The Key to Maintaining Muscle When You Cant Workout
If you're like most of us, you've probably been stuck inside for the last few months due to COVID-19. With all the gyms closed, its really difficult to get sufficient exercise in at times. You may think that with doing less cardio, or even being inactive altogether, you don't need as much protein in your diet as when you're working out regularly in the gym.
Obviously those who still train hard regularly and stay active have high protein demands, but that doesn't mean you should ignore your protein intake if you're not working out as hard or as much as you used to. Multiple studies have shown that protein intake is critical for inactive people to prevent muscle loss.
Prevent Muscle Atrophy With High Protein
A 2013 study published in the journal Nutrition Reviews confirmed the well-known fact that muscle disuse, aka inactivity, leads to atrophy, or muscle loss. The researchers found that "maintaining protein intake during a period of disuse attenuates disuse atrophy." Basically, keeping protein intake high prevents muscle loss when you're not training or are training less frequently or less intensely. This is important, because the last thing you want is to lose muscle. The researchers concluded that supplementing with dietary protein, like protein powder or essential amino acids (like BCAAs), is a good strategy for preserving muscle during periods of inactivity.
A general rule of thumb is that you should shoot for at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily.
Be More Anabolic With Protein And Leucine
A 2014 study looked at older adults and found that dietary protein and amino acid supplementation—at least 30 grams of protein and 3 grams of the branched-chain amino acid leucine per serving—triggered anabolism (muscle building) and muscle maintenance in sedentary individuals. Leucine supplementation was also highlighted in a 2016 study that looked at preserving muscle during disuse.
The researchers mentioned that creatine and fish-oil-derived omega-3 fatty acids can further help prevent muscle loss during periods of inactivity.
Greater Protein Synthesis In Injured Athletes Through Dietary Protein
The last study, published in 2015, looked at injured athletes. These were young people who were highly active and highly trained and got injured and couldn't train as much as usual, if at all.
"Dietary consumption [of protein] is of critical importance for stimulating muscle protein synthesis rates throughout the day," the researchers note, concluding that "maintaining or increasing daily protein intake by focusing upon the amount, type, and timing of dietary protein ingestion…can restrict the loss of muscle mass and strength during recovery from injury." Same thing applies for when you're stuck inside and can't workout for extended periods of time!
Keep That Hard Earned Muscle!
By keeping your protein intake high, you'll lose less muscle during times of inactivity. Get that protein from lean meats (lean steak, chicken breasts), eggs, dairy (for example, cottage cheese), and protein powder.