Sunday, July 15, 2012

What happens when you stop going to the gym

I've had many queries on this subject and I've heard some interesting theories about working out and what happens when you stop going to the gym.

Of all the things that are believed to happen after you stop working out, this one is perhaps the most widely accepted :  "When you stop working out, your muscle gets converted into fat."

Yes, people tell me how they lost all the muscle, after they stopped exercising , because all of it got converted into fat. However unlike this popular belief, muscle does not get converted to fat. Let me tell you what happens with 95% of the people ( My believed percentage)  who stop going to the gym.

When a person goes to a gym, he burns off , say 300 calories every day. Say, he is a fit person, who is happy with his current weight and body fat percentage and is going to the gym to keep himself fit or maintain his/her current weight. Let's assume he consumes 2500 calories. Now , of these 2500 calories , consider, he burns 2200 calories every day for his normal body functioning (Basal Metabolic Rate)  i.e. Respiration , Cardiovascular function, digestion, moving around , internal body chemical reactions , to maintain body temperature and for millions of other things that happen inside our bodies.

  • Calories IN, from Food: 2500
  • Calories burnt for normal bodily functions and external activities  : 2200
  • Additional Calories Burnt in the gym: 300
  • Total Calories used/ Calories OUT: 2200 + 300 = 2500.
  • Additional calories stored: ZERO
Net effect; since Calories IN = Calories OUT , he/she neither gains weight nor loses weight. Thus, this becomes his maintenance program, and he lives happily ever after.

Reason for the myth then??
So, all is well in this person's life. He's happy with his weight. Now for whatever reasons, he decides to stop going to the gym for a month.So, he stops exercising everyday. If he is not exercising everyday, he isn't expending 300 calories towards his workouts everyday. So, If he isn't expending those 300 calories towards the workout, ideally he must consume 300 calories less everyday, since he doesn't need the calories anymore to fuel his workouts. So, he must consume 2200 Calories from Food now.

However, he forgets to cut these 300 calories from his food. Now here's what happens:
  •  Extra calories consumed everyday : 300
  • No. of calories in one pound of fat: 3500
  • IF he continues his current diet without working out, he will gain 1 pound of fat in : 3500/300 =  12 days. 
  • Thus he will gain 5 pounds in 60 days i.e. Approx 2.5 kgs in 2 months!
Chances are , now that he's fit , he thinks, he can eat anything and get away with it. So he may consume more food /more unhealthy food during this time when he isn't working out. So he piles on more fat.

Now, in areas where he was lean, he sees fat, that has started piling on.
This makes him think that all the muscle has got converted into fat. However, in the Universe that we live in, Fat can never turn into muscle and muscle can never turn into fat! unless of course, if you some superpowers by which you can do it. But then again, how many people must there be in this universe, who can boast of having such mad superpowers? Let's not digress.

So, his muscle is intact , but now covered with fat that he has gained from consuming MORE CALORIES THAN HE NOW BURNS.

Also, here's why Muscle and Fat are not inter-convertible: 

  • Fat and Muscle are two chemically different compounds / objects with two very different roles and functions in the body
  • Note how 5 Pounds of Muscle looks vs 5 Pounds of Fat

  • While Muscles Burn Calories, Fat Cells store calories

  • Structure of Muscles

  • Structure of Fat Cells

I rest my case.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Post Workout Mistakes

Couple of good quotes on Working out;
  1. No matter how slow you walk or move, you are lapping the guys on the couch
  2.  Your body gets better after each and every workout.
These 2 beliefs motivate me to hit the gym on days when I have almost given up.
Now, while every workout has the potential to make you fitter and healthier than what you were before that workout, follow the below guidelines to make sure you get the most out of your workout , once you get done with it: 

1. Must Stretch after a Workout:

Most guys think , Stretching is for Sissies. Not True! Stretching is essential because: 
  • Contracting the muscle while working out shortens it and makes it tight. Stretching after a workout brings the muscle back to its original size and eases the tension in the fibres
  • Stretching the muscle , frees the muscle of Lactic Acid or other waste caught up in the muscle. This reduces the soreness in the muscles after a workout and ensures speedy growth & recovery of the muscle 
  • Stretching improves flexibility and keeps you nimble even while packing on muscle. Hence, to avoid looking like one of those guys who move like robots ... Stretch!
  1. DO NOT stretch BEFORE a workout, because muscles are just like rubber/elastic and if stretched while cold, can lead to injuries
  2. After a workout, stretch all your muscles only to a point where it's comfortable. Remember, Goal of Post Workout stretching is to aid recovery ,growth and maintain current flexibility, not increase it. To increase the range of motion of your muscles, practise Yoga  
2. Must Refuel yourself after a Workout

After a workout, your muscles are craving for good quality nutrients from good healthy nutritive food.
Hence , it is necessary to refuel yourself after a workout.
By refuel, I do not mean have a sugary drink/canned fruit juice/Glucon D/Glucose. ( unless you are feeling dizzy and severely dehydrated after a very very long and exhausting workout).  Focus on consuming fast absorbing protein(whey) and Simple carbohydrates like Potato, Rice, White Bread. etc. and other healthy food like Dals , Pulses, Chapatis etc.

3. Have a contrast bath

This is an excellent technique to help speed up the growth and recovery of muscles and reduce soreness in muscles.
Alternate Hot and Cold water on your Spine causes Vasodilation(Widening of Blood Vessels ) and Vasoconstriction(Contracting of Blood Vessels). This results in flushing out of waste material from the cells and improves circulation of Nutrients throughout the cells.

4.Must Sleep for at least 8 hours 

Muscles do not grow while you workout. Infact , working out damages the muscles. They grow by recuperating and healing themselves with the right Nutrition and right rest that we give them, only AFTER you work out.
Not giving muscles adequate rest can be a major reason for not seeing any progress towards your fitness goals and no other form of rest matches the good ol' peaceful ZZZZZZZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Here's a way to wake up Fresh every morning.

Also, Not giving your body enough rest may result in Overtraining and greatly increase risk of injuries.
One must take a week of rest from Working out or workout at a very very low intensity for a week every 3-4 months , to give your body adequate rest and a chance to fully recover from any nagging aches /injuries. You will be surprized to see that you have become Stronger after the break! This is because in that one week your body recovered , healed itself and made itself stronger and more prepared for the next challenge. That's how the body works.

So remember, After a workout:

  1. Stretch
  2. Eat well
  3. Sleep well