How Much Muscle Can You Gain in a Month?

Man doing push ups

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The question of how much muscle growth you can get in a month or year arises regularly in weight training and bodybuilding forums and is a feature of many advertisements on associated websites and in magazines. Such ads entice many people to subscribe to various courses, books, or supplements to learn how to pack on a substantial amount of muscle in a remarkably short time.

A typical example could be: “Gain 20-30 pounds of lean muscle in 10 weeks with my nutrition and training guide.” Do the math: That’s 2 to 3 pounds of muscle per week. While that's not entirely impossible, there is little chance you could achieve that rate with lean muscle growth.

20–30 pounds of total weight gain—including muscle, fat, water, and carbohydrate storage—might be possible for some people. But as lean muscle? Probably not. Also keep in mind that we're referring to natural training without the help of anabolic steroids.

Muscle Building Targets

Research investigating lean muscle gain over the course of a month is limited, but experts suggest that most healthy individuals can gain 1 to 2 pounds of lean muscle mass per month. However, this rate varies based on factors such as age, sex, physical condition, genetics, diet quality, and of course, training program. Some individuals may gain slightly more, while other might gain slightly less.

There are limits as well—the increases you achieve in, say, three months, may not be sustained over six or 12 months. Instead, a monthly increase of about a half a pound is more likely over time. In addition, muscle gains may accelerate during periods of intense training (hypertrophy) and decelerate during bouts of decreased training (atrophy).

Muscle Growth Rate Factors

There are a few factors to consider when assessing the rate of muscle growth. Muscle comprises protein tissues like muscle fibers and connective tissue but also blood, nerves, water, and glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrate, which includes water).

Because water and carbohydrate get stored together as glycogen, this can add a considerable amount of weight when a person is fully "loaded." This tends to pump the muscles and body up a bit. But this storage can be lost when the person exercises hard and long or goes on a low-carb diet.

It's easy to see how the advertising companies can get manipulate the facts about muscle gain with their product when you factor in the all the variables.

Muscle Gains

The best way to figure out how much muscle you might gain in a month is to consider your current weight and level of fitness, for starters. Your sex and genetics are also a factor: Men tend to put on muscle more easily than women, and some people are more genetically predisposed to muscle gain than others.

Remember that you will likely gain more muscle during the initial one to three months of training, but gain less after that. Overall, around 8 to 15 pounds per year could be a good estimate, but again, some people may gain more (or less) than that. Note this is nowhere near the exaggerated promises of 20–30 pounds in just 10 weeks.

You should also allow for some fluctuation in water and carbohydrate storage, You have to work hard, eat a healthy, balanced diet and be patient to build muscle; there is simply no other way.

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