How Long Will It Take You?

Let's face facts, you want to look outstanding nude. You want people to know that. Whatever you're wearing, people should be thinking "Man, I bet they look good nude" (I've said nude too many times for anyone to be comfortable here but you get my point).

And so your journey into this whole fitness shebang begins. Which inevitably leads to a repetitive thought that reminds me of sitting in the back of my parents car...
Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet? 

After all, you want abs and you want them yesterday god dammit. The thing is that there are some fundamental aspects to human physiology that mean there has to be a time limit within which things can happen. Much as I wish I could melt all the fat off my body in 3 minutes - I can't. And so we ask the question, How Long Will It Take?

Your target is in the future, we know that. We also know that this future you is a much sexier, suaver, cooler version of you (at least in your head) and so how far away he or she is depends on how close you are to that reality right now. But first I want to point this out:

The Goal Is The Goal
The Top Of The Hill Is The Top Of The Hill

The target isn't moving, it is where it is, and when approaching it you have two main choices:

  • Take a gradual steady incline over a longer period of time
  • Take an aggressively steep ascent over a much shorter period of time

The course you choose to take is up to you.

But before you begin, I'd like you to think of what kit you have, how much climbing experience you've got and whether or not you've befriended some Sherpas. If this is your first time above Sea Level, maybe start with that small hill near you rather than El Capitan. After all, even the very best climbers in the world started small, no one summited Everest without first conquering the tree in their garden many, many times. How many hills and mountains, trees and climbing walls prepared them for the Big One?

The more astute of you will have noticed I said 2 options and yet have 3 lines in the graph above. You caught me. I presented a False Dichotomy. The reality is that there are almost infinite options between the Steep and the Steady. When it comes to changing your physique you will find that it's easy in some places, harder in others and occasionally it feels really flat for a while. But generally, as we diet, it get's harder. It's up, up, up. That is the way of the mountain. 

As a side note, we could say that if you were to look at your month, week, day & hour and then break them down into their smallest fractions (that is life after all) we end up with the choice, as Yoda says to "Do or Do Not." The difference between the steep ascent and the gradual one is simply the frequency and severity with which you have to make more difficult choices.

Choose the steep path and you'll have to make more difficult choices, about more things, with more frequency.

You choose gradual and you tackle one to two things in detail before moving on. During the gradual ascent, try not to look at the mountain. It's in the background and you'll certainly be aware of it. You should definitely ask whether the skill you're working on will help you climb the inevitable mountain but beyond that, focus simply on mastering the skill. The same applies for Fat Loss, Muscle Gain or Transformation. If you are working gradually, try not to stare too far ahead. Identify what you need to work on and set to work using your energy to improve your skill set - whether that is learning to Squat or preparing Breakfast depends on what skills you currently have and which ones you're missing. If you're not sure what you need to work on, ask someone with a record of climbing mountains. Look for a professional. 

The length of time it takes you to reach your goal will be proportional to the focus and priority you put into achieving it.


So How Long Should It Take?

I hope you can see that the answer depends on the above. But let's make an assumption that you're ready to tackle the mountain.

Fat Loss & Prep

Aim at a rate of 0.5% - 1.5% loss of Bodyweight per week

Which end of the spectrum should you be?
How should you determine whether to use 0.5 or 1.5%?

Enter P-Ratio

When talking about partitioning of calories, researchers refer to something called the P-ratio. Essentially, it represents the amount of protein that is either gained (or lost) during over (or under) feeding." - Lyle McDonald

P-Ratio affects the type of weight lost during a diet and it is proportional to your body composition. Generally speaking we see the following when people lose weight:

The leaner you are the more Lean Body Mass (LBM) vs Fat Mass you are likely to lose
Those with more Body Fat will lose more Fat Mass than LBM

All things being equal going a little too slowly is preferable to going too quickly. It'll help you preserve muscle mass and ultimately look better at the end. 

Use this to help assess your expected rate of progress

Female

When to use 0.5%

  • Your Body Fat is under 20%
  • You have Dieted for longer than 8-12 weeks (unless obese)
  • When you have plenty of time to get lean aim at this throughout
  • After the first plateau (of a diet that set out at a faster rate)

When to use 1%

  • Your Body fat is between 20-25%
  • For the first phase of a diet (until your first plateau. This could be anywhere from 4-12+ weeks & will vary individually)
  • If you're not lean enough and are running out of time you could still maintain this rate. You would do this by being increasingly aggressive with the diet and exercise routine (not ideal)

When to use 1.5%

  • Your Body fat is above 30% (note I have left 5% out between 25-30% as I think you could make arguments for either but if I had to hedge my bets I'd still aim at 1%)
  • You're completely new to exercise and diet with plenty of fat to lose

Male

When to use 0.5%

  • Your Body Fat is under 10-12%
  • You have Dieted for longer than 8-12 weeks (unless obese)
  • When you have plenty of time to get lean aim at this throughout
  • After the first plateau (of a diet that set out at a faster rate)

When to use 1%

  • Your Body fat is under 15-20%
  • For the first phase of a diet (until your first plateau. This could be anywhere from 4-12+ weeks & will vary individually)
  • If you're not lean enough and are running out of time you could still maintain this rate. You would do this by being increasingly aggressive with the diet and exercise routine (not ideal)

When to use 1.5%

  • Your Body fat is above 20% (note I have left 5% out between 15-20% as I think you could make arguments for either but if I had to hedge my bets I'd still aim at 1%)
  • You're completely new to exercise and diet with plenty of fat to lose

Female Back .jpeg

Muscle Gain & Bulking

Male

Female

These are based upon Alan Aragon's recommendations. Much faster than this (unless you're on steroids) likely means you're just getting fatter and that's not our aim here

This should lead you to ask where you fit along the beginner to advanced spectrum. This depends on how many years of Intelligent & Focused Training you have. Guys that doesn't include when your workouts consisted of infinite DB Curls and Bench Press!  Ladies that doesn't include when your workouts consisted of half a million booty blasters and the cross trainer!

Intelligent Training means using evidenced principles to help guide your  Volume, Intensity, Frequency & Exercise selection

It means having an overriding plan to take you from A (where you are) to B (where you wish to be). Whether you like it or not, strategy matters. If you're facing Tywin Lannister in the field you don't want Mr Bean in charge of your battle plans. He may mean well, no doubt, but that's not going to end well for you.

Your training needs to be Effective and Efficient. This means that not only does it work, it also works over the long haul more effectively than other plans. Lots of programs can work but that doesn't mean that others don't work more effectively. There is value in finding what works for you but be wary of claiming you know exclusively. Better ways may still exist.

Note - less work does not mean easy or no work. It means no time is wasted adding things to your plan that don't add to your success.  

Think of Intelligent Training like this - you could run a business that makes £1000 a month and you would be able to say that your business makes money (it does) but how would you know if it could earn you a lot more. Maybe the product does max out at £1000 a month; it could simply be a crap product or maybe it's not marketed very well or put in front of the right people. If I invented baby nappies that cleaned themselves I'm pretty sure I could make a fortune but if I only ever sold them to single men I'm going to sell almost none, except to drunk Barry but he's a very niche market.

Focused Training means getting your head down and doing the work

You can have the best designed program in the world but if you train like a wet flannel you'll still end up spinning your wheels. Great planning doesn't mean you don't have to do the work - it just means a little less work than using an inferior program. So now you know what Intelligent Focused Training is, here are the classifications I would use to determine your classification and expectation:

It's worth noting that there is an upper limit to the amount of muscle size you can achieve naturally; a theoretical maximum to which you can aspire. However, almost none of us ever get there so really I wouldn't worry much about it. Steroids change this so be aware of who you're comparing yourself to.

As a male, if you're interested in learning more about your maximum muscular potential I'd strongly recommend you check out the work of Dr Casey Butt.

Take Away Points

  • Give yourself enough time. Figure out where you want to be in body fat or total weight and calculate how long it will take you to get there from your current situation based upon the rates described above. 
  • If prepping, give yourself an extra 2-4 weeks longer than you think you'll need. Remember it's always better to have too much time.
  • Make sure you're on an Intelligent Program. If you're unsure what that is, go here.
  • Execute it with Focus
  • To ensure progress continues at the required rate will also mean controlling your caloric intake and expenditure, this will also need adjusting as you progress. To learn more on that, go here.