If you’ve been consistent at the gym, working out hard week after week, then suddenly stop…how long would it take for you to start losing muscle and the fitness you’ve built up? It can be quite demoralising when you’ve missed a gym session or two and ‘think‘ you’re starting to look different already, the good news is, it’s not as bad as you think…
If you are in good shape and you stop working out, the first thing to go is your endurance. You’ll lose your VO2 max and endurance pretty quickly. This is mostly because of your body scaling back the extra red blood cells it created when you got in shape because your body doesn’t need them anymore so it won’t continue creating them at the same rate.
It can take three to four weeks to start noticing drops in your cardiovascular fitness. Additionally, your oxygen capacity in your muscles can decrease by 50% over the course of a few weeks. Maintaining just 1-2 cardio workouts per week can help your body to keep on top of things and reduce the endurance loss.
Having weeks off will start to tell your body that you don’t need those muscles anymore. However if you’re eating good (i.e. maintaining protein intake etc.), your body will not consume your muscles as much. The longer you go without training, the more you’ll end up losing.
Muscles can last for months to years depending on how strong you were to begin with, the more in shape you are the longer they last. When you start lifting again, you’ll be able to start from a higher spot from when you started last time. Part of this is because your muscle goes away slowly, the other part is that your nervous system still knows how to lift that much weight. Diet is a huge part of this too. If you keep eating the same amount of calories as you did when you were working out, most of that will turn to fat. You won’t need as many calories as your expenditure (or lack of) from not going to the gym anymore will reduce. Maintain good protein levels to keep hold of muscle too!
All in all…
Your muscle memory remains for a long time after your muscles have decreased in size. Your body remembers how it was able to workout and lift, you just have to get your muscles and lungs back in shape to make it happen again.
- If you take a week or two away from the gym, you won’t lose much strength or muscle mass.
- If you take more than three weeks off, you’ll lose at least a little bit of strength and muscle, but you’ll regain it quickly when you start working out again.
- You can maintain your muscle and fitness by lifting weights or doing cardio at least once per week.