What Happens When You Take A Week Off Gym?

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This time is a great opportunity to talk about rest week since I’m taking one week off from the gym.

I see people workout continuous for months or even years without taking a break. We tend to think that the idea of taking a break sounds counterproductive to your progress. However, is this the truth? Why would those gym pros always take a voluntary break from the gym? There is a reason for this.

In this post, we will be looking at different aspects that might happen when you take a rest week. As well, I will be discussing why you should definitely take a rest week to have better results.

Cardiovascular Fitness

If you are concerned about your fitness level, then this will be one of the issues you might experience during untrained days. Research shows that you will have some noticeable decrease in cardiovascular endurance by being inactive for 1-2 weeks. The effect will be more significant after 2 weeks. It’s true that you will feel a bit lethargic due to your body adapting to a less active lifestyle.

Why Is this Happen?

The work on cardio is actually categorized as the ‘habitual load’ and your body is trying to adapt to it as your lifestyle. Same as walking, standing, and sitting. During constant dynamic exercise, this habitual load is increased thus your blood flow and respiratory rate need to be level up to meet the demand.

When you work on cardio, what actually works is your cardiovascular system such as heart, blood vessels and respiratory rate. Your body parts that doing all those running or jumping (or even burpees) actually just involve some muscle for some high explosive works. Therefore it isn’t your leg that doesn’t work after being inactive. But just because your cardiovascular system had decreased its efficiency to provide enough oxygen to different body parts. It creates an illusion that you had lose your ability to jump without feeling tired.

Quick Fix

For those that had a hard time dealing with this, here is something you can do: be active during your rest week. Go for a slow walk or do something that is enjoyable for you. Try new things such as yoga, stretching or playing some outdoor games. The key here is not to do the same routine as your regular gym and keep the impact minimal. For this, you are still able to stay in an active mode but you trying to take out the stress that putting on your body.

Muscle Strength

If you think you will lose strength during the rest week, then you should definitely know this. You won’t lose your gains just by taking a week off. Instead, what actually happens is you will feel better and stronger after one week of rest. Often times people found themselves return to the gym with sky-rocketed strength than they had plateaued for weeks.

Muscle Recovery

I’ve mentioned the terminology of muscle recovery in my previous post about the deload week. The concept is similar, both deload week and rest week are intended to optimize muscle recovery after a prolonged time of training. However, in the case of a rest week, the effect of recovery is even better than deload. It is because you are allowing more time for your muscles to fully recover over the course of the week.

Another rbenefits that most of us had overlooked on rest week is it brings a positive effect on mental stress. As we know, one of the hormones that affect by stressors is cortisol. An extended period of overtraining will often results in increased cortisol. Over time, cortisol will more or less hinder muscle growth and eventually, some of us found ourselves meeting a plateau in our training. Then you know it’s time to take a break.

How long to Actually Lose Your Gains?

The studies show that it takes longer than 3-4 weeks for the strength to actually decrease. Even if you did not work on your strength longer than this, you are always able to return to your previous level of strength because of muscle memory.

The reason why did most of us come back feeling weaker is just because of some psychological effect and the decrease of your cardiovascular strength. However, in the reality your strength didn’t decrease much. The first few days might be a little challenging after your return, but you just need to realised that is because your body needs time to adapt to those weights. Start off with a lighter weight and you’ll find you able to return to heavyweight very soon.

Fat Gain

This is the most concern among the fitness buddies: Will I be out of shape during the detrain? For this, the answer will be tricky for a different conditions. As we know, the real reason for fat gain isn’t about the inactivity itself, but because during this time you are eating more than your body needs, and it leads to fat gain.

The first thing we need to look at is how is your life looked like during the detrain. Do you quit any physical activities entirely and eat like you are on a feast? Then, some fat gain will be inevitable. But less serious than you think. [Fat gain is slower than you think]

Gained Weight After A Week Break?

Most of the weight gain during weeks off is probably water weight. This is because during the period of inactivity, we tend to store some extra glycogen. Every glycogen molecule will hold on water that is two to triple its size. If you eat more carbs during the weeks off, then this effect will be more obvious. However, once you return to your training, the water weight will go off automatically.

Best Way To Eat During Week Off

If you didn’t overdo calories during the rest week, then you will not need to be worried about fat gain. Here is some advice on how can you be eating during the rest week:

For those that are already in surplus during their training days. During your rest week, you may scale your calories down a bit. [Perhaps just skip your pre/postworkout meal]/ However, you don’t need to go into a restricted diet as you still need to allow a small amount of energy for muscle recovery.

For those that are eating in a deficit, restricting your diet during the rest week is not recommended. It’s because the purpose of the rest week is to allow you to take a break physically and mentally. Therefore during this time, you can be less rigid on your diet, even temporary eat up to your maintenance.

Why Take A Rest Week?

Often time people are afraid of ruining their hard work once they take a break. However, the fact is that a well-scheduled rest week can help you achieve the goal even better than you can expect. What rest week did id you are able to return to a fresh state on your training and therefore speed up the process.

I wish to pop up this awesome research about the difference between individuals who take periodic breaks from their training vs trainers that did not take breaks. This graph plots out their strength progression over time. [CTR=continous training PTR=periodically training]

What we can see is, after all, both of the groups made no difference! Scheduling rest weeks into your programme actually helps you keep fresh throughout the course without hitting a plateau.

Comparison of strength progression between continuous training and periodic training.

Final Thought

That’s all for my post about rest weeks. The purpose of this post is to show you exactly what really happening to your body when you take a break. I need to stress the importance of rest week and its benefits for everyone. If you wish to have serious progress in your fitness, why don’t try to have a scheduled rest week? You’ll be surprised by its benefits.

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