It’s a commonly asked question, “Should I Eat Less on Rest Days When Bulking?”
You know that you need to be consuming more calories when you’re bulking.
However, you’ll undoubtedly feel hungrier on training days.
So, this begs the question whether you should maintain or reduce your calories on the days that you’re not working out.
Allow me to explain the do’s and don’ts of eating on rest days.
Should I Eat Less on Rest Days When Bulking?
Bulking should be viewed as a long term eating and training cycle, so you won’t make any noticeable changes in 24-hour blocks. Plus, you need to be eating at a caloric surplus every single day while bulking. Therefore, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to eat less on rest days. With that being said, you may feel less hungry on rest days, as you’re not exerting as much energy. So, it comes down to a matter of personal preference how much you eat on any given day.
1. Think Long-Term When Bulking
The biggest mistake most of us make when it comes to bulking is to be short-sighted.
By this, I mean that bulking (or cutting for that matter) is a long, slow, and gradual process.
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So, realistically what happens in a 24-hour block of time makes very little difference in the grand scheme of things.
Therefore, eating a few hundred calories more or less on one specific day isn’t really going to impact on an overall bulk.
This is also why you shouldn’t suddenly have a massive increase in caloric intake when you start bulking.
Once again, you should keep the end goal in mind.
So, bulking should really be about increasing your calories slowly and then gradually building up.
Remember, your aim is to add mass with minimal body fat.
Personally, I believe you should calculate your daily calories and macro-split and then stick to this until you decide it’s time to stop bulking.
Admittedly, you may not feel as hungry on non-training days simply due to the fact that you’re not exerting as much energy.
Plus, bulking isn’t about force-feeding yourself, although it can definitely feel like that some days.
Additionally, you can’t “trick” your body into doing different things on different days.
In other words, you can’t be building muscle on Monday, losing body fat on Tuesday, while maintaining your physique on Wednesday.
Okay, I understand that your training may feel as though this is what you’re doing to your body.
But, I’ll reiterate, you’re not going to make a huge difference in just 24 hours.
My advice, where appropriate, maintain the same number of daily calories throughout your bulk.
2. Bulking Requires Eating at a Caloric Surplus (Every Day)
I just want to hammer this point home a little more.
You know yourself that bulking requires you to eat at a caloric surplus.
So, you need to be consuming more calories than you’re burning on a daily basis.
Yes, obviously you’ll be burning far fewer calories on a rest day, but you still need to be eating an excess of calories.
The general way of thinking is that you’ll consume 300-500 more calories than you’re burning every day.
So, essentially it almost makes sense to reduce your calories on rest days.
However, I like to view rest days as an ideal opportunity to take on more calories and plan my weekly meals out.
In fact, that “extra” energy from not working out is a great time to prepare and cook some of your meals for later in the week.
Something else to consider is that eating less one day can impact your workout the next day.
You must have noticed this yourself.
You have a massive evening meal and the following morning you crank out a number of PBs.
Whereas, you eat less the previous evening and you’re struggling for energy half-way through your workout.
So, once again, I’ll say try to maintain those excess calories on a daily basis.
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3. Think About Your Macro Split
Something else to consider when bulking is your macronutrient split.
Many people view bulking as a great way to take on additional carbohydrates.
They may even be tempted to go the “dirty bulk” route and enjoy many cheat meals.
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However, the most important macronutrient when bulking (and cutting again) is protein.
Realistically, your body needs a protein hit at least every 3 hours when bulking.
This is to ensure that you have a steady stream of amino acids going to your muscles, which will keep your body in a positive nitrogen balance.
Unfortunately, if your body doesn’t have these amino acids then it has to find them from somewhere.
And yes, you’ve guessed it, your body will go to your muscles in order to get these amino acids.
It is this process that is often referred to as a catabolic state, which basically means that your body is literally eating into your muscle mass.
So, if you really have to reduce your calorie intake on rest days make sure that this isn’t from protein.
In fact, you’d be better off maintaining the amount of protein you eat and slightly reducing your carb intake.
In other words, if you’re going to eat less, always keep your muscle mass in mind.
4. Why Complicate Matters?
I personally think that if you’re going to eat less on rest days then you’re simply complicating matters.
You go from one day to the next either increasing or reducing your calories.
Basically, you have to keep track of what you’re eating and when you’re eating it.
In truth, going through a bulking phase can be as much mental exercise as it is physical.
By this I mean there will be days when you haven’t hit your calorie count, so you literally have to force down a few tablespoons of peanut butter before you go to bed.
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Then again, you may find that you feel hungry on a rest day because you’ve dropped your calories.
However, you decide that you shouldn’t eat anymore, as you’ll go over your daily calorie intake.
I will also say that the more complex your overall nutritional plan is, the harder time you’ll have sticking to it.
So, for me, don’t complicate things.
Choose an ideal daily calorie intake for your bulk and stick to it.
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5. It’s a Matter of Personal Preference
Okay, even though I’ve said throughout that it’s best to stick to the same number of daily calories, this may not be suitable for everyone.
All I mean by this is that it’s your body and you need to feed it as you see fit.
I’ve already mentioned that you simply may not feel as hungry on rest days, so if you can’t face another meal then don’t eat it.
As I say, bulking is a long-term goal, so what you do on one single day won’t make a huge amount of difference.
However, you’ll want to remain consistent overall on a weekly basis.
Yes, it’s definitely easier to stick to the same number of calories every single day, but you have to do what you feel is right.
The last thing you want is to totally give up on your bulk because you simply can’t cope with how you feel on certain days.
I’ve said that this is as much a mental process, and bulking shouldn’t feel arduous.
You know your mind and body better than anyone, and you know what you can stick to and what you can’t.
So, hopefully you understand that it’s probably easier to not eat less on rest days when bulking.
Basically, you need to ensure that you’re at a caloric surplus every day, therefore it’s less of a hassle to maintain your eating habits.
With that being said, if you feel that you simply can’t handle any more food on a rest day then don’t force yourself.
One day isn’t going to make a huge difference in the grand scheme of things.
And that’s the whole point – bulking is a long process that requires consistency.
But, doing your own thing one day here-or-there won’t ruin your entire bulk (just don’t make a habit of it).
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Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.