How Much Muscle Will You Lose on Vacation?

Travelling and Progression

Busy travel schedule? Vacation coming up? If you’re worried about losing muscle, relax. Here’s what you need to know.


How can you maintain your progress when traveling? Will you lose a lot of muscle and strength? Probably not. Here’s why.

The Bullet Points

  • First, breaking your program for a week won’t kill your progress.

  • If you stop training for one week, you will lose ZERO muscle mass. But you might feel smaller or flat for three reasons: less glycogen storage, less muscle tone, and less muscular inflammation.

  • If you can’t train for two weeks, you will lose, again, exactly ZERO muscle. You actually won’t lose strength, either. But you do need to keep your protein intake high.

  • It’s only in the third week that you start to lose some muscle, but not as much as you think. We’re talking grams, not pounds.

  • After some time away from training, it only takes one workout to regain muscle tone and feel full again.

  • If you can train when traveling, but the gym only has light dumbbells, remember that (for hypertrophy), what mostly matters is that the set is taken to failure. The effects are virtually the same whether you’re using 80% of your 1RM or 30%. Just do high reps to failure.

  • You can absolutely gain muscle by hitting a muscle hard only once per week. If you must travel often, train half your body on Saturday and half on Sunday. These sessions might be longer or more intense than normal workouts.

  • More tips for preventing muscle loss HERE.

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Make any workout work better. Fuel it.

Biotest

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thanks coach needed this article as a reminder I didn’t lose that much heading out west for the last 3 weeks in Colorado but I’ve been inspired now walking on holy land just seeing the Mecca gym and talking with Chris

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I go on at least one beach vacation each year for a total of about 10 days. I am also one of those that likes to workout on vacation. My experience matches the main point: I don’t lose any muscle mass at all. In fact, I think it’s a great forced change-of-pace. I do calisthenics and lighter DB work, don’t crush myself, and feel better for the effort. I recognize the “need” to keep training is really mental; I just feel better getting in some muscular work before going about my day of relaxing.

I would say the main issue many have is the unabashed intake of high calorie food and alcohol. I know, I know…it’s vacation so you don’t want to live on protein shakes and broccoli, but as a professional vacationer I have found I have a better time eating high quality local foods (hey, if you can afford the vacation you can afford the nice restaurants) and avoiding day drinking.

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Great work if you can get it!

Hell yeah!

Don’t let the door hit you…

Jests aside, I also don’t like feeling like crap. My vacations are with my kids. I’m not going to spend them worrying I lost a gram of muscle (and I think the worry is the killer anyway), nor will I sit around and be hungover when we could be parasailing or something else that sufficiently terrifies me.

On the flip side, I travel for work, so I can’t just always do nothing every time I leave home. I have also found just doing some bodyweight work and whatever equipment they have in the hotel gym is often a better kick than just sticking to my norm would have been anyway. I used to think it was the break/ change from the barbell work. I’m starting to think resistance is resistance and I could reach whatever potential I have with milk jugs if need be.

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Muscles? Which muscles? (Igor in Frankenstein Junior)

Definitely this. I want to be active and around the family most of the day on vacation. I get any workout in before anyone else is up, and I’m back and drinking coffee while they all are waking up.

I see this now as a benefit. A forced break from my routine, and time to recover while not letting myself slide completely into inactivity.

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