Millions of people start their fitness journey to lose fat, but countless others start working out to do just the opposite. Instead of a focus on fat loss, they are concerned with building muscle.
Fortunately, new lifters can make huge gains pretty quickly. This is thanks to something known as beginner or newbie gains.
But how long do newbie gains last? When should new lifters expect to have to work harder? We’ll take a look in the guide below.
- What Exactly Are Newbie Gains?
- Newbie Gains: How Long Do They Last?
- 3 Key Factors That Determine How Long Newbie Gains Last
- Scientific Causes Of Beginner Gains
- Early Vs. Late ‘New’ Gains Stage
- How Much Can You Expect To Gain From Newbie Gains?
- 8 Tips To Keep Progressing After Newbie Gains
- Common Questions About Newbie Gains
What Exactly Are Newbie Gains?
Newbie gains occur within the first two to three months of training and they refer to the period of time right after someone starts working out.
However, the sustained rate of accelerated muscle growth will not remain constant. Newbie gains could last for as long as a year, although at a slower pace.
During this time, they see a lot of muscle hypertrophy and strength gains in a relatively short amount of time.
This will depend on your genetic potential, muscle mass, and body weight when you first started lifting, training methods, and diet. Any of these factors can accelerate the development of the newbie gains.
Still, even at that slower pace, their muscle gains will occur at a rate far faster than lifters in a more advanced growth phase.
This can come with its own drawbacks and other physiological changes within the novice lifter’s body.
Most of these are fortunately of a positive effect and are theorized by researchers to be a simple bodily response to new and intense physical stimuli. This is also known as an extrinsic biological adaptation.
Newbie Gains: How Long Do They Last?
How long newbie gains last will vary from person to person. However, many lifters experience newbie gains from 6 months to 1 year after beginning regular resistance training.
The six months to 1-year window is so wide because it's hard to pinpoint precisely when newbie gains fade and non-newbie gains begin.
However, there are signs to look out for that will let you know if your beginner gains are slowing down.
For example, you might notice you have gone an entire month without gaining any weight, or you haven't been able to add weight to the bar week to week.
It's harder to determine how long newbie gains will last for new lifters with a higher body fat percentage and are likely not losing weight during this time. They still gain muscle, but it's harder to quantify visually or on the scale.
Your background and body composition will also affect how long this phase lasts. For example, if you’ve spent most of your life sedentary and you’re lifting weights for the first time, you’ll have some “catching up” to do physically.
On the other hand, a former college athlete that gets back into lifting ten years later will have a different path.
It’s not entirely known why this happens, but it likely has something to do with myonuclei. Your muscles have a certain number of myonuclei that help determine your potential for muscle growth.
It's possible to increase your myonuclei numbers with training. And a study in 2010 study found that when you stop training, they don't go away—someone who worked out and had muscle development previously can gain back muscle much faster.
This would likely result in a shorter “newbie” gain phase compared to someone with minimal experience and less myonuclei built up in the muscle tissue.
So it’s no use stressing over how long this phase will last for you. Instead, spend your first year setting your goals high, training consistently, following a program you enjoy, and eating well.
Your body will respond to anything you throw at it, so you should maximize your efforts and make the most of it.
3 Key Factors That Determine How Long Newbie Gains Last
We touched on it above, but let’s go a little more in-depth about the factors that help determine how long your newbie gains will last.
1. Your Previous Fitness Level
If you are brand new to fitness, you should see fantastic newbie gains.
When exercise is entirely new to you, it'll be more of a shock to your system, and you'll break down more muscle tissue much easier.
Protein synthesis kicks into overdrive to repair your muscle tissues, so you see more results in less time.
Sometimes, though, the more body fat someone has, the less muscle they will be capable of gaining relative to total body weight.
Those individuals will likely focus on fat loss and losing fat as well as gaining muscle.
Unfortunately, effort and hard work only take you so far, even in the newbie gains period.
While hard work is a critical component of weight lifting and newbie gains, research suggests genetics plays a crucial role in how fast you can build muscle and how much muscle gain you’ll see.
The maximum muscle mass you attain depends mainly on the size of your skeleton. That’s why it’s important not to put too much stock in how someone else looks compared to how you look.
3. Your Training Style And Intensity
Intense workouts and high training volume targeting every muscle group as a newbie result in more weight gains for you.
When we talk about intensity, we are referring to how much the training programs challenge your muscles.
As long as you always use proper form, the harder you work in the gym, the more gains you'll make.
Scientific Causes Of Beginner Gains
Muscle growth occurs through a process called muscle protein synthesis (MPS).
Muscle protein synthesis is when your body uses protein from your diet to synthesize new muscle tissues.
The higher levels of muscle protein synthesis you have, the greater your muscle-building potential. To build muscle, your body has to synthesize more protein than it breaks down. Research shows that your levels of MPS are elevated after resistance training.
This is because lifting weights damages your muscle fibers, which helps to kick off a signaling event to repair the muscle fibers. This response is especially strong in new lifters, especially those who have never lifted weights.
New lifers are especially sensitive to new stimuli. Research suggests that MPS spikes higher in untrained individuals post-exercise and stays elevated longer. This helps to explain why it’s easier for beginners to gain significant amounts of size and strength.
On top of benefiting from higher rates of muscle protein synthesis, people new to working out also experience a greater hormonal response to lifting weights.
Several different hormones are integral to the muscle-building process, and research shows that untrained individuals can produce these hormones in substantially greater amounts when they first begin training.
Early Vs. Late ‘New’ Gains Stage
Newbie gains don’t last forever, and they typically don’t occur in a perfectly linear manner.
If you chart your progress, you’d likely see the biggest gains immediately after starting a training program, sometimes up to 50% of your progress within the first few months.
After that, your newbie gains would continue at a more gradual pace. There’s no switch that flips when you go from early to late-stage newbie gains.
It’s a gradual process. You’ll continue to progress over time, even when you become a more intermediate or advanced lifter. Newbie gains just slow down, and you have to work a bit harder.
If you are committed and consistent with your training and prioritize muscle growth, you can continue to see gains. Of course, you'll have to continually stay in a caloric surplus and progressively increase your weights and repetitions.
Being in a calorie surplus is essential because you have to eat more calories than you burn to gain weight, whether you're in the newbie gains phase or not.
Conversely, if you're in a calorie deficit, although you might experience fat loss, you'll never gain lean mass.
If you gained 20 lbs of muscle in your first year, you might gain about half of that in your second year and half of that in your third. Even though your weight gain slows, it doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong.
Your body is in a constant cycle of adaptation when you train. Your body will continually improve at adapting the more you force it to do so.
The same stimulus (lifting) done repeatedly has a blunted effect over time. This is known as the repeated bout effect.
You should avoid the repeated bout effect, so continually challenging yourself in the gym and paying close attention to your nutrition can slow the decline of your progress as your newbie gains fade.
How Much Can You Expect To Gain From Newbie Gains?
Men usually experience about a 20-25lbs increase in muscle mass, while women are closer to about 10-12lbs during the newbie gains phase.
On average, women typically weigh less at the start, and hormonal differences exist. Here are typical muscle gain expectations based in percentages for men and women:
8 Tips To Keep Progressing After Newbie Gains
Just because your progress slows down, it doesn’t mean you’ll stop improving altogether or never make significant progress again.
You can do a few things to ensure you keep progressing in the gym and gaining more muscle.
1. Maintain High Protein Intake
Building muscle will require you to take in plenty of protein. If you aren’t getting enough protein in your diet, you must start supplementing and eating more protein sources.
Your goal should be to take in about 1g of protein per pound of body weight to give your muscles enough building blocks to work with.
Try getting 20g-40g of protein per meal, especially in the hours after your lifting session.
Eating more than this won’t hurt, but the benefits start to decline at this point, and you’ll be better off filling your meals with carbs and fats.
2. Focus On Getting Stronger
To keep giving your muscles adequate stimulus, you must continue to get stronger.
Once you hit a plateau in muscle growth and strength, lean into strength-focused programming to get stronger so you can lift more weight. You can increase your volume by using heavier weights.
3. Make Changes To Your Program (Volume & Exercise Selection)
No one needs to do super complex exercises or develop an entirely new weekly training routine. However, you will need to switch things up every several weeks.
You can swap out your accessories, change the intensity, and reps, increase your weight, and switch up your exercises to give your muscles something new to adapt to.
Once you’ve been lifting for a while, you’ll need a higher volume to stimulate a similar hormonal response.
That just means you can’t keep doing the same thing repeatedly and expect to keep adding significantly to your total body weight. You have to increase volume over time to enhance your muscle-building potential.
4. Consume Enough Calories Every Day
To continue progressing with muscle growth outside the newbie gains phase, you have to ensure you are constantly in a caloric surplus.
Of course, you shouldn't need a major calorie surplus, but you must ensure you don't fall below maintenance levels. And you need to make sure you get enough protein.
If you don’t consume enough calories, it will compromise your potential for muscle growth. You might not experience this during the newbie phase, but you will once you’ve been lifting for a while.
5. Choose Compound Movements
Compound movements are a great way to ensure you keep improving over time.
Compound movements are more complex and often take years to master and are great for building total body strength.
Lifts, presses, squats, bench presses, and deadlifts will be essential to increasing your strength gains and adding muscle mass past the newbie stage.
6. Train Hard & Keep Lifting Heavier Weights
Training to failure or close to failure may be necessary to keep you progressing.
Many people get stuck lifting the same weight for years because they get stuck in a routine and never challenge themselves.
To keep seeing muscle gains, you need to continuously increase the weight you lift for all muscle groups. This is what's known as progressive overload.
Progressive overload is essential if you want to get stronger over time, especially for more experienced lifters.
You don’t need to work to failure on every set of every exercise, but the time you spend in the gym shouldn’t be a casual walk in the park if you want to continually improve.
Effort is a highly underrated factor for progress in weight training. If you always exert yourself, you will continue to see gains.
7. Don't Ignore Recovery
Many lifters fall into the trap of going to the gym, giving it their all for hours each week, but live in a perpetual state of exhaustion.
Although we can’t fault them for lacking effort, this is not the right approach.
Getting enough sleep, paying attention to your nutrition and hydration, and taking mental health breaks can help you maximize the effort you put into your training sessions.
Managing fatigue is essential because you can’t continually beat yourself down day after day without proper recovery.
If you do, you’ll end up chasing exhaustion more than gains and compromise your true potential.
8. Taking Supplements
Supplements can help, but they are far less important than proper diet and training.
But supplements don’t build great physiques. Only dedication to appropriate training and nutrition does. However, while workout supplements aren’t a silver bullet to weight loss and muscle building, the right ones can help.
Creatine is one of the most popular muscle-building supplements on the market. It is a natural substance in the body and foods like red meat. Supplementation with creatine can help you:
No one needs to drink a protein shake or take protein supplements to gain muscle.
However, since most lifters need to take in a lot of protein daily to maximize muscle growth, getting all your dietary protein from whole foods can take time and effort.
That’s the main reason people take whey protein supplements.
Also Check Out - Pre-Workout Vs Protein Powder
A pre-workout supplement can get you fired up and ready to get to work in the gym.
Finding a pre-workout supplement light on stimulants but heavy on natural, safe, performance-enhancing ingredients like beta-alanine, betaine, and citrulline can take time and effort, but finding the right one can make a world of difference.
See Also - Pros & Cons Of Pre-Workout Supplements
Common Questions About Newbie Gains
Newbie lifters make bigger gains in muscle growth in less time. And the rate newbies make gains is much faster than the rate at which experienced lifters make gains. According to research, during the newbie gain phase, muscle protein synthesis lasts for an average of almost 50 hours after lifting. However, for seasoned lifters, muscle protein synthesis lasts about 36 hours after lifting.
Like many good things, newbie gains only last for a while, and muscle growth slows after a year or so. That's why it's important to maximize newbie gains while you can. However, if you stop working out and lifting for an extended period, it may be possible to experience newbie gains again if you ever restart your muscle-building journey.
The average newbie can expect rapid growth when starting a workout program and consistently training. Most newbie lifters gain up to 15 pounds of muscle within their first three months of working out. If you're naturally skinny, newbie gains happen even quicker, and you could gain even more.
Although improbable, if you do it the right way, it is possible to miss the newbie gains phase, or at least not develop as much muscle mass as you should. So, if you don’t take your weight lifting seriously, or you eat poorly and don’t keep up with your calorie intake, your newbie gains period might not be much to brag about, and you might even experience fat gain.
Newbie gains are an exciting stage in every new lifter's journey. This phase often gets people hooked on training and drives their motivation up in the first 6 months to a year.
Beyond the first year, though, newbie gains stop, and you'll notice a drop-off in progress.
Implementing several things, like increasing your weight and eating enough proteins and nutritious food, will keep you gaining muscle for years to come.
This is all part of the process, and it's to be expected and embraced as a challenge every lifter is destined to be faced with.