I talk a lot here about weight training, cardio and nutrition.
What I have not focused on is the fourth leg of the stool: REST.
Sure, hard training is critical to maximizing strength and muscle mass. Most people who train don't train hard enough. They go through the motions. Too bad.
Sure, cardio training is essential to keep the body fat down.
And, of course, proper nutrition is the fuel that allows us to do what needs to be done. Garbage in, garbage out.
But, even with hard training, cardio, and proper diet, that combination is not enough to maximize performance results.
You also need rest. It is rest that allows the muscles that you have broken down to heal and recover. It is the rest that allows you to recover so you can be strong, and thereby handle the increased weight, and increased number of sets and repetitions.
The scientific explanation goes something like this: "It is during sleep where growth hormone levels are at their highest. Physiologic improvement in bodybuilding can only occur during the rest period following hard training. This is also why consuming the proper foods and supplements immediately following such training is key." (Behar, Bodybuilding.com)
When you are over 50, or even over 40 for that matter, you do not heal as quickly as the 23 year old who seems never to need rest. Why? Because he/she needs less rest than you do.
Getting more rest is a key to muscle gains, plain and simple, and as you age the more it is true.
Unfortunately, that is easy to say but hard to execute.
What about those days you go to the gym and look at the weight and say to yourself, "I can't do it today."
In some cases, you shouldn't do it that day. You should turn around, go home and rest.
But, in some cases, like all of us, you're just being lazy. Pushing and pulling heavy weight hurts and sometimes we just don't want to do it, even though doing it is exactly what we need.
Telling the difference between the need for rest and just being lazy is tough and for me I don't like to trust my judgment on it. I will default to staying in the gym, overtraining and ending up injured.
So, here's what I do: I take every 7th week off from the weights. I continue cardio, proper diet, but I rest, really rest.
If you find yourself tired too much of the time and you're not just putting your time in the gym but putting your heart into it, you may need rest, and the failure to get it will affect your gains, your mood, and will increase the likelihood of injury.
So, just like you work in protein into every meal, your cardio into every day, you also need to work in rest.
Train hard; diet harder, and don't forget to take time off.