How Long Does It Take To Build Muscle?
by Evelyn Valdez·
If you’re someone who practices any kind of weight training, you probably already know that muscle growth is the result of an effective training routine paired with the appropriate diet. Of course, this is easier said than done, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a goal worth pursuing.
However, many questions come with trying to get bigger muscles, such as how frequently should you be training to gain muscle or what to eat during a muscle-building journey. And of course, the million-dollar question – how long does it take to gain muscle and start seeing results?
To help ease your mind so you can focus on your goals, we’ve explained everything you need to know in this article. From how long it takes to build muscle to how to tell if you’re actually gaining muscle, plus a few ways to speed up the growth process. So let’s get right into it!
How long until you start building muscle?
As much as we’d love to give you an exact answer, that’s not possible when it comes to building muscle. How quickly or slowly you grow muscle will be dictated by your current training routine and activity level, nutrition, genetics, and current body composition.
A study published by the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that observable increases in muscle hypertrophy (growth) happened after 7 sessions of resistance training.  However, research by the same journal in another study concluded that growth happened after 10 sessions but it was only noticeable after 18 sessions. 
This goes to prove how varying muscle growth can be among different people with different routines. However, we can still give you a rough estimate! With the right conditions, muscle building can happen anywhere between the first 4 to 8 weeks of training, with noticeable changes happening after 2 to 3 months.
If you’re a beginner in resistance training, your body will have more room to grow at first as your muscles undergo all the initial stress. As you make progress in your journey and become an intermediate to advanced trainer, muscle building will gradually become harder and progress will happen more slowly over time.
Weight gain vs. muscle gain
One of the ways to tell that you’re building muscle mass during your journey is that you gain weight. However, not all weight you gain from muscle building will strictly be lean muscle. Allow us to explain…
When it comes to body recomposition, muscle and fat usually go hand in hand. If your goal is to lose weight and burn fat, you’ll lose some muscle in the process. The same goes for muscle growth – you will gain some body fat in the muscle-building process.
This does not mean that your gains will be 50% lean muscle and 50% fat tissue. When working toward muscle growth with the right workout routine and diet, for every pound of weight that you gain you’ll get between one to two-thirds of body fat, with the remaining being lean muscle tissue.
As you can see, while weight gain is a factor and usually indicates some degree of muscle growth, there’s no exact way to know how much muscle you’ve actually built from just looking at the scale.
So, how else can I tell if I’m building muscle?
After two to three months of resistance training, when your body is finally beginning to adapt to the constant stress and your muscles don’t get as swollen after each workout, you will start to notice your progress and be able to track your gains.
Here’s how to know if you’re gaining muscle:
- Your body composition changes. This is the most reliable way to tell if you’re building muscle and how much you’ve actually built. The best way of testing is with a DEXA scan, which can be done by a specialist or even at your local gym if they have the machine.
- You’re getting stronger. Strength and muscle growth typically grow parallel to each other. While your level of strength doesn’t necessarily relate to muscle size, seeing an increase in strength over time during your weightlifting journey most likely indicates there has been muscle growth as well.
- Your measurements change. If you began tracking your journey from the start by getting your measurements, you’ll start seeing those numbers change a couple of months in. Just make sure to always measure in the same conditions, preferably in the morning before training or having anything to eat.
- You can see a visual difference. While not all progress can be seen visually, you can still notice how your body gradually changes in front of a mirror. You can keep track of this by taking pictures and comparing them every couple of months.
How to build muscle faster
Significant muscle growth doesn’t happen in just a couple of days – it’s a months-long process that requires dedication. However, just as progress can happen slowly, it can also happen quickly by doing the right things.
Here are a few tips to speed up muscle growth:
Focus on hypertrophy
Hypertrophy is the process of muscle growth through muscle stress and repair. Basically, during exercise, you stress your muscles to a point where it causes micro-tears to your muscle fibers, which your body then repairs by building new muscle on top, increasing the overall size.
So, if your goal is muscle growth, hypertrophy training is the way to go! With a combination of compound exercises, heavy lifting, and shorter rest times you’ll be able to trigger all three muscle growth processes – muscle tension, metabolic stress, and muscle damage.
Try clean bulking
Bulking refers to a temporary calorie surplus (eating more calories than you burn) to increase your body weight and muscle mass in the process. Clean bulking is simply a form of bulking in which you tightly regulate your calorie surplus to avoid excessive fat gain.
To clean bulk, you just need to calculate your maintenance calories and then aim for a 10-20% calorie surplus, making sure you eat at least 0.7-1 grams of protein per pound of body weight. This is a great way to promote muscle growth and it’s particularly effective for breaking muscle-building plateaus.
Eat enough protein and carbs
When it comes to weight training, particularly muscle building, you need to make sure you’re eating all the protein that your body needs. Proteins are the building blocks of the body, meaning they’re the main component of most of it, including muscles.
Carbohydrates, on the other hand, give you the energy to work out and be able to lift for your gains. This is because carbs are turned into glucose when digested, which is your body’s main source of energy. So make sure you’re eating plenty of proteins and carbs!
Muscle growth doesn’t happen overnight – or does it? The truth is, while progress isn’t measurable from one day to another, it’s at night when your body undergoes all the repairing processes that allow your muscles to recover and gradually grow.
With enough rest, including having an appropriate training split so that you don’t train your muscles back to back, your body will be able to make progress without setbacks instead of risking injuries and delaying the growth process.
Don’t quit just because you look the same in the mirror
As we said earlier, not all progress is visual, so don’t get discouraged if a couple of weeks have passed and you still can’t tell a difference in the mirror. Focus on training hard, eating healthy, hydrating constantly, and making any changes you have to make to see the growth that you want!
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