The first question means, how many days a week do you take part in planned exertion such as running, weight lifting, aerobics, swimming, HIIT, cycling, etc? The second question refers to how many days a week are you active and taking part in activities such as going for walks, yard work, house work, or having a very active job? I hope that for the first questions you do not say 7 day/week. Though it sounds pretty dedicated, it’s not what is usually best for your body. I hope that you do say 7 days/week for the second question regarding activity. Each of us should be engaging in movement every single day. Even on those restful weekends, we shouldn’t just move from the bed to the couch for an all day binge watch on Netflix.
Let’s try to understand why we want to answer these 2 questions this way!
Some people do not like to take a day off from exercising because they feel just as hungry, eating just as much throughout the day as they do on their exercise days. This is totally normal and a good thing! Muscles need carbs to refuel. And if you see the scale move up a little after a rest day, that is normal too as glycogen holds water. There is no way you gained any fat from a day off!
The body uses glucose, a carbohydrate, as an energy source. Glucose is primarily stored as glycogen in the muscles as well as the liver. Glycogen breaks down within the muscles during exercise to give you energy to workout. -livestrong.com
Muscles need rest in order to replenish and build. During exercise you do not build muscle, you break it down. The building happens when you rest those muscles. So sure, you could exercise daily, but should never target the same muscle group back to back. I love total body workouts, so you won’t see me doing two HIIT days back to back, or two strength training days back to back. I will always squeeze in cardio, yoga, or an active rest day in between to aid in recovery. Don’t weaken all of your efforts by over training.
Recovery is also a time for your soft tissues to remove the chemicals that build up during your workouts. Getting adequate sleep is key in this process as well. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to increased cortisol (a stress hormone), decreased human growth hormone (which is needed for tissue repair), and decreased glycogen synthesis.
Eating properly is just as important as the workout itself! After your workout it is essential to have a good recovery meal to aid in proper recovery and you reaching your goals!
Research also shows that combining protein with carbohydrate within thirty minutes of exercise nearly doubles the insulin response, which results in more stored glycogen. The optimal carbohydrate to protein ratio for this effect is 4:1 (four grams of carbohydrate for every one gram of protein). Eating more protein than that, however, has a negative impact because it slows rehydration and glycogen replenishment.
One study found that athletes who refueled with carbohydrate and protein had 100 percent greater muscle glycogen stores than those who only ate carbohydrate. Insulin was also highest in those who consumed a carbohydrate and protein drink. –sportsmedicine.about.com
A great easy recovery food is chocolate milk! How easy is that? So when in doubt or in a rush, you know you can always grab that!
The mind also needs time to heal and recharge before another hard workout. Even if exercise is your happy hour, be mindful of how your body feels and how it is asking you to care for it today.
Hopefully you are better understanding the need to stay focused and dedicated, but still allowing your body time to rest. On those rest days, I always encourage my clients to move nonetheless. I know I just don’t feel too good if I don’t do something! (And in a Chicago winter, it is soooo easy to take a Saturday and burrow under the covers, only moving to go get more food.) Personally, I like to consider myself an active person, rather than a gym rat. If it’s nice out, I walk, if I’m achey I stretch, if it’s hot out I swim. Be flexible in your active recovery days and do things that you and your body will enjoy!
Maybe you don’t have a problem resting. Maybe you rest too much! In that case check out my post on getting motivated!