It's a common scenario: Your family guilts you into taking a two-week vacation to a place where hardcore gyms are sparse and you feel yourself shrinking and getting weaker by the day and the anxiety builds and builds until you finally snap and jump up and grab the marble schlong of Michelangelo's David and start doing one-arm pull-ups and inverted rows.
Then the security guards come and get all uppity and kick you and your family out of the museum, but your smug little daughter Becky gives you the cold shoulder and thinks you should be embarrassed about what happened.
Embarrassed? Maybe, but who's still got lats? Who's still got lats, Becky?
I mean, who hasn't had that happen? It turns out that anxiety about shrinking or losing size by taking a couple of weeks off from the gym is misplaced, at least according to some sports scientists from Baylor University.
The New Research
The researchers rounded up 20 students, all of whom were experienced weight trainers. They all followed an identical lifting program for 4 weeks, followed by a 2-week layoff. After the layoff, the subjects did another 4-week training cycle.
Ten of the students were given 25 grams of maltodextrin (carbohydrate) after each training session while the other 10 were given 25 grams of whey protein. During the two-week layoff, each student continued to take their maltodextrin or whey, but early in the morning.
What They Found
All the students gained strength and size during the initial training period, although the whey group experienced slightly better gains. Neither group suffered any setbacks during the two-week layoff. They didn't lose strength or size and they didn't get any fatter. It's as if the layoff never happened.
After the two-week detraining period, the protein group continued to gain mass at about the same rate as before, while the carbohydrate group experienced a slight, probably statistically insignificant drop in lean mass.
What This Means to You
This means that you shouldn't sweat taking a week or two off. You likely won't lose any strength or size, and provided you don't continually pizza and pasta yourself into a carbohydrate stupor, you likely won't gain any fat.
Related: How to Keep Muscle During a Layoff
Related: The Top 10 Bodyweight Exercises
- Paul S. Hwang; Thomas L. Andre; and 5 more, "Resistance Training–Induced Elevations in Muscular Strength in Trained Men Are Maintained After 2 Weeks of Detraining and Not Differentially Affected by Whey Protein Supplementation,"
- Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 31(4):869–881, Apr 2017.