I’m losing my gains!
If there is one take away message the fitness and especially the supplement industry wants you to digest, store and tattoo onto the inside of your eyelids, it’s the fear of losing your gains.
This can be applied to any form of training where progressive improvement is involved, but it’s particularly prevalent in the Narnia-esque world of the muscle and strength corner of the fitness universe.
The fear of losing hard-earned gains used to be a pretty major preoccupation of mine when I was in the first few years of training. Everything I read, on the internet, in magazines or in the supplement brochures all said the same thing: train insane, then MAKE SURE you get your protein and carb fill IMMEDIATELY.
The emphasis was placed on the need to eat, often and in enough quantity, in order to make sure your body had the materials with which to construct the magazine-calibre physique you saw in the latest advert for Extreme Growth Anabolics Inc. ultra-creatine powder.
As a result I used to try and eat pretty much every 3 hours while I was awake, made sure I packed my post-workout shake to ensure I didn’t miss my 20 minute anabolic window, blah blah blah…
I was pretty afraid of missing a session, and if I was going away for a couple of weeks then I’d try and do anything to get some training in.
To be perfectly honest, I might be making this sound a bit more intense than it actually was but the main point is that all the information available to me at the time from the people and companies I regarded as experts successfully instilled the concept that ‘gains’ (i.e. muscle mass and strength) were delicate, capricious things that would melt off me as soon as I missed my post workout meal or skipped two sessions of training.
So should I have been so worried?
Evidently not. It is true that you need to eat enough, and train hard enough, to maintain the gains you have. If the body is not regularly reminded that it needs muscle or strength then it will eventually get rid of it.
If you’re taxing yourself hard in training but eating a celery stick afterwards you won’t make any progress.
But if you’re healthy, eating 3 square meals a day and not training?
From my own experience I find that two weeks of no training and less than ideal eating is about the limit for me in terms of starting to see and feel significant regression in my size and strength level.
In other words I can quite happily go away for 2 weeks and not touch a weight, while eating burgers and not get stressed about losing my gains.
Obviously this is just me. You might be different. You probably will be.
The main thing to remember is that contrary to the propaganda the human body is not such a fragile thing. It has evolved in tough times and tough conditions, far more arduous than not having access to protein every three hours. Muscle does not atrophy just like that.
If it did then our ancestors would have been a bit screwed when the next animal was proving hard to catch.
For you it might be a week, 10 days, 12 days before you notice significant negative effects from not having trained or eaten as ‘optimally’ as you could have.
Gains are not lost in a couple of days, unless you have a major illness. It doesn’t work like that.
If I’m away for two weeks with no access to a gym I simply train super hard up to departure day.
Then I relax, and let my body recover in the knowledge that I might walk back into the gym even stronger than when I left (this can actually happen).
Anything over that is a different story, and I might need to find myself somewhere to keep it ticking over. Here in Bali it’s the fine establishment of the Energy Gym, Sanur, $8 a month membership. Deal.