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.

So,
  • 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.



7 comments:

  1. very well explained

    ReplyDelete
  2. this is the point....EXACT....

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hii

    Just a question Bhushan..the person before he joined the gym with 2500 cal worth food intake had a specific bodyweight of say x kgs and he just wanted to maintain it...ideally with gym his weight should be like x-300 cals (going by your example) and now when he stops gym n maintains his regular intake of 2500 cals he should get back to his original weight of x kgs...so if everything is dependent on intake and consumption and if he doesnt want any muscle toning(which is as such will lose after leaving gym)..he can just control his intake or can go for walks...
    Why gym?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hii

    Just a question Bhushan..the person before he joined the gym with 2500 cal worth food intake had a specific bodyweight of say x kgs and he just wanted to maintain it...ideally with gym his weight should be like x-300 cals (going by your example) and now when he stops gym n maintains his regular intake of 2500 cals he should get back to his original weight of x kgs...so if everything is dependent on intake and consumption and if he doesnt want any muscle toning(which is as such will lose after leaving gym)..he can just control his intake or can go for walks...
    Why gym?

    ReplyDelete
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