WILL YOU LOSE MUSCLES?
Throughout this awful Coronavirus pandemic, I have been asked a lot of questions regarding the preservation of muscle during a prolonged absence from the gym. It usually goes something like this “If I stop working out, will I lose all my muscle?”. It would sound something like this “If I reduced my total volume(hard sets) and intensity(load) because the gym is closed, will I lose muscle?”) As anyone who’s been in a gym for an extended period understands, building muscle is exceedingly difficult, it’s necessarily a second job, maintaining it is a much more comfortable and less strenuous process. You need a novel stimulus relative to your previous training stimulus to maintain your current muscle mass, this doesn’t come without its nuance, like all things in health and fitness, it’s context dependant. I don’t want to get buried in with the muscle physiology as it pertains to muscle retention and hypertrophic pathways; I assume most reading this article wants the answer to the question I’ve stated above. It’s been shown in many studies that it can take two to four weeks of mostly complete immobilization (think bedridden) to see decreases in muscle tissue; further, studies looking at a limb or total body immobilization with relation to muscle tissue degradation don’t always have data on dietary intake for the subjects, specifically protein intake which has a significant impact for the retention of muscle tissue. In a study, they showed that performing one structured workout per week was good enough to retain your gains with 1/3 of the volume of typical maintenance. This study demonstrated sustainability or a sort of maintenance with regards to muscle retention with young adults; the elderly also seemed to have sustainment, though they required more frequent dosing (more exercise stimulus). Let me bottom line this, unless you’re planning on laying dormant in bed for multiple weeks while under consuming calories and protein you will not lose any significant or noticeable amount of muscle tissue. Even the most modest doses of stimuli such as a brisk walk, bodyweight exercises, and daily house chores are enough to maintain your current level of muscle mass. Now if you’re relatively muscular you will likely require a higher dose and higher magnitude of stimuli to maintain your level of muscle tissue but for the average gym-goer modest stimulus is more than enough. Takeaways 1.) Performing a minimum one structured workout per week is adequate for most people to maintain muscle tissue 2.) Unless you plan on purposefully being immobile for a consistent amount of time, you will not lose a significant or noticeable amount of muscle tissue 3.) If you’re planning on performing multiple workout sessions per week, you will not lose muscle tissue Reference - https://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Fulltext/2011/07000/Exercise_Dosing_to_Retain_Resistance_Training.7.aspx