Pro Tips on Rest and Recovery to Help you Perform at Your Best

You love to get after it. Tackling training session after training session. Crushing race after race.

Key aspects of training that can often be put on the back burner or hard to prioritize are rest and recovery. To help you take your training to the next level, and understand the importance of rest and recovery, we talked with NBA Performance Coach and CEO of Great Day Squad* Ben Kenyon.

How does rest impact performance and why is it important?

A rest and recovery practice will give you the ability to perform at your best for longer periods of time. As a competitive athlete or everyday athlete, we want to be able to thrive in all areas whether it is practice, at work, in games or a critical meeting. Being able to take action and execute are key to our success. Committing to an effective rest and recovery routine will give us the ability to reproduce the best results on a more consistent basis.

The three major areas that will improve rest and recovery are sleep, nutrition plan and “off-day” routine. I’ll dive deeper into each area later in this blog post.

How does sleep play a part in the recovery process?

Sleep plays a major role in the recovery process of our mind and body. Adequate sleep will improve our mental and physical health. Sleep improves, brain function, our ability to learn and retain information, muscle tissue repair, food metabolism and build a stronger immune system. Minimal amounts of sleep will be detrimental to our optimum performance, endurance and ability to recover because our stress levels are heightened. (Walsh et al. BJSM 2020**)

How does food/nutrition play a part in recovery?

Nutrition plays a major part in our recovery. During exercise our body uses glycogen stores for energy which is exhausted with an increased time of physical activity. Restoring our blood glucose and repairing our muscles is vital after exercise. We want our post training supplement or meal to have a 4:1 or 3:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio. This will replenish the depleted glycogen and start the muscle repair within the 30-minute re-fueling window. If you cannot eat a complete meal, the next best option is to grab a protein shake, smoothie with protein, or a Honey Stinger Cracker Bar with Protein or Protein Waffle . These are easily digestible and will satiate your hunger until you can consume an entire meal.

What are some nutrition tips for rest days to make sure you’re properly fueling your body for its next workout?

General rule of thumb is to eat for your competition/training goals. Eating food from these 7 categories daily will keep you balanced and on track. On a training or recovery day, eat:

  • Carbohydrate (Provides energy) – whole grain, potatoes, brown or wild rice, fruits and vegetables. Rationed Honey Stinger Waffles (think 1 or 2), are also a great carbohydrate source if you're "on the go".
  • Proteins (Supports muscle repair)– lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, milk, Greek yogurt, and quinoa
  • Omega-3 (Supports heart and brain Health) - Fish
  • Iron (Increase red blood cells) – Fish, meat, poultry, lentils, and nuts
  • Calcium (Improves bone density) – Dairy products, almond milk, leafy green vegetables, nuts and beans
  • Vitamin D (Improves bone density and immunity) – Fish
  • Antioxidants (Improves oxidative stress) - whole fruits and vegetables

When is the best time to start the recovery process – with nutrition and soft tissue work (stretching, foam rolling, etc.)?

The best time to start the recovery process is immediately after training or competition. Check out the Acute Recover Guidelines below.

Acute Recovery Guidelines
  • Soft tissue – Stretch, foam roll, massage, ice bath/cold tub (2 rounds of 5 minutes or 10 minutes max) Diaphragmatic breathing and elevate your feet for 10 – 15 minutes
  • Nutrition – Drink a protein shake (4:1/Carb to Protein), smoothie (4:1/Carb to Protein), Honey Stinger Cracker Bar with Protein or eat a full meal within the 30-to-60-minute window of training.

What is the difference between active and passive rest?

Active rest also known as active recovery is participating in a physical activity that is low intensity and low impact. This allows for an efficient flush of the metabolic waste that you’ve built up throughout your training week. Here are some examples of active rest:
  • 20 to 30-minute walk, jog, bike or elliptical
  • Swim
  • Lighter load resistance
  • Low volume/Low intensity exercises
Passive rest, also known as an off day, means to do as minimal physical activity as possible. This allows you to give your body a break mentally, physically and emotionally. Here are some great examples of passive rest:
  • Lay in bed
  • Sit on the couch
  • Meditate
  • Practice Diaphragmatic Breathing
  • Elevate your feet for 20 minutes

There are benefits to both Active and Passive rest days. This is an amazing opportunity for you to listen to your body and choose the most efficient “off day” routine.

What are some of the consequences of not giving your body the rest it needs?

The main drawback of not resting is overtraining and causing unnecessary stress to your body. You will over train and exert unnecessary stress on the body. Overstressing your body will create a harmful ripple effect to you mentally and physically. Your body will stay in a catabolic state and breakdown muscle, cause dehydration and potentially lead to a significant injury.

What are some suggestions you have to help athletes feel productive but give their body the rest it needs?

As an active coach and athlete, I still struggle with taking days completely off. What has helped me feel productive is creating my own “day off” check list. My “day off” list consists of spending time with friends and family, napping, watching a documentary about performance, cooking or going for a long walk. Now it’s time for you to create your “day off” check list. Create a list of 3 to 5 activities that you can complete during your “day off”. “Day Off” Check List (Example)
  • Clean your room/house
  • Read 10 pages of a book
  • Practice Yoga for 20 – 30 minutes
  • Cook your favorite meal
  • Call or facetime a friend or family member

The goal is to complete three activities on your day off, feel accomplished and call it a day. Athletes are very task-oriented individuals. Developing an extensive “day off” check list will allow them to be more efficient.

What recommendations do you give athletes for an activity to rest ratio?

Every sports activity to rest ratio will be based on its specific preseason, in-season and offseason. The list below gives athletes and coaches general guidelines to developing their own activity to rest guidelines.

  • Pre-season – Activity: 5 days/Rest (off day): 2 days
  • In-season – Activity: 5 to 6 days/Rest (off days): 1 to 2 days
  • Offseason – Activity: 4 to 5 days/Rest (off days): 2 to 3 days
Remember that our off days can be a mixture of active and passive “off days”. Choose wisely.
*Great Day Squad is a collection of renowned athletes, performers, and leaders in their profession that inspire your best individual performance. Lead by NBA Strength Coach, Ben Kenyon, GDS is designed to shift you from your comfort zone to the edge.
Founder and CEO of Great Day Squad Ben Kenyon


**Reference: Walsh et al. 2020