You may have heard it recommended that you should go through your closet and get rid of any clothes that you haven’t worn in a year. This is similar to how the body treats skeletal muscle. If it hasn’t been used, then it must not be needed and can be broken down to be used as energy.
This has often been summed up with the simple phrase “use it or lose it.”
So, how often do you need to use the muscle to remind your body that you need to keep it? Well, since we are all different there is a wide range of days between bouts of resistance exercise that will remind the body to keep it around. A good guideline is to do your resistance exercise once every 5 to 21 days, with the frequency increasing with age because as we age the body gets more efficient and better at getting rid of muscle it feels is no longer necessary.
But, before the body starts to break down the muscle it will start with the energy systems within the muscle. This is why coming back to lifting after some time off, even just a week, can feel so much harder. Even if you haven’t been gone long enough for the muscle loss to start, it certainly can feel like it because you have lost the energy to power the muscle at the same level. And, of course, without the energy to power the muscle at the same level, you won’t be able to lift at the same intensity to remind the body to keep the muscle.
The good news is that these energy systems come back quickly and after your first “Welcome Back Workout” you could be back to where you left off.
Remember, it is much easier to maintain muscle than it is to convince the body to build new muscle. So, during those times when exercise is not your top priority, plan to do the least that you can to ensure that you don’t lose too much of what you had worked so hard to gain.
And, as always, let me know how I can help.