Nutrition plan for rest days and 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).
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).