The New York Times recently published an article, How Long Does it Take to Get Fit Again? In it, they talk about starting up a new exercise program depending on how long it has been since you regularly exercised, but even more notable they spoke of muscle mass loss. I am going to talk about the rate of the loss of muscle mass, and why it may happen.
They state in the article, “Scientists have found that it is around the three-week mark that people experience the biggest changes in their ability to get through a workout.”
Anecdotally we have had plenty of people in the gym, after a week break, comment that they feel like they are starting all over again. This is especially true if that break falls within the first 3 months of their picking up a new routine in the gym.
On the other end of the spectrum, some of our athletes that have exercised very consistently, for longer times, note a change in their muscles within a few days of not taxing their muscles.
A lot of this has to do with adaptation. However, I am going to talk about measured muscle mass loss and what may cause it.
The rate of muscle loss can vary depending on various factors such as age, genetics, diet, and exercise. On average, if you stop exercising, you can start losing muscle mass within a few weeks. For an older person or someone with a sedentary lifestyle, the rate of muscle loss can be as high as 8% per year. In contrast, regular resistance and strength training can help maintain and even increase muscle mass with age.
There are several reasons why you may lose muscle mass, including:
- Aging: As you age, your muscle mass naturally decreases, which can lead to sarcopenia, a condition characterized by the loss of muscle mass and strength.
- Inactivity: If you lead a sedentary lifestyle or have a long period of bed rest, your muscles can atrophy due to disuse.
- Poor nutrition: A diet that is deficient in protein can lead to muscle loss.
- Illness or injury: Certain illnesses, such as cancer and HIV/AIDS, can lead to muscle wasting. Injuries that result in prolonged immobility can also cause muscle loss.
- Chronic diseases: Chronic diseases, such as diabetes and kidney disease, can impact muscle mass and lead to muscle wasting.
- Medications: Certain medications, such as glucocorticoids, can lead to muscle loss.
It’s important to maintain a healthy diet and engage in regular physical activity to help prevent muscle loss.