Doctor's Orders: Pre-Workout Meal
The word used to be that you should train on an empty stomach. Research has shown that a small meal -- preferably 20 grams of whey protein, plus 20-to-40 grams of slow-burning carbs, like fruit -- taken right before training (15 to 30 minutes) will enhance energy for the workout and aid post-workout recovery and growth.
While the majority of your protein sources should come from whole foods like beef, chicken, eggs or dairy, the 30 minutes before a workout is one of those times when a protein shake trumps whole food. To be of any benefit during the workout, the protein you consume should actually get to your muscles during the workout. If you eat steak, or fish, or eggs, or chicken, the protein will take far too long to digest to offer you any benefit during the actual workout.
Whey protein, on the other hand, has been shown to get its amino acids to your muscles in 30 minutes. This is one of the main reasons why I always recommend a whey protein shake before every workout. The other reasons include the fact that whey is rich in the BCAAs, and it can help to boost blood flow to muscles.
Remember that every rest day should be an active rest day. Rest days are for recovery; they're not an excuse to be lazy. Get out and hit 15-30 minutes of HIIT cardio today, or perform 30-60 minutes of your favorite activity: hiking, biking, walking, playing a sport, etc.