Studies show that one of the major reasons people experience muscle loss is because they stop doing everyday activities that use muscle power - which may sound completely obvious, but it's true. Growing older plays another role in muscle loss, but it doesn't have to be that way. You can fight the system if you keep lifting weights. Muscular atrophy is the decrease in size and wasting of muscle tissue. Muscles that lose their nerve supply can atrophy and simply waste away. However with a little push and shove, you can gain it back faster than you think.
Can I Gain Muscle Back?
Being completely inactive after around two to three weeks can cause muscle atrophy (losing about 1 - 3 percent of muscle mass per week during this phase), however, who says you can't gain it back? The fitter you are, the easier it is to get back going again. On average, research has shown that typically the time frame for getting muscle back is half of the time you took off, depending on the person, nutrition, how much you work out and more. If you took a month break from lifting, for example, it would take two weeks of consistency in time and intensity of workouts to build it back.
That being said, physical activity, paired with a healthy diet will stimulates muscle growth. Only working out two to three times per week consistently can help prevent muscle loss in the first place. Consistency is key when it comes to muscle maintenance.
Maintaining Muscle Mass
Almost any activity that works the upper and lower body can help you regain what you have lost. Weight training is ideal! Weight training could mean workouts that include dumbbells and resistance band; or hitting the machines at the gym. Don't forget those other muscle-building exercises such as rowing, swimming, walking, jogging and cycling (stationary or regular bike).
Get Back on Track:
Small Wins for the Win! You are back to life and reality after getting off track for awhile. Before you know it, life is busy again and there go healthy eating and your workout routine taking the back seat. Avoid getting in too deep by focusing in on the small, quick wins (eating a healthy breakfast, fitting in a brisk walk before the day gets busy, etc.) Focusing on the quick wins and the things you can control will help you get back on track.
Muscle Memory May Save You. Everyone is different when it comes to muscle memory, but it could cut the time needed to regain lost muscle in half. For example, a 12-week break could only take six weeks to get back.
Keep Eating Protein. A high intake of protein will help your muscle mass stay right where it is, even during periods of low activity.
Keep Moving. Even those quick cardio/HIIT sessions, a brisk hike or quickly fitting in some pushups, situps an squats when you can can slow down the muscle loss process when life gets busy.
Slowly Add Flexibility and Mobility. When you get going again, first things first - adding a couple days of flexibility and mobility workouts into your week, will help increase blood flow and circulation.
Get Adequate Sleep - Getting plenty of restorative sleep will avoid muscle loss. Why? Proper zzz's help reset the body and it give you energy to power through your next sweat sesh.