The Detraining Effect: What happens when you stop training

Getting consistent with a good training program is the way forward, but the effects of stopping can be catastrophic for your training goals – and almost immediate.

So what happens?

The scientific term we’re talking about here is ‘detraining’ and its undesirable friends listed below are what happens when you switch out that sweat session for a Netflix and chill night.

Lucky for you, every one of these nightmares is totally reversible once you get back to the gym/pool/trails/road and get some consistency back. And if you’re already falling victim to some of these, start slowly to rekindle some good habits.

Your Muscle Tissue Shrinks

You know how hard you had to fight for those gains? Well, just one week of laziness can lose 2 weeks of muscle mass/strength gains. Yep – we lose it twice as fast as we gain it.

You’ll Lose Your Puff

Your ability to maintain sustained cardio efforts is hampered – in fact, in as little as 2 weeks your VO2 max (a measure of your cardiovascular fitness and your body’s ability to utilise oxygen) can decrease by 20%. If you’re just starting out, this could send you straight back to square one!

Fatty Tissue Accumulates

Without a good hill or strength session to keep your metabolism powering along, your body will lose some of its fat-killing powers and the adipose/fatty tissue starts to pile back on. Bad news is, even elite athletes will pack on as much as a 10% increase in around 6 weeks.

Your Blood Pressure Goes Sky High

Even when you’re training, your blood pressure is higher on your rest days. But link too many rest days together and within a month, your body adapts to the slower flow and your blood pressure is similar to that of your couch potato housemates.

Blood Sugars Rise

Without regular training to chew through glucose supplies, your blood sugars will start to rise pretty quickly during your detraining phase, unless you’re in to modifying your diet down to the macronutrient (and who is?). High blood sugars just so happen to be the start of wonderful things, like diabetes and heart disease.

So, what does your next session look like?

Written by

Travis Waite

Trav is a Physiotherapist with an Exercise Science background who specialises in shoulder injuries and gym-based rehab. He believes that injury rehab is an opportunity to work on performance and to emerge better than before you were injured.

Travis Waite