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Q | How can I regain muscle mass after illness?

A | The more physically fit you were prior to getting sick or injured, the less quickly your body will show signs of detraining during a period of inactivity, says Chris Howard, MS, CSCS, a strength-and-conditioning coach in Massachusetts who works with baseball players.

To rebuild muscles after an illness, the key is to train diligently, he says, but not so aggressively that you risk injury. “The tendency of many people is to want to get back into training the way they were prior to getting sick, but you are better off easing back into it,” Howard says.

He offers the following tips.

  • Start with three days of strength training per week. Also, allow at least 48 hours of recovery between workouts that target the same muscle groups. A split-body program (performing upper- and lower-body exercises on alternating days) will help you maximize training days while allowing for sufficient recovery. If this program is more aggressive than your usual routine, scale back to two days of training.
  • Focus on multijoint movements. The majority of your workout should consist of multijoint movements such as deadlifts, squat and lunge variations, presses, and rows. These are the most effective for building muscle mass.
  • Work within 65 to 85 percent of your one-rep-max. Research shows that this is most effective for achieving hypertrophy (increase in muscle size). Use a resistance that you can lift for eight to 10 repetitions.
  • Eat more protein than normal. Eat up to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight during your rebuilding period. Also increase your intake of vegetables, healthy fats, and fruits, and consider supplementing with fish oil. “Micronutrients and healthy fats are especially important after injury,” says Howard. “They support metabolic pathways in the body and reduce inflammation.”

This article has been updated. It was originally published in the November 2014 issue of Experience Life.

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. Good morning Nichole. Found you article looking for workout help. I have a auto-aim disease dermatomyogitis dm for short. Lost 25 to 30 lbs mostly muscles mass with this disease. This year June. Your article is helpful for me going to start a new program today 12/23/2021. Could use more help with a exercise program for people like me. Our muscles are week and gone. I work out with 5/10 lbs weighs 75% less then I use to. I workout to much , muscles are to sore to do anything for about 5/7 days especially around my chest area. No one has much of any knowledge. On working out. Was hoping you would be up for a challenge. Thanks for all you will do. This is just not for me we all have this issue. Thank You Happy Holidays. Sincerely James Hixson

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