What Really Happens When We Go On Holiday?

Read how our bodies react to a different environment.

Akash Vaghela Akash Vaghela · 18 Jul 2018

Training Intermediate
6 Mins

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Have you ever noticed that when you are in a different environment, such as when you go on holiday, your physique may start to look a bit ‘soft’?

If you’re deep into your transformation journey and you’ve got your non-negotiables and 3Ss in place, and you haven’t binged or smashed in the all-inclusive buffet and drinks, then there’s no need to worry – this is perfectly normal.

Within 5-7 days of being back home, you will look pretty much identical to before the holiday. Things have magically turned themselves back around. You look fuller, leaner, and tighter again.

So, what’s causing this?

First of all, the effects of this are more pronounced in males, and typically amplified the more muscle somebody carries. This is due to it being directly related to muscle tissue, and its carbohydrate storage capacity.

To use an analogy that’s been around for years: think of your muscles like balloons.

On top of water, proteins and IMTG (Intra-Muscular Triglycerides) we also store glycogen (stored carbohydrate) within them. When your muscles are full of glycogen, they are ‘full’ -like a balloon filled with air. When we reduce the amount of stored glycogen, we ‘flatten’ – like a balloon being deflated.



This leads to a softer look visually, coupled with being less vascular too.

So why does this effect happen when you’re on holiday? Especially when you’re presumably still eating a decent amount of carbohydrates?

The answer is training – or lack thereof.

When you are primed to handle nutrients (especially carbohydrates) well, i.e. through consistent training, your body becomes very efficient at shuttling them from the bloodstream straight into the cell (muscle tissue).

When you are not partitioning nutrients well, your body becomes inefficient at shuttling nutrients from the bloodstream and glucose tends to sit in the blood stream for longer rather than being stored within the cell and utilised.

There are two reason as to why this happens:

1) When you train, a process called Glut-4 Translocation taking place. Glut-4 standing for Glucose Transporter 4 (specific to muscle tissue). Muscle contraction is the single biggest thing you can do (naturally) to improve pulling glucose from the bloodstream and into the muscle/cell.

This occurs from these transporter proteins rising to the cell surface when you train. The more of these sitting at the cell surface, the better your ability to move the glucose to where you want it – hence bigger, fuller looking muscles.




The top image represents glucose sat in the bloodstream, while the bottom image shows the glut-4 transporters at the cell surface, pulling glucose into the cell.

2) The rate limiting step for glucose converting into glycogen is via an enzyme called glycogen synthase. Although its regulation isn’t 100% understood, it is strongly accepted that training is a big driver of this process.

Therefore, when you stop or reduce training, the conversion of glucose to glycogen may also be impaired.

When you train intensely and consistently (as you typically do leading into the holiday) you are not only efficient at converting glucose into glycogen, but your body also becomes very efficient at storing it. But when you go on holiday and both training frequency and intensity drop; you don’t store carbohydrate as well, leading to that ‘flat’ look.

But don’t be deflated by this, the reason for your physique pumping back up so quickly once you’re home again is simple: You start training properly again! The amount of carbohydrate you eat hasn’t necessarily changed, but how you store/utilise it has.

One last considerable factor to consider is that the foods consumed whilst on holiday are often cooked using different methods and ingredients that you are used to. Your body loves consistency and has your fluid dynamics tightly regulated. When different food types are introduced drastically, this can be thrown off, leading to increased water retention.

Increased water retention combined with muscles lacking fullness from glycogen storage means that you now have a layer of water in between the sub-cutaneous layer and your muscle tissue – blurring things further.

This means that even if you keep your training solid, your physique can still change slightly. But don’t be disheartened by this. If you maintain your transformation protocols and keep consistent with nutrition and training when home, these alterations are not permanent.

This is why those on quick fix plans end up in an endless cycle of getting fit and then rebounding on holiday in comparison to those on the long-term transformation journey. Those that have taken the time to solidify their structures, strategies and systems and understand the importance of consistency across training and nutrition, will find their physiques are easier to maintain, and will not rebound, but bounce back to the shape they were in before the holiday.

This is what we mean by being in the shape of your life for life – not just for Marbella!

To sum up, it’s normal to lose definition when on holiday. It doesn’t mean you’ve lost muscle overnight from skipping a few days of training, and it also doesn’t mean you’ve gained a tonne of body fat.

Don’t let it demotivate or throw you.

Simply enjoy the down time, understand the above processes, and when you get back absolutely kill it in the gym!

Akash VaghelaAkash Vaghela

Akash Vaghela has spent 10+ years transforming bodies and lives around the world, and in May 2017, founded RNT Fitness to serve this purpose. His vision is to see a world transformed, where ambitious high performers experience the power of the physical as the vehicle to unlock their real potential. He’s the author of the Amazon best-sellilng book Transform Your Body Transform Your Life, which explains his unique and proven five-phase methodology, is host of the RNT Fitness Radio podcast, has been featured in the likes of Men’s Health and BBC, whilst regularly speaking across the world on all things transformation.

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