We all hear the horror stories of losing everything you worked so hard for when you take a break from working out, but are they really true? Well, technically yes they are; however, it’s only true if your sabbatical lasts two weeks or longer. Let’s break that down a little more…
Your body has two different types of muscle fibers: type I muscle fibers and type II muscle fibers. Type I muscle fibers are your endurance muscles that help you move long term like running long distances, but they are also used for your daily activities of living. Some examples of those would be getting in and out of the chair, walking, texting etc. Although they aren’t being over exerted, they are being used which is why you can get away with a week of no exercise before they start to atrophy.
Type II fibers on the other hand aren’t being used as often, because they are your fast moving, powerful muscles. When you run, jump, or lift heavy objects, you are recruiting those type II fibers to do the task. How many times do you think you are doing that while you aren’t exercising? If do don’t use it, you lose it my friends! This is why we feel worse getting back into lifting after weeks off than running. Those type II fibers are hardly being used at all compared to basic use of the type I fibers through daily activities.
But wait; there is good news here people! Our bodies like to be fit, and if we build a good base to be in shape, our bodies will do their best to maintain it while we slack off. Our bodies have what is called muscle memory, which creates “satellite cells” through protein synthesis. Satellite cells stay in our bodies for years and help us regain what is lost much more quickly than learning or gaining a new movement.
So, can you take a week off without having to go back to square one? Yes, but if you wait any longer than that, you are flirting with atrophy which takes a lot longer to regain even with muscle memory, than it takes to lose it all. Go on your vacations, get the kids back in the groove of school, but don’t feel so guilty that give up on exercise; you have longer than you think before your body gives up on you!
Adopted from the daily beast “what happens to your body when you skip the gym?”