Fat loss and muscle gain: What does it realistically look like?

When it comes to fat loss and muscle gain, everyone wants those ‘Gram worthy after photos right now. But it’s important to understand what’s realistic as that can be the difference between achieving amazing results and giving up altogether. How fast can someone lose fat? What’s the upper limit of muscle gain? And at what rate of progress can someone not only achieve but also sustain? Let’s dive into it.

When it comes to losing fat or gaining muscle, people are often frustrated by what they think are “poor” or “mediocre” results.  

Not due to lack of progress, but because:

  • They started with unrealistic expectations
  • They couldn’t sustain their initial rate of progress
  • All of the above

The good news: It doesn’t have to be this way.

Let’s start by looking at athlete 1. Let’s say Athlete 1 lost six pounds of body fat in your first four weeks together. Yet Athlete 1 was disappointed in their “lack” of progress. From our standpoint, that progress was fantastic. Over six months, maintaining that rate of progress would lead to a 40-pound fat loss. That could be life-changing for some. For others, it might be way more than they’d even want to lose.

But all too often, the individual thinks they’re failing. Because six pounds in four weeks doesn’t feel like a lot. This is likely because they expected over-the-top, rapid results. Perhaps they hoped to quickly look like they did 15 years ago or have the body composition of a magazine cover model in an unrealistic time frame.

Most people would quickly admit that expecting to lose 15 pounds of fat or gain 10 pounds of muscle in two weeks is unrealistic. But subconsciously, they still want to believe these results are not only possible but likely (hello, The Biggest Loser).

Our job, as your coach: Set achievable expectations from day one. 

How fast you can lose body fat depends on how consistently you can, or want to, follow the guidelines you’re given. How consistent? Look at this:

  • Extreme: Requires about 90 to 100 percent consistency.
  • Reasonable:  Requires about 70 to 85 percent consistency.
  • Comfortable: Requires about 50 to 65 percent consistency.

What does those rates of consistency give you?

  • Extreme: 1-1.5% body fat loss per week
  • Reasonable: 0.5-1% body fat loss per week
  • Comfortable: <0.5% body fat loss per week

How about on the other spectrum? What if you’re looking to add muscle? The ability to gain muscle is dependent on age, biological sex, genetics, and consistency with food intake, along with resistance training experience, intensity, frequency, style, volume, and more.

Here are some realistic rates, based on fitness level, men & women, over the course of a month:

  • Beginner: Men 1-1.5% body weight, Women 0.5-0.75% bw
  • Intermediate: Men 0.5-0.75% bw, Women 0.25-0.375% bw
  • Advanced: Men 0.25-0.375% bw, Women 0.125-0.1875% bw

There’s more to explore here, so stay tuned. But here’s a basic understanding to get you started.

Start here

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