It’s a sad side-effect of illness, injury and even time out of the gym; losing your hard earned gains. In training this is referred to in broader terms as ‘The Reversibility Principle’. Essentially, athletes lose the effects of training after they stop working out with reductions in muscle strength and even mass starting relatively quickly after training is stopped.
Most coaches suggest that lifting once a week will maintain this mass, preventing loss, however there are occasional circumstances when lifting is impossible. Broken bones, man flu, unforeseen life events – they all present a barrier to training at some times in our life.
So what’s the best way to minimise losses in strength and muscle mass? A new study from McMaster University may have unlocked the answer while researching the rebuilding of lost muscle mass in seniors.
The scientists compared the results from different protein sources on inactive adults who had experienced prolonged hospital stays (and associated muscle loss), and found that whey protein was the most effective way to regain lost muscle.
"The important message here is that not all proteins are created equal. Whey is one of the highest quality proteins," says professor of kinesiology at McMaster, Stuart Phillips.
However the miracle protein does have limitations. While whey protein, or any other source for that matter, couldn’t prevent muscle loss during inactivity, the benefits exist in its ability to regain the lost muscle quicker than other sources.
"While we already know that complete protein sources are more potent for stimulating building processes we were surprised to discover that after two weeks of limiting steps among the participants, there were no apparent differences in muscle loss between the two groups," says Sara Oikawa the lead author and a graduate student in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster.