by Team Snapbac
One of the first questions asked by any person who begins a food or training regime is, ‘when will I see results?’ We wanted to take a look at how diet and exercise really work and the science behind the results. But first we want to give you a spoiler alert and say there is no one size fits all answer, and even after you read this and understand what drives results when dieting and exercising, you will not be able to narrow down your expected outcome to the day or possibly even the week. So why bother looking at this question at all? For two reasons. First, as an athlete, your body is your tool and sometimes your income, so if you need results from your dietary or fitness program, you don’t have time to waste on something that is not working. By understanding what to look for and approximately when, you can get a better idea if the program you are trying is actually the best for you. And when it comes to assembling your athletic diet plan, keep an eye on your macronutrient ratio, carb loading intake prior to big events, and daily protein intake. Second, there is a bit of psychology behind this question. When challenging or restricting yourself, you often need motivation. The primary motivator behind athletic diets and training is performance, so the moment you start seeing improvement is the moment you feel renewed in your efforts and can keep going. Results are what push us to continue and drive us to our goals. If we don’t see changes, we often want to quit and try something else. Let’s just make sure we don’t quit too early!
Let’s begin with the basics. Getting started has everything to do with how or if you even finish and what results will come about. When putting forth your goals, you will be more committed if you always have your health and best interest as the focus. When aiming for something that doesn’t make you feel well or will cause your body more harm than good, you will be fighting against yourself. Don’t make the intention too vague or too broad either. You’re not training to be a better runner. You’re training to come in under a specific time in order to beat your personal best. You’re not aiming to bench press over 1,000 pounds, unless you’re Ryan Kennelly. Instead, set smaller, attainable goals for 100 – 200 pounds higher than your own current record. By taking things in achievable segments within a reasonable time frame, you give yourself wins along your athletic journey. Keep at it and you will be a better runner and press more than you ever have before!
Most athletes are already fit, but there are times when dropping those extra pounds that crept in becomes a focus. As for results, those depend on the individual, but we can confirm that you will lose it faster if you combine high-intensity cardio with sets of muscle building and reduced calories. Note how many calories you need to sustain before cutting as you can hinder weight loss by dropping too many calories.
How rapidly the weight falls off actually has a lot to do with current body size as well. The heavier you are, the faster the initial weight drops due to having a higher resting metabolic rate and burning more calories for the same amount of exercise as a fitter person. Yet a fit person is able to push their body faster and harder due to a certain level of physique which can bring final goals faster. Those last pounds are always harder to lose often because of the composition of the weight itself. A less fit person will lose water weight whereas a sculpted person is mostly targeting pure fat loss. A heavier person may not physically show dramatic results as quickly since they have more to lose, and 3-5 pounds won’t be as obvious of a loss as someone who only had ten extra pounds to begin with.
Be sure you are not using the scale as a judge of your weight loss! Athletes are athletic and this means they will have a higher muscle mass than the average person. So the number on your bathroom scale and the number of your pant size may not be the best indicators depending on the volume of muscle you actually have. Muscle weighs more than fat when discussing it in volume. Muscle is more dense and compact meaning it packs a lot more into a small space; whereas, fat is not compact and takes up more volume in the body. A pound is a pound, but the space that pound takes up makes a big difference. Muscle requires more energy to exist, so the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn while at rest or while training.
When monitoring results for weight loss, take complete measurements of the body using calipers, a scale with bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA), or consider hydro-densitometry if accuracy is critical. Whatever method you choose, use the same one each time and record the variations. Timing for the percentage of body fat loss instead of total weight on a scale is more indicative of the success of your program. In general, give a set routine 3 – 5 weeks. Whether you’ve seen results or not, switch it up. The body reaches adaptation within this time frame and will need variety and new challenges to keep progressing. If you’re attacking that extra weight with consistently healthy food and regularly altering your exercise routines with both aerobic and anaerobic movements, you will lose weight pending any medical conditions. Just keep at it until you reach your goal.
Results are slightly different when your goals are around sculpting, tone and physical strength, and the statistics we will be giving are based on athletes more than those just beginning, but you can moderate depending on your needs. Think of hypertrophy as a sprint and not a marathon. You want to do short bursts regularly so as to avoid pushing too hard and hitting diminishing returns in your session. Coaches and trainers often recommend 30 – 45 minute sets due to the body’s testosterone flow. Generally, it will hit its peak around the thirty minute mark and maintain for around fifteen minutes more at which time it will begin its descent back to homeostasis. Once the testosterone is gone, you’re powering through on cortisol which is the same hormone that triggers your nervous system in times of panic and stress.
During your session, be sure to be explosive to trigger those powerful contractions and break down the tissue for new growth. This means increased speed or increased weight, and you can mix it up as often as you like for fresh challenges. When working at peak intensity, be sure to maintain form and the integrity of the full move from start to finish, or you will do more harm than good. Aim for 4 to 6 sets with 8 to 12 reps and avoid the point of failure on every workout. One or two times a week is sufficient as long as you are resting two to three minutes between reps and 48-hours between sessions. Try to keep your strength training sessions around two to three a week when starting out, and be sure to heal up and get all the sleep you need if you want to see results without setbacks.
So when will you see actual results? As with all things it varies based on your body, your training program and your diet, but we will give you an estimate. If you are being diligent and lifting at least three times a week, you should see around an 8-12% increase in the amount you can lift within the first month. This should hold true each month for the first four or five months, but at that point you may experience the plateau. Don’t be concerned. Just start to mix it up a bit and add in more frequent muscle impetus increasing sessions up to six times a week while slightly reducing intensity to avoid burnout or injury. It’s best not to pump to failure if lifting on days back to back.
As for those physically obvious results, once more your body is the deciding factor. If you don’t lift regularly and start an intense program, the tone will emerge faster. If you are already well sculpted, the changes will be more subtle and take a bit of targeted training. Most people begin to see the definition increasing in specific areas after four to eight weeks of concentrated training, but if you’re wanting to measure bulk increase in inches, you may need four to six months!
For endurance athletes and runners, results are a bit tricky as you have some right away and others that take considerable time and effort. When you push yourself past your standard cardio limits, it only takes 24 hours for the volume of your blood to increase. More blood means more flow, which provides more oxygen to your muscles and in turn can make you feel like your exercise is actually easier the next time you do it. These results are not permanent though.
As for increasing your speed and stamina, results are immediate, but in small doses. To get those big changes, you just have to keep at it. When you go all out in your cardio sessions, you activate enzymes that increase the mitochondrial density in your cells. This is the part of the cell that produces energy. As you break down your muscles and take in more blood flow, they will absorb more oxygen and create more ATP which will free up myosin to bind with actin increasing its energy. If biology has you lost, just read high intensity instantly begins to increase power and endurance, but the changes are in micro-doses that build up over time. You’ll see small improvements every week.
Remember that pushing yourself and training at high intensities requires breaks in between. Don’t do HIIT or run a marathon every day. Instead add in active recovery days and moments when you can rest to heal, refuel and rebuild. Much like weightlifting, you need to follow the same principles of overloading the body one day, letting it adapt the next day or two and then doing it again to layer your results like a rubber-band ball that gets a little bigger and bouncier with each new round, but it takes time.
With endurance and speed, it’s truly all about consistency. You need to schedule in three to four high-intensity cardio sessions a week and stick to it for up to three months with varied moves and sets to keep your muscles guessing. This avoids adaptation while constantly challenging for results during each training. You will begin to notice minor changes in your speed and cardio volume within two weeks, so don’t be afraid to add in more or longer sessions to challenge yourself. As with all exercise, just go slow at the beginning and make sure you understand the move and the muscle mechanics to avoid injury.
For basic weight loss as an athlete, you can expect to lose one pound a week by simply dropping your daily calorie intake into a 500-calorie deficit. This is basic math as a pound of fat is around 3,500 calories. The body isn’t quite that simple, so be sure to add in some extra movement at least three times a week. Diet and exercise work in tandem for results. Weeks 4-6 of a combined program will be key in showing you if your efforts are producing effect.
When weight training, you will feel additional strength in the first 2-3 weeks while larger gains in size and bulk can take 2-4 months or even a year depending on your goals. Remember to stay committed, choose intensity over duration, lift 3-5 days a week and ever 3-5 weeks work in progressive overload.
The key takeaway for endurance sports is to learn to love it because results are all about consistency.