How to Eat Healthy on Exercise Rest Days

Grilled chicken breasts on a plate.
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Healthy eating is a key component to any exercise plan, especially when weight loss is the goal. Taking rest days at certain intervals during the week gives your body a chance to recuperate while growing stronger. But successful weight loss means continuing with your food plan even on the days you do not exercise. A balanced diet with appropriate caloric intake is the key to long-term success.

Step 1

Cut down on carbohydrates on rest days. Healthy carbs give you energy to achieve your exercise goals, but on days when you are resting, cutting down on carbs can help you maintain or continue to burn fat calories to achieve weight loss. According to, a healthy 2,000-calorie diet contains about 250 grams of complex carbs each day. This provide 40 to 50 percent of the energy required for moderate exercise during the early stages of a fitness program. Reducing that number by 50 to 100 grams on exercise rest days helps you reach your fitness goals faster.

Step 2

Focus on lean proteins such as fish, poultry and eggs, which give you sustained energy between meals and helps reduce blood sugar spikes. Getting some lean protein with every meal on your rest days gives your body what it needs to rebuild lean muscle and recuperate from strenuous activity. U.S. News Health and Wellness recommends eating protein at all three meals to help you eat less overall, especially on exercise rest days. Starting the day with a protein-rich breakfast can help you eat up to 200 fewer calories throughout the day.

Step 3

Increase your consumption of nutritious produce and legumes. Sports dietitians Bethanie Allanson and Benita Lalor for the Australian Sports Commission cite the important role that vitamins and minerals from fruits and vegetables play in the recovery from strenuous exercise. Dark green, leafy vegetables are rich in iron. Red and orange fruits and vegetables provide beta carotene and other antioxidants and reduce inflammation. Dried beans and legumes are a low-fat protein source with lots of healthy fiber for lowering cholesterol and improving digestion.


Drink at least six to eight glasses of water on exercise days and rest days.


Always check with your doctor before beginning any exercise routine or eating plan.