HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO LOSE MY GAINS BECAUSE OF LAYOFF FROM WORKING OUT?
I get asked this a lot. And, after a lot of research and not a small amount of personal experience, I can say definitively…..it depends!
· It depends on the type of protocol you’ve been training in; strength, hypertrophy, cardio, running, swimming, etc. Does your protocol involve higher involvement of your central nervous system? (Power lifting for example) If so, it will take longer to lose your gains. Does your particular protocol involve more fast twitch muscle fibers or slow twitch muscle fibers? Fast twitch fibers tend to lose size first. (Fast twitch fibers are the last to be recruited for any task, provide more explosive power quickly but fatigue quickly.)
· It depends on how long you have been training. Highly trained athletes will see gains dissipate at different rates than novices or intermediate trainees.
· It will depend, to some degree, on your genetics.
· It depends on your nutrition. Are you missing workouts but maintaining the right amount of nutrition? Cut back enough to match the calories you are not burning through exercise but no more. If you are totally inactive from and illness or injury, for example, you’ll need to cut back more.
· It will depend on your age to some degree.
· It will depend on the cause of the layoff. The amount of inflammation involved in the injury or illness affects the speed of muscle loss. ( a interesting fact: muscle loss due to aging is more related to the chronic inflammation many older people experience that to age itself)
You will very likely feel like you have lost more than you actually have. You may lose some water weight making the scale go down but not actually lose much muscle. Or you may gain water weight making you muscle look flatter. A decreased sense of physical well being may also make you feel as if you’ve lost more than you actually have.
So, in general, your strength or muscle mass won’t suffer much, if at all, in the first two to four weeks off.
You can minimize the potential for strength or muscle loss by trying to stay as active as possible during your time off. Any amount or any type of physical activity will help reduce losses. The more the better.
The Good News
There can be several advantages to time off.
Remember you don’t get stronger in the gym. You get stronger during recovery. Your body and your central nervous system need an occasional break. Your endocrine system (hormone production) can also use the break. Studies have shown a marked increase in testosterone and marked decreases in cortisol during breaks.
It’s not unusual for an individual to actually gain strength and muscle during short periods of two or three weeks off. Especially if you’ve been short changing yourself by getting too little time to recover.
Even if you do lose muscle and/or strength during time off, or you’re time off is for an extended period of time (say months) you will often gain them back in a fraction of the time it took you to make those gains in the first place. The rapid regain of muscle and strength may even continue after you’ve regained all your losses.
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