Rest Day with: Danny Lennon
Welcome to the latest Flexiseq series, ‘Rest Day with…’. In preparation for the BodyPower event this month, we caught up with speakers and world class educators to find out their top tips for taking a rest day.
Danny Lennon is the Founder of Sigma Nutrition, aiming to provide the highest-quality, evidence-based information on nutrition, performance & exercise science. Danny Lennon has a MSc in Nutritional Science and also works as a performance nutritionist for professional MMA fighters, professional boxers and competitive powerlifters.
1. What do you eat on a rest day and why is that important for your overall performance diet?
The actual foods change as I have no set “must-eat” meals/foods. But as I compete in powerlifting, the only real focus on a rest day from a diet perspective is making sure my calories are roughly where I want them, and to have a high-protein intake distributed across ~4 meals over the day. So essentially, just making sure my calories are neither too high nor too low, and that I’m maximizing muscle protein synthesis (muscle repair/growth). The exact amounts of carbohydrate and dietary fat are pretty irrelevant.
2. What’s the nutritional difference in your diet when exercising in comparison to rest days?
For me personally, it’s not that much. The only real difference is a focus on getting a decent amount of calories into my pre-workout meal (about 2 hours before I lift) and then the timing of some protein once the session is over. For long, intense sessions I may also include some carbohydrate/protein drinks during training, although this is not super frequent. Only other major difference is caffeine consumption. On training days, caffeine will be higher due to supplementing with 200-400 mg before training.
3. What’s your ideal rest day?
I feel that an ideal rest day should be something that takes you completely away from a typical training day, both physically and mentally. On rest days, I do not go to the gym to do cardio or mobility work. Instead I stay away completely. I try to do things that do not have me thinking about powerlifting. I think it’s important to have interests and activities that have nothing to do with lifting. Not only will it help in life, it will build resilience when something goes wrong with your sport. An injury or loss won’t lead to a loss of identity, which can happen if you attach your whole identity, focus and worth in the gym or a sport.
4. If you could give one tip for recovery days, what would it be?
Sleep. People tend to focus on things that they think will help, like stretching, foam rolling, sauna, etc., when really most of those have little to no effect. Whilst at the same time ignoring the big things that actually have the most profound effect on recovery; sleep, calories and a low stress environment. So if I could suggest one thing, I’d just say pay more attention to your sleep.
5. What is your guilty rest day pleasure? (e.g. pizza, Netflix binge, wine etc…)
I tend to avoid attaching guilt to food, as really any food can be included within the diet without a problem. So if I were to think of a guilty pleasure, I would probably say watching episodes of “Community”, perhaps the greatest show of all-time. I probably should be doing something more productive, but when I just need to unwind I’ll watch some old episodes.
6. What would be your top 5 rest day meals for someone starting out with a regular exercise routine?
For someone starting out, one of the most common things they could benefit from is increasing protein intake. Particularly at breakfast and snack times. So with that in mind I’d suggest meals like:
- Bacon, cheese and spinach omelette
- Smoothie made with frozen berries, green veg, yogurt and whey protein
- Greek yogurt with berries and nuts
- Something convenient like a protein bar
- Salmon with any vegetables of choice
7. How do you prepare for the post rest day? How do you motivate yourself to get back training?
By not relying on motivation. I don’t think it’s desirable to be only able to train once you have motivation. Often times your best training sessions are ones where you walked into the gym demotivated. And sometimes you only find motivation once the session has started. So instead I treat this as a process that needs to be followed. I have my training to do and somedays I will be really looking forward to it, others not so much. But regardless I know I’m going in to do the work.
8. What’s important from a nutritional perspective?
Depends on the goal. Whilst they have things in common, eating for health, body composition or athletic performance are three very different goals, each requiring a different focus nutritionally. However, in general, the most important things from a nutrition perspective (in no particular order) are: 1) how much you eat relative to your goal, 2) overall food quality, 3) macronutrient amounts and 4) long-term consistency.
9. Is a rest day, really an absolute rest day? Do you have any stretches or conditioning routines on a rest day? Or is it proper rest?
I personally don’t do any specific sessions. I might go for a walk, or doing some random activity for fun. But they are things that I want to do, rather than thinking of them as a specific recovery tool. The psychological break is more important in my case.
10. What’s your favourite rest day protein shake recipe?
I typically consume whey protein either mixed with my porridge or in with some Greek yogurt. I’ll typically have at least one of those every day.
11. Do you have any tips for recovery for people who have arthritis? Osteo, rheumatoid or just everyday wear and tear.
From a nutrition point of view, an overall healthy diet is of course better than a poor diet. But the research is quite mixed on specific interventions. Ensuring adequate omega 3 status from eating fatty fish could be beneficial. When it comes to supplementation, again there are a lot of mixed results. But turmeric/curcumin may be a good option. Vitamin D is one to consider for those at risk of deficiency.
12. How does recovery differ post 40 years old? What things do you have to take into account that are different, from a nutritional and fitness routine perspective?
The main fundamentals of nutrition will be the same. There is good research showing that with age we can have a decreased anabolic response to protein feeding. This “anabolic resistance” that is seen in elderly folks can mean that a higher dose of protein is needed to get the same response.
Don’t miss Danny speak at BodyPower 2018! Flexiseq will also be there at stand G32. Come say hi and watch out for the giant Flexiseq knee…