by Will Grumke February 01, 2023 6 min read
Most people work out to get fit, and many people equate fitness with muscle gain.
Although a lot of people are willing to put in the effort to "get fit", many of us wonder "how long does it take to build muscle and start seeing results?"
In this article, I'll explain how long it takes to build muscle, as well as the different factors that change that answer.
Whenever you exert yourself sufficiently during a workout, your muscles experience some degree of trauma or damage.
This triggers nearby cells, known as satellite cells, to signal to your brain that your muscles need resources in order to heal.
Your body then sends amino acids, oxygen, and other nutrients to the damaged muscle, so it can rebuild blood capillaries, restore muscle fibers, and strengthen itself.
In other words, every time you damage your muscles by overexerting them during training, your body gives those muscles the resources they need to grow bigger and stronger in hopes that they won’t get damaged next time.
These are the basic principles behind muscle growth ... exertion, nutrition, and rest.
If you’re looking to develop big, strong muscles ... you’ll have to balance these three factors.
When it comes to building muscle, there are many factors that come into play. Four of the main ones that influence how long it will take to build muscle are as follows:
Some people have a natural ability to gain muscle faster than others, and some people have to work really hard, for a bit longer, to see real results.
Even if you have “bad genetics”, all hope is not lost. You must only worry about the other factors you CAN control to pack on the muscle you want and find the answer to how long it takes to gain muscle for you.
Since you can’t control your genetics, I suggest that you don’t worry about them too much ... I try not to.
Instead, you have to deal with reality on reality’s terms, and recognize that working out is just that ... work.
Some have to work more than others to get results, but everybody has to work hard to earn the results they want regardless.
So, focus on what you CAN control.
The three things you can control are diet, exercise, and rest.
Diet is important because your diet helps to control the nutrients your body has to work with on the processes of healing and maintaining muscles.
For good muscle growth, you’ll need to consume a sufficient amount of calories and protein.
You’ll also need the right amount of vitamins and minerals.
See, if you’re not giving your body enough of these things, it can slow the whole process down and make it more difficult to see the muscle growth you're looking for - even if you're training consistently.
Without the right nutrients, your body will have a tougher time healing or maintaining/building new muscle.
Exercise is also important, you can’t just prioritize your nutrition on its own, and then magically grow a whole bunch of muscle.
Strength training, specifically resistance training with weights or bands, or body-weight exercises, can be a great way to build muscle (and strength).
See, if you’re not exercising, then your body won’t need to rest and recover. If it doesn’t need to recover, it won’t try to make your muscles bigger or stronger.
However, it’s important to understand that just overworking your body each and every workout or training session, and going to “failure” every set is not as effective either.
See, there’s a difference between the trauma caused by healthy exercise and the trauma caused by an injury.
And when it comes to injuries, they can really set you back. Exercise properly so you don't have to spend your training time in a doctor's office asking "how long does it take to build muscle with this injury?"
Finally, there’s the need for rest.
Rest is essential, because you need to give your body, specifically your muscles, time to heal. This is especially true with strength training.
If you don’t give your muscles enough time to recover, you’re just working out already-damaged muscle tissue.
This can cause the muscle tissue to become further damaged as well as hurt your form and slow your progress.
At times, the hardest part for athletes and fitness enthusiasts is to have enough self-control and discipline to NOT workout and allow their body to properly recover … I know it has been for me at times.
It’s best to give your body enough time to recover between workouts before stressing those muscle groups again.
So, how long does it take to build muscle?
The answer is, “it depends.”
It depends on three very important variables:
Now, the biggest impact and the best results come from how consistent you’re doing all three of those things.
It’s impossible to explain how long it will take for everyone to see muscle gains, but many people see a “noticeable difference” after consistently doing these three things for a few months.
Remember, what’s considered “noticeable” will vary from person to person.
How long it will take you to gain muscle and reach your goals from that point forward is more of a matter of where you’re starting from, what your end goal is, and how consistent you are as you keep pushing yourself.
As you start eating right, exercising right, and resting right ... you’ll get a better sense for how long it takes you to build muscle mass.
No matter how long it takes you, there are a variety of resources and supplements that can help optimize your nutrition, exercise, and recovery.
While cardio exercises, such as jogging or biking, aren’t nearly as effective as weight and body-weight training exercises when building muscle, they can still have an impact on the results you earn and the overall health of your body.
For example, if you’re into more high-intensity cardio, such as bike sprints or plyometrics, you could potentially see small increases in muscle as a result. This will be more obvious for beginners, but these types of intense cardio can potentially contribute to some muscle growth.
Supplements exist to help give your body more of what you need, what you are not getting with your nutrition, and help to further your progress.
Sometimes what you need is more protein, sometimes you need more energy, and sometimes you need specific amino acids.
Here are a couple types of workout supplements you should consider in order to optimize your muscle gains. But remember, no supplement is magic.
Pre-workouts – Pre-workouts are a great source of energy, focus, and helping your body perform its best. You can take pre-workouts so you have the energy you need to train hard while working out.
Great pre-workouts, like Project-1, help support better muscle pumps, increased blood flow, improved endurance, and increased oxygen and nutrient delivery during strength training.
Intra-workouts – Intra-workout supplements, like Intra-Formance or BCAAs, are helpful because they can help support the refueling of your body mid-workout.
This can help you to train hard throughout your workout, helping to maximize the effectiveness of your time and effort.
Post-workouts – If you truly want to build muscle, from a supplement standpoint, this is the best place to start.
Post-workout shakes are designed to help give your body the protein and other restorative nutrients it needs immediately after putting it through the stress of a hard workout.
Phormula-1 and Ignition work synergistically to help get your body into recovery faster than whole food.
Speed is important here as the more time we can rest and recover, the better our results can be.
Protein shakes – Protein shakes, like Level-1, help give your body the protein it needs in your daily nutrition to build and maintain more muscle mass.
If you’re looking to gain muscle mass, you don't want to give your body too little protein.
That will further slow down the recovery process.
Daily Nutrient Packs – As stated above, if you do not give your body the right nutrients, or your body can’t break down and utilize your food effectively, you are severely limiting your results.
Micro Factor gives your body the essential nutrients it needs every day, while also helping to improve gut health and digestion to effectively use those nutrients.
If you need help with a game plan to stick to for your training and your nutrition, download the 1st Phorm App to have everything at your fingertips as well as work with an advisor one-on-one.
NASM Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Nutrition Coach, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, NASM Certified Weight Loss Specialist, NASM Certified Behavioral Change Specialist, NASM VCS Virtual Coaching Specialist, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer