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How rest days could be your key to staying on track

It's the way we're all taught for weight loss - slog it out at the gym doing hours and hours of cardio and you'll lose weight. Seems legit doesn't it? The more you sweat, the more weight you'l lose. Yes, to some extent that's true. I'm not going to disptue that - after doing hours and hours on end of cardio I would be extremely worried if you didn't lose weight!! But is that the healthiest, safest and most beneficial long-term way to shed kilos? And you also have to wonder, is the weight you're losing water, fat or is it in fact your muscle breaking down.

Many studies have shown that are approximately 60-90 minutes of exercise that's when your body starts to use the proteins in your muscle for energy and thus starts breaking down your muscles. You also have to consider how you feel in the hours and days after you exercise. If it leaves you feeling tired but on an exercise "high" then that's good. If you feel depleated of energy for the next 3 days and it's an effort to get up in the morning then it might be a sign you're in need of a rest day.

Here are another seven good reasons to have rest days and why it could be the key to helping you achieve your weight loss and fitness goals.

1. Muscle grow when resting - Doing resistance training causes microscopic tears in your muscles and is when your muscles are growing weaker. It is the period of time in between resistance training session (ideally between 24-48 hours) that are the most important as this is when your muscles are growing, adapting and becoming stronger. So while it's important to work your muscles, it is even more important to give them enough time to repair and to be able to grow stronger.

2. Overtraining can cause a weight loss plateau - It's the opposite of what you think would happen right? But training for too long and too hard can cause a weight loss plateau or even weight gain. The body has an inbuilt protective mechanism and can go into starvation mode that senses when we over work it and it feels it needs to preserve all our energy. Thus preventing you from losing weight.

3. For women overtraining can mess with your menstrual cycle - It may not be the best time of the month, but it's your body's way of indicating that it is healthy and ready to grow a baby. Being too lean and too thing and pushing yourself too hard at the gym can cause it to stop. The absence of it can indicate a problem and the drop in estrogen can cause premature bone loss and a decrease in bone density, make you susceptible to injury and fractures.

4. If you're having problems sleeping - if you need excess sleep to help fuel your workouts or are finding it hard to sleep even when exhausted are both indicators that something is wrong and that you might be over doing it leading to a burn out very fast.

5. Mood problems - Due to the hormones released during exercsie, it can be used as a potent anti-depressan - we've all heard of the runners high. Too much exercise can have the opposite effect, causing anxiety and depression over training schedules and missing workouts.

6. A bigger appetite - This seems a no brainer. The more you're training, the more energy and nutrients your body needs to help you fuel your workouts. Doing longer training sessions will ultimately lead you to eating more. People often think that cutting down on cardio will make them put on weight, but quite the opposite. Doing less cardio will cause you to eat less as you won't be as hungry. There is a fine line between doing the right amount of cardio and causing your body to go into starvation mode. That is when mixing cardio with resistance training is so important to build up your muscles and bone density and to boost your metabolism.

7. After doing a big event - When you have been training for any event, be it a 5km, 10km, half or full marathon, after the event it is good to have a couple of days off to rest and recouperate. The training schedule you have had to follow would have been rigirious so giving your body that time to recover physically and mentally is important. It will also get you back motivated to keep training and thinking of the next event you want to tackle.

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