How much muscle and strength would you lose if you don't exercise for a few weeks
I was making some really good progress in bodybuilding; you could definitely how big my biceps, triceps and shoulders were getting. Unfortunately though, I was caught in an unforseen circumstance and I couldn't find the motivation to exercise and a few weeks later when I looked at my body in the mirror, I felt really angry with myself for letting me down.
Most of the time, I'm able to pull myself up but going through a breakup with a person you've been with for years is not an easy thing to do. On the first day, I told myself I will take today off because I didn't feel like working out. On the second day, I said the same thing. Third day, I convinced myself this week was a write off and I will start back again the following week. And when the following week came, I told myself I was not ready yet. By the time I was on the 3rd week, I just didn't have any willpower left in me and I would just sit on the couch, watch Youtube and feel sorry for myself.
Come the Monday of the fourth week, I still didn't feel like exercising but I didn't let myself have the usual conversation in my mind as I know I will again come up with excuses once more. So I just drank my pre-workout drink, got changed into my gym clothes and just went for it.
Loss of Strength
My brain was trying to convince me not to do any strenous activity. Mondays are usually squat days for me and I knew it would be very exhausting so the voice in my head repeatedly said to skip this one and move on to arms instead. I didn't listen though but I knew my strength would not be the same as before. Now I'm a pretty skinny guy, so my max on the squat was 55kg for 6 reps in a set of 3 but prior to my "breakdown", I was focusing more on volume and doing 10x3 with 45kg instead. I decided to to 40kg instead and I was really struggling. I expected this anyway.
Other exercises as well suffered from the lack of strength. I was doing tricep extensions on the rings (forward bend and vertical movement) and both seemed really difficult. I was not able to hold a one arm deadhang for even a few seconds while previously I could do 10s on each arm.
I discarded doing biceps on the rings because those 4 exercises already drained me. It is worth noting I opted for bodyweight exercises instead of barbell/dumbell weighted ones as I wanted to ease myself into working out.
Loss of Muscle in just 3 Weeks
I took a picture and compared it with 3 weeks ago and as you've probably guessed, I've lost a significant amount of muscle. You can clearly see the difference in my shoulders and bicep peak. This is the most discouraging thing for me as I worked hard to get where I was before and now that's gone. I feel weaker and I look thinner too, contrary to what I wanted.
My Crap Diet and Intermittent Fasting
A month before I stopped working out, I made myself a really good diet plan. I had all my macros sorted. Knowing I was not going to exercise led me to start eating fast food, crisps, chocolates with few or no vegetables at all. This is purely psychological, if you exercise, you're more likely to eat healthily.
Luckily though, I did intermittent fasting (IF) for 16 hours everyday (20:30 - 12:30) as I knew my crap diet would lead to fat accummulation over my belly if I was not careful. I actually lost some fat after those 3 weeks and that's all due to IF.
The Bottom Line
If you stop working out, you will lose some of your strength and muscle even if you keep eating well balanced food. How much you will eventually lose depends on the length of time you stay inactive.
Life is unpredictable and tough times will surely come but it's not about how hard you hit the ground but how fast you're able to get up.