How much protein do you need on rest days?
In this brief article, we will address the query “How much protein do you need on rest days?” Additionally, we will present relevant information such as the role of protein and other nutrients in muscle recovery. Finally, we will explore some strategies and protein sources you can try to meet your protein requirements.
How much protein do you need on rest days?
You should eat between 1.2 to 2.0 g of protein per kg of weight. For example, if you weigh 70 kg you should eat between 84 and 140 g of protein a day (1,2).
The protein required in rest days is almost the same amount you need in workout days (between 1.2 and 2.2 g/kg). Your muscles can take approximately 48 hours for a complete recovery after exhaustive training, so you should feed them with the appropriate nutrients (1,3).
However, your requirements are determined also by your height, sex, the discipline you do if you are an athlete, or the load of exercise you do (1,2). You should look for professional advice from a nutrition specialist to adjust your protein needs.
What is the importance of protein in muscle synthesis?
When you exercise, your muscles get stressed and damaged by muscle contraction; this causes muscle fibers to break down. During the 24 to 48 hours after the exercise, your body will repair the damaged muscle fibers. But your body will need proteins to obtain amino acids, which are the building blocks for muscle (1,3).
Amino acids are divided in two groups, the non-essential and the essential amino acids; the former are those that your body can synthesize, and the latter are those you must eat from foods, because your body is not able to create them (1).
All essential amino acids are important for creating new and stronger muscle fibers; however, Leucine is crucial because it can stimulate different molecular pathways that help your metabolism to accelerate muscle synthesis (1,3).
You can find all essential amino acids in high-quality protein sources. Go to the next subheading to know more about protein sources!
What are High-Quality protein sources for an optimal recovery?
Protein quality is measured by their content in essential amino acids, those with all essential amino acids are considered high-quality proteins. All animal-derived foods are considered as sources of high quality proteins (1), for example:
- Meats and meat products
- Milk and dairy products like cheese and yogurt
- Chicken and turkey
- Legumes combined with cereals (for instance: lentils or beans with corn or rice) can form complete proteins; this is possible because Legumes are high in Lysine but lack Methionine, on the other hand, cereals lack Lysine, but they have Methionine (4).
- Protein powders, especially Whey protein and casein (milk’s proteins); but you can find complete proteins in blends of vegetable protein powders.
What factors can affect your protein needs on rest days?
The factors that influence your protein requirements on rest days are the exercise load in the previous day and the type of exercise (for example: strength, resistance, endurance, cardio) (1).
In the case of the exercise type, strength and resistance usually require more protein because these exercises can cause more muscle breakdown; on the other hand, cardio and endurance usually cause less damage to muscle tissue and need more carbohydrates than proteins for recovery (5).
What are the strategies for meeting your protein requirements on rest days?
For meeting your protein requirements on rest days you can consider a protein supplement before sleep. According to some studies, having a load of protein before sleep could boost your muscle synthesis and muscle recovery (1,6).
However, if you do not use supplements, you can have a high-quality protein source like milk, or Greek yogurt before sleep. Milk and yogurt will provide you with valuable proteins to repair your muscles (7).
You should consider looking for professional advice from a nutrition specialist to adjust your protein needs, as well as the appropriate distribution of all protein throughout the whole day.
How other nutrients help to an optimal recovery on rest days?
Here are some ways that other nutrients like carbohydrates, fats, and micronutrients can help you during the recovery days (5,8):
- Carbohydrates are the main energy source for your muscles. After exercise, your glycogen (made from carbs) is depleted, so you must refuel that energy store to prevent muscle degradation.
- Alongside with proteins, creating tissues like muscles requires energy, so you have to provide your body with energy to do its job. Fats are high-density energy nutrients, as they can provide you with 9 calories per gram. You can use fats as an energy source to improve your recovery!
- Micronutrients like zinc are important to improve muscle development, while others like selenium and magnesium can alleviate inflammation and reduce oxidative stress.
In this brief article, we addressed the query “How much protein do you need on rest days?” Additionally, we presented relevant information such as the role of protein and other nutrients in muscle recovery. Finally, we explored some strategies and protein sources you can try to meet your protein requirements.
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- Waskiw-Ford M, Hannaian S, Duncan J, Kato H, Abou Sawan S, Locke M, et al. Leucine-enriched essential amino acids improve recovery from post-exercise muscle damage independent of increases in integrated myofibrillar protein synthesis in young men. Nutrients, 2020;12(4):1061.
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- Trommelen J, van Lieshout GAA, Pabla P, Nyakayiru J, Hendriks FK, Senden JM, et al. Pre-sleep protein ingestion increases mitochondrial protein synthesis rates during overnight recovery from endurance exercise: A randomized controlled trial. Sports Med, 2023.
- James LJ, Stevenson EJ, Rumbold PLS, Hulston CJ. Cow’s milk as a post-exercise recovery drink: implications for performance and health. EJSS, 2019;19(1):40–8.
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