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What happens when you quit working out a lot?

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  • What happens when you quit working out a lot?

    I have made huge transformations to my body composition in the past year. 44yo, 5'10, male, went from 220 to 175 and 35%bf to under 20 or so. I now have muscles and veins that I never had. Looking and feeling really good. I work out a lot, but what happens if I don't? I'm trying to find a happy medium between compulsive work-outs and sedentary.

    Here's an exercise in thought: What would happen to someone, built like Mark Sisson, if he quit working out cold-turkey, but kept up the healthy eating--considering he cut his calories to match the lessened workload? How long until he looks like a pudgy weakling?

  • #2
    Muscles are rather simple: use them or lose them.

    I’m pretty sure though that you don’t have to obsessively use them, which is why heavy lifting even once a week can be sufficient for maintenance. If you’re not striving to continually improve but are happy with your current level of strength, endurance, etc, I think minimal “dust off” workouts are sufficient.

    I also don’t think you’d pack on the pounds or get all flabby. If your food intake remains clean and like you said, matches your activity levels and such.

    How often do you currently work out and how little would you be doing going forward?

    You could also just experiment for a month or two and see how it goes.
    I used to seriously post here, now I prefer to troll.


    • #3
      I have been doing body-weight only exercises and sprinting. Sprinting just once a week, but every other day doing tons of pullups, pushups, and squats. I probably get in close to 100 pullups, 250+ pushups, and 50-100 squats. The beauty is I can do it at work, I have a job where I'm in industrial areas and there are pullups bars everywhere, when I'm waiting between jobs, I crack out 5 or 10 pullups, followed by 25-30 pushups. Then later do some squats. Also have a pullup bar at home and do more of the same in the evening. You would not believe the arm/chest/neck/ab/back muscle this has built. This workout, coupled with PB diet, IF'ing, and weekly carb re-feeds has done wonders. I really want to just maybe do some body weight stuff once or twice a week, but seeing this progress is like a drug. I have a little love handles still going on, so as soon as that's gone I want to transistion to a less hectic regime of exercise.

      Having never been in this good of shape, I'm starting to think long-term now. I doubt I will ever have rock-hard abs and I don't want to join a gym. But it is unreal how good I feel at almost 45 years old, I just wonder how fast i'll lose it without the same amount of input.


      • #4
        You'd feel like crap.


        • #5
          I’m only 26, so I have no idea what I’ll be like when I’m a little older but I do think I’ll be active (very active) when I get older. I’ve seen enough people kicking ass and taking names past 60 that there’s just no good reason not to.

          I think how you work out now is just fine, you could already tune it down though if you wanted to test out this theory of how much “damage” it would do.

          Obviously, the more you do something (intelligently) the more progress you’ll see. There’s a chance of diminishing returns once you do too much of it, which is why I said intelligently.

          I could see this happening:

          - Muscle endurance will suffer. I routinely do pull ups, push ups, etc, much like you do. I doubt that I’d always be able to do 15+ pull ups if I suddenly were to stop doing that many. If I were to always stop at 5 pull ups for instance, I bet after a few weeks or months it’d be tough to get 15-20. Even if your STRENGTH isn’t compromised (as evidenced by the fact that you are still strong enough to pull your bodyweight) muscle endurance needs to be stimulated and maintained at high levels if that is something you desire.

          Past that though, I can’t see what else would deteriorate so to speak. You’d probably look just the same thanks to sprinting, IF and PB style eating. It’d be hard to gain fat that way.

          Looks as though you enjoy the benefits of working out so I’m not sure why you’re looking to decrease volume? It’s fine I’m just curious. I could understand if you’re taking time away from other things, but it seems like you’re just using your time wisely. If I had the chance to work out at work I’d love it.

          Again, decrease the volume for a few weeks and see what happens, have a ‘test’ day where you go to failure on exercises to see where your numbers are (if you care to) and see if just eating right will do it for you.

          I remember an old forum member (Tarlach?) who posted a picture of himself and said he didn’t do much exercise at all and just ate paleo, and he looked very good, shredded even. I’m convinced that if one is going mostly for aesthetics short workouts are just fine but adherence to diet becomes more important. I think you can have a little lee-way if you’re more active because you’ll burn through “cheats” and such more effectively.
          I used to seriously post here, now I prefer to troll.


          • #6
            I went from exercising 13+hours a week to ~3hours/week. The best solution is to find yourself a new hobby. Your body composition is 80% diet, 10% exercise, and 10% genetics. At least that is what I have found from my perspective. I have been doing BW exercises for the past year and have enjoyed the new succeses. Keep working at it and those abs will eventually start to pop, take it from someone that even in my prime never saw abs but they decided to show up when I went PB. I stopped saying never a couple years ago.
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            • #7
              I'm in way better shape now than I ever was during 21 years active duty Air Force. Those years were all about meeting minimum standards for weight and physical fitness. When I retired 7 years ago, I really let myself go. Now, I've regained control. These new muscles are quite a novelty. It's amazing how adding 2" to your biceps completely redefines how you look. My shirt now hangs from my chest rather than my gut. I was diagnosed with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease 3 years ago and have no trace of it now. I am still seeing big gains in strength and fat loss, and don't want to slip backwards in either. I remember reading a post by someone on here a while back that had put up pics of their 6-pack abs, and said they weren't worth the work it took to keep them, that's what got me thinking I may be training myself into an unsustainable condition. For now, I really enjoy doing tons of BW exercise, but knowing change is inevitable, wonder what happens when the exercise slows.


              • #8
                There is no reason to stop... jack lalane worked out at age 96.


                • #9
                  Muscles are largely genetic, but of course with hard work you can increase your natural state of musculature. I grew up back in the Sixties, before people started hitting gyms (a late 70s thing), and I went to school with guys who were just naturally big and strong. They did not "work out" much at all, did little or no weightlifting; but they had normal activity levels for boys back then (probably three or four times what boys do now). I remember there was a kid in fourth grade who had biceps and pecs (he was, admittedly, a total freak by the standards of the day and was one scary kid).

                  I had no "muscles" until I started hitting weights but gained a few once I did a lot of work in the gym. If I stop working out altogether, they gradually diminish, but I have gone as long as a year without a single gym workout and have never approached my initial skinniness. So, I think there is a lot of genetic variation.

                  Years ago, I had an older friend who had good muscular development and a six pack. I asked him what he did. He said he liked to roller skate and went to the gym once a week for about half an hour.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by otzi View Post
                    Here's an exercise in thought: What would happen to someone, built like Mark Sisson, if he quit working out cold-turkey, but kept up the healthy eating--considering he cut his calories to match the lessened workload?
                    He'd get depressed. And die. Painfully.


                    • #11
                      It isn't 'working out' that is required. It is 'working' that you need. If you spend a day loading watermelons or brush hogging an old orchard there is no need to get into a gym that day. If you play hard at some sport or hike that day, again, no need to get to a gym. If you keep busy and that being busy requires some muscular effort, then you won't go all to fat. If you are at a place you like to be and are active and you are adhering to something like the primal diet --really active, not hanging weights on your remote and setting the bowl of chips two steps away--, I believe it would be possible to lighten up on the workouts and not become a fatty.

                      Think about something---hunter-gatherers don't need gyms; office workers need gyms.
                      Tayatha om bekandze

                      Bekandze maha bekandze

                      Randza samu gate soha


                      • #12
                        This is coming from a female physiology, so it may be different, but...

                        before starting primal, I was working out daily through obsessive cardio 1-2 hours a day, every day, and a lot of lifting/weight training (3-4 times a week) to develop musculature and 'ramp up metabolism'. At that time I was quite muscular and defined.

                        Then, starting primal, I cut out most of the workouts (mostly out of necessity); my exercise now consists of lots of walking, standing, light movement, and badminton once in a while - nothing involving training muscles. Of course I adjusted calories and protein accordingly.

                        What I found: I dropped fat effortlessly, compared to before (before I would always retain fat in stubborn places, despite the 'increased metabolism' and excessive exercise). Maybe this is due to decreased cortisol levels, or more sustained activity throughout the day rather than in one-hour bursts of intensive activity. Also, muscle definition disappeared and I became much more of a 'skinny' rather than 'fit' look. I feel great, and honestly much prefer the skinny look than the 'fit' or 'athletic' look, so no complaints there.

                        But I'd reckon, take out the workouts but keep the healthy eating = 'skinny' physique or 'slim' physique rather than muscular, athletic, 'fit' physique. The difference may be just in how defined/curvy the body shape is. Whereas unhealthy eating and no exercise, or too much cardio = 'skinny fat' or 'flabby' physique.

                        Just my two cents, I don't know how accurate this is for anyone else


                        • #13
                          More is not necessarily better. I'm no expert but you may be over-training. Perhaps try doing your body-weight workout twice a week instead of every other day. And only do it either at work or at home, not both.

                          The PB Fitness workout looks more sustainable than your current regimen. I like your strategy of finding a program you can live with long-term.

                          I've read accounts of people gaining muscle when they dialed back their workout frequency. The only way to truly know how it will effect you is to try it out and see what happens.
                          Last edited by Adrian365; 05-23-2011, 10:24 PM.


                          • #14
                            Why does it need to be about aesthetics?
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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Coach Palfrey View Post
                              Why does it need to be about aesthetics?
                              Because it's ugly if it's not.