One thing that gets asked a lot is “how fast will I lose muscle if I stop training?” or “if this injury takes me out for X amount of time, will I lose all my fitness?”
The answer to these questions depends on multiple aspects. We will go through a few of these aspects here and give you some tips to prevent or slow down the loss of physical attributes from pausing your training.
There are 4 factors that determine what happens to your fitness and muscle mass when you cease training:
These are not in any particular order, but we would place emphasis upon nutrition playing a key role, especially when it comes to maintaining muscle mass.
Fortunately 3 out of the 4 factors are under your control, with the exception being genetics. Genetic variations are the foundations for nearly all physical characteristics in our bodies. If you have some fortunate variants in MSTN, LEPR, ACTN3, etc. you will find that your muscle mass and physical strength/stamina remains pretty tip top even without consistent training.
For those without god’s genetics gifts, and even those with them, here are some tips that apply to the other 3 factors to keep you in good shape if you’re injured or just taking a break from training:
Maintain a good supply of amino acids, especially leucine, glutamine and arginine. You are what you eat, and amino acids are the building blocks of those muscles! Failure to have good supply of them will cause muscle tissue to waste (atrophy) faster. If you are injured I would recommend:
Those who are not injured can follow the same as above, although you could drop the glutamine intake.
It doesn’t have to be regimented, planned in a gym, etc. BUT make sure you are moving, even cooking, walking to the shops, use the stairs instead of the lift, etc.
Why not throw in some press-ups, body-weight squats, etc. in the TV adverts?
Muscle atrophy occurs quicker when we are inactive, so keep moving! Those in manual jobs will maintain muscle better than those in office jobs more often than not!
But what if you’re injured?
If you have an injury that takes out a body part, like a leg, arm, etc. the best thing you can do is work the opposing side, studies show that working the opposing side creates neural activity in the side not being used as well. Whilst the muscle activity is not the same, at least it will maintain strength (to an extent) in the injured limb!
It is highly important that you help maintain correct hormone levels. Getting at least 6-8 hours of quality sleep a night will help maintain growth hormone levels, which is highly important to maintaining muscle mass and tissue repair when injured!
There you have it, a few ways to help maintain fitness and muscle mass when injured or taking a break!