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7 Ways to Maintain Muscle When You're Not Working Out

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    Injured? Work Around It

    Consider exercising the rest of your (non-injured) body. "If your left leg is injured, for example, there's benefit to training the uninjured leg," says David Hooper, MS, CSCS, a graduate research assistant in the Ohio State University College of Education and Human Ecology. "It has been shown to transfer to the injured limb to some degree." Yes, exercising one part of your body can help maintain muscle in other parts—crazy, right?

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    Drink Wine

    If you haven't heard, red wine contains a powerful antioxidant called resveratrol, which acts on protein breakdown and fights against oxidative stress and cell death—all good things when it comes to maintaining muscle. Turns out, everyone's fave antiox may even help muscles grow, suggests a Journal of Translational Medicine study. Don't use this as an excuse to down an entire bottle, but don't feel bad about enjoying a glass after a long day at work, either.

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    Enjoy a Burger

    You've probably seen creatine at your local supplement store, but it's also found in red meat. Creatine provides fuel for muscles and has been shown to maintain muscle strength and size when you're injured, says Jeffrey R. Stout, PhD, associate professor at the University of Central Florida and author of the book, Essentials of Creatine in Sport and Health.

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    Eat Protein

    Dutch researchers found that maintaining protein intake may help preserve muscle during a prolonged workout break (protein provides the body with amino acids, the building blocks of muscle). "Quality protein sources such as animal protein (poultry, eggs, fish, beef, low-fat dairy) and plant-based protein (soy, beans, legumes, vegetables, nuts, and seeds) should be included in every meal and snack," suggests Arizona-based registered dietitian and nutritionist Tiffani Bachus. "Aim for 3 to 5 ounces at each meal and 2 to 3 ounces at snack time."

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    Limit Carbs

    Less activity should mean fewer carbohydrates: "When your body's active, carbohydrates are used for energy (along with fat)," says Bachus. When you're inactive? Excess carbs are stored as fat. Bachus suggests consuming approximately 15 to 25 grams of carbohydrates at each meal and snack.

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    Picture Yourself Exercising

    Exercise your imagination on your off days. In a Journal of Neurophysiology study, 29 subjects had a cast placed on their non-dominant arm for four weeks. Half of the subjects imagined contracting their forearm muscles and flexing their wrists for five seconds (without actually doing it). The other half didn't do the mental imagery exercises. At the end of the month, those who performed the metal imagery only lost 24 percent of their strength compared to the 45 percent lost by the group who did used their imaginations.

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    Bust Your Butt Before Your Break

    If you know you're going on vacation or foresee a crazy schedule next week, workout harder THIS week. If you work harder than usual, your body will need more time to recover, allowing you to build muscle during your hiatus, says Hooper.