NutritionMeal PlanningNutrition Tips

What to Eat on Rest Days when Bulking or Cutting

Check this: You don’t build muscle in the gym – it’s the rest that maximizes mass. But what you eat on non-workout days is just as important as the rest itself.

And this principle applies whether you’re bulking or cutting.

So you’re here ‘cuz you’ve honed your lifts and you’re getting rest, but you’re not hitting the gains (or losses) as much as you’d like. It’s cool, bro – we’re here to help…

What to Eat on Rest Days When Cutting or LEAN Bulking

What to eat on rest days while bulking or cutting

WHAT you eat when lean bulking or cutting should be the same – it’s HOW MUCH you eat that’s important. And that’s also how training days and rest days differ.

But for now, we’ll look at the kinds of foods you should be eating whether you want to cut fat or bulk up. Pretty much all experts agree it’s important to find good sources of protein, complex carbs and fats [1]. Here’s a list of the kinds of foods to look for:

Sources of Lean Protein:

  • Chicken breast
  • Turkey
  • Tuna
  • Beans, peas and lentils
  • Tofu
  • Cottage cheese or quark

Protein is a vital part of any bulking or cutting regime. But the fattier sources of protein will swell your gut as well as your muscles.

Swap the plate of beef and nuts for any of the lean protein sources above and you’ll gain – or maintain – the washboard belly.

Sources of Complex Carbs:

  • Brown rice
  • Whole wheat bread
  • Whole wheat pasta
  • Steel-cut oats
  • Quinoa (also rich in protein)

Note: Fruit tends to be full of simple carbs, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it.

For example, bananas are rich in potassium, fiber and other nutrients that are an important part of your diet. You can eat them on rest days as part of your breakfast when glycogen stores are low, or in the afternoon as a pick-me-up snack.

Get plenty of fruit and veg in your diet, but also make sure most of your carbs come from complex sources like those listed above.

Sources of Healthy Fats:

  • Whole eggs
  • Liver (and other organ meats)
  • Nuts
  • Salmon

For deep info on healthy fats, check out our Good Fats for Muscle Building piece. Again, this applies whether you want to build muscle or cut [2] – rest days included.

What to Eat on Rest Days When DIRTY Bulking

What to eat on rests days when dirty bulking

If you don’t already know that we ain’t fans of dirty bulking, check out this article. We always recommend healthy eating (with occasional cheat meals). But if you insist on turning fat a** for the winter, who are we to argue, bro?

So what should you eat on a dirty bulk?

Answer: Whatever the f*** you want – just stuff your face with as many calories as you can stomach. No foods are off limits.

And on rest days, you can eat exactly the same amount of the same s*** you do on workout days, which makes it easy to remember (if still f***ing stupid).

HOW MUCH to Eat on Rest Days When Lean Bulking or Cutting

As we say earlier in this article, HOW MUCH you eat is just as important as WHAT you eat on rest days.

Calorie/Carb Cycling

Calorie cycling is an awesome dieting strategy that more and more athletes are using to get in shape [3].

Whether cutting or lean bulking, you need to work out your ideal calorie intake and macros (the ratio of protein, carbs and fats in your diet).

Your BMR and Activity Factor

To start, work out your Basel Metabolic Rate (BMR) with this equation:

BMR = (10 x weight in kg)

+ (6.25 x height in cm)

– (5 x age in years + 5)

Let’s say you’re 30 years old, weigh 90kg and are 180cm tall.

Your BMR is 1870 calories – that’s the amount you’d need to eat to maintain your current weight if you were in a f***ing coma (or just didn’t move at all).

Next, multiply your BMR by the activity factor using the Harris-Benedict Formula [4]:

  • Little or no exercise = BMR x 1.2
  • Lightly active (light exercise or sports) = BMR x 1.375
  • Moderately active (moderate exercise/sports) = BMR x 1.55
  • Very active (hard exercise/sports) = BMR x 1.725
  • Extra active (Very hard exercise and physical job or 2 x training) = BMR x 1.9

So if your BMR is 1870 and you’re very active on training days, you need to eat 3226 calories to maintain the same weight.

Assuming you do little or no exercise on rest days, you have a maintenance-calorie intake of 2244.

Lean Bulking Calorie Intake on Rest Days

When lean bulking, you need to eat 20% more than your maintenance intake on rest days.

So if you have a rest-day maintenance intake of 2244 calories, you need to eat 2693 calories to bulk up.

Calories on Rest Days When Cutting

When cutting, you need to eat 20% less than your maintenance intake on rest days. Assuming you have the same stats as above, you’d need to eat 1795 calories on rest days to cut efficiently.

But you shouldn’t just be concerned with calories…



Macros (or macronutrients) refer to portion control; the proportions of protein, carbs and fat you need in your daily diet.

Whether you’re bulking or cutting, the guys at Boss Workouts (check our Boss Shred review here) suggest getting 10-35% of your daily calories from protein, 45-65% from carbs and 20-35% from fat.

If you’re a mesomorph (average build) [5], we suggest sticking with 40% protein, 40% carbs and 20% fats.

Example Meals for Cutting or Bulking

We hope we haven’t tied your head in a bunch with all those stats, bro.

Let’s walk away from the science for a second and look at the kinds of meals you can enjoy while bulking or cutting…

Meals on Rest Days – Some Examples

As we say throughout this article, the types of foods you eat can stay the same whether you want to cut or lean bulk – but the amounts will vary according to your needs.

Meal one: Oatmeal mixed with whey protein. Whole wheat bread and peanut butter. One whole avocado and a natural test-boosting supplement.

Meal two: Red meat or grilled salmon with avocado, sweet potatoes and macadamias, cashews, or almonds.

Meal three: Weight-gain powder with protein, complex carbs and good fats.

Meal four: Grilled lean meat, quinoa and green vegetables

Meal five: Quark, cashews, almonds or walnuts.


  1. BBC Good Food. (2018). Protein and carbs – get the balance right. [online] Available at: 
  2. Publishing, H. (2018). The truth about fats: the good, the bad, and the in-between – Harvard Health. [online] Harvard Health. Available at: 
  3. Magee, A. (2018). Is ‘calorie cycling’ the new fat-burning secret?. [online] The Telegraph. Available at: 
  4. Arthur Harris, F. (2018). A Biometric Study of Human Basal Metabolism. [online] PubMed Central (PMC). Available at: 

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