Unlike stubborn belly fat that never seems to go away, it is often assumed that muscle mass is lost if it is not used. While this is mostly correct, the situation is often a little more convoluted.
When it comes to maintaining muscle mass without working out or lifting weights, your focus should be on the fuel and nutrition that goes into your body. For example, even when the gym is closed, you can still maintain muscle mass by keeping your calorie intake consistent, increasing your protein intake, staying hydrated, increasing your sleep quantity, and more.
Continue reading to learn more about maintaining muscle mass without working out, including how long it can take for you to start losing muscle, how muscle is lost, as well as how to know if you’re losing muscle, and more.
How Fast Will You Lose Muscle If You Stop Working Out?
When you get into a fitness program, you may be concerned about losing your progress if you take a break. However, taking a few days off from exercise is beneficial to both your health and can also help you achieve your fitness objectives in the long term.
On the other hand, taking too long of a break can also cause you to lose muscle and cardio fitness that you’ve achieved. Unfortunately, the rate at which this loss occurs is determined by a number of factors, including your pre-break fitness level.
In most circumstances, taking three to four weeks off won’t cause you to lose much strength or muscle mass, but it can cause you to lose aerobic endurance within a few days.
The rate at which muscle atrophy occurs is determined by your present fitness level and the period of time you were idle. For example, the more muscle mass you have, the more difficult it is to maintain with inactivity and the more you may lose. In other words, fit people are more prone to lose muscle mass than unfit people.
But, before you worry and begin to regret every vacation or week off you’ve ever had, it’s crucial to remember that actual muscle atrophy often occurs at times of injury or when you entirely cease utilizing your muscles for a long period of time. So, stop feeling guilty for taking a well-deserved break!
How Is Muscle Lost?
Unlike fat, which requires a calorie deficit to decrease, muscle loss can be caused by inactivity alone. Muscle atrophy can also occur naturally as you age, as well as a result of malnutrition, namely insufficient protein consumption.
When you take a week off from training, water loss and glycogen depletion can cause your muscles to shrink by up to 20% in size. This means that the post-workout “pump” you’ve grown to enjoy is directly related to this.
Take note, however, that your glycogen and water stores will replenish quite fast once you begin exercising again. So don’t stress, it’s okay to look after yourself and take a break every now and again.
How to Maintain Muscle Mass Without Working Out?
If you can’t get to the gym and are concerned about losing muscle mass or trying to recoup lost muscle mass, here are the best six ways to help safeguard your lean tissue and maintain muscle mass without working out.
1. Keep Your Calorie Intake Consistent
Reduced calorie consumption is the basis for all weight reduction. Take note, however, that excessive calorie intake coupled with inactivity can also result in excess fat growth. As a result, consuming the proper number of calories each day is one of the most important strategies when attempting to sustain your gains and body composition.
2. Increase Your Protein Intake
Since protein can help curb hunger and encourage fullness, eating a lot of it can help you maintain both your weight and muscle mass. Protein raises the body’s levels of several hormones that cause satiety and are crucial for controlling weight. Additionally, protein has been proven to lower hormone levels linked to increased appetite.
Your hormones and sense of fullness may be affected by protein, which can also automatically lower your daily calorie intake—a crucial aspect of weight maintenance. Therefore, eating it regularly can help you maintain any gains you’ve developed, even while on a workout break.
3. Keep Moving!
In order to maintain any muscle mass you’ve developed in the gym, it’s essential that you keep moving, even when not working out. After all, a lack of movement can increase the rate at which your muscle may atrophy.
This means that, even on holidays, when you’re taking a break from your intensive workouts, you should still try to take part in some form of daily activity. For example, try some bodyweight exercises, or go for a stroll in an area you’ve never explored before.
4. Stay Hydrated
Drinking water is beneficial to both weight and muscle maintenance for several reasons. Firstly, water can help you maintain a healthy calorie intake if you drink a glass or two before meals.
In one research, for example, individuals who drank water before eating a meal consumed 13% fewer calories than those who did not drink water. Drinking water has also been demonstrated to modestly enhance the number of calories burned during the day.
Overall, drinking water on a daily basis can enhance your metabolism and induce satiety, both of which are key aspects of muscle and weight management.
5. Eating Healthily
Numerous studies show a correlation between high vegetable consumption and greater muscle mass control during rest periods. Vegetables are low in calories, to begin with. As a result, you can eat a lot without gaining weight, helping you maintain muscle mass and yet still obtain an astonishing number of nutrients.
Vegetables are also rich in fiber, which makes you feel fuller for longer and might help you consume fewer calories throughout the day.
Aim to eat one or two servings of veggies at each meal to get these benefits of weight control and muscle mass preservation.
6. Increasing Your Sleep Quality
Your muscle mass can be dramatically impacted by getting adequate sleep. In fact, lack of sleep seems to be a significant risk factor for adult weight gain and muscle wasting.
This is partly because people who sleep for little amounts of time are naturally exhausted and less inclined to exercise and choose nutritious foods. Additionally, those who have trouble sleeping typically have lower amounts of leptin, a hormone crucial for regulating eating.
Therefore, if you’re not getting enough sleep, try to change your sleeping patterns. Overall, experts advise getting at least seven hours of sleep each night to preserve muscle mass and prevent putting on additional weight.
Can Bodyweight Exercises Help You Maintain Muscle Mass?
Utilizing bodyweight workouts, you can retain muscle. But there are certain reasonable demands that must be made beforehand. For example, merely by performing bodyweight motions, many novices can observe increases in muscular growth, and strength and at the very least preserve muscle mass.
Overall, the four best bodyweight exercises to help you maintain muscle mass outside the gym include push-ups, squats, planks, lateral leg raises, and more.
Push-ups improve muscular growth, strength, and endurance by primarily exercising the chest and triceps but also engaging muscles in your arms, shoulders, core, and legs. This exercise also works to help preserve the muscle mass in your arms, back, and shoulders.
The squat is a dynamic strength training exercise that calls for the simultaneous use of multiple upper and lower body muscles. Numerous of these muscles is necessary for daily tasks including walking, climbing stairs, bending, and carrying heavy objects. They also help you with your athletic endeavors.
Squats can also help improve your exercise performance, lower your risk of injury, and keep you moving more freely throughout the day. However, these are only a handful of the advantages.
Bodyweight squats performed at home or during a training break can, therefore, help maintain the muscles in your legs, lower back, and glutes.
One of the most popular exercises today is the plank. The move is popular for beginners since almost everyone can get on the ground, stretch out, and remain still.
For professionals, increasing exercise or carrying more weight makes it simple to level up. Additionally, you’re working more than just your abs. After all, your entire core, including your glutes and low back, is actively contracted.
This implies that by holding a plank position during your break from exercise, you may keep your entire body’s muscular mass.
Lateral Leg Raises
Although hip abduction, commonly known as lateral leg lifts, may look like it belongs in 1982, it actually has very genuine strengthening advantages. This one exercise not only works several muscle groups but also has several practical benefits.
Holding the back of the chair with both hands, stand straight behind it. Lift one leg to the side while keeping your torso still. Lower and then repeat on the opposite side.
During your training break, these exercises might assist you in maintaining muscular mass in your legs, lower back, and glutes.
How Do You Know If You’re Losing Muscle?
Many of us would love to lose weight. If you’ve been on a diet to lose weight, you may be overjoyed to see those numbers drop, but those fast-moving numbers may not be a fair reflection of your muscles. After all, one of the most prevalent symptoms of muscle mass loss is abrupt weight loss.
Considering bodyweight includes muscular weight, a quick reduction can indicate muscle exhaustion. This is especially true if weight reduction is accompanied by muscle tone loss and increased tiredness.
Lack of energy and weariness are frequently the first signs of muscle mass loss. Furthermore, the problem is exacerbated if you’re not eating adequately and even skipping breakfast and meals to lose weight.
How Long Does It Take To Get Back Any Lost Gains?
Sickness, injury, or just wanting a holiday are all good reasons to take a break from your fitness regimen. But occasionally these pauses continue longer than we expect, and many of us worry that we’ll lose all the strength we’ve worked so hard to acquire and have to start over.
Thankfully, even if you have to take up to three months off from training, you won’t have to wait long to restore your power.
Since doing a workout requires more than just muscular strength, it is difficult to estimate how long it will take you to rebuild your strength. After all, each person’s abilities also vary.
For example, if you could deadlift 300 pounds for 6-7 repetitions and then take three months off from training, you may still be able to lift 300 pounds when you resume training, just not for 6-7 repetitions.
Similar to the last example, if you were able to do 15 pullups before your three-month layoff, you should be able to perform several pull-ups when you go back to the bar, but you will most likely need to work your way back up to 15.
It is frequently believed that muscle mass is lost if it is not used, unlike stubborn belly fat that never appears to go. This is largely true, although the reality is frequently a little more complicated.
Overall, your attention should be on the food and fuel that you put into your body if you want to retain muscle mass without exercising or lifting weights. For example, you can still retain muscle mass, even when taking a workout break, by maintaining a steady calorie intake, increasing your protein intake, remaining hydrated, and getting more sleep.
You may be concerned that if you take a vacation from your workout routine, you may regress. Taking a few days off from the gym, on the other hand, is regarded as healthy for your health and can help you achieve your fitness objectives in the long run.
On the other hand, taking a break that is too long may also result in you losing the muscular and aerobic fitness that you have gained.
But, before you panic and start regretting every vacation or week off from the gym you’ve ever had, it’s important to realize that genuine muscle atrophy typically only occurs at times of injury or when you completely stop using your muscles for an extended period of time.
So, stop feeling guilty for taking a well-deserved break and letting your body relax and rejuvenate!