Whatever your intentions may be, life sometimes simply gets in the way of your fitness plans. Fitness experts and physiologists all agree that two weeks is the longest time you should spend out of the gym if you want to maintain your fitness level.
Taking a few days off is normal and recommended for a good recovery of the muscle tissue, but if you skip the gym for more than two weeks, you will experience a reduction of many gains you’ve struggled so hard to achieve.
How fast you’re going to get out of shape depends on your overall fitness level, your type of workout and the amount of time you’ve spent away from the gym. But the horrifying fact is that not working out at all for two to eight months will lead you right back to your original start, erasing all of the progress you ever had, according to the experts. Since your body isn’t getting overloaded anymore, it doesn’t get challenged to adapt to any changes and deconditioning takes off.
This article will help you understand better what is going on inside the body after a few weeks without regular exercise – and hopefully motivate you to keep it up!
1. Loss of muscle mass and size
When you stop training, your body stops building muscles. It’s that simple. And it will take a lot less time to lose them than it took to build them in the first place. Your unused muscles react with atrophy to the reduction of regular workouts, since your body no longer needs to produce the muscle-maintaining enzymes, thus decreasing their size and definition. But it gets worse than that – you don’t just lose muscle mass when you stop exercising, you also experience a conversion of the muscle fiber type!
Your muscles contain type 1 (slow-twitch) and type 2 (fast-twitch) muscle fibers. The first one contributes to endurance performance while the second powers your high-intensity exercises. When you stop working out, the first type is still involved in your daily activities but the type 2 fibers become rarely used, so they atrophy more quickly. In other words, your body will start adapting to your new couch potato lifestyle in no time.
And after your muscle fibers have shrinked and transformed, you will need to work even harder to bring them back to shape.
2. Fat gain
In a research done by Paul Arciero, an exercise science professor at Skidmore College, a 5-week exercise break made athletes increase body fat by 12%. Other studies have shown that within about a week your metabolism dramatically slows down and your muscles lose a big part of their fat-burning potential. People who stop working out instantly lose the need for the extra calories their body required to power the muscle growth and maintain the muscle size so far. So if they don’t adjust their calorie intake to their new way of life by consuming much less food (which most won’t do), they will gain fat more quickly than people who never worked out at all.