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How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle and Increase Fat Loss?

How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle and Increase Fat Loss?

“Can I look like you in 3 months?”

The teenager stared at me, waiting eagerly for a response. It’s a normal day as a certified fitness coach and yet again, I had to grab some flying feet and put them down on the ground of reality again.

“If I would be able to reach this body in 3 months, you think it would’ve taken me 5 years?” I responded smilingly.

In the same moment I tapped the teenager on the shoulder and we both went to the training floor together. Fast forward to today, he eventually reached his dream body. But it took him a little bit longer than 3 months.

In this article, I want to give you a broad overview and answer to the commonly asked question: how long does it take to build muscle and increase fat loss?

Your biggest enemy for building muscle and fat loss

I remember when I joined my first gym years back. After two weeks of continuous training, I saw absolutely no difference in the mirror.

I googled “2 weeks body transformation” and was frustrated by seeing all these pictures by savvy marketers.

We human beings have evolved to seek instant gratification. We can’t wait for things to happen tomorrow. We want them today or even better, yesterday.

It doesn’t matter if we talk about business or our fitness results. If we truly want to make a long-lasting change, we have to delay our innate need to crave gratification instantly and focus on the big picture.

In the book called Grit by Angela Duckworth, a predictor for future success in children was the so called ‘Marshmallow Test’.

The Marshmallow Test works this way. Children are basically given two options:

  1. Eat the marshmallow in front of them right now.
  2. Wait 10 minutes without eating the first marshmallow and get a second marshmallow to eat on top.

This is an insane test of willpower and the ability to delay gratification for an even bigger payoff, as a 10-year old school child. If the child already mastered that crucial skill at such a young age, it was a strong predictor for future success.

We all have to learn how to delay gratification better. Most people overestimate what they can do in one month, but totally underestimate what they can do in 10 years.

What you really need to build muscle fast

Your ground zero

It all matters on which point we start off. Because the reality is:

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Everyone has to start somewhere.

A former Olympic athlete will have an easier time building muscles and losing fat than an avid couch potato. There are mainly two reasons for this:

  • The pre-selected genetic blueprint of the athlete.
  • Work ethic of a professional.

While countless of variables play a role in influencing your success in the gym, it all can be traced back to those crucial points. And the saying still holds merit:

Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn’t work hard. — Tim Notke

A mentor of mine told me years ago that you can succeed in life if you just don’t give up.

You can have average skills, average genetics and average work ethic. As long as you keep improving on your craft, you will succeed.

Not immediately – but definitely and finally.

Setting the right expectations

I’m great at setting unrealistic goals and having the wrong expectations. I wanted to have 100,000 subscribers on my Youtube Channel and at the end of my first year when I started, back in 2015, I ended up with 30.

This is an embarrassing story, but I hope it gets one point across:

Your goals need to be realistic if you can’t deal with the setbacks of not reaching them.

Ending up with 30 subscribers even after pulling frequent all-nighters to get this endeavor rolling was soul-crushing. I contemplated throwing in the towel.

With the right support from my network and discipline, I managed to keep going. The channel has now grown 100-fold in those 3 years.

To find out what is realistic, consider the next timeline.

The muscle growth timeline

Here’s what results you can expect if your main goal is building lean tissue mass. Warning: Genuine muscle growth without performance enhancing drugs takes a long time.

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Of course these time periods can vary individually depending on your genetic blueprint and work-ethic. You might see results sooner, or maybe even later.

The time frame is set to training 2-3 times per week (continuously!).

Pro tip: Ask a friend or hire a coach to boost your progress tremendously.

This is what happens when you decide to join a gym, out of my experience training hundreds of clients:

Month 1-3

Eat – Sleep – Gym – Repeat.

Your motivation is at your peak at this point. You will tell your friends and family about your new workout regime. You will notice slight differences in your appearance, which are mainly nonexistent.

You will experience immense strength gains on your training because your body finally realizes how to use its muscles properly.

Month 3-6

This is the time period where most people break. You will be going to the gym consistently, yet the results won’t come just now. It’s the big dip in the whole process.

Your goal in this phase is to build a habit around your gym visits. You will most likely discontinue to have the all-in mentality as in the first 3 months. You will seek sustainability. Breaking news: It will still be hard.

But in the end it’s all worth it. Trust me.

Month 6-12

“I’ve seen a new vein in my arm!”

The guy came up to me excited. This is the time where the normal person starts to see considerable results in his training.

An old friend will talk to him and see a difference in his body shape. Suddenly, his old t-shirt gets too thin. The frequent gym-goer feels amazing.

Month 12- 24

Fitness is a trojan horse. While you might think frequent training will only change your body shape, your character will be impacted too.

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Your friends and family will notice. You’re more confident, assertive and more happy with your self-image. You feel confident and sure in your abilities because you have achieved what you set out to do.

Breaking news:

You will still not be satisfied. And that’s a good thing. But don’t forget to enjoy the fruits of your labour.

They haven’t come easy.

Month 24+

“That’s what works for me!”

If you’ve been going frequently and consistently (twice every week for 2 years), you can pat yourself on the shoulders.

If you’ve done most things correctly and with a certified coach, you will reach the goal shape at this point. But this is also the point where it can get frustrating.

Further results will come painstakingly slow at this stage. You increasingly have to work on your weaknesses and constantly alter your training to see further results. Be it applying different repetitions, intensity, workout duration, speed or machines.

A lot of people will not see results after this stage because the benefits are not worth the work for them. We have to realize that what got us here, will not get us to the next level.

The fat loss timeline

If you’re trying to lose fat, I have 2 pieces of news for you:

  1. It will come faster. Fat loss has a shorter timeline.
  2. It will be exactly as hard as building muscles, if not harder.

Here’s what you can expect if you’re starting to lose weight. Here again: Proper guidance can speed up the process.

Month 1

“I’ve lost 10kg in the first week!”

Your results will come fast. Too fast.

You will feel exhausted. Most of your weight that you lose will be water. This is the big dip in the whole weight loss process.

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The shocking news: Most people stop their diet in the first month.

Month 2-3

You will reconsider your dieting strategy and opt for more sustainability. You will reintroduce “bad foods” in your diet that you’ve most likely blocked out in the first two weeks or month.

Because balance (and not quitting your diet) is more important to you at this stage than seeing rapid weight loss. Your life quality will increase at this stage.

Month 6-12

At this time frame, you have probably lost more than 10kg. The majority of the people looking to lose weight will be satisfied with their results and shocked by how much of a difference it makes in their appearance.

You will feel more confident, more energized and more self-assured. You would’ve never guessed that you could make it, that you could finally lose your weight – yet you did!

And everyone will notice. “What happened to you?!” – your friends will ask you jealously. Old crushes of you will suddenly initiate contact again just to know what you’re “up to this weekend”.

The fat loss after this stage will come slowly if you haven’t been obese to start with. The goal at this stage is to have created a rock-solid habit out of your gym and eating patterns.

Then you don’t have to worry about the Yo-Yo effect.

Conclusion

“You changed my life!”

The same teenager took me aside at a Monday evening. He had his first date the weekend prior. Apparently it went well.

In the whole time frame we worked together, he built up more than 10 kilograms of muscles. It took him more than 2 years. Yet I’m sure if you’d ask him today, he would tell you that it was all worth it.

Focus on the things that you can control. Losing fat or building muscles might be an overwhelming task to start out with. We have to delay our innate need for instant gratification and focus on the things that we can control.

Changing our genetic blueprint or the responses our muscles have to the training stimulus is not in our hands. But training at least 2 times per week, eating the right foods and setting the right goals and expectations is.

Featured photo credit: Arthur Edelman via unsplash.com

More by this author

Florian Wüest

Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

Why You Should Keep a Fitness Journal to Jumpstart Weight Loss The Truth Behind Rapid Weight Loss and the Best Way to Shed Pounds How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle and Increase Fat Loss? How Vegan Bodybuilding Diet Keeps Hunger at Bay While Plant Based The Biggest Myth Debunked: The More Protein You Eat, the Faster You Build Muscles?

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Last Updated on March 30, 2020

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

Feeling tired all the time?

Have you ever caught yourself nodding off when you’re watching TV, listening to someone drone on during a meeting or even driving a car?

I know I have, especially when I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive.

Feeling tired all the time may be more widespread than you think. In fact, two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week.[1]

If you’re tired of feeling tired, then I’ve got some great news for you. New research is helping us gain critical insights into the underlying causes of feeling tired all the time.

In this article, we’ll discuss the latest reasons why you’re feeling tired all the time and practical steps you can take to finally get to the bottom of your fatigue and feel rested.

What Happens When You’re Too Tired

If you sleep just two hours less than the normal eight hours, you could be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.[2] And you’ve probably experienced the impact yourself.

Here are some common examples of what happens when you’re feeling tired:[3]

  • You may have trouble focusing because memory and learning functions may be impaired within your brain.
  • You may experience mood swings and an inability to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not because your brain’s neurotransmitters are misfiring.
  • You may get dark circles under your eyes and/or your skin make look dull and lackluster in the short term and over time your skin may get wrinkles and show signs of aging because your body didn’t have time to remove toxins during sleep.
  • You may find it more difficult to exercise or to perform any type of athletic activity.
  • Your immune system may weaken causing you to pick up infections more easily.
  • You may overeat because not getting enough sleep activates the body’s endocannabinoids even when you’re not hungry.
  • Your metabolism slows down so what you eat is more likely to be stored as belly fat.

Are you saying that feeling tired can make me overweight?

Unfortunately, yes!

Feeling tired all the time can cause you to put on the pounds especially around your waist. But it is a classic chicken and egg situation, too.

Heavier people are more likely to feel fatigued during the day than lighter ones. And that’s even true for overweight people who don’t have sleep apnea (source: National Institutes of Health).

Speaking of sleep apnea, you may be wondering if that or something else is causing you to feel tired all the time.

Why Are you Feeling Tired All the Time?

Leading experts are starting to recognize that there are three primary reasons people feel tired on a regular basis: sleep deprivation, fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

Here’s a quick overview of each root cause of feeling tired all of the time:

  1. Tiredness occurs from sleep deprivation when you don’t get high-quality sleep consistently. It typically can be solved by changing your routine and getting enough deep restorative sleep.
  2. Fatigue occurs from prolonged sleeplessness which could be triggered by numerous issues such as mental health issues, long-term illness, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep apnea or stress. It typically can be improved by changing your lifestyle and using sleep aids or treatments, if recommended by your physician.
  3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that occurs from persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep.

The exact cause of CFS is not known, but it may be due to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance or emotional trauma.

It typically involves working with a doctor to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing and treating CFS.[4]

Always consult a physician to get a personal diagnosis about why you are feeling tired, especially if it is a severe condition.

Feeling Tired vs Being Fatigued

If lack of quality sleep doesn’t seem to be the root cause for you, then it’s time to explore fatigue as the reason you are frequently feeling tired.

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Until recently, tiredness and fatigue were thought to be interchangeable. Leading experts now realize that tiredness and fatigue are different.

Tiredness is primarily about lack of sleep.

But fatigue is a perceived feeling of being tired that is much more likely to occur in people who have depression, anxiety or emotional stress and/or are overweight and physically inactive (source: Science Direct).

Symptoms of fatigue include:

  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Low stamina
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Anxiety
  • Low motivation

These symptoms may sound similar to those of tiredness but they usually last longer and are more intense.

Unfortunately, there is no definitive reason why fatigue occurs because it can be a symptom of an emotional or physical illness. But there are still a number of steps you can take to reduce difficult symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

How Much Sleep Is Enough?

The number one reason you may feel tired is because of sleep deprivation which means you are not getting enough high-quality sleep.

Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep per night. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.

So, quantity and quality do matter when it comes to sleep.

The key to quality sleep is being able to get long, uninterrupted sleep cycles throughout the night. It typically takes 90 minutes for you to reach a state of deep REM sleep where your body’s healing crew goes to work.

Ideally, you want to get at least 3 to 4 deep REM sleep cycles in per night. That’s why it’s so important to stay asleep for 7 or more hours.

Research also shows that people who think they can get by on less sleep don’t perform as well as people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night[5] So, you should definitely plan on getting seven hours of deep restorative sleep every night.

If you are not getting 7 hours of high-quality sleep regularly, then sleep deprivation is most likely reason you feel tired all the time.

And that is good news because sleep deprivation is much simpler and easier to address than the other root causes.

It’s also a good idea to rule out sleep deprivation as the reason why you are tired before moving on to the other possibilities such as fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which may require a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

4 Simple Changes to Reduce Fatigue

Personally, I’m a big believer in upgrading your lifestyle to uplift your life. I overcame chronic stress and exhaustion by making these four changes to my lifestyle:

  1. Eating healthy, home-cooked meals versus microwaving processed foods or eating out
  2. Exercising regularly
  3. Using stressbusters
  4. Creating a bedtime routine to sleep better

So, I know it is possible to change your lifestyle even when you’re working crazy hours and have lots of family responsibilities.

After I made the 4 simple changes in my lifestyle, I no longer felt exhausted all of the time.

In addition, I lost two inches off my waist and looked and felt better than ever.

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I was so excited that I wanted to help others replace stress and exhaustion with rest and well-being, too. That’s why I became a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

Interestingly enough, I discovered that Dr. Sears recommends a somewhat similar L.E.A.N. lifestyle:

  • L is for Lifestyle and means living healthy including getting enough sleep.
  • E is for Exercise and means getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day ideally for six days a week.
  • A is for Attitude and means thinking positive and reducing stress whenever possible.
  • N is for Nutrition and means emphasizing a right-fat diet, not a low-fat diet.

The L.E.A.N. lifestyle is a scientifically-proven way to reduce fatigue, get to the optimal weight and to achieve overall wellness.[6]

And yes, there does seem to be an important correlation between being lean and feeling rested.

But overall based on my personal experience and Dr. Sear’s scientific proof, the key to not feeling tired all of the time does seem to be 4 simple changes to your lifestyle.

L — Living Healthy

Getting enough high-quality sleep every day is the surefire way to help you feel less fatigued, more rested and better overall.

So, whether you’re sleep deprived or potentially suffering from fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you probably want to find a way to sleep better.

In fact, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to repair itself; meaning that if you are suffering from an illness, it’s far more likely to linger.

As unlikely as it sounds, though, fatigue can sometimes make it difficult to sleep. That’s why I’d recommend taking a look at your bedtime routine before you go to bed and optimize it based on sleep best practices.

Here are 3 quick and easy tips for creating a pro-sleep bedtime routine:

1. Unplug

Many of us try to unwind by watching TV or doing something on an iPhone or tablet. But tech can affect your melatonin production due to the blue light that they emit, fooling your body into thinking it’s still daytime.

So turn off all tech one hour before bed and create a tech-free zone in your bedroom.

2. Unwind

Do something to relax.

Use the time before bed to do something you find relaxing such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or taking an Epsom salt bath.

3. Get Comfortable

Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is set up for sleep.

Make sure you room is cool. 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep.

Also, it’s ideal if your bedroom is dark and there is no noise.

Finally, make sure everything is handled (e.g., laying out tomorrow’s clothes) before you get into your nice, comfy bed.

If your mind is still active, write a to-do list to help you fall asleep faster.[7]

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Above all, be gentle with yourself and count your blessings, some sheep or whatever helps.

This article also offers practical tips to build a bedtime routine: How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

E — Exercise

Many people know that exercise is good for them, but just can’t figure out how to fit it into their busy schedules.

That’s what happened in my case.

But when my chronic stress and exhaustion turned into systemic inflammation (which can lead to major diseases like Alzheimer’s), I realized it was time to change my lifestyle.

As part of my lifestyle upgrade, I knew I needed to move more.

My friends who exercise all gave me the same advice: find an exercise you like to do and find a specific time in your schedule when you can consistently do it.

That made sense to me.

So, I decided to swim.

I used to love to swim when I was young, but I hadn’t done it for years. The best time for me to do it was immediately after work, since I could easily get an open swim lane at my local fitness club then.

Also, swimming became a nice reason for me to leave work on time. And I got to enjoy a nice workout before eating dinner.

Swimming is a good way to get your cardio or endurance training. But, walking, running and dancing are nice alternatives.

So find an exercise you love and stick to it. Ideally, get a combination of endurance training, strength training and flexibility training in during your daily 20-minute workout.

If you haven’t exercised in a while and have a lot of stress in your life, you may want to give yoga a try because you will increase your flexibility and lower your stress.

A — Attitude

Stress may be a major reason why you aren’t feeling well all of the time. At least that was the case with me.

When I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive, I felt chronically stressed and exhausted. But there was one thing that always worked to help me feel calmer and less fatigued.

Do you want to know what that master stress-busting technique was?

Breathing.

But not just any old breathing. It was a special form of deep Yogic breathing called the “Long-Exhale Breathing” or “4-7-8 breathing” or “Pranayama” in Sanskrit).

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Here’s how you do “Long-Exhale Breathing”:

  1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your hand on your tummy (so you know you are breathing deeply from your diaphragm and not shallowly from your chest)
  2. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your diaphragm with your mouth closed while you count to 4 (ideally until your stomach feels full of air)
  3. Hold your breath while you count to 7 mentally and enjoy the stillness
  4. Breathe out through your mouth with a “ha” sound while you count to 8 (or until your stomach has no more air in it)
  5. Pause after you finish your exhale while you notice the sense of wholeness and relaxation from completing one conscious, deep, long exhale breath
  6. Repeat 3 times ensuring your exhale is longer than your inhale so you relax your nervous system

This type of “long-exhale breathing” is scientifically proven to reduce stress.

When your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, it soothes your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.[8]

Plus, this is a great technique for helping you get to sleep, too.

N — Nutrition

Diet is vital for beating fatigue – after all, food is your main source of energy.

If your diet is poor, then it implies you’re not getting the nutrients you need to sustain healthy energy levels.

Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated, time-consuming though.

For most people, it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like switching from low-fiber, processed foods to whole, high-fiber foods.

Unless your current diet is solely made up of fast food and ready meals, adjusting to a fatigue-fighting diet shouldn’t be too much of a shock to the system.

Here’re 9 simple diet swaps you can make today:

  1. Replace your morning coffee with Matcha green tea and drink only herbal tea within six hours of bedtime.
  2. Add a healthy fat or protein to your any carb you eat, especially if you eat before bed. Please note that carb-only snacks lead to blood-sugar crashes that can make you eat more and they can keep you from sleeping.
  3. Fill up with fiber especially green leafy vegetables. Strive to get at least 25g per day with at least 5 servings (a serving is the size of your fist) of green vegetables.
  4. Replace refined, processed, low-fiber pastas and grains with zucchini noodles and whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, oats, amaranth, millet, teff, brown rice and corn.
  5. Swap natural sweeteners for refined sugars and try to ensure you don’t get more than 25g of sugar a day if you are a woman and 30g of sugar a day if you are a man.
  6. Replace ice cream with low-sugar alternatives such as So Delicious Dairy-Free Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream.
  7. Swap omega-6, partially-hydrogenated oils such as corn, palm, sunflower, safflower, cotton, canola and soybean oil for omega-3 oils such as flax, olive and nut oils.
  8. Replace high-sugar yoghurts with low-sugar, dairy-free yoghurts such as Kite Hill Plain Yoghurt with 1g sugar or Lifeway Farmer Cheese with 0g sugar.
  9. Swap your sugar-laden soda for sparkling water with a splash of low-sugar juice

Also, ensure your diet is giving you enough of the daily essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium. If you are low on any of the above vitamins and minerals, you may experience fatigue and low energy.

That’s why it’s always worth having your doctor check your levels. If you find any of them are low, then try to eat foods rich in them.

Alternatively, you might consider a high-quality multi-vitamin or specific supplement.

The Bottom Line

If you are tired of feeling tired, then there is tremendous hope.

If you are tired because you are not getting enough high-quality sleep, then the best remedy is a bedtime routine based on sleep best practices.

If you are tired because you have stress and fatigue, then the best remedy are four simple lifestyle changes including:

  • Enough High-Quality Sleep with Bedtime Routine
  • Regular Exercise You Love
  • Stress Reduction with Long-Exhale Breathing
  • Fatigue-Reducing Diet

Overall, adopting a healthier lifestyle Is the ideal remedy for feeling more rested and energized.

More Tips to Help You Rest Better

Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] YouGov: Two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week
[2] National Safety Council: Is Your Company Confronting Workplace Fatigue?
[3] The New York Times: Why Are We So Freaking Tired?
[4] Mayo Clinic: Chronic fatigue syndrome
[5] Mayo Clinic: Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
[6] Ask Dr. Sears: The L.E.A.N. Lifestyle
[7] American Psychological Association: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
[8] Yoga International: Learning to Exhale: 2-to-1 Breathing

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