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Does Your Body Need to Rest after a Workout?

By Brian Willett

Working out is necessary for prompting significant increases in muscle mass and strength, but overworking your body can inhibit your results. To make the most of your workouts, you need to allow your body to rest before exercising again. If you don't give your body adequate rest, you will slow your progress and may injure yourself. Consult a doctor prior to starting a workout program.

Importance of Rest

Rest is vital for any workout program because the time spent outside the gym is the time during which you make progress. Working out actually causes trauma to your muscles, and this trauma is repaired after your workouts when your body is at rest. Giving your body rest provides time for your body to use nutrients to rebuild and repair your muscles. This can produce increases in muscle mass and muscle strength.

How Much Rest?

Judging how much rest is adequate can be difficult because your needs will differ from those of others. However, fitness researcher Lyle McDonald suggests that the optimal rest period for most people will be about five days. This means that you should rest for four days before working out the same muscle group again. In the meantime, you can exercise other muscle groups or take complete rest days.

Enhancing Rest through Nutrition

You may be able to enhance your recovery through nutritional strategies. What you eat during the recovery period after workouts influences how effectively your body can recover. Consuming carbohydrates and protein following exercise can stimulate muscle protein synthesis, which drives muscle growth, according to research from the December 2010 issue of the "International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism."

Other Recovery Strategies

In addition to resting and eating a combination of protein and carbohydrates, you can make the most of your recovery time though active rest. Active rest is preferable to stretching and absolute rest for reducing muscle fatigue, according to research from the June 2007 issue of the "American Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation." Active rest consists of light exercise, such as unweighted lifting or light aerobic work.

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