Many head to the gym in hopes of packing healthy muscle on a skinny frame. How long it takes all those workouts to show up as a bigger, stronger physique depends on your age, your fitness level, your diet, your training techniques, your genetics and your patience. You can’t expect extreme results overnight, but you may start to notice a difference after six to eight weeks of consistent training, focused diet and adequate rest.
In order to make changes to your body, you have to have a plan in place. You must eat 250 to 500 more calories than you burn daily, increase your protein intake to between 0.5 and 1 gram per pound of body weight daily, lift heavy weights with compound exercises at least three times per week and get ample sleep. You should follow a diet free of processed foods and stick to greens, whole grains and lean proteins to get your calories. Ensure you supplement each workout with a 20- to 30-gram serving of readily digestible protein – such as whey. You can safely add approximately 1/2 to 1 pound of muscle per week. Adding five pounds of muscle will make a difference in your body's appearance.
Genetics and Age
Certain body types are more conducive to building muscle. Tall, skinny people have more difficulty getting “big,” so their gains may take longer to show. Shorter, more compact body types may build muscle more readily and look bigger in a few months of training. As you age, building muscle becomes harder as you fight the natural loss of muscle that occurs as you get older. You can get big in your 40s, but it may take longer than it would if you were in your 20s.
If you’ve been lifting weights for a while and are just amping up your program to make a noticeable size difference, you may experience changes at a slower rate than a beginner. When you are already muscular, changes won't seem as dramatic. Keeping track of your body measurements can help you see if your efforts are paying off. Muscles grow slowly and it may be hard to notice your growth on a day-to-day basis. Use a tape measure to evaluate your biceps, thighs and chest every four to eight weeks. Photos in the same tight-fitting workout attire taken every month or two can also reveal a physique that is growing in size.
Muscles grow at different rates, depending on where they are in the body. You may notice your arms get bigger sooner than your legs or upper back. If you notice an area lagging behind in your quest to be huge, target it with an extra exercise or two – but be careful not to overdo it. Rest at least 48 hours between workouts for specific muscle groups to ensure your muscle fibers repair and recover.
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.