Good news: you don’t have to fear traveling anymore. Read this article to learn how your vacation will affect your physique and what you can do to ensure that your hard-gained lean muscle mass stays intact!
Losing muscle mass is one of the worst nightmares in the bodybuilding world. Considering that any average weightlifter is ready to do whatever it takes to prevent muscle evaporation, don’t be surprised to learn that some hardcore bodybuilding maniacs avoid taking vacations to places where they don’t have access to a gym by their liking!
Knowing how many hours you’ve slaved in your gym to sculpt your physique, this kind of anxiety is understandable but not fully justified because all research on the subjects suggests that with the help of a few simple tricks, you won’t lose any strength or size – on the contrary, your body will have a chance to take a deserved break off strenuous work and fully recover and regenerate before the next heavy iron-pounding season. Whether you admit it or not, everyone needs a break from time to time. In fact, after taking the occasional break, you’ll find that you’re able to easily shock your muscles into new growth phase. This will only work if you’re maintaining a tight diet, though.
Science Says You’ll Be Just Fine
A group of sport scientists from Baylor University recently did a study on 20 students with solid weight training experience and made them follow an identical lifting program for 4 weeks, followed by a two-week layoff, after which they went through another four-week training cycle. At that point they were divided into two groups: the first was given 25g of maltodextrin after each training session while the second was given 25 grams of whey protein. During the two-week time-off, they continued taking maltodextrin/whey, but early in the morning. At the end of the study, the researchers found out that all subjects had made strength and size gains during the initial training period, with the whey group experiencing slightly better progress than the maltodextrin group.
But what’s most important, neither group gained body fat nor suffered any of the other commonly feared setbacks such as strength loss and shrunken muscles. And after the two-week layoff, both groups continued gaining mass at about the same rate as before, with some statistically insignificant differences in favor of the protein group. This study was published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research in April 2017, under the name “Resistance Training-Induced Elevations in Muscular Strength in Trained Men Are Maintained After 2 Weeks of Detraining and Not Differentially Affected by Whey Protein Supplementation.”
Keep Your Diet in Check!
Here comes the hard part. How can you make sure that you’re getting all the calories you need from good quality food sources while taking a trip or enjoying your family vacation, when sometimes you will have to just eat what you can get? The key to overcoming this issue is planning ahead and pre-packing as many full meals or meal replacement bars as you possibly can. When you’re eating out, make sure to eat clean but high-caloric meals that will help you maintain your muscle mass, especially if you’re one of those notorious hardgainers. Finally, if you’re travelling to a more isolated place or camping up in the woods, rely on convenient calorie-dense sources of protein and healthy fats, such as cans of tuna and jars of peanut butter.
Expect that your lower body will most likely be tired from all the walking/hiking/running around so you might have to skip all leg work, and especially moves that target the calves. Still, if you are going to be away from a proper gym for month than a month, you should perform bodyweight resistance exercises as regularly as you can. Think push-ups, pull-ups, crunches, squats, planks and dips. These will help preserve the muscle mass of your upper body, training your pushing muscles while also hitting the back and the core. You can even do horizontal rows with the help of a stable table! Also, you can increase the intensity of your training sessions prior to the vacation, and then use the vacation week or two as a deload period.
Last Words of Wisdom
As we mentioned earlier, everyone needs to get away for a little while, so don’t let your panic get the best of you and ruin your vacation! As long as you keep your nutrition in order, resisting the temptation to stray too far from your healthy eating habits, and try to squeeze in a couple of workouts between all of those sightseeing tours, you’ll be just fine. In fact, a little time away will actually do your body good.
Finally, remember to have some fun!
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 31(4):869–881, Apr 2017
- Paul S. Hwang; Thomas L. Andre; and 5 more, “Resistance Training–Induced Elevations in Muscular Strength in Trained Men Are Maintained After 2 Weeks of Detraining and Not Differentially Affected by Whey Protein Supplementation,“