It's not uncommon to want to see results as quickly as possible after starting to work out. Noticing improvements in body fat, muscle strength and definition, and flexibility is always encouraging and helps serve as motivation to remain disciplined.
With that said, as you embark on your exercise efforts, it's important to go into it with the mindset that developing fitness is a long-term process. Rather than worrying about how much fat you can lose in a short period of time, focus on instilling and maintaining healthy habits. If you're consistent with your workouts, you'll notice results.
How Long Before I Notice Real Fat Loss?
The key to losing fat and to keeping it off long term is to cut the pounds down gradually. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that safe rate is 1 to 2 pounds per week. Losing weight faster than that is often due to eating and exercise habits that are unmanageable over time. Plus, losing fat too quickly places stress on the body.
For every pound of fat you want to lose, you need to create a calorie deficit of 3,500. This means you need to burn 3,500 more calories than you consume. To lose the recommended 1 to 2 pounds per week therefore takes a 3,500 to 7,000 weekly caloric deficit.
You can get a rough idea of how quickly you'll lose fat by keeping track of your calorie intake and output. If you eat and exercise to lose 1 pound of fat per week, you can estimate that you'll lose approximately 4 pounds for the month. Keep in mind that other elements come into play when it comes to weight loss. Hormone levels and your resting metabolic rate will make an impact on how quickly and easily you'll lose weight, so know that this calculation is strictly an estimate.
How Long Does It Take to Build Muscle Strength?
If you haven't been lifting weights, you'll be excited to know that you'll see results very quickly once you start. According to the American Council on Exercise, you'll likely notice a rapid improvement in strength immediately after beginning weight training. This is due to neural developments and your body becoming more efficient at recruiting muscle fibers. However, it's normal for this rate of strength improvement to taper off after a few weeks.
If you're untrained in weight lifting, which means you have less than one year of consistent training under your belt, ExRx.net recommends lifting three days per week and training at a 12-repetition maximum (RM) to maximize strength gains. This means that you perform sets of 12 repetitions and use a weight that makes completing 12 repetitions challenging. If you train two days per week and incorporate training at a 12 RM, you'll likely see 80 percent of the strength gains compared to if you trained three days per week.
When Will I Notice Significant Muscle Growth?
How quickly you'll be able to put on muscle partly depends on your age, gender, training experience, hormone levels and genetics. For example, women typically have less testosterone than men and therefore have a more challenging time putting on muscle mass. Your ability to build muscle also depends on the volume of your workouts and whether you're following a proper nutritional plan that fuels the muscle-building process.
Understanding that the rate of muscle building will vary, you can expect to put on between 0.5 to 2 pounds per month, provided you're participating in a high-volume weight-training workout and follow a proper nutrition plan.
To maximize muscle building, lift weights three to four days per week and perform two to three sets of six to 12 reps of each exercise, as recommended by ExRx.net. Rest just 30 to 90 seconds in between sets to encourage muscle breakdown.
How Long Does it Take to Improve Flexibility?
Your natural range of motion is partly dependent on your genetics, gender, age and body shape, but your level of physical activity and stretching discipline makes the most significant impact on flexibility. Most of us spend our days in the same position and this encourages our muscles and tendons to tighten. According to the American Council on Exercise, the less active you are, the less flexible you are likely to be.
With regular stretching, you can see significant flexibility improvements in one to two weeks.
The most effective way for improving flexibility is to perform static stretches everyday. Static stretches are activities where you get into a position that elongates a muscle and hold that position for 20 to 30 seconds. It's best to do static stretching when your muscles are warm. You can incorporate the activity immediately after your cardio and lifting workouts. If that's not possible, go for a five-minute brisk walk before you stretch.