What Happens When I Take a Three-Week Rest Day?

Men's Health
·2-min read
Photo credit: Bettmann
Photo credit: Bettmann

From Esquire

If there's ever a time to take a well-earned break it's over the festive period. And after the year we've had, no-one would blame you if you extend your R&R for another week or so. But what will the 'time off' do to your fitness and gains that you've been working on during lockdown 1.0 and 2.0? Well, according to research, your body (and mind) may actually benefit.

1. Easy Does It

If you’ve spent this annus horribilis keeping anxieties at bay with workouts, it might be difficult to stop suddenly. So, stop slowly. A single day off can give you a welcome health boost. According to a study in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases, taking a 24-hour break and reaching for a cold beer (rather than a kettlebell) can help to lower your risk of heart disease – a great excuse to put your training plans on hold.

2. Hit the Sack

When you’re juggling work and fitness, your body is flooded with cortisol and adrenalin. This can have an adverse effect on your sleep and your ability to build muscle and burn fat, warn researchers at the University of Tokyo.

“A three-hour delay in sleep can take four days to recalibrate,” says Satchidananda Panda of the Salk Institute. Awaken the holistic benefits of better rest by making sleep a priority for four days.

3. Social Work

Perhaps the most crucial benefit of taking time off from training is that you’ll be able to run the festive gauntlet of family visits and catching up with friends (pandemic permitting). If the thought of this has you reaching for Santa’s brandy, remember that social isolation can do as much damage to your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, according to a study conducted by Brigham Young University.

4. Festive Cheer

As you put less pressure on your body, you can also ease off on the late-night casein shakes. They might prime you physically, but a few weeks off can help you mentally. “There’s a hormone in our gut called CCK that aids protein absorption,” says Panda. “If we eat too late, it’s only partially broken down into CCK4, which has been linked to panic attacks.” So, skip the protein hit to set your mind at rest.

5. Hold Steady

Steer clear of the box of Celebrations and there’s no reason why a few weeks off should obliterate your hard-won muscle mass. Studies have found that it takes between four and six weeks of minimal activity to result in noticeable catabolic breakdown. If you stick to your usual diet, you shouldn’t gain much fat, either. What rest will do, though, is ramp up your testosterone levels, kick-starting your training come January.

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