We all go through phases of less physical activity! The reasons can be many, right from professional commitments, household chores, professional & personal travel, injury & illness. There are times when you cannot find time to workout. Even athletes take breaks in between, specifically during off season break with periods of less or no physical activity for days to weeks. Throughout these inactive times, we have been told that all the muscle gain & toning begin to wane out. Does this short term layoff mean all the hard work we did at home /at the gym goes in vain? Does it mean what you lose during this activity is again going to take a lot of time to regain & grow? The answer to this question is “ NO”. The gene expression in our muscle makes our muscle remember previous workouts allowing them to grow in size faster when workout is resumed. Our muscles actually possess molecular memory in the form of epigenetics marks on our DNA. These chemical tags/marks tell the tale of when skeletal muscles grew after a workout & could possibly help them grow later on.

These marks are not only adjusted for resistance exercise but also can be remembered for muscle growth when you resume your workout (even when muscle reverts back to its original size). This epigenetic memory is stored above DNA in the form of DNA methylation, an epigenetic mechanism that impacts genes expression. Methyl groups suppress gene expressions or turn genes off when added on the top DNA through methylation. When methyl groups are removed, gene expression is increased. Epigenetics can impact gene expressions without changing gene sequence (A,C,G,T alphabets).

You might think that resistance/muscle building training you have been waiting to sign up will not give you results since it’s been long since you indulged in weight training, your muscles might actually remember it.

Let us discuss “Muscle Memory” in detail

Muscle memory describes the phenomenon of muscle fibres regaining size & strength faster than initially gaining them. For example, for a regular & advanced weightlifter gaining a few pounds of muscle every year is normal. However, if they stop lifting & lose say 3 to 5 pounds of muscles, they would take only a month or so to regain after they resume workout. Regaining your aerobic capacity after lay-off is much easier than initially gaining it. Muscle memory is a long term reward you earn because of hard work you put into muscle building & strength. Do it once & you will find it easier to do it again.

Muscle cells are unique in the sense they contain multiple nuclei which carry DNA that drives construction of new muscle proteins. The nucleus of a cell is responsible for increasing or decreasing various cellular chemicals & activities, regulating cellular replication & repair & impacting other vital functions. Think of the nucleus of a cell as a “brain”. It is limited by the cell’s ability to grow larger. Since our muscle contains multiple brains, they can grow significantly larger than most other cells in the body. In order to grow bigger, muscle cells should add more myonuclei (multiple nuclei). The catch is that muscle cells cannot produce/add more myonuclei. They borrow it from other stem cells. These stem cells are special cells that can be developed in various cells in our body. There are different types of stem cells in the body. However those required for muscle growth are called satellite cells. These cells lie dormant near muscle cells & become active as needed to repair damaged muscle fibres. Once active, Satellite cells donate their nuclei to damaged muscle cells which not only repair the damaged muscle fibre but also aid in growth of size & strength. This is our body’s fundamental adaptation to muscle training that helps our muscles grow bigger & better. The more you train, the more myonuclei your muscle cells accumulate which makes them more resistant to muscle damage. This means you have to work harder for more satellite cell activation. This is where your “muscle memory” comes into picture- once a satellite cell has donated its nucleus, it stays there for good. It is important to note that the concept of satellite cell activation is one aspect of growth.

Our muscle fibres grow up till a point after which it requires additional myonuclei. So the only way to grow is to keep on adding myonuclei. So it essentially means that if you stop training for some weeks, you will lose strength & muscle size. But the additional myonuclei you worked so hard for will remain for some time or forever. This is the reason you can regain your muscle quicker & faster than you will if you train your muscle you never had- your muscle does not need to activate new satellite cells to regain the growth. You can simple work with hardware you have got in your muscle cells

Key takeaways

When you train your muscles, you damage your muscle fibres.
This causes satellite cells to get activated & donate nuclei to muscle cells for repair & recovery.
These additional myonuclei increase the ability of muscle cells to grow bigger & stronger.
Inside muscle cell, myonuclei stays for a longer period of time, may be forever.

If you have gained a large amount of muscle & then lose due to workout layoff, once you resume your workout you build your muscle faster.

Do not go by what the “self proclaimed experts” tell you – if you stop training muscles, you will lose muscles & it becomes difficult to regain. Once you train your muscles harder, your muscles cells increase ability to regain faster & stronger! Are you looking to build that strong muscles or get that athletic body to take part in the next marathon or sprint? Do not go by the standard solution of gyms/fitness centers or so called “fitness experts”.

Let your genes decide what you should eat & how you should sweat. Sign up for our genomics based personalised athletic coaching. We use genetic insights to deliver a personalised fitness solution for athletes.

Author's Bio: 

Passion for Fitness is a global fitness company that offers genomics based online fitness coaching solution for folks who do not have time to take care of their health. They offer a curated nutrition & workout plan based on genetic code of their customers & help them adopt a healthy lifestyle to aid with their fitness goals. They are serving customers from across the globe.