We’ve all skipped a workout for no good reason at some point in our lives.
While we do get back to the gym sooner or later it always seems like the weights we used to lift easily get a bit heavier and we aren’t able to do HIIT cardio as effectively.
Is it really our strength disappearing or are we just overthinking things?
In this article we are going to talk about how long it takes to lose mass and strength and how to slow down the process – or even reverse it entirely.
Taking a Closer Look at What’s Happening
Studies show that after 48 hours of hitting the gym, the rate of protein synthesis slows and the body stops building muscle.
At this point while the muscles aren’t growing or getting any smaller.
So what causes our strength and muscle mass to decline?
1 – Age. Even if you follow a strict diet and training program, as you age your body naturally loses muscle mass. This is really a result of a decline in testosterone levels which can start as early as the mid-20s for some men. By the time you hit your 40s and 50s you can be losing as much as 0.5 pounds of muscle each year.
2 – Diet. What you eat definitely plays a role in how fast you lose muscle. As we get older and work more stressful jobs we tend to neglect our diet more than anything. We replace breakfast at the kitchen table with a processed wrap from a fast food restaurant or worse – nothing at all. This decline in our diet actually speeds up the process of muscle loss.
3 – Sleep. This one ties in with point number two. It’s common to take on more than we can handle in this day and age. Stressful jobs, busy social lives, etc. If it results in not getting enough sleep (8 hours per night) and relaxation the result can be lower testosterone levels and therefore increased muscle loss.
Which Muscles Go First?
Which muscles shrink and by how much depends on each individual.
However certain muscles (such as antigravity muscles like the hamstrings) tend to shrink at a slower rate as they are used more commonly in day to day activities.
Contrast that with muscle groups that are only used for specialised activities or sports which can shrink quickly as we cease performing these exercises.
Another factor that determine how fast the muscles go is the length of time away from the gym as well as the time spent away from a clean diet.
If you take a week off from the gym and your diet goes off the rails a bit during that time it won’t have a major effect on your body.
However, if that continues for months or even years you can really start to see things change for the worse.
This is why people who are in excellent shape tend to lose their physiques quickly when they retire from training.
Their bodies were so used to getting a certain level of exercise and diet each day that when they no longer get it they transform for the worse.
So how long should you take off from the gym? Well that depends on the type of training you are doing.
Taking off 1 month won’t hurt your strength too much provided you were still consuming a relatively clean diet.
However, flexibility, explosive strength and even endurance can start to drop after just a week or two away.
Now if you have been away from the gym for a while don’t get too worried.
Bodybuilders benefit from muscle memory – even though you lost the muscle mass you will be able to get it back far more quickly than it took you to build it in the first place.
This is why supplement companies like Bowflex like to hire athletes who used to be in excellent shape to be their representatives.
They can claim they got that amazing body by using only their equipment when in reality they were just recovering a physique they had already built in a regular gym with the help of muscle memory.
How to Limit or Reverse Muscle Loss
1 – Start Lifting Now.
Don’t wait until you are old before you start lifting weights.
You will have a much easier time building mass when you were younger.
This will allow you to focus on maintaining your physique as you age which is far easier than building a great physique from scratch.
2 – Eat the Right Foods.
Diet is by far the most important component of building a great body.
If you don’t eat the right foods your body will suffer and you will have a hard time holding onto that precious muscle mass.
Make sure you get plenty of high-quality protein, complex carbs and healthy fats.
3 – Keep Your Testosterone Levels High.
Our testosterone levels will decline naturally with age.
This is a fact.
To keep your testosterone levels high at all times it is important to exercise and keep a healthy diet.
One of the most effective ways to naturally increase testosterone levels is to use a testosterone boosting supplement.
These supplements are designed to naturally maximise our ability to produce testosterone.