Eating On Off Days For Bodybuilding, What You Need To Know

March 24th 2019; Updated March 25th 2019

Rest and off days are important, for any sportsperson, and most especially for a bodybuilder, since it is a rigorous and tasking sport. Rest allows the muscles that you have broken down during training to recover and heal. Just be sure that your muscle recovery does not take too long.

Rest, recovery and proper allows you to be stronger, and thus handle the increase in weight, and sets needed to gain more. It builds endurance, strength, and muscle. Some of its benefits include the after workout burn since your body continues burning calories after you are done working out.

Sleep is also an important part of rest since muscles do grow in your sleep. Eating before sleep is also very beneficial, which now brings us to why what you eat, and when you eat it, is important.

Eating On Your Bodybuilding Off Days, What Quantities Work Best?

If you are on a caloric deficit, you should continue to eat below your caloric limit regardless of training. However, if you are bulking, you should eat above your caloric limit on your off days. In general, how much and what you eat during your bodybuilding off days depend largely on your goals. For example, bodybuilders training in a powerlifting style that is on a bulk should eat a lot of protein, fats, and carbs, usually over their caloric limit, on their off days. However, a bodybuilder doing a bro split that is cutting for a competition should eat about the same as their training day, or even less, depending on the date of the competition.

Eating less on your off days if you are cutting

On your off days, you should eat less, since your body requires less energy than it usually does during workout sessions. But with protein, your intake should remain just the same, since you need them for the repair and recovery of your muscles. You could include protein in your diet by drinking protein shakes too. Calories are also important on your off days in bodybuilding and should be kept at the same amount as your workout days because they provide your body with the energy that is necessary for it to run the recovery process.

With all this in mind, it is vital to gradually decrease your calories slowly as rapid changes in caloric rate can significantly affect your strength and physique.

Eating more on your off days

However, if your goal is maximum muscle growth and gaining strength, you should still consume a lot of carbohydrates and protein on your off days. Do not lower your intake of calories or carbohydrates. Keep them at the same level or up them a little bit. So, what quantities to eat and of what, on your off days, really depends on your bodybuilding goals. Is it to bulk? Muscle growth and strength gains? Or just looking to maintain at a certain level. You could consult with your trainer to find out what will work best for you.

A common misconception among lifters and gym-goers is that not eating will produce faster and better results, but it is actually quite the opposite and could end up being disastrous. When you skip meals, first of all, you are denying your body the nutrients it requires to keep functioning well, thus making your metabolisms deteriorate, which is detrimental for a bodybuilder, especially.

But another interesting concept about this is how your body, when not fed, “eats itself”. Sounds weird, right? But yes. Your body will produce fats to sustain itself, which will produce a reverse effect of what you wanted, simply because you will gain more weight, or stagnate. Have regular meals, do not skip. But also, do not overfeed. Fruits come in handy as a snack before your mealtimes, and seeds such as chia have a filling effect, so you could mix them into your blends, smoothies, and shakes.

Apart from water, and smoothies, you could also hydrate using energy drinks and protein shakes, which give you an energy boost to ready yourself for the next workout sessions. They are not to be used as substitutes for water though. If you simply do not like your water plain, add some mint leaves, lemon squeezes, or other flavors such as strawberry to sweeten it.

Foods you consume during your rest days are just as important as the foods you consume on training days. On your off days, your body is recovering and replenishing its fuel reservoirs so that your muscles can perform at an optimum level during your next workout. Below is the type of diet you might want to consider if you are a bodybuilder curious about eating on your off days.


Proteins are, undeniably, one of the most vital parts of your diet as someone who is into strenuous physical activities. Why? Well, proteins are your workers, best for repairing damaged muscles and body tissue. High protein intake is best advised for those into bodybuilding, even on off days, since this is when your body takes advantage of your rest to repair and recover. It is advised to have proteins in your meals at least thrice a day.

There are ideal foods, packed with protein - steak and eggs. These two foods should be your bread and butter of bodybuilding. However, there are alternatives as well. These foods include beans, chicken, turkey, cheese, ground beef, chicken, milk, and fish dishes such as salmon and tuna.

Fats And Oils

The word “fats” seems scary for any bodybuilder, for fear of gaining excess weight or not shedding off fats. But there are three categories of fat, unsaturated, saturated and trans fats. Trans and saturated fats are unhealthy for the body, while unsaturated fats are healthier since they contain double or triple bonds in their chemical formation, which makes it easier to break. Fats provide energy, absorb some nutrients and maintain your body temperature. Some examples of good unsaturated fats are found in olive oil, avocado, fish, and nuts. You need the energy found in fats and oils to replenish the energy lost during bodybuilding training and keeps you fueled up for the upcoming punishment.


Carbs are another key factor in your eating on off days bodybuilding. An important thing to note though is that you should cut down on your carbohydrate intake by 50 to 100 grams on your off days to avoid an excessive intake of them, which then will defeat the whole purpose of losing fat. Carbohydrates can be found everywhere, thanks to the modernization of farming and processed foods.

Bodybuilders should look for easy to digest carbs, like white rice. Carbs, such as brown rice, pasta, and bread, may be difficult for some lifters to digest large quantities of.


Hydration is such a key element during bodybuilding because water prevents dehydration, which impairs performance. On your training days, you may get thirstier than on your off days, because during training you are losing a lot of water through sweat, but even so, you should drink just as much water as you do on your training days. Six to eight glasses are ideal, two liters of water, but hey, it never hurt anyone to drink more, much more water. Remember that, after all, water is life.


Your diet should also consist of plenty of green leafy vegetables and legumes. Vegetables play a vital role in muscle building since they contain many important vitamins and minerals like calcium, folic acid, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, and vitamin A and more. Vegetables also help in losing fat since they are packed with antioxidants. Such vegetables include broccoli, collard greens, leafy lettuce, kale, spinach, and watercress.

Strengthen your bones and muscles

To really strengthen your bones and muscle, the following foods come in handy:


Yogurt is packed with vitamin D, and could also help you boost your daily calcium intake.


Milk, just like yogurt, contains vitamin D and is fortified with calcium.

3.Salmon and Tuna

Good for your heart, and good for your bones too!


Spinach, even as little as one cup, contains calcium, iron, fiber, and vitamin A. If you just cannot stomach spinach, you could blend it into your smoothie and have it on the go. Healthy and cool!

5.Fortified Foods

Fortified foods mean those manufactured foods that have been infused with certain vitamins that are essential for the body’s wellbeing. Such foods/products include orange juice, cooking oil, some cereals have been infused with vitamins such as vitamin D and calcium. You can check the list of ingredients to confirm it.

So, you may still be wondering what the right, let’s say layout for you to plan your meals is. I will give you an example of a day’s menu plan, then you can switch around the foods for what you like, and to also create some change and diversity for your palette.

Sample Meal Plan


Whole grain toast bread.

Eggs (2-3).



Midday Snack

Dried fruit such as raisins.

Protein Shake if needed.




Leafy greens.

Afternoon Snack



Sweet potatoes Or Rice Again.

Fish (Tuna or salmon) Or Steak Again.

Green beans.


Even though water has not been included in this sample menu, remember that it is still important. Have it throughout the day to stay hydrated and refreshed. Make sure you always have an adequate supply of carbs throughout the day.

With the proteins, make sure you go for the high-quality proteins. Fruit is important for providing your body with vitamins and minerals needed for your bodybuilding journey.

The purpose of the menu was to act as a guide for what your meals should look like and how they should be paired. Feel free to switch it up and swap it around with other foods, but you get the general principle of it.

The journey to bodybuilding is not an easy one, whether for competition or just for your own aesthetic pleasure. But with the right trainers, instructors, mindset, following the right diet practice, listening to your body, and resting when you should, you are well on the path to becoming an absolute pro! GO YOU!


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