by Brian VanHooker
It’s way less than you — and apparently, most sports reporters — think
It seems like every time spring training starts, guys who left the field worn down at the end of September come back in mid-February super-ripped, with tons of new muscle — Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, for example, added an extra 20 pounds to his frame over this last winter. Same for the Mets’ Yoenis Cespedes, whose newly bulging frame ESPN’s Buster Olney can’t stop talking about on the Baseball Tonight podcast: HE’S BECOME SUCH A MONSTER IN SUCH A SHORT AMOUNT OF TIME. HE’S JUST HUGE. SO, SO, SO HUGE.
But does this mean the average guy, eyeing a calendar and seeing it’s three months till his next beach vacation, can do the same? Nutritionists often warn that it’s not safe to lose more than a couple pounds a week when dieting, but what about when you’re trying to put on weight?
The Amount of Muscle You Can Add in… One Week
Bad news, last-minute gym-goers: Not too much is going to happen to your body in the first week of working out. If you’ve waited until seven days before spring break to nix the fast food and start pumping iron, it’s basically too late, according to health, nutrition and lifestyle consultant Michael Kuhn, founder of Mike the Caveman Consulting. He says that you can expect to gain “about 0.2 to 0.25 pounds [of muscle] at most” in the first week. More depressingly for on-again, off-again exercisers, that applies as much to those who’ve taken some time away from the gym as it does to first-timers.
The simple reason for this is that building muscle takes time. “The protein turnover rate — that is, the breaking down of damaged muscle proteins and the creation of new and stronger ones [which is what you’re doing when you gain muscle] — is the time limiter,” explains Carolyn Dean, a member of the Medical Advisory Board at the Nutritional Magnesium Association.
This doesn’t mean you should be put off, though: While the first week will be slow going, with little in the way of visible results, it has the benefit of getting you into an established routine, setting you up for bigger rewards to come.
The Amount of Muscle You Can Add in… One Month
If you’ve put things off until a month before your deadline — say, you’ve decided you’ve got to be Wolverine for an upcoming Con but only have four weeks to get in shape — you’ll be relieved to hear that you can actually see some decent results in that time period.