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Wednesday, November 18, 2015

What Happens When You Go More Than 7 Days Without Working Out

There will be times when going to the gym is not an option. Where work or kids take precedence over your 45 minute workout. It happens, no big deal. But what actually happens when that one day of skipping a workout turns into one week without a pump. Even worse, what happens after a month?

photo: Stuff.co

From time to time, skipping a day or 2 each week will not kill you. You’re human and your time is very important to you. Understandable.

But if you’re adamant about seeing gains, losing weight, or accomplishing fitness goals then you my friend are fooling and hindering yourself when you take too much time off.

Now 7 days is not a super huge deal, but you will no doubt see a change.

If you don’t work out for a week, you will know, feel, and see a difference in your body immediately.

Your body will go through a few changes that aren’t major in those first 7 days, but definitely noticeable. And once you get into the idea that “Hey I can take some time off,” 7 days will turn into 2 weeks and eventually, if you become extremely inactive, months from working out.

"In a study of beginners who exercised for two months, their strength increased by 46 percent, and when they stopped training for two months, they lost 23 percent of their overall strength,” says exercise scientist Wayne Westcott, Ph.D. That’s HALF the gains they'd made!

In my opinion however, this study only supports beginners. Muscle takes time to build no matter how you see it, and if you put on a lot of muscle in your time, then it seems highly unlikely for you to lose 50% of your strength after 7 days or even a month of taking a break.

Naturally it will depend on your level of activity and fitness prior to taking time off. If you’re extremely fit, even after a month of inactivity, you'll be more likely to maintain your strength and mass, according to a 2001 review published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.

But for those who aren’t avid lifters or workout once or twice a week, you will not be as lucky as those who visit the gym more frequently and on a regular basis. 

The less training you do during your normal schedule, the quicker you will lose muscle and strength when you stop lifting weights. Don’t be surprised. You most likely have not built up enough strength and muscle in the first place.

There are literally a sh*t ton of studies supporting the downfall of taking extended breaks from working out and I’ve only mentioned a few.  But there really isn’t a definitive answer on how much muscle you will lose. How fast you lose muscle is dependent on your fitness level and activity prior to taking a break.

The downside of not working out for an extended period of time:

  1. Your blood sugar rises – After just 5 days of inactivity, your post meal blood sugar levels will remain elevated since your body isn’t in need of glucose as energy. Versus your body prior to the break, when it craved calories as an energy source. Excess glucose will eventually turn into triglycerides; stored fat.
  2. You gain fat – Within about 7 days, your muscles lose some of their fat-burning potential and your metabolism slows down, says Paul Arciero, an exercise science professor at Skidmore College. This goes hand in hand with your glucose levels. And in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, published by Arciero, a 5-week exercise break boosted collegiate swimmers' fat mass by 12%. In another study, extremely fit and already-ripped pro soccer players gained a percentage point of body fat after taking 6 weeks off. 
  3. You get winded faster – (Do I really need to explain this one?)
  4. Your blood pressure increases – Inactivity will cause your blood vessels to adapt to a slower flow after just 2 weeks. This will undoubtedly raise your blood pressure a few notches. If you already have high blood pressure, then you should take inactivity seriously.
  5. You lose muscle – One study by doctor Martin Gram, PhD, of the University of Copenhagen, conducted a study which found significant declines in muscle mass after 2 weeks of complete inactivity.
  6. You will  get stressed more often – Without working out, your body will not release all those feel good hormones as much. These hormones are essential to dealing with your mood and reducing stress hormones in your bloodstream.

If you are like me, then you will be telling yourself “Forget that noise,” so do not let laziness or inactivity screw you over in the long run.

The only time you should ever take a break

In an article for Men's Fitness, exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise, Pete McCall, says that “taking a break from exercise for a week or two serves as time to focus on your recovery. Don't worry if you find yourself eating more during your break, either. The additional calories will give you extra energy when you return to your regular weight-training schedule.”

Taking a short break from lifting or doing cardio is not a problem. Your body needs time to recover. But taking an extended break will hurt you in the long run. Especially if you serious about working out. I would recommend not taking more than a week off training.

If your body is full of aches and pain, then no more than a month to a month and a half. If the pain is chronic then I would see a physician. Otherwise, don’t hinder your gains, don’t skip cardio, and don’t skip weight training.

Anything longer than that, then expect your strength to dramatically decrease, and expect some weight gainage. Especially if you are not fortunate enough to have a fast metabolism. Happy lifting!


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