Most people think they'll lose all muscle mass if they skip a workout... but to what extent that is true?
In this post, we talk about what happens when you skip a workout
Will you lose all muscle? Will it be OK?
Scroll down and find out 😉
How do We Build Muscle?
Muscle building happens by two main factors: resistance training and protein intake.
Resistance training will give reasons to your body for it to build more muscle. Protein intake will provide the amino acids you need to repair, create, and maintain muscle mass.
The balance between these two factors will shape the fate of the process.
The process of muscle building takes time and effort. Muscle building is, in fact, one of the most expensive metabolic processes in terms of energy costs. A lot of energy is required to build muscle.
Muscle Building is Highly Regulated
Muscle building is a highly regulated process (source). As it requires large amounts of energy, your body will only build muscle if it’s strictly necessary
How Long Does it Take to Lose Muscle?
As it happens with muscle building, the process of losing muscle takes time as well.
Because muscle is highly regulated, your body won’t lose muscle without any good reason to do so.
Aging, for instance, only leads to a 3% decrease in muscle mass per decade after the age of 30 (source
Different factors may affect muscle loss. Desnutrition, stress levels, age, sex, illnesses and health status… and physical inactivity.
Not being physically active can have a negative impact of your muscle… now the question is: how long is too long?
In the next part of the article, we’ll see what happens with your muscle when you skip a workout!
What happens when I skip a workout?
It’s okay to skip a workout. Based on the high regulation around muscle metaboilsm and the relatively short time that skipping one workout means for your body, there will be no muscle losses at all.
We all have skipped a workout ever in our “athlete’s life”. And here you are, better than ever.
If you skip a workout nothing will happen with your muscle… but what happens if you skip more than one workout?
How Many Workouts can I Skip?
How many workouts you can skip is a matter of how established your muscle is, and your current fitness level.
It won’t be the same for someone just started lifting than for someone that has been lifting for decades. The quality and lasting of the muscle is not the same.
Muscle strength is the first you start losing when you skip workouts. In about three weeks, athlete’s can lose their muscle strength (source).
Based on this fact, it is safe to skip up to two or three weeks of workouts to still be able to regain your muscle strength
Muscle mass, compared to muscle strength, takes more time to notice any changes at all.
There is not much scienctific evidence behind this matter, but personal experience tells us that in three weeks you could feel a drop in muscle mass of around 10-15% what you had before.
By the fourth week, this decline reaches the 20-25% of muscle mass lost…
Aerobic performance and cardio fitness shows larger declines when you skip workouts. Marathonians that reduced their training routines saw a large decrease in their performance (source)
Runners and other aerobic disciplines would have harder times if they start skipping workouts. Keeping the training at minimum can reduce these loses in performance.
Regaining the Skipped Workouts
You skip a workout. You keep skipping workouts, and before you notice, you’ve been two weeks out of the game.
How long does it take to gain back those losses?
Where you come from, the amount of exercise you were doing, or the discipline you focused on… but one thing is clear: it will be easier to regain the losses than when you first did it.
Muscle Memory Efffect
Lucky for you, your muscles fibres in some way remember all the exercise you’ve put on them in the past.
The so called muscle memory effect refers to the ability of your muscle fibers to regain shape and size faster than initially (source)
This means that, if you skip a workout (or more than one), getting back in shape won’t be as hard as if you were starting all over again.
Should I Make it up if I Skip a Workout?
You skip a workout… should you make it up?
Go twice a day, for instance? Do a double session at once?
The answer to that is that it all depends on you. If you feel like doing a double session, go for it. But don’t do it from pure guiltiness.
Instead of trying to make up the workout you skipped, these are some other solutions you can consider to get the most out of the skipped workout.
Take a Day Off
You, as everyone else, need a day-off once in a while. Specially going to the gym 4-6x/week, it’s often hard to find a day in where you don’t have to go to work, gym, or any other business.
You skip a workout... take it as a day off. Rest, spend time alone, and heal from all bad things growing inside you.
Listen to Your Body
Your body is wise. If you skip a workout is probably because your body sensed you needed to.
Listen to your body, and act according to what it tries to tell you.
If you can barely keep your eyes open, go to bed. If you can barely hold stand, take some rest. If you can barely move, skip a workout.
Plan the Come Back
What’s better to do when you skip a workout than to plan your come back?
You’ve done it, the workout is lost. You can’t go back in time and take that workout, but you can start planning the next workout to make sure you get back on track as soon as possible!
Don’t feel guilty if you skip a workout… do it if it becomes more than one.
It’s OK if you skip a workout, but don’t make it a habit. Muscle strength and muscle mass begin to drop after 2-3 weeks of physical inactivity.
Muscle building, and muscle loss, takes time and effort. Muscle metabolism is highly regulated, and it won’t mess up everything if you skip a workout.
But if you do skip a workout, don’t stay in bed feeling guilty about. Instead, plan the next workout, take a day off to disconnect, and listen to your body for next time.