How Much Muscle Can You Gain in a Month?

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How Much Muscle Can You Gain in a Month?

Written by Daniel Preiato, RD, CSCS on February 2, 2021 — Medically reviewed by Daniel Bubnis, M.S., NASM-CPT, NASE Level II-CSS

This article is a repost which originally appeared on Healthline

Edited for content.

When looking to gain muscle, it’s no secret that exercise and proper nutrition are key.

Additionally, numerous factors contribute to the rate of muscle gain, including your training experience, sex, age, and the type of exercise you do. As such, you may wonder how much muscle you can really gain in a month.

This article covers how much muscle you can gain in a month, including how to get started and supplements that may be worth taking.

How much muscle can you gain?

In most cases, gaining muscle is a slow, gradual process, and it can take years rather than months to see sizeable results.

That said, beginners and some intermediate lifters may be able to see small changes after just a few months of intense training.

Though it’s nearly impossible to determine exactly how much muscle you can gain in a month, some studies can give you a good idea.

One study in 30 college-aged men with previous training experience observed a 23% increase in vastus lateralis size — one of the leg muscles — after 6 weeks of purposeful resistance training.

However, it’s important to note that this muscle growth was largely attributed to increases in water and glycogen stores, which is the stored form of carbs.

Similarly, one small older study observed a 5.6% increase in muscle size after 21 weeks of strength training in 8 non-strength-trained athletes, while 8 strength-trained athletes experienced less growth.

This suggests that trainees without prior strength training experience have a greater potential for muscle gains than athletes with training experience. What’s more, your genetic makeup may also mean you respond better to muscle growth stimulus.

While data is limited on exactly how much muscle you can gain in a month, these studies suggest that short-term muscle growth is modest in natural athletes.

Summary

Though data on the specific amount of muscle you can gain in a month is limited, select studies suggest that new trainees can yield noticeable muscle gains in less time than those with resistance training experience.

How to get started

When looking to gain muscle quickly, there are a few factors you can focus on to get the most efficient results for your efforts.

High intensity resistance exercise

Arguably, the most important factor is to focus on high intensity resistance exercises in the 8–12 rep range.

These include compound movements like variations of the squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press, snatch, and clean and jerk. These work multiple muscle groups at once, thus improving exercise efficiency and stimulating muscle growth.

In addition to compound exercises, include various isolation exercises to target specific muscle groups. Unlike compound exercises, isolation exercised target one muscle group at a time, providing maximal stimulation and growth potential.

While cardiovascular exercise is important for overall health, it does not play a major role in muscle gain.

Ultimately, it may be helpful to consult a certified trainer to help you put together a suitable exercise program.

Proper nutrition

Another significant component of gaining muscle quickly is proper nutrition.

For the best results, it’s recommended that you eat 10–20% more calories than your metabolic rate, which is also known as your total daily energy expenditure. This means consuming slightly more calories than you burn, as gaining muscle is an energy-expensive process.

This is often referred to as bulking and sometimes accomplished using a “clean” or “dirty” approach depending on your dietary choices and dedicated time for the process.

In addition to a calorie surplus, it’s important that you ensure a sufficient protein intake of 0.7–1 gram per pound (1.6–2.2 grams per kg) of body weight, as protein serves as the major building block of muscle.

You may want to seek advice from a registered dietitian for further nutritional guidance.

Summary

Two important factors when looking to maximize short-term muscle gains include high intensity resistance exercise and proper nutrition that prioritizes a calorie surplus and adequate protein.

Different populations

One of the main factors in the rate of muscle gain is your training age, or how long you’ve been training.

Two other important factors to consider are age and sex, which can also greatly affect muscle building.

Beginners

When just getting started with strength and hypertrophy (muscle building) training, you have great potential for muscle growth.

This is because training is a new stimulus, and as your muscles are worked, growth occurs to prepare them for future training.

That said, muscle growth is still limited during the initial stages of resistance training, while most of your strength gains are due to neural adaptions. This means that as you train, your brain gets better at recruiting muscle fibers to contract during a particular exercise.

Therefore, if you’re a beginner to resistance training, you’re unlikely to see any sizeable muscle gains in your first month of training, even if you’re gaining strength.

Intermediates

After training consistently for at least 1 year and grasping the fundamental movements, you move toward the intermediate phase of training.

This tends to be where trainees spend the most time, with some never progressing onto the advanced phase.

During the late–beginner and early–intermediate training phase, you have the most potential for muscular growth, as you have moved past the neural adaptation phase.

At this point, you can proficiently perform most movements and stimulate significant muscle growth.

Advanced trainees

The advanced phase of training takes a significant amount of time and effort to reach, usually at least 2 years for even the most gifted athletes.

At this point, most trainees have achieved most of their muscle and strength gains, and new muscle mass is hard to come by.

Progressing as an advanced trainee often requires advanced training techniques that provide maximal muscle stimulation.

Even in the best-case scenario, natural advanced trainees may not see more than a few pounds of muscle gain per year.

Men

In general, men have a few advantages over women when it comes to gaining muscle.

According to both older and new research, men tend to have larger, more numerous muscle fibers, allowing for overall bigger muscles and increased strength potential.

What’s more, men have higher levels of testosterone, the major circulating male sex hormone that’s responsible for male characteristics like muscle development, body hair, and deepening of the voice.

Considering these factors, men tend to gain more muscle than women over a month’s time.

Women

Women are at a slight disadvantage when it comes to quick muscle and strength building due to genetic and hormonal differences.

That said, women have an advantage over men when it comes to exercise fatigue and recovery, as they’re often able to handle more exercise volume and recover quicker.

This is mainly due to higher levels of estrogen, one of the primary female sex hormones, which is thought to have a protective effect on skeletal muscle.

Thus, although men may gain muscle at a faster rate than women, women appear to recover from exercise more efficiently, potentially allowing them to handle more training volume over time.

Older adults

Muscle and strength loss, also called sarcopenia, is one of several factors associated with the aging process in both men and women.

Fortunately, resistance training has been shown to slow, or even slightly reverse, this effect in older individuals.

While the rate of muscle gain tends to be slower in the aging population, improvements in muscle strength and functional mobility are still seen. This stresses the importance of following a regular exercise regimen that includes resistance training as you age.

Summary

The rate at which you can gain muscle varies greatly between populations, with beginners and intermediates seeing significantly more progress than advanced trainees.

Do supplements help?

During your quest for muscle gains, various supplements may enhance your results.

While many supplement companies claim their products can help you pack on muscle quickly, only a few types of supplements boast extensive scientific backing.

Here are the muscle-building supplements with the most scientific support.

Protein powder

Protein powders are the isolated form of various types of protein, including milk proteins like whey or casein or plant proteins like pea or brown rice.

When looking to promote muscle gain, getting enough protein is essential, as it provides the building blocks of skeletal muscle.

Experts recommend getting 20–40 grams of a high quality protein, meaning protein that contains all essential amino acids and is easily digested, within 2 hours of resistance exercise to maximize muscle gains.

While protein powders are not necessary, they can serve as an excellent tool to help you meet your daily protein needs, especially if you have trouble reaching them through your regular diet.

Creatine

Creatine is another highly researched supplement shown to promote muscle gains by increasing exercise capacity during high intensity training.

It plays a vital role in the phosphocreatine system. This system provides energy for muscle contractions that last less than 15 seconds, such as when you start sprinting or complete a heavy lift.

Creatine is found in foods like salmon and beef, but supplementing with it is an easy way to maximize its stores in your skeletal muscle and may be a worthwhile strategy when you’re looking to promote muscle gains.

HMB

Beta-hydroxy beta-methylbutyrate (HMB) is a metabolite — an end product of metabolism — of an essential amino acid called leucine. It has shown some promise in promoting muscle and strength gains when combined with resistance training.

Supplementing with HMB appears to increase muscle protein synthesis and reduce muscle protein breakdown, leading to gains in muscle mass. However, these benefits have mainly been observed in new trainees and the elderly.

This means that HMB may be worth trying for those who are new to resistance training, as well as older adults looking to retain muscle mass, but not for those with resistance training experience.

Summary

While numerous supplements claim to boost muscle mass, only a few are backed by research. The main ones include protein powders, creatine, and HMB.

The bottom line

How much muscle you can gain in a month varies greatly depending on factors like your sex, age, and training experience.

While select populations can see noticeable muscle gains in just 1 month, achieving significant changes in your body’s musculature takes effort and time — often several years rather than months.

To maximize your muscle gains, follow a consistent, high intensity resistance training program, stick to a proper diet that includes sufficient calories and protein, and consider taking select supplements.

It’s best to consult a qualified healthcare professional before starting an intense resistance training regimen, especially if you have any underlying ailments or injuries.