When it comes to body composition, proteins are the most important macronutrients. In this article I will explain everything you need to know about eating proteins on your workout days and days off.
Should I eat the same amount of proteins on rest days?
You should eat the same amount of proteins on rest days because proteins stimulate muscle protein synthesis, which is responsible for hypertrophy (muscle gain). The human body cannot manufacture proteins. Therefore, we need to derive them from our diet.
That’s not all.
You can stay in a caloric deficit, and with enough proteins not only you will burn fat, but also you can gain muscle. Here’s what you need to know.
Why Proteins Are Important For Your Body?
Everyone talks about proteins. Proteins are the building blocks of every cell in the body. This means our body uses proteins daily to restore, rebuild and create new cells. Also, they play the main role in making you stronger.
Why proteins are important for your body?
Proteins are important for the body because they are used for every cell. As humans, we need an adequate amount of proteins daily, depending on our age, physical activity, and lifestyle. We use protein for metabolic processes, digestion, enzyme production, hormonal production, and more.
This means regardless if you train or not, you will need enough proteins daily.
And the more you train, the more proteins you will need for muscle remodeling and recovery from your workouts, even on the rest days.
Muscle remodeling is basically the metabolic process that happens during the day and as you train. You break down muscle tissue and stimulate muscle protein breakdown.
That’s when you losing muscle.
But as you consume proteins, your body extracts amino acids and shuttles them back into the muscle. This process is called muscle protein synthesis.
That’s when you build muscle.
So having more amino acids available on a daily basis will ensure that muscle protein synthesis exceeds muscle protein breakdown.
Without protein, you will start to progressively losing muscle.
And unlike carbs, proteins should be eaten every day with a high amount.
What Happens If You Don’t Eat Enough Protein When Working Out?
You gonna be losing muscle.
The decline is inevitable. If you do nothing, you will lose a lot of muscle.
If you’re injured, immobile or just have a sedentary lifestyle, each year you will have less and less muscle.
It’s actually depressing.
What happens if you don’t eat enough protein when working out?
If you don’t eat enough proteins when working out you will promote adaptive changes by increasing your muscle protein breakdown and minimize muscle protein synthesis. Resistance training without enough proteins leads to muscular atrophy, which means you will lose muscle.
But the decline can be managed with enough resistance training and consistency in protein intake.
In fact, the more you train with progressive overload and with a good high-protein diet, not only you will slow down the decline, but you will build up the muscle.
Progressive overload means you progressively add more resistance to your workouts over a period of time.
So the best ways to stay strong, lean, and energetic is to have regular strength training and a high-protein diet.
Should I Eat As Much Protein On Rest Days?
On the training days, you should be getting around 1 gram per 1 pound of body weight to get optimum muscle protein synthesis and focusing on resistance training.
Depending on your goals, adding some carbs around your training time can help, too.
Adding carbs around your workout time will add energy to your workouts and replace glycogen after your workout.
Mix the carb drink with BCAA that has at least 3 grams of leucine to minimize muscle protein breakdown and recover faster for your next workout.
But what abut the rest days.
Should you eat as much protein on rest days?
You should eat as much protein on rest days as on training days because more protein will ensure a continuum of muscle protein synthesis. Having enough protein on rest days increases your energy expenditure, lowers the appetite, and prevents muscle protein breakdown.
In other words, you get better results and you burn more calories.
Our body burns calories in multiple ways.
The most energy cost is the basal metabolic rate (BMR). This is the number of calories you burn during the day on non-movement processes that are happening in the body.
The most energy-expensive tissue in your body is muscle.
And the more muscle you have, the more oxygen needs to circulate throughout the muscle mass.
That’s how you burn calories at rest.
For every liter of oxygen that passes throughout the body, you will burn around 4.7 calories (source).
So more muscle mass you have, more calories you burn at rest.
Another way you burn calories is the thermic effect of food (TEF).
This means when you eat food, all those processes that we neglect to consider like digestion, breakdown, absorption, and nutrient transportation, all cost us calories.
The good news is that proteins are the most metabolically expensive to digest. Because of how they are structured, it will take more calories to digest, absorb and transport, comparing to fat or carbs.
How Much Protein Should I Eat On Rest Days?
Different people will have different needs for proteins. And the amount of protein will be dependent on a variety of aspects like your physical activity, training goals, protein type, and age.
How much protein should I eat on rest days?
You should eat 1.4 to 2.0 grams of protein per kg per body weight per day because that’s the most optimum amount to stimulate muscle hypertrophy. A high-protein diet, even on the rest days, ensure you’re in a positive protein balance where protein synthesis exceeds protein breakdown.
This will depend on things like:
- Physical activity
If you’re training hard with resistance training most days of the week that means you will need much more protein, compared to people who do nothing.
Resistance training triggers muscle remodeling which consists of muscle breakdown, and if you eat enough proteins, it will follow with muscle building.
Which is good, as long as you have enough protein in your diet. Physically active individuals need around 0.0 – 1.2 grams per pound of body weight.
For sedentary individuals, the current recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8–1.2 grams per kg of body weight.
- Training goals
Cyclists and marathon runners will have different needs for daily proteins than bodybuilders or martial artists. So it will strongly depend on your goals.
Typically for strength straining is wise to take 1 gram per pound of body weight for the optimum results.
There are some studies showing that consuming more than that didn’t have any significant effect on hypertrophy (source).
- Protein type
On the rest days, you should be focusing on the food sources that will deliver a combination of all essential amino acids.
The best food sources for proteins are animal products because they have all types of amino acids, including leucine.
Leucine is the most superior stimulant for muscle protein synthesis.
Just 3 grams of leucine per meal is enough to start the muscle-building process. The best sources of leucine are whey, casein, meats, eggs, and milk.
Age plays a huge role here because as we get older, our ability to digest foods goes down.
Typically after the 50s nutrient absorption change, recovery slows down, healing changes, and progress.
In your 20s it may take 2 months to build a 5 pounds of muscle mass, where in your 50s it may take even 12 months.
Same goes for workouts. They will have a different impact for people in their 20s comparing to people in their 50s.
Should You Eat More Protein When Cutting?
When you’re doing calorie deficit you should prioritize protein intake because it will keep you in a negative energy balance and help to maintain lean muscle mass.
This means you can lose fat and build muscle, despite being in a calorie deficit.
Should you eat more protein when cutting?
You should eat more protein when cutting because proteins will support your calorie deficit by reducing appetite, preserving muscle mass, and increasing energy expenditure. The more proteins you eat while cutting it will positively impact your body composition.
- Regulate appetite
A high-protein diet lowers the appetite by increasing your satiety.
Foods that are rich in proteins make you full for longer, therefore, decreasing those uncomfortable food cravings.
Also, lean protein lowers sensory-specific satiety, which means you don’t crave more food.
Foods that are high in fat increase sensory-specific satiety and make you eat more.
That’s why eating chocolate with high fat will make you eat more, where eating chocolate with low fat and more cocoa will lower the appetite. The more fat in your diet, the more appetite.
- Preserve muscle mass
A calorie deficit with a high amount of proteins helps with maintaining your muscle mass.
So when you lose weight, you making sure that weight comes from fat mass, not lean mass.
Do I need more protein on workout days?
You don’t need more proteins on workout days. You need to eat the same amount of proteins on rest days as on the training days. The only macronutrient you need more on your workout days is carbohydrates to optimize your glycogen storage and speed up recovery.
You should be eating the same amount of proteins on both training days and your rest days.
This will ensure your muscle growth is optimum, or, that your weight loss during calorie deficit comes from fat, rather than from muscle.