The Optimized Gentleman

Do Your Muscles Grow On Rest Days?


A lot of gym fanatics have a preconceived notion. The more frequently you work out, the better your results! But science begs to differ. From preventing muscle fatigue, to reducing the risk of injury, to improving your overall performance, your rest days are crucial for building muscle! One question comes to mind, though: do muscles grow on rest days?

In this post, we cover all you need to know about the importance of rest days and their influence on muscle growth, so you should to stick around to find out.

Do Rest Days Help Your Muscles Grow?

The short and sweet answer is YES, muscles do grow during the rest periods between workout sessions. Not taking rest days hinders the process of protein synthesis, which, in turn, slows down your muscle growth.


How Do Rest Days Promote Muscle Growth?

Before we explain how rest days promote muscle growth, let’s apply a slight change of vocabulary to the term “rest day”. At least in the context of muscle growth – instead of rest days, we’ll call them growth days.

Now, let’s discuss the two key components to muscle growth – namely muscle breakdown and protein synthesis – to get a good grasp of how growth days help our muscles grow.

When you go to the gym and put your body through strength training exercises, muscle breakdown takes place. This means your muscles sustain tears and injuries on a microscopic level.

To repair the microscopic damage your muscles undergo, your body begins protein synthesis. This is the process of creating new protein molecules and rebuilding muscle fibers. This process is responsible for the bulk of your muscle growth.

For this protein synthesis process to go smoothly, your body requires adequate rest. After all, you can’t expect your muscles to grow in mass, if you’re constantly initiating muscle breakdown (by working out every single day).

Lack of adequate rest will cause your body to hit certain plateaus, where it can’t promote any more muscle growth. In fact, constant exercise without rest can actually result in diminished muscle growth.

This means if you train too much, your muscle mass goes in the opposite desired direction. You wouldn’t want all that hard work to go to waste, now would you?

Is 24 Hours Enough Rest for Muscles?

We don’t like blanket statements that attempt to generalize broad concepts like this. Why?  Because they strip away much-needed mindfulness. “Muscles need 24 hours to recover” is a perfect example of such a statement.

Look, the amount of time your muscles need to recover, boils down to the intensity and volume of your workout.

Do you prefer to hone in on a maximum of one or two muscle groups per session? If so, you can probably get away with only 24 hours’ worth of rest. This way, you’re giving your muscle groups time to rest by splitting up your training days.

On the other hand, let’s say you prefer splitting your training days into full upper body and full lower body workouts. In this case, the above-mentioned approach isn’t going to do your body any good.

If you work out the same muscle groups on a frequent basis, 24 hours of rest probably won’t be enough. Reason being, you aren’t giving your muscles a chance to rest during training days. In this case, you should opt for 48 hours at least.

Volume aside, you should take into consideration the intensity of your workouts.

If your workouts are of moderate intensity, you can get away with less downtime. On the other hand, if you put your muscles through super intense workouts (H.I.I.T., sprints, box jumps, timed reps), you’ll need more downtime.

Ideally, you should work out each muscle group with a great intensity only once a week. If you do this, feel free to hit the gym five or six days a week – and take a page out of God’s playbook – and rest on the seventh.

Jokes aside, you can choose to experiment with full body workouts, evenly spaced, three times per week. This will give you a day or two of downtime to rest in between, and require less time in the gym as well.

How Long Does Protein Synthesis Last?

The protein synthesis window opens as you’re working out, and closes 48 hours after your workout. It’s also worth noting that in some cases, protein synthesis can persist for longer than 48 hours.

If you’re reading this and thinking to yourself, “Why rush to get my post-workout nutrition within two hours of my workout, then?” Well, because the longer you delay post-workout nutrition, the less glycogen is stored in your muscles and the less efficient the process of protein synthesis will become.

But in our view, this is largely overrated. Just get the right amounts of nutrition (namely protein and carbs) as close inside the protein synthesis window as you can. But keep in mind that the window is a timeframe that drops in effectiveness as time passes. Hence the 48 hour limit.

In case you don’t know what glycogen is, it’s a polysaccharide that serves as an energy source for muscles. It’s deposited in muscle tissues as a store of carbohydrates.

Whenever muscle breakdown occurs, glycogen hinders the uptake of muscle glucose from your bloodstream. This, in turn, gives the other tissues in your body an ample supply of blood glucose.

When there’s a lack of glycogen in the muscles, your body experiences a decrease in endurance and exercise capacity. This, then, translates to tapered performance and muscle growth.

What Are the Other Benefits of Taking “Growth Days”?

Apart from promoting muscle growth, there are other benefits you can reap from taking exercise-free rest days:


Prevents Muscle Fatigue

Exercising too frequently can cause muscle soreness and fatigue, as a result of depleted glycogen. Resting in between your workout sessions, allows your store of glycogen to be refilled, preventing soreness and fatigue.

Remember, your muscles need glycogen for more than just working out; they need them for your day-to-day activities too! So, be sure to get enough rest, so that all other aspects of your life aren’t affected negatively.

If you’re physically depleted, it’ll be a lot harder to get focused on building your future cash flows, skillsets, and business/career.

Reduces the Risk of Injury

Like we mentioned earlier, when you work out, you’re essentially damaging your muscles on a microscopic level – by exposing them to repetitive stress and strain. Doing this too often – to the point that you’re overtraining your body – can injure you. This forces you to quit training for days or weeks, hinders your growth, and depletes your gains. It’s dumb; don’t do it.

If you’re looking for the best muscle-relaxers, which can help your muscles recover quicker, we wrote up this guide for you. By resting between your workout sessions, you give your muscles time to rejuvenate and replenish themselves, preventing the risk of injury.

Promotes Healthy Sleep

When you work out, your body produces energy-boosting hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones are quite beneficial when produced in moderate quantities.

But when you exercise too frequently, the production of said energy-boosting hormones is overstimulated, which can impair the quality of your sleep. Poor-quality sleep then translates to exhaustion, crankiness, and even fatigue.

Improves Your Overall Performance

We all like to switch up our routines and challenge ourselves when we’re in the gym, or doing bodyweight work. Thing is, without adequate rest, you won’t have the energy or the motivation to do any of these things. Not to mention, you have less crisp focus for the important work and social matters in your life as a man. You may not even be able to get through your regular routine without feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck.

Concluding The Importance of Rest/Growth Days on Muscle Growth

All things considered, if you’re looking to boost your performance in the gym and promote more efficient muscle growth, you have to prioritize rest days. All you need is roughly 24-48 hours, depending on the volume and intensity of your workouts. The rest of the week is all yours to hammer away at the important tasks that catapult you forward in life.

Stay focused, Gent.


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