Don’t fall prey to anyone who claims muscle loss will occur without the gym; this is the article for those who follow their instincts, for those who decide their direction, if not in their regular life, at least with their fitness goals.
Avoid Atrophy. That’s our goal. If you don’t have access to a gym (yet), and fear you’re losing muscle mass, then let me enlighten you. Muscle waste, loss of gainz, shriveling into the shell of a human you were prior to training. These are all avoidable.
Throughout this article, I’ll supply you with the knowledge I’ve used to maintain my muscle mass, WITHOUT “bulking.” But I’ll get into why that’s a dangerous approach later.
What is Atrophy?
Muscle atrophy is a loss of muscle mass caused by immobility, disuse, aging, and malnutrition. It is fairly synonymous with muscle wasting.
If due to an injury or illness, that can be severe, and in these cases, it can be difficult to avoid. However, I’m not a doctor. It’s not my intention to discuss severe cases of muscle atrophy.
When it comes to atrophying for those of us concerned with maintaining the majority of our strength and visual muscle mass during time away from the gym, things like becoming immobile aren’t the general concern. The concern is that if we lose much mass our muscles might:
- Lose fullness
- Look flabby
- Flat and without aesthetic shape
- Get “softer”
One study carried out at the University of Massachusetts showed that atrophying can occur in as little as 48 hours. That sounds suboptimal to say the least. That’s an understatement. It sounds kind of downright terrifying.
Good news, though. It doesn’t require a gym to still use and stimulate muscles.
How To Avoid Atrophy
Now that you know how atrophy can negatively affect your gainz, it only makes sense to want to perform as many evasive maneuvers as possible. We’ll touch on the three pillars:
Whether you’re reading this in quarantine or for some other reason that’s keeping you from the gym,
I know we all want to grow, to build, to progress. The idea of staying in the same place can be suffocating, but try and reframe that mindset. When it comes to fitness, the trite yet true “It’s a marathon, not sprint” belief can be positive to take on during this time. Like all beliefs, you wear the ones that fit you best in that time of your life. You don’t need to wear this marathon belief forever, but for now…iron it out and wear it with pride.
There’s nothing wrong with focusing on maintenance. It’s actually beneficial. Avoid the stress of not training your usual way. Adapt. Know that you will return at some point, and while those who let their sorrows over not having a gym cause atrophy — breaking down hard-earned gains — you return in roughly the same place.
Good news: Muscles really don’t require much to keep them from atrophying. They just wanna be loved and appreciated. They aren’t even really that needy. I mean, you have an entire 48 hours before you need to drop in and provide a little stimulation.
Here is a method I’ve experimented with over the past….however long its been since 2020 roundhouse kicked reality. It utilizes less volume per training session, but more frequency. You won’t do as much per muscle group each workout, but you’ll hit them more frequently throughout the week.
Note: If you have time throughout the day, you can stagger these exercises. Do one exercise every hour. This is pretty fantastic for maintaining a lower body fat percentage, since your body will be in “exercise” mode most the day, where it burns more fat and absorbs nutrients.
Monday, Wednesday, Friday (PRESS)
|Push-ups||4 sets AMRAP|
|Handstand Push-ups:Modifications: Behind the neck mattress presses, couch military presses, resistance band presses, get creative||4 sets AMRAP|
|Resistance band Lateral Raises||4 sets 20-30|
|Close grip push-ups||4 sets 20-30|
|Walking LungesGet outside. There’s gotta be a field or something somewhere. If you have any available weights (anything can work) throw them on||4 sets 20-30|
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday (PULL)
|Pull-ups||4 sets AMRAP|
|Resistance band bent over rows||4 sets 20-30|
|Milk gallon curls: Yeah, this is super light. Here’s a challenge though. Gripping the handle, try supinating as you curl, and add in super-slow reps.||4 sets 20-30|
|Resistance band curls||4 sets 20-30|
|Resistance band Romanian Deadlifts||4 sets 20-30|
Earlier in this article, I told you muscle maintenance is possible without “bulking” (i.e. eating at a caloric surplus). Well, now I’m going to take that one step further. It’s not just possible. It’s optimal.
- Fat locks up free testosterone. Yes, a guy can’t walk around at 5% (for women 11%) and expect to also get jacked, but most guys will see better muscle gains at 10% bodyfat than they will at 17%. (for women, 15-19%)
- Eating a mass amount of calories isn’t optimal for digestion. If you can’t properly digest allyour food, then it’s not going where you want it.
- “Dirty Bulking:” Most people who eat a caloric surplus aren’t getting all those calories from chicken, rice, and vegetables. They’re getting them from junk, nutrient-light foods. Nutrient-light foods are called junk for a reason.
Okay, enough about that.
Here’s how I’ve managed to maintain my muscle mass and have stayed at 11% (except on those times I may or may not have binged for a week-straight, we’re all human don’t judge me). The steps are actually pretty simple.
To understand exactly why they’re important, here are some things to understand:
The relationship between glycogen stores and amino acids: Our body’s primary source of energy is glucose. We have two types of glycogen stores we utilize for energy production.
- Liver glycogen: this is used for daily tasks, things like walking, cognitive function, dreaming about how you wished the gyms would open already or why that person left you on seen. All use liver glycogen
- Muscle glycogen: this is used to repair muscles, and in anaerobic exercises.
Gluconeogenesis: Our bodies are intelligent creatures. Not to say I necessarily believe in Intelligent Design theory — I believe in Ancient Astronauts, since the recent UFO video proved me right on that. When they (our bodies, not aliens) run out of glycogen for energy they revert to pulling from amino acids for energy.
This is bad. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein. And, I swear if you don’t know what protein does…just, facepalm.
How muscle recovery works: It comes down to protein synthesis. To optimally build muscle you need to be building muscle protein fibers faster than muscle protein breakdown occurs.
So,when muscle protein strands are used for energy, that means you’re switching your construction crew over to working on tasks they don’t prefer. And more importantly, taking them away from building your physique.
Now that you know we need protein strands to be stacked one atop the other to repair muscles, and if the rate isn’t quick enough, then muscle breaks down, it would stand to reason that if we use protein for energy as opposed to for repair…you get the idea.
We don’t want that.
But, there are ways to stop muscle protein breakdown.
- Optimizing glycogen usage via nutrient timing:
- Keep liver glycogen stores filled during daily tasks, and do it according to your activity levels. Fruits are a great way to restore liver glycogen
- Replenish muscle glycogen stores after a workout. You probably won’t need a crazy amount. Maybe 100g over the course of a post-workout shake + treat, some coplex carbs with dinner, and maybe a “soft” cheat afterward. I’m not crazy. I know you want some extra snacks during quarantine life.
- Ketogenic diet: Check out the article on keto for more detail, but the gist of why keto is optimal is this: when your body goes into a state ketosis, it uses ketones for daily fuel, and since our body produces ketones, there’s a larger reserve, which makes keto muscle sparing. Note: gluconeogenesis still occurs even in ketosis (more so actually), but it uses the amino acids for muscle glycogen. Meaning, better muscle recovery and muscle repair, which can lead to greater GAINZ.
- Testosterone function. This is one of the many reasons I loathe “bulking.” It flies in the face of logic. Fat locks up free testosterone. Free testosterone plays a massive role in building muscle, burning fat, mood, cognition, etc. Eat foods that can boost testosterone, like eggs, pineapple, etc.
- Intermittent fasting (and for the hardcore, Prolongued Fasting): When the body is fasting it goes into a state of starvation (keto-like). At around 18 hours fasted, it takes the process even a step further. It goes into what’s called autophagy, which means self eating. Your healthy cells carnivorously devour the weak cells in a gruesome display of Cell Darwinism. This is why I love fasting. Teach my cells just the sort of system they’re existing in; survival of the fittest, Uncanny X-Men (Apocalypse) style.
- Catabolism: I know what some of you know-it-alls are thinking. That catabolism means you’re losing muscle mass. A catabolic state simply means that you aren’t building. When your body goes into starvation mode, it also goes into preservation mode. Think about it. How the hell would ancient (like, super ancient) cultures and nomadic tribes have survived for days without food if their bodies were constantly tearing itself down? Exactly. The body goes into a state of preservation. Sure, it doesn’t build muscle while in this process, but…you’re quarantined and doing home workouts. You’re probably not building muscle right now anyway. You might as well focus on not losing any.
These are just a few of the ways you can utilize food to maintain the muscle you’ve worked so hard to build. There are others; nutrient timing, insulin and growth hormone responses, and the list goes on. But that’s when we get more into biohacking, and not all of us are Dave Asprey.
The perfect product for any occasion, but especially what we want now, is ALL BULK NO BLOAT. Here’s a few words about the product by its formulator, Jose Reyes.
“My favorite product is All Bulk No Bloat because it is such a unique product; with an unheard of concept. The antiquated belief of calories in/calories out, is all but disproven with this product. Being the first of its kind, ABNB, carries a heavy emphasis on:
- hormone optimization
- nutrient uptake and delivery
- avoiding muscle waste
- Powerful muscle sparing properties
- Accelerating muscle recovery.
ABNB must be taken fasted in order to get priority through the blood brain barrier, and is so loaded, that it requires all of your body’s means of transport, thus entering the central nervous system, and reaching your neurons. Rome wasn’t built in a day, but with ABNB it can be built in two.”
Those are great benefits. For the purpose of this article, I want to focus primarily on ABNB’s muscle sparing and recovery.
- HMB: HMB, otherwise known as beta-hydroxy-beta-methylbutyrate, is a metabolite of leucine that helps reduce protein breakdown, and as you now know, stopping protein breakdown can majorly improve muscle recovery. Some of the reported benefits of HMB
- Glutamine: The most common amino acid found in the body, Glutamine levels are severely depleted during intense training, decreasing strength, stamina, and muscle recovery. Glutamine also plays a role in protein synthesis. Studies have shown that supplementation can:
- Phosphatidic Acid: By significantly activating the Mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathway (mTOR regulates protein synthesis, helping ingested protein to translate into new muscle), Phosphatidic Acid may improve muscle protein synthesis and therefore help to prevent muscle protein breakdown. Two recent studies have shown that Phosphatidic Acid, when combined with exercise may have positive benefits in:
Don’t (Muscle) Waste Away
Eat well, feast smart, cheat small. Train on, and maintain.
Don’t let all that hard work go to waste.
There’s no home insurance for your muscles, nobody is going to reimburse you for loss of gainz.
Keep anyone who dares burglarize your earned mass away. Build a security system, erect a steel gate, and board the walls to your physique with All Bulk No Bloat; the zero calorie mass builder, keeper, and guardian.