How your body composition will change after you stop working out

For these who are used to workout every day, one or two rest days will make it unuaual for your body building. There are lots of reasons to take a break from your workout routine — vacation, harsh weather, work demands, family obligations, etc. Even the most dedicated fitness enthusiast may be forced to stop for a while due to sore muscles, illness, or injury. There maybe another reason that you will not deny because your body needs rest and recovery days to repair muscle fibers and strengthen itself between workouts.  According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), training recovery is a critical component of an exercise program, and for most people, this consists of one to three days of rest depending on intensity of the activity.

So breaking out from workout seems happens a lot, so you need to know what your body is changing while you are away from workout. The truth is if you go beyond a week without activity, you begin to experience the effects of “detraining” (also called deconditioning), a phenomenon in which you lose the beneficial effects of training.  As opposed to rest and recovery, detraining is an extended rest interval that results in reduced physical fitness.

The good news is that de-conditioning is reversible once you get active again.  This article discusses the variables that affect loss of fitness, how detraining affects your body, ways you can minimize losses during a detraining period, and how you can regain your previous level.

The extent of fitness loss you experience depends on several variables, including the length of your exercise layoff, your age, and your level of fitness.

How long you have been away from the gym

A study from the Journal of Applied Physiology concluded that just a fourteen-day break significantly reduces cardiovascular endurance, lean muscle mass, and insulin sensitivity, and 2 months of detraining in elite athletes resulted in unfavorable changes in body composition, impaired metabolic function, and development of cardiovascular risk factors.

Age

It’s important to track how your body is changing as you age because the loss in muscle mass and strength can decline rapidly, and soon even daily life activities suddenly become more difficult.

Level of Fitness

The more fit you are, the longer it can take for your body to get out of shape.  For example, trained athletes tend to experience more gradual declines during detraining than your regular gym routine.

The physiological impacts on your body

When you stop exercising, many physiological changes occur.  You begin to lose the cardiovascular gains you’ve made, such as your heart’s ability to pump blood more efficiently, your body’s improved capability to use carbohydrates for fuel, and your muscles’ enhanced capacity to process oxygen, and more. You may experience some weight gain. If you’ve been strength training, the gains in muscle size, strength, and endurance you worked so hard for will taper off.

Muscle Strength

When you cease exercising, you will undoubtedly notice changes in your muscles.  They will become smaller and weaker. If you’ve been doing high intensity exercise or weight training, you’ll find a reduction in your muscular endurance.

A detraining period of 12 weeks results in decreased muscle mass and muscular strength, although the muscles can return to pre-training levels.  The good news is that retraining can occur more quickly as a result of a concept known as “muscle memory”.

While strength performance may be maintained for up to four weeks of detraining, power and endurance may decline significantly in this time period as found in one study.  In another study, postmenopausal women trained with resistance bands for twelve weeks and found a significant adverse effect on their muscle power during a four-week detraining period.

Blood Pressure

Lowered blood pressure is a well-known benefit of regular exercise.  In fact, exercise is a medically accepted lifestyle change to treat hypertension. Stopping your exercise routine does not mean you will have high blood pressure.  However, if you already have hypertension, it is important to realize you may need to consult with your doctor if you’ve been using exercise to lower your blood pressure and you anticipate a period without exercise.

Fat Mass

Detraining has been found to have negative effects on body composition, with an associated weight gain and a decrease in metabolic rate, because you’re not burning the same amount of calories as you used to because you’re moving around and working out less, so if you don’t adjust your food intake accordingly, those additional calories will be stored as fat. Something you should be wary of is visceral fat aka belly fat.  

So, if you eat the same way you’ve been eating while you’re on a workout hiatus, your body won’t be burning the extra calories without an adjustment to your diet– and you will likely put on weight.

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