November 14, 2018


By Dr. Kristin Lander, DC, CISSN

Grab our Free pre/post-training meals guide to quickly improve your training outcomes.

Powerlifters require a lot of physical strength and endurance to achieve their goals. However, it is not just about training hard and lifting heavy weights. It is also about caring for your body and providing it with the necessary nutrients and rest. One of the critical aspects of powerlifting is understanding the difference between rest day vs training day caloric needs. 

This article will discuss the importance of rest days in powerlifting and how they affect your caloric needs. We will also explore the caloric needs for training days and how you can adjust your diet accordingly.

Why are Rest Days Important?

Rest days are a critical part of any fitness routine, especially powerlifting, as they allow your lean tissues to grow. When you lift weights, your body undergoes a catabolic activity in which molecules break down to produce energy, along with inducing tiny tears in your muscles. These tears need time to heal and rebuild, known as the anabolic state, where rest days come in.

During rest days, your body repairs and strengthens your muscles, allowing them to grow and adapt to the stress of powerlifting. Moreover, you also experience new cell growth and increased bone density, which helps you in your next workout session. The recovery procedure lasts between 48 hours to 72 hours, and without proper rest, you are at risk of an injury, which can set you back in your progress.

Why are Training Days Important?

Training days are equally crucial in powerlifting because lifting weights creates a stimulus that encourages your body to adapt and grow. The stress of powerlifting breaks down your muscle fibers; when they rebuild, they come back more robust and substantial. You become physically more strong and healthy, along with being confident.

Caloric Needs for Rest Day vs Training Day

Now that we understand the importance of rest and training days, let’s explore how to adjust your rest day vs training day caloric needs to maximize your progress.

On Rest Days
While considering rest day vs training day caloric needs, many people assume that our body requires fewer calories on rest days than on training days since we are not using as much energy. However, it’s not entirely true, as you need substantial caloric content on rest days to ensure proper and quick muscle recovery. 

In fact, we have worked with many athletes who, just by increasing their calories on rest days, saw substantial improvements in training performance and strength.  For this purpose, you should find the right balance of caloric intake to give your body the nutrients it needs to recover. This will give your body the fuel to continue building muscle and recovering. 

On Training Days
Your body requires calories on training days to fuel and optimize training. So, consume enough calories to support your body’s demands without overeating and sabotaging your progress. You can easily do this by finding the right balance of macronutrients such as protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats that cater to your body’s energy needs.

As a general rule of thumb, while considering rest day vs training day caloric requirements, you should go with high carbohydrates and potentially lower fats on your training days. Moreover, you can also eat more calories on workout days if you are engaging in intense activities. You can add 50 to 100 grams of carbs per hour of intense activity!

How Many Calories to Take on Rest Days While Bulking and Cutting?

How many calories on rest days when bulking? The answer depends on how fast your metabolism works. According to the NHS, the average caloric intake for women is 2000, and for men, it’s 2500.  

Typically, the caloric surplus on the rest day when cutting can be anywhere from 300 kcal to 500 kcal. However, this also depends upon the type of bulking, whether you are doing lean bulking and cutting or going dirty bulking.

Typically, bulking refers to gaining body muscles or mass through the excess caloric intake. It’s quite popular among powerlifters and other competitive athletes who want to strengthen their bodies before their competition. However, bulking doesn’t mean you have to indulge in a speedy weight-gain process. 

The faster you go towards weight gain, the more body fat you’ll have, which can impact your game. So, you should gain weight slowly and focus on strengthening your body muscles. On average, most athletes gain around 0.2% to 0.3% of body weight every week. The suitable duration for bulking is around 3 to 6 months, as short bulking sessions will not let you gain the desired muscular strength. 

Cutting refers to the practice of reducing your body fat while maintaining muscle mass. Powerlifters and competitive athletes usually implement cutting followed by a good bulking session to get some health benefits. These include preventing knee collapse, enhancing muscular strength, and reducing the load on your knees. However, as an athlete, you need to be very careful while practicing cutting on rest days, as faster body loss may not help you achieve the desired athletic muscle shape. So, it’s suggested to practice slow weight loss as it not only aids you in losing body mass but also improves your overall athletic performance. 

On average, athletes who lose 0.4% to 0.6% weight weekly see better results from cutting. Going above 0.7% weight loss per week will not allow you to preserve your muscle mass, negatively affecting the gaming session. 

The ideal weight loss time ranges from 12 to 16 weeks, followed by four to eight weeks of maintenance before another weight loss session. Don’t forget to get help from a qualified nutritionist to ensure you have a healthy and passive cutting routine.


Whether you are a powerlifter or someone who usually engages in fun, intense activities, your rest day vs training day caloric needs remain almost the same.

As your muscles need calories, aka energy, for proper recovery, you should take a substantial quantity of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins to ensure quick healing. Moreover, if body weight changes are your goal, make sure you follow healthy bulking (0.2% to 0.3% weight gain per week) and cutting (0.4% to 0.6% weight loss per week). This will help you stay on track and improve your overall performance!

You can get the same exact framework we use with some of the world’s top lifters to improve their training performance and recovery with pre and post-training meals.