started four weeks ago. And being a Sunday, I want to talk about rest days – (yay for rest!) – and what exercise and food looks like on a rest day (to protein shake or not?).

Rachael Attard’s Lean Legs program incorporates a rest day once a week. While I love the walking and exercises, I also really (really) love rest days. Personally I feel they are totally necessary – both mentally and physically. Quite often I still do some stretching or a light walk, but there is no pressure or expectation and no obligation for the day!

Are rest days important? For me it’s a big loud YES! But let’s look at some research, the reasons behind the why, and if there are some things to watch out for on rest days – like should you have a protein shake on a rest day or not.

Are rest days important?

As I mentioned, I personally feel rest days are important to relax and give your mind and body a break. Science of Ultra has a fascinating article on whether you need scheduled rest days and asks the questions – what is rest and do we need to schedule a whole day for it.

It talks about viewing time as a continuum and thinking about all the activities you do to fill your time outside of working out. There may be enough time outside of scheduled workouts to allow your body to rest and recover without always needing a whole day.

It is also important to think about what you are doing outside of workout hours and that we should be ‘sleeping well, eating well, and thinking well’. Other stresses that come up in between workouts such as worrying, partying, getting sick etc, impact the recovery time and do not give you rest, even if you are not working out.

So rest itself is important, and if you need a whole day – take it!

What happens to your body on a rest day?

An article from the University of Colorado on the benefits of rest days, explains that ‘rest days’ should be viewed as growth, or repair days. When working out hard, our muscles can actually breakdown, and it’s when we rest that our muscles repair and strengthen.

Building lean muscle can help you to tone up and also an increase in muscle can increase metabolism – meaning you can burn fat faster. It also allows us to refuel so that we can exercise again without feeling so fatigued or tired.

So whether you are looking to build lots of muscle or just lean out, rest can be a crucial piece of the puzzle! Let’s see how nutrition plays a part and whether you should have a protein shake on a rest day.

How many days rest after a workout?

Like all things, listen to your body and do what feels right for you!

If you are exhausted or run down, taking a couple of days rest can be a great idea. Having regular rest days can help avoid getting to this stage of exhaustion, but as mentioned above – it also depends on what else is going on in your life and stressers that may be impacting your rest time.

And rest doesn’t have to mean 8 hours horizontal on the couch binge watching The Last Kingdom (but it sure can!); rest days can include gentle exercise such as stretching, yoga or light walking to keep your muscles moving and activate blood flow. And is having a protein shake on your rest day beneficial? Read on…

The Health and Wellness Service team at Colorado also talk about rest days for mental health. Training and exercise generally makes us feel great – boosting vitality and getting the endorphins pumping.

It’s great for clearing the mind, energising us, feeling calmer and better equipped to manage our days. However, overtraining can impact our sleep and make us feel irritable or cranky, leading to less than optimal training and both physical and mental fatigue.

Should you have a protein shake on a rest day?

The big question we’re all waiting for. Get ready for some awesome science here guys.

The overall nutrition picture

So a 2016 study Nutrition and Athletic performance by Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine, determined from its findings that there is ‘an appropriate type, amount and timing of intake of food, fluids and dietary supplements to promote optimal health and sport performance.’

Basically what you eat, when you eat it and how much you eat impacts your health and workouts. Sounds pretty common sense right?! Now let’s see their recommendations and if protein shakes fit in.

The report states that nutritional intake should take into account the training and energy needs at the time, as well as overall nutrition goals to stay healthy and maintain enough energy.

It suggests in general, taking a ‘pragmatic approach’ to sports foods and advises that they can add value when part of an overall tailored nutritional plan. So when we eat is important in relation to training preparation and recovery (as well as overall, ongoing health), and sports foods (protein shakes) can be a good addition to a diet plan.

So we are starting to build a picture, but our question is not quite answered yet.

The what, when and how of protein (and protein shakes)

The report goes on to tell us that protein plays an important part in muscle recovery and repair which is essentially while your body is at rest. Protein shakes are a quick, easily absorbed form of protein, so does that make them a good choice on rest days?

Studies show that muscle protein synthesis occurs for a minimum of 24 hours after a resistance training or aerobic exercise session and that lots of well-timed protein will maximise how your body adapts in response to training. Daily protein needs should be met through regular meals of ‘moderate amounts of high-quality protein’ following your workout every 3-5 hours.

And what sort of protein? Milk-based proteins have shown to be effective ‘in increasing muscle strength and favourable changes in body composition’ as well as ‘whole milk, lean meat, and dietary supplements, some of which provide the isolated proteins whey, casein, soy, and egg.’

Fluid based proteins are easily digested and absorbed, which makes them an appropriate source of protein to aid recovery on rest days. So in context, yes, protein shakes are a good choice on rest days, along with other high-quality protein sources. Enjoy!

Quality rest and quality nutrition

Listen to your body and embrace your rest – but make sure you are getting quality rest, and enough protein, including a protein shake on your rest day – if it feels right for you. Skipping a workout but stressing at work and racing around like a mad chook does not constitute a rest day.

Plan some activities that are nourishing and gentle for your body and soul – however that looks to you.

Do you like to incorporate rest days into your healthy lifestyle? Do you have protein shakes on your rest days? I hope you are having a wonderful rest day, however you are choosing to spend it!

Frequently Asked Questions
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A macro meal plan combines certain amounts of macronutrients (fats, carbs, proteins). I compare the benefits of macro meal plans with the 80/20 diet and intuitive eating.

How do I choose a meal at a restaurant or when getting takeaway?

Eating out can be tricky if you are trying to to get fit, lose weight or follow a meal plan. There is one simple process to take the stress out of dining out!


4 thoughts on “Should you have a protein shake on your rest day?”

  1. I’ve been wondering if continuing my protein drink on my rest has been doing anything helpful. It’s good to know that protein isn’t going to waste!

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