How to Maintain Muscle When You Need a Break

by Evelyn Valdez

When summer arrives, you know it’s time to relax and maybe go on a trip to that spot that you’ve always wanted to visit. Being away from home for a couple of days or even weeks sounds great, but that also means being far from the gym, and that’s okay! Taking a break once in a while can be incredibly healthy for both your mental and physical health – but what about your hard-earned muscle gains? Will they go away?

Well, the truth is that they might! It all just depends on how inactive you are. If you're completely inactive for longer than two weeks then muscle loss can begin to happen – but that's only if you're completely inactive. For example, if you're going on a long vacation and walking a lot or simply doing outdoor activities (that aren't necessarily working out), you'll be fine. However, if you suffered an injury and can't workout at all for the first week or two, muscle loss can begin happening at a slow rate. But don't get discouraged!

Luckily, there are many ways to prevent muscle loss, whether you’re on the other side of the world or just at home resting. We’ll show you how to maintain muscle when you can’t work out so you can get back to the gym looking just like how you left it!

Increase your protein intake

If you’ve been on a strength training journey before, you know that protein is your best friend. This is because protein is the building block of muscle and the most essential nutrient you should eat if you’re looking to increase your muscle mass – or in this case, maintain it.

Keeping a high intake of protein will help your muscle mass stay right where it is, even during periods of low activity. There are many natural sources of protein, such as lean meats, eggs, and legumes, which are healthy foods that not only support your muscle mass but also your overall health. But you can also try protein powders! Whether it’s in protein shakes while you’re away or for making pancakes or oats at home, a good protein powder can keep your protein intake at a good level.

Keep track of your calories

We know, we know… During vacation, keeping track of anything can be a hassle, especially if it involves food. This works better if you’re at home recovering or just taking a break, but if you’re away and are really serious about keeping your muscle gains, this is a great way to do it!

Keeping track of your calories will ensure that you’re not on a calorie deficit. A calorie deficit, or eating fewer calories than you burn, will make you lose body fat faster, which in turn can make you lose muscle mass faster. Instead, aim to maintain a calorie balance, so that you can keep those gains right where they are. Even a slight calorie surplus can be good for you, so don’t be afraid to indulge a little – just don’t forget about the protein!

For those who don't want to pull out their macro or calorie tracking app during vacation (who would?!), simply keep an eye on each of your meals. Make sure you always have a good protein source and carbs!

Don’t stop moving

Being on a break doesn’t mean you necessarily need to stop exercising. Not even when you’re injured, unless you really can’t move. There are many ways to create a simple workout around your current needs or the place that you’re at!

Maybe the word “workout” might sound too complex, but a workout can be just walking a few laps around the block or doing a couple of bodyweight exercises before you start your day. Avoid being completely sedentary if your goal is to retain muscle mass, especially if you’re going to be on a break for a while because your muscles need that stimulation to stay strong.

That said, you do need a good amount of willpower and motivation to keep your body lean and muscular, particularly on vacation, so try to make it fun! Are you at the beach? Play some beach volleyball. Sightseeing in a new city? Walk or rent a bike so you can get to know the place better. There are many enjoyable ways to stay active that aren’t necessarily workouts!

Include resistance bands

If you make an effort to keep working out despite being away from the gym, resistance bands can be a great addition to your routine! They also make for an excellent tool for those recovery from an injury, so if you can't do a full intense workout, resistance bands are a great way to keep your muscle stimulated.

Just like their name suggests, these bands offer constant resistance while you work out, making your muscles work throughout the full range of motion of any exercise that you perform. Yes, you can maintain your muscle mass by exercising with just your body weight, but resistance training with bands will help you achieve that more easily by giving you tougher workouts. You can do banded squats, lunges, push-ups, glute bridges… You name it!

And not only are they great for both maintaining and building muscle mass, but they’re also super lightweight and easy to pack! You can take them anywhere with you, so it doesn’t matter if you’re in your backyard or a thousand miles from home, you can always have your favorite resistance band with you, like the ones from UPPPER Fitness Gear.

Train hard before you take a break

The way that muscle-building works is by training hard enough that you cause microtears to your muscle fibers, which your body will later repair by building newer muscle on top when it’s recovering. If you train harder than usual before taking a break, your body will take longer to recover, and the muscle-building process will also take longer. This obviously only makes sense for those taking a break from the gym due to a long vacation, not so much for those recovering from an injury!

If you pair this hard training with a few days of lighter physical activity, you’ll be able to maintain your muscle mass with no problem. You can also view this break from the gym as a deload period! If you’re not familiar with deloading yet, it just means reducing the intensity of your workouts in half (or your chosen percentage) so that your body can rest, recover, and reset so that you can go back to the gym with full force.

Of course, if you decide to work harder the days or weeks before your break, make sure you’re doing so safely! Overtraining isn’t good either, so try to find a good balance that pushes your body to the limit without risking any injuries.

Stay hydrated

This one might be obvious, and as basic as it can be, forgetting to drink water can be a big problem if you’re on vacation since you’re so distracted most of the time. But this is completely essential if you want to maintain your muscle mass!

Our bodies are made of 60% water, which means that it plays a crucial role in our body composition. More specifically, when it comes to muscle, water represents between 70 and 80% of your total muscle mass. Being its main component, water naturally helps prevent muscle breakdown and keeps your cells properly hydrated, so you definitely want to keep a water bottle with you at all times!

Take good care of your hard-earned muscles

No one likes to see their gains go away, especially if you spent a lot of time making progress to get there. Plus, it can be incredibly disheartening having to start your muscle-building journey again. So make sure you take care of your muscles and keep them stimulated and healthy to avoid losing mass during your break, whether you’re vacationing, recovering, or simply resting.

And remember, a good resistance band can go a long way when it comes to maintaining muscle mass! At UPPPER Fitness Gear you can find a broad collection of high-quality long and short resistance bands for your workouts, so you can give your muscles a good burn while still looking stylish.

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