Right now, so many of us have lost something. Some people may have lost a job or the ability to enjoy their normal lives. But one thing that almost everyone has lost during these unprecedented times of quarantine has been the ability to go to the gym that they love and see the friends they so often workout alongside.
Without personal gym equipment at home it can be difficult to maintain the progress that we have seen and even more difficult to continue to make progress. One of those areas of progress is the muscle and strength improvements we work for. This short read will give you an understanding of how fast we can lose the muscle that we have worked for and provide a few ideas to help you maintain your progress while at home.
So how fast do you lose muscle when you stop working out?
The short answer is…it depends.
Factors that have a major influence include: how long you have been training before taking a break, your current level of activity, and your diet.
If for example you are bedridden you could see noticeable muscle loss within a week. Hopefully, that applies to none of you, and you can venture out further than the fridge. Other studies have shown that after zero training for about two months people tend to have lost about 50% of the muscle mass that they built in the previous two months of training. No training for two months and keeping half of your muscle? While that is not ideal, it could be worse.
Much of this is individual to everyone’s own situation but here are some important factors to note.
Generally, the longer that you have been training before taking time off will mean that you will lose muscle slower than someone that has only started training in the last few months for example. Why? Our body likes to maintain what is normal. We use a fancy term called homeostasis for this. If you have been training for years, your body will be more accustomed to holding on to that muscle mass for longer. If you just recently started training, your body is not accustomed to that muscle gain yet, and may let it go easier.
Your current activity level is a critical factor if you hope to maintain your progress. Simply walking, playing with your kids, and trying to continue with daily activities as much as possible helps to activate your muscles. Even doing workouts and exercise with your body and whatever object you have can decrease the amount of decreased muscle mass or strength.
Your diet is important to help you achieve any fitness goal and can have a big role to play in maintaining muscle growth as well.
What can I do at home to keep my muscle?
It all starts with how we are fueling our bodies to work. Muscles require a decent amount of energy to maintain and because of this it is important to give your body enough fuel to use.
If muscles are not being strengthened and you do not have enough fuel, that is a combination to speed up your muscle loss. Just like when trying to build muscle we should eat at a slight caloric surplus, to maintain muscle we should at least be eating enough calories to stay at maintenance.
Protein intake is also important to help muscles grow and thrive, estimates on how much each of us should aim for everyday vary based on age, sex, activity level and other variables so I would recommend doing more of your own research. However, a generally recommended goal is eating a minimum of between .7-1g of protein per pound of bodyweight (1.6-2.2g per kg.)
If you activity level has decreased a lot recently, you may still keep the protein relatively similar, but decrease other foods higher in carbs or fats to decrease your overall energy intake to make sure your muscles are fueled just enough.
Obviously, the more exercise we are able to do the better we will be able to maintain our muscle. As mentioned above normal activities like walking and playing with kids is far better than absolutely nothing. While at home body weight exercises can increase the ability of our body to hold on to that muscle even further. Even though these workouts might not feel like you can accomplish as much at home, even lower training volume and intensity will help you maintain muscle.
In the next post we will be talking about how muscle can be regained after loss and some of my personal experience with this. So come back on next week.
Below is a link to our workout programs, including home workouts, where you can sign up and receive workouts directly to you, and help you stay motivated.
Let us know if this article was helpful for you.
See you on the next one.