Fit or Fiction: How Long Does It Take To Gain a Pound of Muscle?Posted on Jun 22nd 2010 2:00PM by Liz Neporent
How long does it take to gain a pound of muscle? -- Emily, Scranton, Pa.
Unfortunately, there's no way to establish precisely how fast you'll gain a pound of muscle. It all depends on your genetic predisposition to build muscle and shed fat , as well as your health habits taken as a whole. In other words, it's not just how dedicated you are to lifting weights, but how dedicated you are to putting down your knife and fork.
Some body types tend to pack on muscle faster than other body types, while those body types who tend to remain slim or who are more fat-loving struggle the most to add muscle. Your progress also depends on how hard you're trying; if you do little more than brush past the free weights on your way to and from the treadmill or do a light body sculpt class every other week, your progress is going to be slower than someone who lifts several days a week and makes every rep count.
Over a 12-week period, some research shows people can increase their lean body mass by two to four pounds. However, on balance the majority of the research has shown a slower pace; beginners who lift weights two or three times a week typically gain one pound of muscle per month for about six months. I think the latter is closer to how the average person lifts weights, rather than many of the studies where subjects are pushed pretty hard to see how much muscle and weight they are able to gain in the shortest period of time.
Also, much of the research has been done with young men, so I suspect that the majority of women will make far slower progress than most men being that male hormones make it easier to pack on muscle. Also, the older you are -- regardless of sex -- the slower your muscle gain will be. And even if you are a young man in superb shape pumping iron for all you're worth, muscle gain tends to slow down after an initial burst of growth.
I know attempting to grow muscle sounds a lot harder than, say, trying to grow a Chia Pet -- and when you hear what the pay off is, you may not like it. But trust me. Adding even a tiny bit of extra muscle is well worth the effort: Besides the additional strength you build, you may also rev up your metabolism slightly. Scientists speculate that for every three pounds of muscle you build, you increase your resting metabolic rate by about five percent. So if your body burns 1,200 calories per day through your resting metabolism (this doesn't take into account any exercise or other movement you do during the day), you'd burn an extra 10 to 30 calories per day per extra pound. (I know there are sources out there that tout huge gains of, say, 90 calories per pound of muscle, but this simply isn't true.)
Thirty calories is like three Life Savers, right? That doesn't seem like much. It really is, though. This slight bump up in metabolism can translate into a two to three pound weight loss or the prevention of a two to three pound weight gain over the course of a year. Not to mention your body will look different: A muscular body that is the same weight as a mushy body always looks smaller, tighter, firmer and more chiseled. Your clothes will look better and you will get compliments for losing weight, looking younger and transforming your body even if the scale doesn't budge at all.
Have you found this to be true? I certainly have in both myself and the people I have trained over the years. If you're interested in trying it for yourself, this 15-minute workout is a great way to get started.
So is this interval training workout; though technically a cardio workout, it is another proven way to build muscle and at least temporarily give metabolism an extra little zing.