Will I Lose Muscle Taking A Week Off?

A very common question and a worry of many people. Say you’ve worked your ass off month after month to get into the shape you wanted, but there’s a holiday coming up, or you’ve suddenly fell ill etc. and you have to take a week of weight training…your mind instantly goes to, “does that mean I’m going to lose muscle?!?”. We’ve preached a lot over the years, especially inside our app chat with our members that rest is JUST AS IMPORTANT as the workouts in order to progress faster. But what does the science say about muscle, strength or fitness loss when taking an absence from the gym? How much will your body change or your results diminish? Here we lay it out for you.

What happens to our body when we stop working out?

Assuming that you go from working out to no exercise at all for a week, the first thing you’ll definitely notice is that your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) will decrease. This simply means that because you’re doing less, you’re burning less energy and therefore burning off less calories. The next thing you’ll probably notice is that your active heart rate may increase and you may lose a small amount of endurance. When it comes to muscle size and strength though you won’t notice many changes after just one week off. A study from the Journal of Applied Physiology concluded that it wasn’t until 2 weeks of in-activity that people saw reductions in their cardiovascular endurance and lean muscle mass.

“Will I lose muscle in one week?”

How quickly muscle loss takes place depends on your current fitness level and the amount of time you are inactive. If you’re completely immobilised and unable to move, research suggests that you can start to lose muscle in as quickly as one week with as much as 2 pounds. Another study suggests your muscle size can decrease by about 11% after ten days without exercise, even when you aren’t immobilised.

…Before you freak out..

True muscle loss typically takes place during times of injury or illness where you are unable to move as much and inactivity massively increases. Taking a week off from weights is different if you’re still moving around or doing other exercise based activities. The ‘muscle loss‘ you experience from taking a week off weights isn’t actually muscle. When you take a break from weights you start to lose water and stored muscle glycogen, thus giving the appearance that your muscles have decreased in size after a week. As soon as you hit them weights again, it’ll come straight back!

How to minimise any losses during a week off

If it’s a holiday you’re going on…can you still use a gym there?

Can you take equipment to do a workout?

Can you do some bodyweight strength training to ‘tick over‘ until you’re back at the gym?

Do some other forms of exercise to keep blood flow going such as walking, swimming, hiking etc.

Are you still able to diet somewhat healthy or still reach your protein needs?

So don’t stress about only taking a week or two off, there’s way to minimise and there’s definitely no need to worry about losing ALL your gains, because you won’t. You may notice you ‘deflate‘ a little, but it’s only fluids. Also, if you’ve worked extra hard the week prior to the time off, your muscles, joints and ligaments will all benefit from the recovery time, meaning you can go back to the gym fresher and stronger.

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