What to eat on rest & easy training days

Find out what your balance of protein and carbs should be on rest and easy training days, plus, recipes to help you on your way...

Two women running together outdoors

Nutrition plan for rest days & easy training (under 60 mins at low-intensity)

Lighter training, less carbohydrate
Carbohydrate is a main fuel for endurance training, therefore on easier training days, less carbohydrate is required. This may mean that only one meal (e.g. 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).

Other nutrients
Including polyunsaturated fats (e.g. omega-3) can help to reduce inflammation and aid the recovery process. Fat also acts as a fuel for lower-intensity training. Increased vegetable intakes with each meal (especially those high in antioxidants) help to reduce the (‘free radical’) damage from the previous day’s training, and may subsequently reduce muscle soreness. 

Finally, easier training days are a great time to experiment with different fruits, vegetables, grains, flavours and spices – without worrying about GI (gut) symptoms during training.

Training timing – when to eat
For easier, low-intensity training sessions (e.g. 35-minute, easy run), it is not vital to fuel the body with carbohydrates. For lower-intensity training, the body uses fat as its primary fuel to produce energy. 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 so 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).

Meal options:

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

Now find out what to eat on normal and heavy training days.

More training & nutrition tips for runners

These meal plans were last updated on 20 February 2020.

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 health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

Are you training for a race this year? What have you found most challenging and do you have any top tips to share with other runners? We'd love to hear from you below...


Comments, questions and tips

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magdalenammm's picture
23rd Jul, 2015
@a_d_cooper I understand where you're coming from, and yes I agree that some meals require more time, skills, variety of ingredients and knowledge. Although, try to use these as suggestions, so have a pick and mix approach and only choose things, which are relevant for you i.e. easy to make etc. As you browse through them, just use them as an inspiration rather than having to strictly follow a recipe. Think of different substitutes for items, which may be difficult to obtain. @Bench I totally agree with you! I like the interface, the content, pretty much everything about this blog.
19th Nov, 2014
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2nd Apr, 2014
There appears to be an assumption that everyone has a personal chef or no job/kids. Any chance of doing something for people who live in the real world?
Daisy@Cheaperseeker's picture
29th Mar, 2014
Nice.Thank you for sharing the great post!
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