Will I lose strength & muscle if I take time off?


Question: How much strength/muscle will I lose if I take time off training this summer?

Key Takeaways

  1. Shortest possible answer: No
  2. Muscle size and strength did not decrease following a 2-week detraining (no training) period
  3. Taking an occasional break my benefit you in the long run by improving your motivation, enjoyment, and adherence to training over the long run.

So summer is rapidly approaching and that means time off, vacations, and a general disruption to your daily schedule.

So I wanted to spend a few minutes talking about something that may be on your mind as you plan out your vacations this summer.

In this study researchers attempted to answer two questions:

Research Question 1 Does a 2-week DT period negatively affect hypertrophy and strength gains in trained males, or negatively impact the rate of improvement in strength or hypertrophy upon ReT?

Research Question 2 Are there differing rates of adaptation during training and DT when comparing PRO versus CHO supplementation?

Let’s tackle the second question first…

There was zero change in the participants of this study related to supplementation of protein or maltodextrin (The carb source they used).

So what does that mean?

If you eat like an adult (i.e. French fries and dino nuggets are not for you) and you eat sufficient total calories, you won’t lose strength or muscle mass, regardless of your supplement routine.

That was easy, onward (backward?) to question number 1!

Let me rephrase this question.

Will taking two weeks off kill all my sweet, hard earned, #gainz?

The good news here, no, the study showed that a 2-week detraining period had no adverse effect of either strength or hypertrophy in the participants.

What’s cool is the study was actually 10-weeks long and the participants performed 4-week of resistance training, 2-weeks of detraining, and an additional 4-weeks of resistance training and strength was actually significantly improved over the entire 10-week program.

Which goes to show you that rest can, in fact, be your friend.

So let’s sum up what we are learning here.

Benefits of taking a week or two off from training:

  • Improved mental state – Training hard can be taxing both physically and mentally (If you don’t believe me Google ‘Bulgarian Method’ and give one of those routines a shot for 4-weeks)
  • Improved (longterm) Performance – Planned deload/rest weeks are your friend and will allow your body to absorb and adapt to the beatings you are putting it through every day, meaning you’ll come back stronger and better
  • Increased enjoyment – See bullet points #1 & #2 above… If you can take time off to mentally & physical reset/recover and still come back to training stronger and better over the long haul you’re gonna be happier overall,

So it would be irresponsible of me to tell you to take a couple weeks off and leave it at that so let me throw a couple additional points out there for you.

First, that first week back after your vacation / detraining period is likely going to leave you broke off and sore. So ramp back into your full training routine, whatever it is, slowly and make sure you are paying attention to how your body is feeling.

Second, I give you this great news (That time off is okay & you shouldn’t be a neurotic mess about missing some days) BUT that does not give you an excuse to be an asshole.

Which is to say, if a vacation to you means 10-straight days of whiskey and bad decisions, just about everything I said above can get thrown out the window.

While you should enjoy yourself, this isn’t a free pass to eat and drink like your back in college (Unless you are in college, then I don’t care, do what you want you’re young & dumb and if you don’t act like an idiot now, what are you going to have to regret in your thirties!?)

Third, your time off doesn’t mean you have to do as little as physically possible. Use this time to “test” your fitness, find a scenic trail and run it with your friends, hit the beach and just play with your kids & family, or find a mountain, slap on a pack/ruck, and go explore.

Oh and while you’re recovering, spend 10-mins each morning stretching and mobilizing to speed up your recovery and get your body prepped for the training to come.

So to wrap this up:

2-weeks of detraining is not going to kill your #gainz so relax, destress, and have a life outside the gym!

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