Why rest days are so important for athletes
Sometimes taking a rest day is the toughest part of the week. It feels like everyone else is out training while you’re stuck at home twiddling your thumbs. It turns out that your recovery day is one of the most important days of the week and essential for health and optimal performance. So if you need some extra reasons to take your recovery day seriously, read on.
Sex hormone balance
Recovery days can improve sex hormone balance over time. Sex hormones, like estrogen and testosterone, are important for training adaptations and health. Estrogen increases tendon strength, which can reduce the risk of injury. Moreover, estrogen helps prevent inflammation, by limiting free radical damage and limits muscle damage itself (yay for feeling less sore!). It also rebuilds and remodels skeletal muscle to help you get stronger.
Consistent training makes it extremely difficult, borderline impossible to refill depleted glycogen stores. As glycogen levels drop, there is evidence that top-end performance decreases even before the tank is empty. Chronically training with low glycogen increases stress on the body and reduces or reverses subsequent training adaptations.
Cortisol, the infamous stress hormone, is produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress, which includes most athletic activities due to cortisol’s role in regulating glucose concentration in the blood. Chronic cortisol exposure can undermine almost every element of athletic performance and body composition. Rest days give your adrenal glands a break.
Overuse injuries are often lurking long before they debut. Rest days can allow damaged or inflamed tissue to heal and prevent injuries before they happen.
Talk to your coach if you have one, but it’s advisable to take at least one day off every week. On recovery days, you can do some stretching, go for a walk, or relaxing yoga (not intense or hot yoga, that’s stressful on the body). If taking a recovery day makes you anxious, remember that training days are teardown days, recovery days are get-stronger days. You can’t come back stronger if you’re only tearing yourself down (training). It’s when we allow our body to heal and recover that we get faster, fitter, and stronger.
Dr. A’nna, Chief Research Scienctist at Athlete Blood Test
Dr. A’nna strives to inspire people to optimally fuel their bodies to achieve their best and have a positive impact on the world. She is the only combined Ph.D./RD specializing in sports performance nutrition in the world with all Ivy League degrees and the Chief Research Officer at AthleteBloodTest.
Dr. A’nna aims to cultivate a world of healthy athletes who understand nutrition and know how to leverage their physiology to get the best results in sports and life. You can reach her at [email protected] or on Instagram @drannaroby.