How to preserve your gains during isolation
After months, if not years of training, the current lockdown situation has probably got you worried and thinking that you are going to lose all your hard-earned fitness gains. And while losing some strength and muscle is all but inevitable, there are lots of things you can do to keep these losses to a minimum.
Use these tips to ensure that, when the lockdown is finally over, you come out of it looking and feeling almost as good as when you went in.
Just because you can’t go to the gym doesn’t mean you can’t train. There are plenty of ways to workout at home. Ultimately, your body cannot differentiate between doing bench presses with a state-of-the-art bumper plate and Olympic bar set-up, or doing push-ups with a heavy backpack on. It just knows tension and work, so providing you push yourself, any source of overload will help preserve your muscle mass.
Remember - your body operates on the “use it or lose it” principle. That means if you don’t workout, your body is more likely to catabolize your muscles. After all, they aren’t being put to good use. But, if you stress your muscles regularly, your body has a compelling reason to preserve them.
Good home workout methods that you can use to maintain muscle mass include:
- Bodyweight training
- Resistance band training
- Suspension training (e.g. TRX or gymnastic rings)
- Isometrics (maximal static contractions)
- Odd object lifting (sandbags, etc.)
Forget about body part splits – they’re impractical given your current lack of equipment.
However, 2-3 full-body workouts per week using any or a combination of these methods will go a long way to preventing muscle loss.
Maintain a healthy diet
Stress and boredom eating are common problems on lockdown. Food can help pass the time, and high-calorie comfort foods can, temporarily at least, cheer you up. However, you are what you eat, and if you’re filling up on junk, you are much more likely to gain fat and lose your muscle definition. In addition, junk food contains none of the nutrients your body needs to maintain your mass and strength.
Avoid turning to unhealthy food for solace or, if you do, limit your consumption, so you still have plenty of space left in your diet for natural foods - especially protein, starchy and fibrous carbs, and healthy fats. If you need a guilt-free snack on the run that’s high in protein, try Lust Protein Bars.
Alcohol consumption is also on the increase during the lockdown. Beer, wine, and spirits may lift your mood or alleviate boredom, but they won’t do anything for your waistline. Enjoy the occasional alcoholic drink, but also try to have more alcohol-free days per week and limit your consumption to just 1-2 drinks per day.
Nothing will deplete your gains like unbridled stress. Stress produces cortisol, and cortisol is a catabolic hormone that is a plague for muscle mass. The current COVID-19 is undeniably a stressful situation. Still, other than staying home and practicing social distancing, there isn’t much you can do about it.
Reduce your stress levels by accepting and doing your best to make the most of the current situation. Also, avoid things that you know will increase your stress levels - basically anything that leaves you angry, frustrated, or worried.
Take a proactive approach to reducing stress, such as:
- Creating and maintaining structure during your day
- Avoiding excess caffeine and sugar
- Staying active
- Maintaining social contact (safely)
- Planning for when lockdown ends
Get Enough Sleep
The current lockdown situation can have a significant impact on your regular sleep cycles, and lack of physical and mental activity may mean you are unable to sleep at night, but then feel tired and sluggish during the day. Too little sleep, like stress, will spike your cortisol levels, and that’s the last thing you need if you want to preserve your lean muscle.
Similarly, not getting enough sleep can increase insulin resistance, which makes it much harder for your body to burn fat and primes it for increased fat storage.
Use these strategies to make sure you get enough sleep each and every night:
- Go to bed and get up at the same time each day – e.g., 11pm and 7am, to get eight hours of sleep
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol in the lead up to bedtime
- Relax before trying to go to sleep, e.g. a warm bath or shower
- Ban all screens from your bedroom to avoid distractions and blue light, which can disrupt your normal sleep cycle
- Use blackout blinds to block out extraneous light
- Use a fan or white noise generator to block out distracting sounds
- Keep your bedroom at a comfortable temperature
- Try a sleep-enhancing supplement, such as OxyRem
Consume enough protein
Consuming adequate protein ensures your body has all the amino acids it needs without having to cannibalize your hard-built muscle.Your body needs protein for muscle repair and maintenance. Consuming too little protein will tip your metabolic balance away from anabolism and toward catabolism. Your body uses protein, and the amino acids it contains like a builder uses bricks. If you fail to consume adequate amounts of protein (one gram per pound or about two grams per kilo of body weight), your body will start to break down your muscles.
Whole foods like eggs, fish, poultry, dairy, and meat, as well as beans, nuts, and legumes, all contain protein. If you’re struggling to get enough protein, a protein supplement will make getting enough of the good stuff much easier. Protein supplements such as whey-based OxyWhey and IsoPept Zero or plant-based such as Blessed contain all the amino acids you need in a very easy to use, highly digestible, and delicious formulation. For an easy protein hit on the go, try our Lust Protein Bars.
For a direct hit of amino acids, try a branch chain amino acid supplement, such as Beyond BCAA. High in the essential aminos leucine, isoleucine, and valine, as well as electrolytes and blood flow enhancing citrulline malate and alpha HICA, this product will put the brakes on catabolism and switch on anabolism. It’s also useful for speeding up recovery after training, boosting hydration, and is a great sugar-free alternative to soda and fruit juice.
It’s easy to become despondent and think that lockdown is going to steal all your hard-earned fitness gains. And while not being able to go to the gym could lead to lost muscle and strength, it doesn’t have to. In fact, there are lots of things you can do to preserve your gains during this challenging period. Make preserving your gains your new obsession. Put all the tips in this article into practice and, when the lockdown is finally over, you’ll look and feel better than all those people who just waved the white flag of submission and didn’t take steps to stay in shape.