5 things that happen to your body when you stop training
Taking a break from the gym can definitely be a relief sometimes – we all have those days when you just don’t feel like it. If you have been training hard for a big event, or if you are run down with sickness, taking a few days off is probably better for you both physically and mentally. But if you stop training entirely for more than a few days our bodies undergo some alarming, unwanted changes.
We have all felt the difference when you have a break from training and try and return, and we are not as fit or as strong as we were before. Here is the science behind the physiological changes that happen in your body when you are feeling this:
Blood sugar spikes – our blood sugar spikes every time we eat food, and exercise is an effective way of levelling out our blood sugar levels and keeping it under control. When you stop exercising, your blood sugar stays elevated after eating, and will eventually drop a lot faster after being up so high, leading to cravings for high sugar and high fat foods. So not only are you burning less by not exercising, your body craves crap foods to make you put on more weight. This can lead to insulin resistance, and eventually Type 2 Diabetes.
Muscle fibres shrink – after 2 weeks of stopping resistance training, there is a noticeable drop in your muscle mass. Muscle is extremely important to your long term health, as it has a major impact on your metabolism. The more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn at rest. So once your muscle reduces when you stop training, you won’t be able to eat the same amount of food per day and stay the same weight, you will have to reduce the amount you are eating (and who wants to do that)?!?!
Fat cells grow and multiply – not only do we put on fat from our fat cells getting larger, but our body produces more fat cells to store the excess fat. The disturbing thing about this is that once our body has created these extra fat cells, there is no natural way to get rid of them. When you lose fat again in the future the size of these fat cells is reduced, but the amount will never drop back again (unless you get liposuction, which isn’t advised). So it’s not worth saying to yourself “I don’t mind putting on some fat as I will lose it all later”, as that isn’t always possible.
The brain suffers too – at Reborn we know and praise the huge benefits of exercise on our mental health. I have found a lot of people come into the gym at the start because of how they want to LOOK, but they stay and continue training long term because of how they FEEL. When you stop training, those endorphins (happy feelings) stop being released in your body, and you become grumpier, suffer from mood swings, and feelings of depression and anxiety increase. Not only that, your body still craves those endorphins, so you start looking for them in other areas – like crap food, alcohol, smoking, watching TV, or playing with your phone. The most healthy way to get that good feeling is through exercise.
– after just a couple of weeks your VO2 max will drop by about 10% - this is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use. This affects your day to day life – walking up a set of stairs becomes a lot harder, if you have to run to catch the train you get out of breath a lot quicker. Not only that, when you do return to training, you get that horrible feeling when mentally you are thinking you can do a lot more, but physically your body is saying no.
But don’t worry, not all is lost!
Next time you feel like having some time off training, remember that it isn’t always necessary to break records, or to keep getting faster/fitter/stronger than you were the day before. Sometimes you just have to break the drought and get out and do something. The days where you aren’t feeling up to training really hard, you can get benefit from just going through the motions and getting the body moving, knowing that when you are feeling better and up to it again, you can push yourself like you were before. As long as you aren’t having those days too often, a lighter intensity training session every now and then can be just what is needed.
If you want to have a week off the gym entirely, get outside and go for a couple of runs/walks instead, or play a game at the park with your kids or friends. Try and stay active without overdoing things, to avoid the nasty negatives mentioned above.