What’s your nutrition focus on non-training and recovery days?

Everyone’s different.

Some people choose to have their cheat meals on rest days whereas some like keep carbs to a minimum. Others reduce their calorie intake completely.  When planning your diet on non-workout days, firstly you must consider your goals. Are you currently looking to shed some weight, add some lean muscle mass or simply recover and maintain? Remember, a bulking diet plan is completely different from one designed for fat loss or recovery.

As you are likely to be less active than you would be on training days, your overall energy requirements are reduced by anywhere from 300 to 800 kcal depending on your body composition, goals and normal training load/intensity. Several studies show that in the absence of intense training, the quantity of carbohydrate needed is less – unless you are preparing for a match or event on the following day.

In contrast this should not be seen as a ‘day-off’ from good nutritional habits, so the usual diet of healthy fats, protein-and-fibre-rich foods and high-quality supplementation should be maintained. Main meals should all contain fibre-rich vegetables and a quality protein source like meat, fish, eggs or whey and dairy.

Less carb, more protein

In general, due to your reduced activity, carbohydrate (CHO) intake should be lower. This may mean that only one meal (e.g. breakfast or lunch) needs to be carbohydrate-based. Ideally, this should be the meal around your maximum energy need for the day.  The reduction in activity on these days gives you the flexibility to use a protein-rich breakfast which can reduce hunger and promote recovery for the rest of the morning.

A strong case for the intake of protein-rich meals and snacks to be high on rest days is that they support ongoing muscle tissue growth and repair in the 24 hours following a heavy training day.  That said, even though protein synthesis peaks within the first 24 hours post workout, it has been noted that it can remain high for up to 72 hours – making it important to eat plenty of meat, fish, eggs, veggies, and whey protein during this time to take full advantage.

Other nutrients low intensity/ non-training days

Current research shows that higher intakes of polyunsaturated fats (e.g. omega-3) can help to reduce inflammation and speed up the recovery process amongst a whole host of positive benefits. Increased vegetable intake with each meal (especially those high in antioxidants) and/or a greens supplement to boost your intake helps to reduce the free-radical damage from training and can subsequently reduce muscle soreness.


Staying properly hydrated is vital to health, energy, recovery and performance.  Most of us tend to be very aware of our hydration levels during training sessions and competitions but keeping that awareness during recovery times can have just as big an impact. Water helps all of our functions. A few examples are an increased efficiency of nutrient uptake, lower levels of stress on the heart, improved skin tone and better hair quality to name but a few. And good old water (H₂0) is the best way to hydrate.

I hope this gives you a better idea of how to eat on the days you are not training – good luck with your goals.


Ryan is Head of Performance at the Athlete factory Chester, www.afchester.global

He has a BSc (Hons) in S&C and vast experience working in elite sport. Ryan has worked with elite teams such as Warrington Wolves in Rugby League as well as Head S&C coach and more recently high performance manager for Georgia in Rugby Union.

Ryan has consulted with many of the world’s leading Rugby Union 7s and XV-a-side squads as well as Rugby League teams globally, along with professional and amateur athletes ranging from boxing to hockey and many more. Ryan holds various accreditations in S&C including the world-renowned Westside Barbell certification from the USA which is a leading concept in not only powerlifting and the NFL, but in world-class sports currently, along with the highly regarded Precision Nutrition PN1 certification to name but a few.

Ryan has been by mentored by, and interned with, some of the world’s leading coaches in human physical performance. He continues this periodically to constantly develop, and try to stay ahead of the game, by learning and interning with world leaders in the field of human performance.



The Athlete Factory is a world-class gym in chester

Offering a different approach to training to everyone who is serious about their health, fitness or sport, from the first-time gym goer to the elite sportsperson. We offer expert programming, coaching and care, in an exciting environment, by bringing our elite sport experience to everyone – to transform you and help you to achieve your goals.

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