It is common knowledge that with any training program, rest and recovery is necessary in order to get the full benefits of the gains and progress you want to see in the gym.
Some follow a 3-day-on, 1-day-off training plan. Others follow a 5-day ‘work week’ pattern, with weekends off. Some opt to schedule specific days as ‘off days’ or ‘active recovery’ days, such as a Thursday and Sunday split.
Ultimately, it’s really all about finding what works best for you, while recognizing that everyone—regardless of your abilities and goals—can and does benefit from rest in some form or fashion (at least if you want to experience progress).
As common knowledge as rest and recovery is to the training world however, the process of rest and recovery for self-improvement and wellness is far less practiced in other areas of our lives.
For instance, in our rat-race society, where the ‘do more’, ‘work harder’, ‘go longer’, ‘never-enough-time-in-the-day’ philosophies run deep, the idea of rest and recovery is more of a dream or ‘vacation’ rather than something that happens regularly.
Or, another area, far less addressed: Our nutrition — specifically our digestive system.
We train our hearts, muscles, lungs over and over, they break when we stop and meditate and relax and refuel; the digestive tract is a muscle as long as two tennis courts and it needs a break as well.
Perhaps you’ve done a challenge of some sort — a ‘Paleo’ challenge, or a 30-day-sugar-detox, or simply tried to be more ‘mindful’ about what you put in your body for a time (out with the ‘junk’ food, in with the protein, veggies, sweet potatoes and healthy fats). But when was the last time you really let your digestive system recalibrate?
If you are like most people… probably never—unless forced to do so due to sickness or surgery or a ‘fasting’ doctor appointment.
Just as in training, you have rest and recovery days, as well as ‘de-load’ weeks in training (a time of backing off the ‘push’ to set new PRs or lift heavier weights, going a bit lighter or slower paced)…in your eating and nutrition, you too should make it a priority to have a ‘de-load’ period (a time of letting your digestive tract take a break from the work, stress and sometimes, ‘over work’ it has to do to try to keep your digestion flowing).
Think about it.
In a given week, if the food you eat is about a 40-hour investment per meal time (40-hours for full digestion to occur), and you are eating 6 meals and snacks per day…that is 42 different meals, each with a 40-hour digestive push to work.
(Resource: Learn how to make the most out of the 40 hours of digestion here.)
And even if that food is ‘clean’ food, for the most part, your body still has to work nevertheless. That’s not even taking into consideration the occasional meals where you are over-eating (oops, ate too much moments), or pounding back the protein shake with some gut-irritating additives, or not taking the time for proper food hygiene practices (think: thoroughly chewing your food, not ‘running around’ and eating, eating with others and fellowshipping over a good meal).
In short: That’s a lot of extra work.
The notion of ‘de-loading the gut’ then is all about giving you (and your digestive system) a break.
This is accomplished by taking away some macronutrients. In my common practice with clients, this typically looks like removing protein and even some healthy fats from the system for about 3-days.
It ranges; we have employed Neera cleanses (syrup, cayenne, lemon and water), to intermittent fasting (nothing only water) for a day per week, to more recently, protein deloads a few days per month (cooked veggies basically and veggie soups/broths).
During this time, clients are advised not to train, and simply just give their bodies as a whole a break as well—all in order to adapt and ‘go back again’ to eating, nourishing and providing the body with the nutrients necessary for thriving—both inside and outside the gym.
This practice, time and time again, in my 20+ years of working with others, continues to yield amazing ‘feel better’ results.
Many people simply don’t take the time to even consider how their food and nutrition makes them feel—especially when they are so driven in general to do the ‘next thing’ or check off their lists of going from work to gym, to wanting to see ‘gains’, or body composition changes, and on and on.
The break of which I speak does not necessarily even have to be a protein-sparing approach. For some, it may initially look like just removing gut irritants, such as sugar, grains, processed, foods, stimulants, shakes and/or caffeine.
Just recently, for instance, I worked with a client who took my advice for giving his body a break. He was severely addicted to caffeine and I asked him to remove all sugar, all caffeine, and processed foods from his diet—just for three days. On the third day, this man who had been taking in about 30-50 ounces of coffee per day was now drinking nothing but water—and said he noticed a significant difference in how he felt.
“I think my nervous system has been operating on a false sense of ‘energy,’” he told me on his light bulb moment.
This removal of some foods creates a realization that our gut needs some time to breathe as well, instead of creating a fermentation factory down there.
Giving your client’s digestive system a break can be a very effective tool when used appropriately. Learn how to use your consultations to develop your client’s holistic nourishment program in The Free Coach's Toolkit.