A lot of people, particularly men, go to the gym to get the highly coveted gains–a widely known symbol of virility and masculinity. Weightlifting, aside from its known benefits to our general health and improving body strength, is a famous activity to get those sought-after bulky muscles. It can also help individuals gain self-esteem and confidence to take on the world.
You may have started your training and have been diligently sticking to your recommended protein intake. And after a few days in the program, you might start wondering how soon you will be seeing the results you’re going for. You might also be worried why nothing seems to change yet despite doing everything you have been told to.
Unfortunately, many people get stuck in this common pitfall. They set impossible goals of how quickly they can build their muscles and get discouraged and quit their strength training program altogether when it doesn’t pan out as they expected.
But don’t worry, read some of our tips to help you build your muscles within a realistic timeline!
Muscle Gains Appear Within 3 Months of Training
After you visit the gym, you may think your muscles have already grown a little and feel how outstanding it is that it takes that fast! Unfortunately, the first few workouts don’t immediately change your body. It is the blood and inflammation that make it seem like they are bigger. This is what people call the “pump” effect, wherein you can temporarily enlarge your muscles by increasing blood flow to them through warm-up exercises.
After a weightlifting workout, you may still notice that your muscles are still relatively bigger the following morning. This inflammatory state explains the state your muscles are in. You may think of it as being swollen after experiencing immense stress from lifting heavy weights. While the body is in an inflammatory state, the body is tasked with keeping more water, which also contributes to the bulking we see.
As you continue your strength training, your body adapts to the stress, and the swelling from the inflammation becomes less apparent. However, you should be reminded that you are building muscles, which is the actual gain you should be getting. A study conducted at Texas Tech concluded that muscles grow after about 1 month of consistent weight training. While the gains in 1 month are not very obvious to the naked eye, they are indeed happening. So don’t lose hope and keep pushing forward!
According to another study, you can expect to get bigger muscles after 3 months. However, take note that 3 months is the average time and so, some people may see results in 2 months while some individuals may take 4 or more months. Also, be reminded that this timeline is for those consistently doing strength training.
How You Build Your Strength with Every Workout
While it can take a few months to gain noticeable superficial results, keep in mind that weightlifting also builds your strength!
As you do your workout religiously, you improve neuromuscular connections in the body. You train your brain to recruit more muscle fibers with every lift, which causes you to contract more muscle at one time and enables you to generate more force. This connection is being honed right from your first weight training! How great is that! This is supported by Japanese research, which has found out that neuromuscular activation improvement occurs after 2 months of consistent muscle training.
Even though it takes a much longer time to create new muscle fibers that will make your muscle gains obvious, you can achieve strength gains much faster. You feel much stronger even if you haven’t bulked up yet. Just remember that you are on the right path, so hang on and stick to the program.
Tips on Increasing Your Muscle Mass
Now that we’ve discussed how fast we can see muscle and strength gains, we can finally move on to ways you can increase your muscle mass. Here are four tried and tested suggestions that can help you on your journey:
Consistent Workout Routine. As studies have shown above, the results they have observed from individuals apply only to those who consistently underwent strength training. You cannot expect to gain muscle without putting in the time and effort. Make a habit of training whether it be squats, deadlifts, shoulder and bench press, or Olympic lifts. Know that exercises that recruit the most muscles, such as these, are best for building the muscles.
Eat more calories. You probably have heard of people “bulking up” and eating a lot of calories. The reason behind this is that you need calories to fuel your muscles. Muscles are metabolically expensive and to build them, you need more energy. And energy comes from the food you consume every day.
Protein, Protein, Protein. Almost everyone knows how important protein is if you want to gain and build muscles. The recommendation is to eat at least 1 gram of protein for every pound of your body weight. For example, if you weigh 250 pounds, eat an equivalent of 250 grams of protein daily.
Let your muscles recover. When you do strength training workouts, you are tearing muscles due to the sheer intensity of the exercises. It is important to remember that muscles grow during rest, and not during the workout itself. The body also experiences stress when you exercise and so it is crucial to have ample time to recover physically. This way, you also lower down your cortisol levels (aka the stress hormone) which is a known antagonist of muscle building. Make sure you relax, get adequate sleep, and find a healthy outlet to release your tension in life as well. It will be good for both your physical and mental health!