Congratulations on commencing your new healthy life plan! Making a change is hard to do. That's why I've also written a post on building better habits. But how long does it take for the change to happen, and can you speed up your results?
It makes sense to crave results: results in themselves are powerful motivators₂. Sadly, more than 43% give up due to a feeling that there is a lack of results, and with good reason₃.
So let’s take away the bro-science and get to the hard science: what factors are important for change, and what might be sabotaging your best efforts?
A rapid response to a new exercise program depends on a number of factors including;
No matter how hard you train, 80% or more of your results are going to be the result of what is on your plate in the 23 hours outside of the gym. One of the easiest ways to look like you have more muscle is to reduce the layer of fat that surrounds it. It’s a little too easy to fall into a trap of using exercise as an excuse to eat more, even though many sessions will only increase your calorie burn by about 200 calories: that is the equivalent of a healthy snack (and not a cheeseburger).
Exercise is not exponentially good for you, there is a maximum benefit to a certain level of exercise. Beyond that, more exercise will actually reduce your results, and make you more prone to injury. Your goal should be to aim for somewhere between that ‘maximum benefit point’ and doing the level of exercise of which you are already capable: gentle, but progressive overload. Sleep at night time, rest days and rest time between sets are crucial to muscle recovery and performance in your next session (these are two different principles). If you are burning the midnight oil, don’t expect to recover properly, and do not expect to be able to give much to subsequent exercise sessions. Aim for at least 7 hours sleep to help boost your repair and recovery.
3. Adequate Training (intensity, type and consistency):
Results require a challenge to push your muscles beyond what they are currently capable of. If you continue to do the same thing, there will be less change (as the body adapts to the session). To get more results you need to do more. That does not mean we suggest to extend your workouts (see point 2), but instead that you exercise at a greater intensity, and progressively overload the muscles within the same timeframe that you already use.
Doing the same workouts over and over again mean you are working with the “Law of Diminishing Returns”: the amount that you can change based on that particular session stimulus reduces, the more often that you do it4.
Tip: change your workout every 4-6 weeks, which allows enough time for the body to almost completely adapt to the current program before you change it to something else to shock the body into changing again.
4. The goal:
We aren’t going to bore you with the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant; Timely) goals (but we could). Make sure that your expectations align with the effort that you are putting in, and within an acceptable timeframe.
Aim for the low lying fruit first, by targeting to show up consistently as your main focus in the first month and leave other goals for the month after. The goals that you have, and the speeds at which you reach them, will all depend on your starting point (and whether you are working around, say, an injury, or if you are a complete beginner).
The more consistent you are with your workouts and nutrition plan the more rapidly you will see the results of your discipline. All too often people do not focus on the bigger picture and can focus for too long on one missed session, which leads to another missed session; or one failed diet choice that leads to another. Accept that setbacks can happen and don’t let a bad Monday ruin the rest of a week.
Remember: The superhero-esk chiseled bod might be hard to come by, but the results are certainly not impossible. It is crucial to find what aspects work for you and make the program your own. Read how to speed up your gains here.
Where are my gains: What can you do to speed up your gains?
It is certainly not surprising that we want results now: our news feeds boast about losing 10kg in 10 days and other similarly instantaneous results. But starting an exercise plan with expectations to achieve overwhelming progress in a few short weeks is a recipe for disappointment. Whilst there are short-term benefits to exercise; better mood, more strength and more energy for your day, the noticeable results to your physique may take few months of consistency.
Don’t give up on that truism, because we are here to help.
Here are some of the best tips and tricks if you are really looking to get your results in lightening quick time!
1. Nutrition check:
New mantra: “you bite it, you write it”. Nutrition can affect your progress and your performance in the gym. A diet rich in protein, vegetables, fruits and good fats is the best recommendation if you are looking for a boost in workouts and your results. Track what you are eating in a journal or on the ‘myfitnesspal’ mobile app. All too often we can forget the extra cream bun we ate or the additional syrup added to our coffee. These all add up to more calories than you realise and consequently, can soften the chiseled abs you crave.
2. Cardio AND weights:
Too many people spin their wheels by doing one and not the other. Balancing both will ensure maintaining muscle and chipping away at the fat stores.
3. Choose effective exercises:
You are an intelligent exerciser, and you might realise that one leg exercise can get a real sweat up as opposed to one bicep curl set. There are larger muscles in your legs, and some exercises, e.g. if you choose compound exercises such as squats, lunges, deadlifts and presses, you increase the amount of muscle worked per exercise. That means more bang for your exercise buck in each session.
4. Increase your workout density/effort:
How much work you do in a session is the result of how much load you cram into a timeframe. You can increase this by upping the weight, reducing the rest period between your sets, and even by pairing your exercises together with no rest (‘super setting’).
Keep it interesting and keep it changing. Some methods to consider include using a finisher or drop sets. That is where you choose a low-risk activity (like a bodyweight press up) and do as many reps as you can for 3 sets, or perhaps using a machine weight for as many reps as you can do before you drop to a lower poundage.
6. Increase your NEAT (Non-Exercise Induced Thermogenesis):
To increase the calories you use, find ways to bring more activity into your day. Park further away or take the stairs: use your body as active transport.
7. Get a trainer:
Whether you are a seasoned exerciser or just completely uncertain, and would like to maximize your training result output, getting expert guidance will take the guesswork out of training. This can save you hours of frustration for the price of a few personal training sessions. There are a wealth of trainers who also do online training (more on that in the next article).
Good luck, and don’t forget to check out some of our best supplements to help aid your recovery and training here.
Clark D. (1999) Physical activity and its correlates among urban primary care patients aged 55 years or older. Journal of Gerontology 54B, S41±S48
Schneider J. (1997) Self-regulation and exercise behavior in older women. Journal of Gerontology 52B, P235±P241.
Moroshko, Irena, Leah Brennan, and Paul O’Brien. “Predictors of dropout in weight loss interventions: a systematic review of the literature.” Obesity reviews 12.11 (2011): 912-934.
Sraffa, Piero. The laws of returns under competitive conditions. Bobbs-Merrill Company, College Division,