If you stop training, you will shrink. Why?

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Raise your hands if you’ve heard that “powders” will only “pump up” your muscles and you will shrink as soon as you stop taking them. Yeah, I bet you’ve heard it a million times. The bad news is, this can really happen, depending on exactly what you stop.

The legend of “pumped” muscles

Let’s face it: most people (laymen) make a distinction (at least subconsciously) between the musculature of a bodybuilder and the musculature of an athletic person. You might not say it explicitly or you might not even be aware of it, but this stereotype is rooted so deeply in people’s minds that it cannot be eliminated from one day to the next. But is it reasonable?

It is, to a point. Why?

That damn evolution

Your body is an incredibly efficient machine. It is really hard to make it do anything that even slightly deviates from its natural (i.e. efficient) operating mode. Still, we are doing it. Yes, you heard it right: all of us who force our bodies to carry a larger muscle mass are doing something unnatural.

Our body is nothing but a 24/7 survival mechanism. It is doing its best to get the most out of the least energy possible. But when you are building muscle you are actually increasing the amount of a type of tissue on your body that uses a lot of energy. The result: you will need much more energy to maintain and nurture your body (not mentioning further growth) than a normal person would . Enough if you are only a bit less conscientious for a short time, and your body will start returning to the “safe mode” immediately. That is, it will start to break down muscle tissue. And doing so it “kills two birds with one stone”: gaining energy while at the same time reducing the energy demand of the body.

You see, you will only grow if you take in more calories than what you use. And the bigger your muscle mass is, the more calories you will need. No calories, no muscle.

Let’s talk a bit about losing body fat

The same mechanism is the reason why you should take extra care of the amount of macronutrients, especially protein in a diet. Because, what happens when the body realizes it is getting less nutrients? It will strive to reach an equilibrium, in which it will be able to make ends meet from less calories. This means, it will start breaking itself down, and here comes the importance of a good diet plan. If you just reduce your calorie intake brainlessly, your system will not use your fat deposits, as these are difficult to access. Yes, they are! So your body will spare them for harder times (another survival trick) and use up your muscles instead, as these can be broken down and converted into energy more easily.

There are 2 ways to reduce the consequences (as you cannot eliminate them 100 %): First, by weight training. Your body will be less likely to use up tissues that are intensely in use, because in this case these tissues are also considered essential for survival. And second, by increasing your protein intake, to nurture your highly stressed muscles. You should have no illusions: if you do not increase your protein intake, weight training will not be enough. In this case your body will rather take the risk of “eating up” your muscles and you will lose strength. If it gets no amino acids from external sources, it will replace them from itself...

But let’s get back to shrinking!

From the above, you might have already got a rough outline on the whole picture about shrinking. Still there are some details we need to make clear. Let’s suppose you are taking a muscle gainer. This contains a certain amount of calories: Let’s take 300 calories per portion. One day you decide not to take it anymore. What will happen? Your body will try to adapt to the new circumstances by switching your system to a lower gear. It will burn some muscle (Remember? this is the tissue with the highest energy demand) so your daily intake of nutrients, which has been reduced by 300 calories, will suffice. In this sense we must say this myth has some ground.


This doesn’t mean it is entirely true. Because: What will happen if the calorie reduction does not come from leaving the muscle gainer but from skipping a meal?

Exactly the same!

Your body will not care whether it is missing a portion of chicken-and-rice or a portion of muscle gainer. 300 calories are missing. That’s all that matters. So it would be a mistake to blame all this shrinking on supplements. It’s not about that. Because, what will happen if you leave that 300-calorie muscle gainer but replace it with “regular” food?

Nothing! Everything will be the same. See? You did not shrink from leaving “powders”.

The importance of workout

Not only reduced food intake can cause loss of strength or muscle mass. The same happens when you stop working out. You must not believe that once you have gained a certain amount of muscle mass, it would stay with you until the end of your life. It will only remain as long as you work out regularly! The reason is the same as above: Muscle tissue requires a lot of energy, so your system will only keep it if two prerequisites are met: If it gets enough nutrients and if the muscles are regularly in use. Why would your body maintain your muscles and undertake all the hassle if you do not use them? (For the same reason you should not cut down on the weights when you are dieting: your body will “assume” you need the muscles less and start to reduce their size immediately.) It will break them down. And, to make it “better”, if your calorie intake remains the same as when you were working out, you will most likely increase your fat deposits, since there is no more stimulus to trigger muscle growth. And where will the extra calories go if you do not burn them and your muscles don’t use them up either? Right, to the fat deposits! They will be spared for harder times. And this is where the myth “muscle will turn to fat” comes from, which is a total nonsense. Muscle can’t turn to fat: muscle mass decreases and fat tissue increases, but these are two distinctly different processes.

What about other sports?

The same goes for other sports as well. When swimmers stop swimming, their split times will get worse. And Usain Bolt will not run 100 meters like he did at the Olympics forever. ANY athlete will deliver poorer results if they stop their sports activities or reduce the intensity level of training.

Sadly, this loss is much more visible in the case of bodybuilding. While you cannot tell what time Usain Bolt would run on 100 by simply taking a look at him, you will immediately see it on a bodybuilder. Because in bodybuilding, results are not measured in hundredths of seconds but in muscle mass. Other sports do not require so much muscle mass as bodybuilding does. So even if other athletes shrink in muscle mass, it will not be as striking as in the case of bodybuilding. Perhaps that’s why people think of muscles gained with bodybuilding as a “different” kind of muscle. Since the muscles of a bodybuilder are much larger in size, it is much easier to spot the difference. But these are muscles just like yours or mine. And believe me, they are not filled with air and will not deflate like balloons. (Chill out, the latter remark was meant for your friend sitting next to you and reading this article for educational purposes :)).

See, no need to worry you will swell up like a balloon and burst in the end. But I’m pretty sure you have already known this before. In this case, feel free to forward this article to everyone who has ever found you with this powders-will-make-you-swell-and-you-will-shrink-when-you-stop bullcrap.

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