Why You Probably Don’t Need Fewer Calories On Rest Days As a Lifter
By Dr. Kristin Lander, DC, CISSN
Want an easy way to increase your performance in the gym? Grab my free pre/post-training meals guide.
It’s a common misconception lifters have: “I’m not training today so I don’t need as much food.” If I had a dollar for every time I heard that, I’d probably be writing this from a far more exotic location than my home office in South Carolina.
Let’s examine an important finding that we’ve known in the sports nutrition world for a long time but was just reported in research in 2019: resistance training doesn’t burn very many calories (compared to something like running for the same length of time).
In fact, in an article published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, researchers were able to come up with an equation to predict just how many calories one might burn during training.
I’ll spare you the long complicated equation, if you’re into that kind of thing you can go here. The gist of their research showed that during a typical resistance training bout, women burned 75-150 calories and men burned 150-300. The training sessions consisted of 7 exercises of 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps at 70% of estimated 1 rep max.
Compared to calories used during running for the same length of time, that’s not much.
I can almost hear your thoughts now: “but Kristin, there are still calories burned, so obviously I don’t need to eat those extra calories on rest days.”
It turns out, the recovery process from lifting takes somewhere between 48-72 hours. Guess what your body needs to make that process happen? Energy in the form of CALORIES.
The recovery process comes with a metabolic cost. If you fuel that process you’re going to get stronger faster because what’s the main thing hindering the speed of strength gains? The speed at which you recover!! If we get you recovering better and faster you’re going to get more out of your next training session. Properly used nutrition is a legal performance enhancing drug!
I see this happen with my clients all the time and I’m not even talking about athletes that are under performing. I’ve been able to help many internationally competitive lifters open the gap between them and their competitors simply by utilizing this technique along with better post-training meals [grab my free pre/post-training meals guide here].
Another benefit of consuming the same amount of calories on rest versus training days comes down to simplicity. Strength athletes are a different breed. We’re consistently trying to fit more into each day than feels humanly possible. When we can make something in our lives easier, that leaves us with more energy we can put into our training. Eating the same calories every day gives you less to think about and plan for.
Now, there are times when we might want to have less calories on a rest day, such as when we are in a weight loss phase, but I have found after working with hundreds of lifters over the last decade, that is a last resort and we can usually avoid that all together. I believe this is a huge part of why all the Fiercely Fueled lifters crush their competitors at meets.
So in summary…
- Keep your calories the same each day
- Simplicity is your friend
- Properly fueling your recovery will help you get stronger faster.
Get the same exact framework that I use with some of the world's top lifters to improve their training performance and recovery.