In this article, I'd like to provide a general overview as well as an answer to the frequently asked question: how long does it take to build muscle and lose fat?
Your greatest foe in terms of muscle gain and fat loss
I recall when I first joined my first gym many years ago. I saw no difference in the mirror after two weeks of continuous training.
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When I googled “2 weeks body transformation,” I was frustrated by all of the pictures posted by savvy marketers.
We humans have evolved to seek immediate gratification. We can't wait for tomorrow to arrive. We want them now, or better yet, yesterday.
It makes no difference whether we are discussing business or our fitness results. If we truly want to make a long-term difference, we must put aside our innate desire for instant gratification and focus on the big picture.
The so-called ‘Marshmallow Test' was mentioned in Angela Duckworth's book Grit as a predictor of future success in children.
This is how the Marshmallow Test works. Children are essentially given two choices:
- Now is the time to eat the marshmallow in front of them.
- Wait 10 minutes before eating the first marshmallow, then add a second marshmallow on top.
As a 10-year-old schoolchild, this is an insane test of willpower and the ability to delay gratification for a bigger payoff. If the child mastered that important skill at such a young age, it was a strong predictor of future success.
We all need to improve our ability to postpone gratification. Most people overestimate what they can accomplish in one month but vastly underestimate what they can accomplish in ten years.
What you really need to bulk up quickly
Your starting point
It all comes down to where we begin. Because the truth is:
Everyone must begin somewhere.
A former Olympian will have an easier time building muscle and losing fat than a regular couch potato. There are two main reasons for this:
- The athlete's pre-selected genetic blueprint.
- A professional's work ethic.
While there are numerous variables that influence your success in the gym, they can all be traced back to those critical points.
Years ago, a mentor of mine told me that if you don't give up, you can succeed in life.
You can have average abilities, genetics, and work ethic. You will succeed as long as you continue to hone your craft.
Not right away, but definitely and finally.
Setting realistic expectations
I'm very good at setting unrealistic goals and having unrealistic expectations. I had hoped to have 100,000 subscribers on my YouTube channel by the end of my first year, back in 2015, but I only had 30 at the time.
This is an embarrassing story, but I hope it conveys one message:
If you can't deal with the consequences of not reaching your goals, they need to be realistic.
It was soul-crushing to end up with 30 subscribers despite pulling frequent all-nighters to get this venture off the ground. I was about to give up when I had second thoughts.
I was able to keep going with the help of my network and discipline. In those three years, the channel has grown 100-fold.
Consider the following timeline to determine what is feasible.
The Timeline of Muscle Growth
Here are the outcomes you can expect if your primary goal is to increase lean tissue mass. Warning: Real muscle growth without the use of performance-enhancing drugs takes time.
Of course, these times can vary depending on your genetic blueprint and work ethic. You might see results right away, or you might have to wait a while.
The timetable is set to train 2-3 times per week (constantly!).
Pro tip: Ask a friend or hire a coach to help you tremendously.
Based on my experience training hundreds of clients, this is what happens when you decide to join a gym:
Eat – Sleep – Workout – Repeat
At this point, your motivation is at an all-time high. You'll tell your friends and family about your new exercise routine. You will notice minor differences in your appearance, but they will be minor.
Because your body finally understands how to use its muscles properly, you will notice tremendous strength gains during your training.
This is the time when most people take a break. You'll be going to the gym on a regular basis, but the results won't come right away. It is the major stumbling block in the entire process.
In this phase, your goal is to create a habit around your gym visits. You will most likely stop having the all-in mentality that you had in the first three months. You will seek long-term viability. Breaking news: It will still be difficult.
But it's all worth it in the end. Believe me.
6th to 12th month
“I discovered a new vein in my arm!”
The man approached me with zeal. This is the point at which the average person begins to see significant results from his training.
An old friend will approach him and notice a change in his body shape. His old t-shirt suddenly becomes too thin. The regular gym-goer is ecstatic.
Fitness is a charade. While you may believe that frequent exercise will only change your body shape, it will also affect your character.
Your family and friends will notice. You're more self-assured, assertive, and satisfied with your appearance. You are self-assured and confident in your abilities because you have accomplished what you set out to do.
You will remain unsatisfied. That's a good thing. But don't forget to take a break and enjoy the fruits of your labor.
They did not come easily.
Months 24 and up
“That is how it works for me!”
You can pat yourself on the back if you've been going frequently and consistently (twice a week for two years).
If you've done everything correctly and worked with a certified coach, you'll be in the target shape by now. However, this is also the point at which things can become frustrating.
At this point, further results will be painstakingly slow. To see better results, you must constantly work on your weaknesses and modify your training. Whether it's through the use of different repetitions, intensity, workout duration, speed, or machines.
Many people will not see results after this stage because the benefits do not outweigh the effort. We must recognize that what has gotten us here will not get us to the next level.
Timeline for Fat Loss
If you're trying to lose weight, I've got two pieces of good news for you:
It will arrive sooner. Fat loss occurs over a shorter period of time.
It will be just as difficult, if not more difficult, than muscle building.
Here's what you can expect if you start losing weight. Here we go again: Proper guidance can help to expedite the process.
“I lost ten kilograms in the first week!”
Your outcomes will be immediate. Too quickly.
You'll be exhausted. The majority of the weight you lose will be water. This is the major stumbling block in the entire weight loss process.
The shocking fact is that most people abandon their diet after the first month.
Months 2 and 3
You will reconsider your dieting strategy and choose one that is more sustainable. You will reintroduce “bad foods” into your diet that you probably avoided for the first two weeks or month.
Because maintaining balance (rather than quitting your diet) is more important to you at this stage than losing weight quickly. At this point, the quality of your life will improve.
6th to 12th month
You have most likely lost more than 10kg during this time period. The majority of people who want to lose weight will be pleased with their results and surprised at how much of a difference it makes in their appearance.
You'll feel more confident, energized, and self-assured. You would never have guessed you could do it, that you could finally lose weight – but you did!
And everyone is going to notice. “Wait, what happened to you?” – your friends will question you enviously. Old crushes will suddenly initiate contact with you just to find out what you're “up to this weekend.”
If you were not obese to begin with, the fat loss after this stage will be gradual. At this point, the goal is to have formed a rock-solid habit out of your gym and eating habits.
Then you won't have to be concerned about the Yo-Yo effect.
“You made a difference in my life!”
On a Monday evening, the same adolescent approached me. He had his first date the previous weekend. It appears to have gone well.
During the time we worked together, he gained more than 10 kilograms of muscle. It took him over two years. But, if you asked him today, I'm sure he'd say it was all worth it.
Concentrate on the things over which you have control. Losing fat or building muscle can be a daunting task to begin with. We must put aside our innate desire for instant gratification and concentrate on the things over which we have control.
Changing our genetic blueprint or the responses of our muscles to training stimuli are beyond our control. However, training at least twice a week, eating the right foods, and setting realistic goals and expectations are essential.
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