Perform some light activity such as walking on rest days.
Taking days off from an intense workout schedule is not a luxury, it's a necessity. Whether you're building muscle, losing weight or just committed to an active lifestyle, days off help your body repair and build muscle, keep your metabolism on its toes and simply give you a break for some quiet time. While it's crucial to have rest days in your workout schedule, it's also important to continue burning fat by not becoming a total couch potato.
Why You Need Rest Days
Rest days are crucial for bodybuilding. You need days off so your body can both repair the tissue you've broken down and build new muscle tissue. Second, overtraining can lead to injury, and resting helps prevent this. It's also possible to push yourself so hard that you become fatigued physically, mentally and emotionally. This can lead to skipping workouts, rushing through them or not paying proper attention to form. The more muscle you have, the more calories you burn at rest, so rest up and let your body heal.
Even if you're not bodybuilding, a day away from exercise still allows your body to heal. It also gives you a chance to enjoy activities outside the gym while reflecting on your routine, checking your progress and planning workout changes that might be needed to achieve your next goal. If you've been exercising regularly, you'll continue to burn calories as long as you watch your intake and stay active during the day.
Eating on Your Off Days
While it might be tempting to make your rest day a cheat day as far as meals go, this isn't a good idea if you're looking to burn calories. It's hard enough to resume a workout schedule after a day off without the added challenge of feeling bloated, sugar-shocked or even hung over after a day of no exercise and wild indulgence.
Start with a good breakfast containing some sort of lean protein, healthy carbohydrates and fiber. Yogurt with fruit and granola or an omelette with vegetables are both good choices. Eat small, healthy snacks throughout the day, such as a handful of nuts, celery sticks with hummus or an apple and an ounce or two of cheese. Have a light dinner of fish, chicken or lean beef with a salad and a whole-grain starch such as brown rice. Eating smaller, leaner meals packed with nutrition keeps your metabolism working in high gear. Make sure you stay hydrated so your body doesn't try to store water.
Ways to Keep it Moving
Taking a rest day doesn't necessarily mean you should cuddle up on the couch with a big bag of cheese curls and a giant jug of soda, because this isn't an efficient calorie-burning activity. Go for a walk or play ball with kids or pets if you have them. Gentle stretching and yoga will increase circulation, warm your muscles and loosen tight joints without the stress of an intense workout. Swim if you have access to a body of water, bicycle for pleasure rather than for time or simply put on some music and dance. The point is to relieve stress, get your blood flowing and burn off a few extra calories in a stress-free way - and the best way to do that is to have fun.