T Nation

Coming Back From Sepsis and Other Muscle Wasting Diseases


Also posted this on the injuries forum figured there may be more experiences with the over 35 group.

I'm a long term runner/weight trainer who recently contracted sepsis, was hospitalized for a week and lost 20 pounds, mainly muscle.

Would be interested in any stories/advice for getting back in shape after this. I'm sure a bunch of hard work is the prime answer, but just looking for any tips on doing this the smartest way.



There are many wiser heads than mine here, but…I am on my second come back…or will be in a few days, and here is my what I think:

Pick some basic lifts that you know, lift and work you way back up using good form. Try and add weight each week, but add it slow as you won’t adapt as quickly as you did when you were younger and you will feel like you should be lifting more faster than your joints will recover from. You can get it back, you just need to be patient and keep from hurting yourself along the way.

Pay attention to you macronutrients. 40p-30c-30f is what I usually see quoted, and I find it works for me. I heard we digest protein less efficiently so we need more of it, and I feel and see a difference. Drink lots of water too. The more protein you eat the more water you need to process it. I could build lean muscle at McDonald’s when I was in my 20’s, not so now.

There is a Mobility for Old Farts thread on here that you need to read, as it REALLY helps when you are older. I thought it was all crap and ignored it when I was young, as it didn’t seem to make any difference. Now I notice right away.

Keep moving. Whatever you do stick with it. Patience is something we should be better at as we are older, and if you consistently hit the gym you will see results. Maybe not as quick as you like, but each workout makes you stronger, each workout skipped makes you weaker. It matters less what you do than that you keep striving and evolving.


How did you get sepsis? Are you diabetic?

Everything can be rebuilt with time and patience.


Appreciate the thoughts. I’m all over the mobility thing. Have work to do work on my back and shoulder especially before really lifting again. 4 years ago had horrific back pain (lying on the floor 72 hours, crawling to bathroom type). MRI/x-rays at the time showed a bit of degeneration and bit of mild herniation. Doctor said these had nothing to with pain. Problem was SI joint inflammation from too much sitting (even though I’m more active than most people I have a 8-10 hour a day desk job and 1.5-2 hr total driving commute).

Worked with a fantastic PT who did some manipulation and got me on a bunch of mobility drills. Generally felt good until the sepsis. Apparently sepsis causes inflammation in what it finds as vulnerable body parts and it went after my lower back and shoulder. I had go to the hospital via ambulance because I physically could not get up due to back pain. Back pain is getting better and now that I have an IV port out of my arm I’m seeing the same PT to work on my back before I can really lift any. Good news is the MRI and x-ray I had at the hospital show no structural changes in 4 years.

I had a shoulder operation in April (subacromial decompression) and just got released for PT with permission to do anything I wanted a week before the sepsis hit. Inflammation in the shoulder made it sound like rubbing 2 bricks together when I moved it (not to mention pain). I had to keep the arm fairly still as that is where the IV port was so went about 4.5 weeks without much movement. Lost much of the range of motion I got back after surgery and the first PT. Starting that up again.

Also agree on the diet. Doctor suggested extra protein. I addition to regular meals I’m getting about 100 extra grams of from 4 low calorie whey drinks (about 25g per 100 calories so pretty good bang for the buck) as my activity level doesn’t support a bunch of extra calories yet.

Don’t know what really caused this. Doctor is pretty sure strep bacteria infection festered in my sinuses (was told I have a chronic sinus problem which I never really knew about) and got to bloodstream. Not diabetic and not on any prescription meds except testosterone gel at age 57.

Acquaintance from the gm working on EMT certification to get on with the fire department was working as a nurse’s aid on my floor. After I was recovering he told me he saw sepsis that wasn’t as bad as what I had kill people. His opinion was I was damn lucky I’ve been working out for 40 years or so and my heart, lungs and other important stuff were strong enough to fight it off with the help of the antibiotics.

Speaking of mobility, have you seen Joe DeFranco’s Limber 11?

Almost 20 minute video, great coaching cues.


Interesting visit with the PT yesterday. A week ago he did some manual manipulation on my back which has been killing me since the sepsis incident. Yesterday he watched how I moved, worked with me on some passive movements and decided my back/hips were moving fine. My problem as he explained, is, with the sepsis, I lost somewhere in the neighborhood of 50-75% of my strength.

I try to do what were simple movements (like getting in a car) and the back is trying to take over for what the muscles should be doing, causing pain. Wish some of the doctors would have told me that, but oh well, they fixed the infection. PT said, just go to the gym and realize it may take a year to get back to where you were. Time to do work.


That sucks, man. Good luck with the rebuild and take it in stride. I’m sure you know not to get impatient or frustrated so I won’t tell you not to.


Found out a good part of the weakness in my left shoulder is due to tears in rotator cuff. Getting it fixed in December. At least with the sepsis hospital bills I’ve hit the max out of pocket so the shoulder work is free.


Oh my god you had to reach to look at the bright side! You did it though. Good luck, and you can be building again in the new year.