If you’re like a lot of my clients, you might be wondering how much protein you should be consuming on rest days and worrying that you’re not consuming enough protein to encourage muscle recovery.
So, should you eat more protein on rest days? There is no evidence that eating more protein on rest days increases muscle performance or recovery, so you do not need to increase your protein intake on rest days. However, if you are hungrier on rest days compared to training days you could consider increasing your protein intake by 10% to help with satiety.
Although you don’t need to eat more protein on rest days, it is important to ensure that you’re consuming enough protein in general to facilitate muscle retention and growth and that you’re consuming the right types of protein based on your activity level.
- Adequate consistent daily protein intake is the most important factor for building and preserving lean muscle mass.
- Protein intake on rest days should come from slower-digesting, whole food sources.
- Eating more protein on rest days can help with increased hunger, particularly for those who are dieting.
Protein On Rest Days: What Are People Saying?
If you’re uncertain about how much protein you should be eating on rest days, you’re not alone.
I searched through some popular online forums to see if anyone else was confused about how much protein they should be consuming on rest days, here’s what I found:
- “Is protein intake mainly important on days that I work out? I have always assumed you need the same, if not more, protein on rest days.” (Reddit.com)
- “Should we eat protein even when not working out?” (Quora.com)
Most of the people asking questions seem to be thinking that they don’t need to eat as much protein on rest days because they are not training, rather than thinking that they should be eating more protein on rest days.
The good news is that when I read the answers from other contributors on these threads, I noticed that the answers were pretty accurate. Most of the advice correctly states that protein intake on rest days should be the same as protein intake on training days.
Do You Need More Protein On Rest Days vs. Training Days?
No, you do not need more protein on rest days compared to training days; your protein intake should stay the same. However, this is assuming that you’re already consuming an adequate amount of protein for your goals.
“When it comes to supporting muscle growth and performance, there are no direct benefits associated with eating extra protein on rest days.”– Eric Trexler, PhD, Director of Education, Stronger by Science
Eric’s statement is supported by the findings of this study, which found that total daily calorie and protein intake over time are the most important factors when it comes to maximizing your results from training.
Even elite athletes who are on the more extreme end of activity have consistent daily protein intakes on training days, competition days, and rest days.
Although the research seems to suggest that there are no muscular benefits to increasing your protein on rest days, you could consider increasing it if you notice that you’re hungrier on rest days.
“Anecdotally, some people seem to report increased hunger or desire to eat on rest days; people in this situation may consider eating a little extra protein to increase satiety.”– Eric Trexler, PhD, Director of Education, Stronger by Science
Examples of Protein Intake On Rest Days
If your goals include changing your current body weight (either gaining or losing weight), then there are some more specialized strategies for changing your body composition and improving your fitness.
Protein Intake When Bulking (Adding Muscle)
When you are adding muscle, you are in a calorie surplus (eating more calories than your body needs to maintain weight), so your body is getting more than enough energy to meet its daily energy needs and is less likely to lose muscle mass.
For this reason, protein can be lowered from 1 gram per pound of bodyweight to 0.8 grams of protein per pound of goal body weight on training and rest days.
This allows for most of your calories to come from carbs and fats, which can make bulking easier because you won’t feel as full while trying to meet a higher calorie target.
- Related Article: Should You Continue To Eat A Calorie Surplus On Rest Days?
Protein Intake When Cutting (Losing Weight)
When you are losing weight, you are in a calorie deficit (eating fewer calories than your body needs to maintain weight) so your body won’t have enough energy available and is more likely to break down muscle for energy.
To reduce the risk of muscle loss, I recommend a daily intake of 1.2 grams of protein per pound of goal body weight on training and rest days when losing weight.
The increase in protein will also be beneficial for keeping you full for longer while dieting because protein is the most satiating nutrient
How Much Of Your Protein On Rest Days Should Come From Whey Protein?
On rest days, I recommend that my clients get as much protein as possible from whole food sources, rather than whey protein powder. My advice is for no more than 20% of total daily protein intake to come from whey protein powder or other supplements on rest days.
Eating whole food protein sources that are slower to digest and provide more micronutrients and fiber is a better choice to keep you satisfied and nourished on rest days.
Comparatively, on training days, you can have up to 33% of your daily protein intake come from whey protein or other protein powders. This is because on training days you will benefit more from fast-digesting protein sources to recover more quickly from your workout.
Key Considerations About Protein Intake On Rest Days
Meeting Your Protein Target
The most important consideration about protein intake on rest days is making sure that you hit your daily protein target.
Ensuring that you’re consuming an adequate amount of protein is important for muscle retention and recovery. If you’re consistent with your protein intake on rest days you’ll have more muscle mass and be in top shape for your training days.
If you struggle to eat enough whole food sources of protein to meet your protein target, it is okay to use a supplement like whey protein powder, but try to limit this to no more than 20% of your protein intake.
I also recommend spacing out your protein intake throughout the day by having a quality source of protein at each meal. Research shows that the potential to maintain or gain muscle mass may be greater when protein is consumed at regular intervals rather than all at once.
On rest days, spacing out your protein intake will also play a key role in helping manage hunger.
It’s normal to feel hungrier on rest days than on training days because exercise suppresses appetite, so you may need to rely more heavily on protein sources to keep you full.
If you notice that you’re insatiable on rest days then you should consider increasing your protein intake by 10% to keep you satisfied throughout the day.
An increase in protein on rest days is especially helpful for people who are trying to manage their hunger during a calorie deficit (eating fewer calories than you need to maintain weight).
Choosing The Best Types Of Protein
On rest days you should prioritize slower-digesting, whole food sources of protein to help with satiety and muscle recovery.
Slower-digesting proteins that you should consume on rest days are:
- Cottage Cheese
- Greek Yogurt
Faster-digesting proteins that you should limit on rest days are:
- Whey protein
- Low-fat fish (tilapia, cod)
“while protein tends to be more satiating (per calorie) than carbohydrate and fat, some protein sources are far more satiating than others”– Eric Trexler
The slower-digesting protein sources will keep you full for longer and provide a steady supply of amino acids (protein breaks down into amino acids when digested) that your muscles will use to repair themselves.
Additionally, solid protein sources (e.g. meat) are better than liquid protein sources (e.g. protein shakes) because eating solid food is more satiating than drinking your food.
What To Read Next:
- Calories On Rest Days: 7 Rules To Follow (With Sample Plan)
- Whey Protein Before Bed: Should You Do It?
Cintineo HP, Arent MA, Antonio J and Arent SM (2018) Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training. Front. Nutr. 5:83. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2018.00083
Schoenfeld, B.J., Aragon, A.A. How much protein can the body use in a single meal for muscle-building? Implications for daily protein distribution. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 15, 10 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12970-018-0215-1
David Stensel; Exercise, Appetite and Appetite-Regulating Hormones: Implications for Food Intake and Weight Control. Ann Nutr Metab 1 February 2011; 57 (Suppl. 2): 36–42. https://doi.org/10.1159/000322702
Shenkin A. (2006). Micronutrients in health and disease. Postgraduate medical journal, 82(971), 559–567. https://doi.org/10.1136/pgmj.2006.047670
Miquel-Kergoat, S., Azais-Braesco, V., Burton-Freeman, B., & Hetherington, M. M. (2015). Effects of chewing on appetite, food intake and gut hormones: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Physiology & Behavior, 151, 88-96. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.07.017.
About The Author
Lauren Graham is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She focuses on helping busy professionals balance healthy eating and purposeful movement. Lauren has a background in competitive swimming and is currently competing as a CrossFit athlete. She has a passion for training, teaching, and writing.