How Much Muscle Can You Gain in One Month?
It's a new year, and a lot of men have made the commitment to hit the gym more regularly in an effort to get rid of that pesky belly bulge and put their best bodies forward. Of course, starting a new workout regimen can be intimidating for many different reasons—it takes time, discipline, and the ability to shed self-consciousness in favor of something greater. That's often easier said than does, seeing as how many gyms are filled with dudes walking around, flexing their bulky muscles in a way that's super intimidating (even if it's not meant to be). Changing one's routines and habits can have an awesome impact on the body, but it often comes with a certain level of uncertainty. Sure, you want to shed the pounds and build muscle as fast as possible, but how much muscle can you really build in a short amount of time, like, say, a month? We've put our research hats on and come up with some answers that should help you along your fitness journey.
The Beauty of the Beginning
The great thing about getting in shape is that everything is easier when you first get started (at least, in terms of weight loss and muscle gain). Okay, it might be harder to actually get yourself into the gym, but once you're there, your body will respond to your efforts far more quickly than it will once you've been at it for a while. For your first six months or so, you'll be able to drop pounds and build muscle at a higher rate than you will once you've been pumping iron for many years. According to Men's Health:
Beginner lifters can expect to be able to gain more muscle in their first month of training because they're just starting the cycle of hypertrophy, the cellular process behind muscle growth. But as your muscles adjust to increasingly larger workloads, it takes more effort to stimulate growth. In one study from the University of Central Missouri, experienced lifters gained an average of 2.18 to 2.33 pounds of muscle over the course of an eight-week training program—not as much as you might expect from a newbie just hitting the gym.
This is great news when you're just starting out because the instantaneous results can help keep you motivated so you continue on a healthy path of positive fitness. It's important to be aware, however, that once your body's begun to adjust to your workout routine, it will become harder to gain muscle mass, which means the process slows down as you bulk up.
There are a few things to consider before you begin comparing yourself to the Incredible Hulks who are hulking around the gym:
- Genetics. Hormone levels, muscle length, and bone structure all play a huge role in the amount of muscle you'll be able to build over a month, a year, or an entire lifetime. You can't do much about the genes you were born with, but you can certainly still build muscle. For some people, the process just might be a little slower and harder than it is for others. You can learn a lot about your muscle-building potential with Casey Butt's book Your Muscular Potential: How to Predict Your Maximum Muscular Bodyweight and Measurements.
- Age. Alas, teenagers with raging hormones are also filled with an extra boost of metabolism that diminishes as they age. If you're no longer a 16-year-old kid, you've probably noticed the belt notches have gotten a little bigger and last night's ice cream tends to stick around a little longer. Muscle mass, like metabolism, is more potent when we're younger. As we age, it becomes harder to up the ante on these elements. A 50-year-old can absolutely still build muscle mass, but it might take him longer than a 21-year-old counterpart.
- Diet & Workout Routine. These seem obvious, but it's easy to put blinders on and get tunnel vision when you're trying to achieve a goal. The people who pay the most attention to their diet and exercise are most likely to reap the best rewards for their efforts. There are certain foods and habits that can help your body grow muscle mass (more on that later), so it's important to pay attention to the things you're taking into your body, as well as the energy you're exerting outwardly.
So, How Much Muscle Can You Gain in One Month?
It all comes down to this question really. How much muscle can a person actually gain in a month's time? Given that there are a lot of factors, such as genetics, age, and diet, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. Generally speaking, however, the average man can expect to build between 0.25 and 0.5 pounds of muscle per week (or about one to two pounds per month), according to A Workout Routine. But here's the thing, the average natural man will be able to gain about 40 to 50 pounds of muscle in his entire life, according to the website. So, remember when we said big things happen in the beginning? That's important to remember because as you get your body into shape, the amount of muscle you can build (at least naturally), will arrive at a slower pace.
Is There an Unhealthy Amount of Muscle You Can Gain in a Month?
If you're training naturally, you're not likely to take on more muscle than your body can physically handle. That is, barring any abnormal conditions such as too much testosterone production. If that's the case, it's important to talk to your doctor so your hormones can be medically regulated, ensuring you don't endure unexpected challenges during your workout routines.
On the other hand, there are steroids, drugs, and prohormones that can unnaturally enhance your muscle mass. In these cases, your body can produce more muscle mass than it's naturally supposed to take on, which can put undue stress on the heart and other essential organs. These substances trick the body into entering a state of unnatural hypertrophy. This, in turn, can cause mobility issues and a convoluted, unbalanced appearance. The physical and psychological effects of unnatural training can be devastating for some men and should really be considered thoroughly before a person imbibes.
When Do You Know if You Need to Change Your Diet or Exercise Routine?
Since muscle mass can plateau at a certain level, it's important to keep up with a regular diet and exercise routine so your body stays as fit and healthy as possible. If you've discovered that you've hit a wall, so to speak, it might be time to meet with a personal trainer or nutritionist who can help you discern fact from fiction. Be careful not to weigh or measure yourself too often (as in, don't do that daily) because your body can have ebbs and flows that can throw off your idea of progress if you measure it on a bad day. Instead, shoot for weekly or even monthly measurements that will give you a better overall picture of your progress.
If you don't feel like you're making the strides you need or desire, a professional can assess your workout routine and diet to help you get on track. Maybe you're not taking in enough protein, or perhaps you should alternate leg days with arm days more often than you currently are. In reality, fitness isn't a journey that you should feel obligated to do all by yourself; there are great people waiting in the wings who can help you assess your needs, progress, and necessary adjustments.
What Can You Do to Build Muscle Mass?
Now that you know a little bit about what goes into building muscle mass, you're probably wondering what it takes to actually make those muscles bigger. Take heed of these tips:
1. Lift Heavy Things
A regular lifting regimen is essential for building your muscles up. When you're at the gym, start with a set that's reasonable and comfortable for your body, but work your way to heavier things as you get stronger. Look for ways to incorporate strength-building skills in your everyday life, too. Maybe you can help a neighbor move or carry your dog down the steps instead of letting him walk on his own feet.
2. Include Squats and Deadlifts Into Your Workout Routine
This type of exercise targets muscles in your entire body, rather than focusing on a specific part of your body. This overall focus will help keep your body symmetry in line while simultaneously making you stronger from head to toe.
3. Target Set Reps and Stick to Them
Shoot for six to 10 reps each set, doing four to five sets at each interval.
4. Eat Right
Leave the sugar and alcohol on the shelf, because they're only going to do things to your body that are adverse to muscle development. Instead, shoot for a menu full of vegetables and protein that'll power you through your days. Carbs are also important, especially on training days. Check out these ideas to get your grocery list started:
- Blueberry Banana Protein Smoothie. Thanks to the blueberries, you'll never know you're not drinking a milkshake in the morning, but your body will thank you for all the added vitamins and minerals it receives from this delicious treat.
- High Protein Salad. Salads are a man's best friend when you're trying to get your body right. Forget just putting boring lettuce on a plate and calling it good; today's salad recipes incorporate tons of flavor profiles that fit perfectly on a fork.
- Smoky Chickpea Tuna Salad. Chickpeas offer a pleasant way to pack your diet full of protein. With this recipe, one bite simply won't be enough to satisfy your mouth's craving for the smoky taste that comes from the chickpea paste.
- Healthy Turkish Meatloaf. Dinnertime means big meals, but it doesn't have to mean a ton of fat. With this recipe, you'll power your body with healthy protein without subjecting it to unnecessary ingredients.
Don't deprive your body of food when you're hungry. Keep snacks on hand that will give your body the energy it needs without creating excess fat. Keep hard-boiled eggs on hand, and douse them with a little hummus when your hunger cravings start taking over. Almonds, peanuts, and cashews are great nuts to keep in your office drawer. Peanut butter and celery can stave off afternoon hunger with a strong and hearty crunch. When you plan your meals and snacks ahead of time, your body will be protected from those hunger pangs that can make bad decisions in the heat of the moment.
5. Eat Regularly
Eating once a day isn't going to do it. You need to eat small portions at regular intervals throughout the day. Set your calendar reminders to beep at the same time every hour or two so you get the nutrition you need to power through the day. Once again, protein-packed snacks are imperative when you're trying to build your muscle mass.
Building muscle mass isn't something that happens overnight, but it does come easier in the beginning. Remember, your diet and other habits are just as important as the time you're taking to hit the gym. Set time aside to make meals, prepare snacks, and lift weights. When you put your effort into an overall good-health picture, you'll begin to see results shortly.