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Damage Control

If you're forced to take an extended break from training, use these supplement strategies to hold onto as much of your hard-earned muscle as possible.

Damage Control

One question I get asked often is what to do if you're suddenly faced with an injury that will force you to take a few weeks off from the gym. Or the layoff from the gym may be due to severe illness, or even a long vacation where time and equipment is limited and it's likely that training won't take place. These questions usually have to do with preventing muscle and strength losses and whether or not to bother taking supplements during the down time.

My answers to both of these questions actually go together: You should continue taking your supplements during a layoff to prevent muscle and strength losses. Specifically, a high protein diet, creatine, BCAAs and fish oil have all been shown to help prevent muscle and strength losses during inactivity. So be sure to take these supplements even when you're not training.

In the JYM product line, both Pre JYM and Post JYM Active Matrix include BCAAs and creatine, so feel free to choose between those two and take one scoop a day of one or the other during your layoff (whereas you'd normally take both on training days). Pro JYM (my blended protein powder) will help you reach your protein intake goals, so take 1-3 scoops daily, depending on how much protein you're getting through whole foods. Omega JYM has your fish oil needs covered, and in fact, fish oil is a supplement that virtually everyone should take, even non-exercisers. Similarly, a multivitamin/multimineral is always a good idea to stick with for general health benefits, and of course I recommend Vita JYM.

And then there's HMB, which a recent study found can help prevent muscle loss as well. HMB (beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate) is a metabolite of leucine that has shown a lot of promise for preventing muscle breakdown and improving muscle growth, and even aiding fat loss. Researchers from the University of Arkansas reported in the journal Clinical Nutrition that healthy subjects undergoing 10 days of complete bed rest and taking a placebo lost about 5 pounds of muscle mass. However, a group undergoing the same 10 days of bed rest but taking 3 grams of HMB per day (two 1.5-gram doses) lost ZERO muscle mass!

Jim's Take-Home Points:

If you're faced with a layoff from the gym of a week or longer, be sure to do the following to prevent muscle and strength loss.

1.) Consume at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight daily, and preferably closer to 1.5 grams per pound. Use a protein powder like Pro JYM that contains both whey and casein to help you hit this much protein per day and to get in ample amounts of quality dairy protein, which are superior for maintaining and building muscle mass.

2.) To prevent fat gain during the layoff, keep carbohydrate intake to about 0.5 grams per pound of body weight.

3.) Take one scoop of either Pre JYM or Post JYM daily specifically for the creatine and BCAAs (branched-chain amino acids), both of which will help you hold onto your hard-earned muscle. If you have a separate BCAA product, take 5 grams of that another 1-3 times per day.

4.) Take full daily doses (four capsules) of Omega JYM fish oil.

5.) Take 1.5-3 grams of HMB with a protein shake twice per day for a total of 3-6 grams of HMB daily.



Deutz, N. E. P., et al. Effect of β-hydroxy-β-methylbutyrate (HMB) on lean body mass during 10 days of bed rest in older adults. Clinical Nutrition, in press, 2013.

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