Whether it’s an injury, an extended vacation, a frenetic holiday season, a draining bout of the flu or just a busier-than-usual month at work, your diet and exercise routine can easily get thrown off. A few missed workouts, some big dinners out, and suddenly you realize some of your hard-earned strength gains have slipped away and left a few pounds in their place.
The good news is, if you’ve been working out several times a week for more than a year, your muscle memory is probably pretty solid and you will likely be able to return to your previous levels of strength relatively quickly. If your diet and exercise regimen has gone off course, these strategies can reignite your focus and help get you back to healthy weight management:
Don’t kid yourself
Enthusiasm is great and all, but don’t try to make up for lost time your first day back in the gym, and don’t expect to pick up right where you left off. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends giving yourself at least two weeks to get back to full workout intensity, particularly if your absence was due to injury or illness. Overtraining won’t do you any favors—if anything, it will derail your comeback because you’ll end up feeling too sore to work out in the days following, or you’ll wind up with an injury that keeps you out of the gym for even longer.
Jog your muscle memory, but do it slowly
Slow and steady truly does win the race. Build back strength and lift endurance at a sustainable rate by starting out with high reps of lighter lifts. During your first week back, try lifting only 25-50% of your previous one-rep maximum and then increase the load by 10-20% each week. Gradually progress toward moderate reps of heavier lifts and, finally, low reps of advanced lifts. If you need additional energy and motivation, protein shakes and thermogenic pre-workout supplements with caffeine can boost calorie-burning and give you that extra drive to get to the gym and hit the ground running.
Reign in those calories
If your temporary vacation from the gym also included a temporary vacation from healthy eating, and now your jeans are fitting a little more snugly than you’d prefer, try substituting one meal a day with a meal replacement shake or bar to reduce your overall caloric intake and help you quickly shave off those pesky few pounds that crept on during your hiatus. Hop back on your nutrition grind by getting your macro ratios in check. Consider designing your diet with 40%-40%-20% in mind—carbs, protein and fats, respectively. However, if you know you respond best to a slightly different ratio, move back toward that.