How do I maintain my muscle mass now that the gym is closed?
Maintain muscle mass

How do I maintain my muscle mass now that the gym is closed?

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Since all gyms are currently closed and only a few are lucky enough to have the key to a gym, or have a home gym, I get a lot of questions about what is the best approach for preventing deterioration of all that muscle mass where you have months or even put in years of work and thousands of euros in food and supplements.

Because imagine, soon we will all come out of this apocalyptic phase as normal mortals and no one will look up to us anymore for the greats that we actually are and we will no longer receive the respect that our physics normally command among the common people.

Just kidding, of course, but I get the hang of all investments, both in terms of time and effort and money; is that really all for nothing if this lasts a long time? Regardless of the uncertainty whether money will still be worth its value in toilet paper, but that is a completely different question.

Like snow in the sun?

First of all, let me start with a reassurance; like you in one previous article have been able to read about the different forms of hypertrophy, there are different forms of hypertrophy, of which you could label sarcoplasmic hypertrophy as sham hypertrophy.

The extra pounds you can gain in this way can go very fast, but are also the least permanent; So it may well be that you seem to be shrinking in front of the mirror and the eye last week and certainly also in the near future, and perhaps losing pounds on the scales. This will mainly be moisture and glycogen (if you use your common sense, more on this later).

The more permanent pounds of muscle mass take much longer to build up, but are also much more stubborn when it comes to losing; Finally, fusing satellite cells with muscle cells takes the most time, but is also the most permanent form of 'muscle mass'. This is where muscle memory comes from. So, even if you lose a lot of muscle during this time, building back to your current levels is much easier and faster than it took you the first time to get to this level.

And to conclude this paragraph: This period can also be 1 in which you give your tendons and joints time to recover. A kind of deload. That is not to say that we just sit on the couch and eat chips just like all other useless Dutch people (as Peter Pannekoek comfortably addressed us last week); we can still do enough!

How do we limit the damage?

This story (and certainly the part about the more permanent gains) also applies to the situation where we are going to lose muscle mass; but aren't there things we can do to mitigate the damage? Certainly.

As always, muscle mass growth (and therefore also breakdown) is influenced by a number of factors, which I have written many articles about. You can dream them by now, I think, but I will call them again:

  • Training
  • Stress / sleep
  • Nutrition

Of course, almost everyone's rhythm is severely affected during this time. However, thinking about what is not possible instead of possibilities has never done anything good for anyone, and potentially can also cause a lot of stress, so let's try to look at it from the other side.

I will tell you that you have to be ready to take action; If you prefer to keep on feeling sorry for yourself and crying away on the couch every day with a bowl of ice cream and delivery snack bar food, that's fine of course, but then reading on makes little sense and I suggest that you alt-tabbed back to Netflix.

Maintain muscle mass

Step 1: Stress, sleep and rhythm

I supervise a lot of customers in the field of nutrition and training, but since a few months also intensively on lifestyle and behavior (I certainly also have places available, feel free to contact me!) And again and again I see a point that almost everyone returns can make a lot of progress.

That is why I have written so many boring articles on these topics and that a large part of the weekly check-ins at my customers relate to them. Almost everyone sleeps too little, also has poor sleep quality and does too little to manage stress. Too little sleep and too much stress will cost muscle mass, enough good sleep and not too much stress or less
can even provide growth.

You're not going to tell me that you don't have enough time these weeks to get 8-9 hours of sleep a day. Start with that and see what it does. You may even drive yourself so crazy that you will wear a good day-night rhythm, which you will also benefit from in the 'new world' and which will eventually lead to more progression these weeks / months. That would be crazy!

Keep your rhythm

In addition, because many people lose work, they miss a great deal of their rhythm and may not come out much less. Set your alarm clock at set times and go to bed at set times. Try to start your day with daylight, whether it's a walk outside or just opening the window (slide your geraniums aside, otherwise you will wipe your windowsill into your living room).

Schedule fixed blocks in your agenda / day for fixed habits / habits; because work is lost, a lot of structure is lost. Structure and rhythm are very important. Do you want to know more or more tips, please send me a message.

Step 2: Nutrition

Nutrition is also easy to monitor and manage, even in these times. Make sure you have the essential foods that should form the backbone of your diet. Many people claim to gain weight, but if all goes well in step 1, a lot of stress disappears. In addition, no one now has time to cook properly, so no more reason for ready-made pizzas that you heat up in the microwave for convenience because the oven takes too long.

Sufficient vegetables and fruit (the shelves are empty, but not so empty), sufficient carbohydrates (rice, pasta, oatmeal, potatoes, bread,… whatever you like) and healthy fats. By that I do not mean bags of chips and ready-to-eat whipped cream, but rather stock up on some nuts (preferably not in spreadable form). I give you permission to purchase salted nuts. Fatty fish (even from the freezer) is also a good addition.

Of course we also want to get enough protein. Everyone who reads this knows where proteins are and what good sources are, whether you are animal or vegetarian or vegan choose.

Save dry training for later

Adequate protein is important for maintaining muscle mass, but it is not the only one; there is something else: Calories. After all, calories protect against muscle breakdown. For that reason, I would be cautious about losing weight right now; if your fat percentage is quite high, you can ignore this advice and you can lose fat by applying the rules in this article and still maintain muscle mass.

If you are pretty dry or even in prep (for a game that is probably not going through right now; I really feel sorry for you and sympathize with you, I shouldn't think that that happened to me during my prep ...) then my advice would be to temporarily go no further and aim for maintenance.

Finally: I am the last one to tell you that detoxing is necessary, but if you want to give it a try, take these weeks to take a closer look; eat healthy, eat less junk, let the alcohol stand, stop smoking (which is certainly a VERY good one with Corona), get enough sleep, etc. etc.

Maintain muscle mass

Step 3: Training

We may have the least influence on this step, or at least ... we should probably drop our usual regime. However, that does not mean that we cannot do anything at all. Just as with steps 1 and 2, we can also provide an environment in which our body retains muscle mass, even during this period.

It does require some adaptability; it is understandable to continue to bother to deviate from your standard approach, but it will not bring you anything. In addition, I do not want to break your dreams, but no one is sure that everything will be okay after April 6. Therefore, my advice would be to invest in training materials so that you can get started at home. If you have the space in terms of square meters and financially, you can get quite a lot for a few hundred euros.

However, that is certainly not your only option; for most of my clients, I've written a training periodization to get through the coming weeks, with nothing more than a few resistance bands; if you still know how to tap it somewhere you can definitely run training sessions; perhaps not with the resistances you are used to, but with some knowledge or guidance you can train the whole body. In addition, as said, see this period as one deload.

As a last consolation, it is also good to mention that the training volume required for progression is three times higher than the volume required for muscle mass retention.

Bonus tip

Apart from advice directly on training, nutrition and the lifestyle that goes with it, I would like to give my (un) requested advice and opinion a little further. You probably don't have anything better to do right now, any more than this is likely to be the longest article of mine because I have nothing better to do. So please read on, it's nice that we finally have more time to spend together. (kind of).

Step 4: Priorities

Furthermore, these weeks would be a good time to think about how you fill your days; Unfortunately, I myself have had to process a lot of other taps in the past few weeks, except for Corona, but in times like this it is also striking that you are not alone.

Without violating the government's advice and as long as you can, spend more time with your family or friends. Are you at home with your children now? Or with your partner? Good! Maybe you can teach them about the need for healthy eating and exercise. Go hiking or cycling together on a regular basis. Cook together. Play games together. (Video) call your grandfather and grandmother more often.

If this time has taught me anything so far, it is that this sport can become very selfish very quickly. Choosing for yourself is not bad at all and sometimes even good and necessary, but if you are honest with yourself you really know when you could actually do more with or for your loved ones.


Step 5: Cardio

In addition: Cardio. Many people underestimate the positive effect of cardio on health, especially when it can be done outdoors. Take a long walk through the forest or get a breath of fresh air on the beach. That 1.5 meter rule is easy to handle. Just because you can't see your heart doesn't mean that this muscle doesn't need training and isn't important. Perhaps these weeks can be a push in the right direction and I would definitely advise you to keep the cardio going when these dark times are over.


When the light at the end of the tunnel is in sight and we finally stagger out of the tunnel with our narrowed eyes and give each other a bluetooth hug or highfive (because from 2020 we will no longer do a handshake or boxing) you will hear that the birds whistle and see that the sky is blue instead of gray and filled with smog (even in the million cities in China) and the ditches and rivers in Venice are clean and filled with fish. Swans swim in the ponds in Rome, dolphins dare to return to the coastline…

Perhaps, apart from the fact that these weeks are a good deload for us and a good time to think about how we fill our time and lives, these weeks are also a good time to all think about what for a huge mess we all make of it.

Wouldn't it be nice if afterwards there seems to be a silver border around this black dark page in the book of our lives ...

This blog is written by

Jan Willem van der Klis

"My focus is on obtaining and disseminating the best possible knowledge to optimize training and nutrition"

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