If you have just started training or have been at it for a while, congratulations. You have taken the best step towards muscle gain, and now there’s this nagging doubt in your mind- how much muscle can you gain? How big can you get naturally? A month? A year?
Well, to be honest, that depends on your goals and what you define as the result. Ultimately, there is no definitive answer to the question, “How much muscle can you gain in a year naturally?” The closest answer would be an average that we will look into later in this post that has been derived through multiple studies.
Before we get to that, however, let us take a look into exactly what muscle gaining is all about and how you go about it, the natural and healthy way.
How to Build Muscle?
Muscle building is not an overnight process. It takes a lot of time and effort and is an amalgam of perseverance and persistence as well as keeping up the good effort and rewarding oneself with sufficient recovery time.
Pushing yourself is necessary but not to the point where you don’t give your body the time to adjust and grow. Building muscle is a standard process that follows a few basic steps, and the recipe for muscle growth is rather straightforward.
The secret to successfully building muscle mass is knowing the exact science behind it and applying the theory into practice.
This is why we will be looking into the biological process of how muscle growth happens and why it takes the amount of time that it does.
The Calorie Game of Building Muscle
To grow muscle, you should be in a calorie surplus. This means that you cannot be aiming to lose weight on the scale and grow muscle at the same time, but you can sculpt your body by utilizing the energy that you consume towards muscle development.
The number of calories that you require to grow 1 pound of muscle equals 2800 kcal approximately (1).
These calories primarily go into converting the protein that you consume into muscle mass. It does not involve just consuming protein, though [sadly].
Recommended: Here are the 3 Types of Whey Protein on how to choose one for your goal.
The amount of training that you do and any supplement that you take, along with the time that you give yourself a proper recovery, all figure into this and ultimately result in muscle growth.
To effectively build muscle without contributing to your body’s fat percentage, you need to enter just the right amount of calorie surplus so that you can target healthy muscle gain in a reasonable amount of time.
Besides maintaining calorie surplus, here are four things that are important equations of gaining muscle naturally:
Planning Your Diet
Your diet needs to be focused on achieving the necessary calorie surplus by primarily increasing the consumption of proteins in order to achieve optimum muscle gain in 1 year.
This is why you need to plan your diet in a way that works in tandem with your exercise levels and provides you optimal results. Ideally, depending on your body type, you should aim to gain a calorie surplus of about 250 to 500 calories per day to promote healthy and feasible muscle gain.
Protein in Your Diet
How much muscle you can gain in a week or year primarily depends on the amount of protein that is utilized for the growth of the muscle from this surplus. If you are of a body type that gains weight easily, you don’t need to increase your calorie consumption to the upper range of this limit.
However, if you are an ectomorph or someone who finds it very difficult to gain weight, then you should definitely up your calorie intake by 500 calories per day, most of which should come from proteins.
You should be able to balance the rest of the food that you consume between fat and healthy carbohydrates without compromising on micronutrients.
Identify healthy protein sources and include them in every meal if possible. Depending on your dietary preferences, you will be able to source proteins from different foods. (Don’t forget eating these high-calorie fruits when looking to build muscle)
However, this does not mean that you sacrifice other nutrients for the sake of proteins. Your micronutrients, i.e., vitamins and minerals, are extremely important for keeping you healthy and building your immunity.
Eating Right Things at the Right Time:
Gaining weight and muscle is also about eating at the right time.
Lean protein should be an important part of your diet, and ideally, when consumed about 20 minutes before working out, it contributes to muscle growth. Your post-workout meal should also be comprised of lean protein.
To keep your body in a constant state of muscle growth, you should not let yourself starve at any point and should be eating at least once every three hours (2). It does not have to be full heavy meals each time. For those looking to gain muscle, breakfast is one meal that you should not allow yourself to skip.
Always remember to keep yourself hydrated throughout the process because gaining muscle requires a lot of training which will leave you dehydrated severely. Without sufficient water intake, you will not be able to recover from your training, thus inhibiting muscle growth.
Next to your diet, this is the most crucial step for natural muscle gain per year. First of all, be clear about what your gym goals are and how you plan to work towards achieving them.
Also, ask yourself why you are planning to gain muscle – is this a professional or urgent requirement, or is it something you are just doing for yourself, taking your own time?
Not that you can hurry the process either way. But depending on your answer, you need to see whether you require the help of a personal trainer or you wish to work towards this goal all by yourself.
Timing Your Sessions for Effective Gains
Ideally, to see good results in a reasonable period, you need to aim at working out three-five times a week (and not more than that, because rest and recovery are just as important) and to time your workouts between 30-50 minutes of strength training sessions.
Here is the thing about a good strength training session, the gym results will virtually be invisible for quite a while, but you can rest assured that protein synthesis is going on for well up to 4 hours after a good workout. Even though you cannot see it in a few weeks or even months, you can feel it.
You will be able to lift heavier weights as the weeks fly by, which is a definite indicator that you have gained muscles and you are getting stronger.
Now when it comes to weight lifting, the reality is that you should be focusing on lifting weights that tire you out after a certain period.
Anywhere between 12-15 repetitions should be manageable but in no way easy. Every time it gets easier, increase the weights, level up and repeat. In a month or so, you will surprise yourself with just how much you can lift, provided that you are consistent.
Exercises Tailored Towards Muscle Gain
To gain muscle in an accelerated manner, or to put it better, as fast as you possibly can, you will need to lift heavy weights, but also you can focus on strength training to build core and body strength (3).
Such training exercises include those that work with your body weight.
Push-ups, lunges, etc., are examples of such workouts. Gym equipment such as stationary weight machines can help you with your strength training as well.
Rest and Recovery
Resting properly is very important for many reasons, but the most obvious of them all is to allow time for your body to recoup from the stress that it has been through while you have been intensely training.
Everyone says that pain is good, but in reality, pain is your body’s way of telling you that something is wrong, and if you are not listening to your body, you are doing more harm than good.
If you follow fitness experts and those who provide advice on bodybuilding, you will notice that they never work on the same group of muscles on consecutive days.
The simple reason behind this is that they are allowing the muscles they have worked upon to get some rest and recover so that they will be ready again for further training while minimizing the damage done to them (4).
Looking for optimum muscle gain in 1 year? Take rest days and give your body enough time to recover from workouts!
Why should you not skip recovery days?
If you do not rest enough, you will push your body into an injury- muscle sprains, tears (microtears post rough workouts are very real). If you are injured, you cannot continue to work out the way you have planned, and you will be forced to take a few days off, ultimately slowing your progress.
Moreover, you will be compromising on your form, which is very important for the effectiveness of your workout if you are feeling sore.
This again means that your workout will not be effective enough. Also, you are at great risk of injuring yourself further if you are not holding your form properly.
The Gains Take Place ‘Behind the Scene’
Contrary to popular belief, muscle growth does not happen during your training period. The precious time that you allow your body to rest between training is when all the magic happens, and your muscle grows.
So there you go. Even though you are tempted to do so, skipping your rest days might just be about the worst idea that you will have concerning your training.
Ultimately, you are looking to gain muscle growth healthily, and there is nothing wrong with supplementing your diet with the required nutrients that will promote muscle growth naturally.
Exactly how much muscle can you grow in a month or year, though, through the addition of supplements? It depends.
You need to plan your supplements out depending on your exact goals. Whether it is to build your appetite or gain a calorie surplus quickly or focus on muscle growth, you need to first identify the right supplement for you and consult with your physician before intaking them.
How Much Muscle Can You Gain Naturally?
Firstly, note that the word naturally plays a very important role here. Sadly, it does not mean that you have to put in no effort, and your muscle growth will just happen naturally.
Let us quench your curiosity and finally just answer your questions so that you have a realistic expectation of muscle growth and how much you should be looking to gain at different times.
You need to keep in mind that these figures are applicable only if you have extended proper and careful effort by planning your diet and exercise accordingly.
Natural Muscle Gain is Subjective
The amount of muscle that you can gain naturally depends on many factors, including your gender, genetic makeup, your hormonal levels, along with the factors you can control, such as your workouts and protein intake.
This means that there is no actual fixed amount of muscle that you can gain as it varies from individual to individual.
So, even if you don’t gain as much muscle growth as the numbers mentioned in this post, don’t be disappointed. You will get there with time and consistency.
Models and calculators to determine natural muscle you can gain:
There are different models and calculators in place that can help you determine exactly how much muscle you can gain, personalized information that will help you achieve a precise understanding based on different factors.
The theory behind this is that the natural limit for gaining muscle varies from person to person as determined by specialists.
The efficacy of these models is subject to question, but in general, to say the least, they can give you a pretty clear idea of what you can expect, even if not a ballpark number.
The Fat-Free Mass Index
Unlike the highly popular body mass index, which can be very misleading and unreliable in many conditions, this calculator focuses on determining the actual muscle mass of your body without calculating the fat percentage (5).
The BMI is not a reliable indicator of ideal weight because this information is not precise in terms of what can be considered as good overweight, i.e., muscle weight, or bad overweight.
To be able to determine this index, you need to know your body’s fat percentage. If you do know it, subtract the value from a hundred, multiply it with your body weight and divide this value by 100 and this gives you your fat-free mass.
Fat Free Mass = [Bodyweight x (100- BF%)]/100
FFMI = Fat Free Mass (kg) / Height x Height (m2)
Normalized FFMI = FFMI [kg/m²] + 6.1 * (1.8 – height [m])
Casey Butt’s Frame Size Model
Casey Butt derived a pretty impressive-looking formula that can help you determine how much muscle mass you can gain in a fixed time through purely natural methods based on his own experience.
Many different factors are considered during the application of this formula, and it primarily involves different body measurements, including your height, ankle and wrist circumferences, and your body fat percentage.
Through the application of this formula, you will be able to derive information regarding how much muscle you can gain in different parts of your body, such as your chest, upper arms, and forearms, calves, etc.
Here is the rather complicated formula for your reference, but we would suggest you use one of the many available calculators online for ease:
Height^1.5 x [(√wrist)/22.6670 + (√ankle)/17.0104] x [(BFP%/224) + 1] *
The Martin Berkhan Formula
This is highly popular because of the simplicity of the formula, even though it is not exactly the most accurate one on the list.
The principle behind this formula is in the assumption that a normal person seeking to gain muscle mass would have a body fat percentage of about 5-6%. You just need to know your height in centimeters to be able to figure out your muscle mass percentage using this formula which is as follows:
Height (CM) – 100 = MMP
Yes, it is that simple.
The Gist of It All
Different studies will provide you with different results when it comes to estimating how much muscle you can gain in different periods.
Ultimately, studies have shown that the maximum amount of muscle you can aim to gain in a week with an adequate diet, workout, and recovery is about 227 grams.
Remember, this is the maximum. On average, you can expect to gain muscle mass of roughly 1 to 2 pounds per month if you are male and about 1 pound in the case of females.
If you are an adult male who trains and is on a good diet, you can expect to gain anywhere between 1 to 2 pounds on average in a month, 2 pounds being the maximum. If you are an adult female who trains as well as follows a proper diet, you can expect to gain up to a maximum of 1 pound per month.
It helps a lot to think about the long-term prospects of training and focus on the benefits in the form of a big picture rather than expecting to see results in unrealistic periods.
Through steady effort, you will be gaining anywhere between 12-24 pounds in a year in the case of adult males and up to 12 pounds in the case of adult females.
The honest answer is NO, you don’t exactly need them, but they do help you accelerate the process realistically without causing harm.
If you wish to reach the upper limit of the amount of muscle that you can gain within a month or year, then taking supplements to increase your protein or creatinine level shall help you do so.
However, if you wish to stick to just a proper diet and exercise, it is also more than enough for you to build muscle naturally without supplements.
Depending on how optimistic you are and how good you are at basic math, you have probably concluded that you could gain a good six pounds in three months. Theoretically, this is about right. Realistically, not so much.
What you need to understand is that your body is just not that consistent as you would hope for it to be.
No. The amount of muscle gain in women is less compared to men at a time, which you must have figured from the article so far. The way muscles grow is similar in both men and women.
The protein synthesis rate, surprisingly, is the same in men and women. Muscle growth happens during the rest and recovery period and is affected by other factors we have discussed.
The difference is that women do not have as much muscle, to begin with, as men do, and this is why in comparison, the progress is slower. Testosterone levels are higher in men, and they accelerate muscle growth as well in the long run.
In conclusion, gaining muscle is a process that requires perseverance and patience above all else, and how much muscle you can gain in a year depends on how consistent you are with your training and diet.
It is best to focus on training regularly, resting properly and eating right rather than worrying about progress and let your body work it out.
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Swati is a Content Writer and Blogger based in India, who is fervently passionate about nutrition, and supplements – anything that sounds synonymous with fitness and health. She has been certified for completion of online courses in Nutrition, Essentials of Sports Nutrition, and Bodybuilding Supplements. Apart from online courses, she is constantly looking to absorb factually correct information on health and fitness, personalizing workout and diet routines for herself and people in her circle, who wish to adopt a better lifestyle.
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