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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

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

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Florian Wüest

Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

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Last Updated on December 28, 2020

How to Build Muscle Fast: 5 Fitness and Nutrition Hacks

How to Build Muscle Fast: 5 Fitness and Nutrition Hacks

Building muscle isn’t rocket science. All it takes is repeatedly doing the things that are proven in the lab and gym to work. This article provides 5 great ways to build muscle fast.

None of them requires you to spend lots of money on fancy fitness equipment or nutritional supplements. All you have to be willing to do is make a few adjustments to your diet, workout, and supplement routines. Put forth the effort, and you’ll be able to gain 5-10 lbs. of muscle in a month or two.

1. Eat Enough Protein Every Day

Contrary to what advertisements for protein powders say, you don’t need to eat and drink hundreds of grams daily to build muscle. The truth is, eating this amount won’t help you build muscle faster. It can actually be stored as fat.

All you really need is enough to meet your body’s daily needs and then a little more to stimulate muscle gain. This works out to about .8 grams per pound of body weight. So, if you weigh 150 lbs., you need to eat about 120 grams of protein daily.

Don’t stress too much over exactly how many grams of protein are in everything you eat. Use the eyeball method instead. 

This is done by looking at the protein on your plate and picturing an amount that’s the size of the palm of your hand. This amount contains about 28 grams of protein[1]. Do this every time you eat, and you’ll easily be able to make sure you eat enough.

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What does 25 grams of protein look like?

    You also need to know which foods are protein rich. They include: beef, eggs, poultry, pork, and seafood. Drink a protein shake if you’re having trouble eating enough of these foods. The best type of shake for building muscle is one that uses whey and casein proteins as its primary sources.

    Research shows these are the best protein powders for building muscle. One study also shows that drinking a shake that contains casein protein before bed can actually turn on the muscle building process[2].

    2. Do “Big” Lifts

    Forget exercises like curls, shoulder presses, and flyes and training individual body parts (chest, back, biceps, etc.) if building muscle is your goal. Instead, perform strength training exercises that train several muscle groups at once. Scientific studies show that exercises that do this are better for building muscle than the aforementioned isolation movements[3].

    Exercises you should do often include: dips, deadlifts, farmers walks, kettlebell swings, military presses, and pull ups. These are the movements that will really stimulate your body to build muscle fast.

    This video below will teach you how to perform my favorite muscle building exercise: farmer’s walks.

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    3. Train Hard Often

    You don’t have to work out every day for hours at a time to build muscle fast. What you need to do is train using the exercises I mentioned above often enough to stimulate muscle growth. Lifting weights 3 to 4 times a week is plenty. Give yourself a day’s rest after every 1-2 workouts.

    Your workouts only need to have 4-6 of these exercises. Choose an exercise for every major muscle group at each workout, and you’re set. This includes your legs (squats, deadlifts, lunges), chest/shoulders/triceps (bench press, dips, military press, push ups), and back (bent over rows, pull ups).

    I like to include a total body exercise every workout, too. I find that they are the best exercises for building muscle fast. This includes exercises like kettlebell swings, kettlebell throws, and farmer’s walks.

    Perform 3-5 sets of each exercise for 6-10 reps. Use a weight that makes it difficult to do the last rep of each set but not so hard that you cannot do it without using good form. Increase the weight you use when you can do every rep of each set.

    4. Rest and Recover Between Your Workouts

    Working out breaks down your muscles and eats into your ability to recover. You build muscle when you aren’t exercising. Therefore, proper rest and recovery can speed the muscle building process.

    The best way is to get enough sleep. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep every night will enable you to train harder and longer, and build muscle faster. If you can’t get this much sleep daily, take a 45 minute nap during the day to make up the difference.

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    Another way to recover faster and build muscle fast is to back off a little bit with regard to the number of sets and reps you do at each workout every once in awhile. Studies show that reducing the workout volume (sets and reps) by about 50% every 8-12 weeks can help you make progress significantly faster[4].

    This means that instead of doing 12 total sets at a workout, you’ll only do 6 using the same weight. Do this for a week, and then go back to your normal routine.

    Cutting back every once in a while will help you stay mentally fresh, too. This, in turn, gives you more energy to put into your future workouts.

    5. Take Nutritional Supplements That Are Proven To Work

    Once you have the four other tips in place, you can consider taking nutritional supplements to help you build muscle fast. The key thing is to use products that work. Through my research, I have found that there are three that work best: branched-chain amino acids, creatine monohydrate, and fish oil.

    The first supplement, branched-chain amino acids, are shown in several research studies to give you energy during your workout, decrease muscle soreness, and “turn on” the muscle-building process within your body. I find that they help me increase my energy and decrease post-workout soreness. You should take about .05 grams per pound of body weight before and after working out for the best results.

    Next is my favorite, creatine monohydrate. If you’re only going to take one supplement to build muscle, this is the one. This is because there are dozens, if not hundreds, of scientific studies that show it safely helps you build muscle and get stronger[5].

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    If you decide to give it a try, make sure you buy a product that is tested and guaranteed to include nothing but creatine monohydrate to ensure its purity. When you take creatine, follow what’s referred to as the loading phase, which is taking 10-20 grams a day for 5-7 days for the best results.

    Research shows this is the best way to get as creatine into your cells as quickly as possible. You can then back off to 5 grams a day to keep getting benefits[6].

    Last but not least is fish oil. In addition to being good for the health of your brain and heart, it can also help you build muscle fast. In one study, subjects taking 2 grams of fish oil daily for 6 weeks added a couple pounds of muscle[7].

    They lost body fat, too, and all without changing their diet or exercising at all. When shopping for a fish oil supplement, make sure you buy a concentrated source that’s tested to be free of impurities and pesticides.

    The Bottom Line

    Getting fit and building muscle doesn’t happen overnight, but with some simple changes to your diet and exercise routine, you can still build muscle fast when you build from a place of motivation and persistence.

    Whether you’re working out at home or at the gym, apply the above tips and watch your muscles grow week after week.

    More on Building Muscle

    Featured photo credit: Anastase Maragos via unsplash.com

    Reference

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