We all know the importance of giving your body the right fuel for workouts, but did you know that what you eat on easy training and rest days is just as important? This is time our body uses to repair muscle and build energy levels back up, so choosing the right balance of nutrients on these days is key. Remember, spending your rest days well means you'll turn up to the next workout feeling stronger, fitter and ready to sweat.


Discover what to eat before a run, swim and cycle, as well as what you should eat if you train in the morning or evening. Plus, we have nutrition plans for heavy training days and normal days.

Rest days and easy training: exercise under 60 mins at low intensity

Lighter training, less carbohydrate

Breakfast egg wraps filled with mushrooms

Carbohydrate is a main fuel for endurance training, therefore less is required on easier training days. This may mean that only one meal (eg breakfast or lunch) needs to be carbohydrate-based.

Easier training days give the flexibility to have a protein-rich breakfast, which may also reduce hunger for the rest of the morning. Intakes of protein from meals and snacks should still be high on these days to support ongoing muscle tissue growth and repair (as your muscles are constantly remodelling over 24 hours). Try breakfast egg wraps filled with mushrooms.

Check out our high-protein snack recipes.

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Other important nutrients

Sesame salmon and broccoli with sweet potato mash on a plate

Including polyunsaturated fats (eg omega-3) can help to reduce inflammation and aid the recovery process. Fat also acts as a fuel for lower-intensity training. Increased vegetable intake with each meal (especially those high in antioxidants) helps to reduce the (‘free radical’) damage from the previous day’s training, and may subsequently reduce muscle soreness. Our sesame salmon with purple sprouting broccoli and sweet potato mash is perfect.

Finally, easier training days are a great time to experiment with new meals containing a mix of fruits, vegetables, grains and spices – without worrying about gut symptoms during training.

Training timing – when to eat

Woman smiling on a run

For easier, low-intensity training sessions (eg a 35-minute easy run), the body uses fat as its primary source of energy, so it's not essential to fuel the body with carbohydrates. Indeed, many elite endurance athletes will either train fasted (before breakfast) or using a higher-protein, low-carb breakfast. This is called ‘training low’ (reducing the availability of carbohydrate to the muscles) to increase the stress on them, so that they adapt and become more efficient for endurance training.

This strategy also primes the body to break down fat and use it as fuel for training, so can form part of an effective weight management strategy. It can take a while to get used to ‘training low’ and it shouldn’t be used for harder, high-intensity training sessions (alongside an overall calorie deficit).

Meals for rest and easy training days

Breakfast options:
Crab & asparagus omelette
Ricotta, tomato & spinach frittata
Spiced scrambled eggs

Morning snack suggestion:
Chinese spiced seed mix

Lunch options:
Griddled chicken with quinoa Greek salad
Fruity lamb tagine
Moroccan chicken with sweet potato mash

Afternoon snack options:
Lemon & coriander houmous
Thai salmon kebabs with sweet chilli & lime dip

Dinner options:
Chermoula-marinated mackerel
Lemon-rubbed salmon
Grilled & marinated summer vegetables
Thai chicken & mushroom broth

More training & nutrition tips

These meal plans were reviewed on 6 September 2021.

James Collins is recognised as a leading performance nutritionist through his work with Olympic and professional sport. Over the last decade, he has worked with Arsenal FC, the England and France national football teams and Team GB. He has a private practice in Harley Street where he sees business executives, performing artists and clients from all walks of life. He is the author of the new book The Energy Plan, which focuses on the key principles of fuelling for fitness.

All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other healthcare professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local healthcare provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.


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