Exercising consistently is well known as one of the best ways to prevent unwanted weight gain, but what do you do if you have to take time off from exercise or your everyday level of activity decreases? When this happens, many people end up gaining weight, but there are some things you can do to prevent or minimize this unwanted weight gain.
There are many things that can cause you to have to take a break from exercising, such as an illness or injury, and your ability to manage these situations has a significant impact on long-term success. Any time you can’t workout for an extended period of time, you will lose some overall fitness and most people gain at least a little fat. Beyond that, you can choose whether you want to minimize decreases in muscle or minimize increases in body fat and weight gain.
Naturally, it is best if you can minimize both things, but if exercising stops for a long period of time, you may have to focus on one or the other. If you want to decrease fat gain, then you will definitely want to cut some extra calories.
Eating less will help prevent fat gain and you could possibly even lose some weight, but the more you cut your calories, the more likely you will be to have greater and faster decreases in muscle mass, which in turn decreases your overall fitness.
Personally, I take the approach of trying to maintain muscle as much as possible and I don’t worry as much about gaining fat. My reasoning is because newly gained fat is generally easier to lose than fat that has been on your body for many years, and it usually goes away fairly quickly once exercise is resumed.
If have found that it takes much more time and effort to regain decreases in muscle and fitness than it does to lose newly gained fat, Therefore, I keep my calorie intake close to normal to help prevent my body from breaking down muscle to use as energy, which almost always happens when restricting calorie intake and not exercising.
Of course this is just my personal experience and if you are someone who gains muscle easily or has a lot of trouble losing any type of fat, then you should focus on eating as healthy as possible and cutting calories instead. If you decrease your calorie intake by the same amount as your activity level decreases, then you should minimize any fat or weight gain.
For example, if you usually maintain weight by eating 2200 calories per day and your normal activity burns around 400 calories per day, they you should decrease your calories to around 1800 until you are able to resume your regular exercise routine. Otherwise, those extra 400 calories will most likely just get converted into fat, unless you have a naturally fast metabolism.
However, even if you decrease your calories by the same amount as your activity, you can still gain some weight, due to a possible decrease in metabolism. Exercise usually stimulates your metabolism to burn extra calories during the day in addition to those burned during the activity, so you may have to cut your calories even more to prevent weight gain.
Everyone is a little different when it comes to how their body responds when they stop exercising, so you may have to experiment with your calorie intake to figure out what works best for you.