Sometimes the hardest part of starting a fitness journey is just that: starting. Waiting for results can seem like a daunting amount of time, but it may come as a comfort to know that our bodies start improving from day one. “Newbie gains” may sound like a light-hearted term tossed around the gym for beginners, but it is grounded in scientific fact. Whether you’ve taken an extended period of time away from exercise or just trying it for the first time ever, the body has shown an ability to rev up all at once and transform at a faster rate than years down the line. We’re going to take a look at this phenomenon and the science to prove it.
Beginners who jump into resistance or weight training will experience greater muscle responses than practiced lifters because active gym goers are closer to their “genetic ceiling”, according to Weight Watchers. They have a smaller jump between where they are and their realistic muscle potential, where newbies have more space to grow. As your body starts to adjust and muscle tissue isn’t as drastically disrupted, the changes will slow down overtime.
Individuals who have a history of being active, but take a break from the gym can also see this biological surge. Muscle memory kicks in and the body naturally goes back to the level of athleticism it once achieved at a faster pace. Studies show that when a muscle is trained, left sedentary and then suddenly trained again, there is a more rapid change in size than when you start from scratch, according to Muscle Evo. On a cellular level, the number of nuclei in the muscle cells multiply when you exercise and those nuclei don’t just disappear when you take a break. They actually hang around, waiting to help you bounce back when you return to the gym.
Those with more weight to lose also have their own advantage over fitness veterans. Individuals with a higher body fat percentage and a greater muscle-to-fat ratio in body composition, can burn fat and gain muscle at the same time. As this ratio balances out, achieving both becomes more difficult, if not impossible. Experienced athletes and bodybuilders typically have to focus on one or the other through a focused diet and exercise plan.
Cardiovascular health is one of the most radically evolving aspects of our overall physical fitness. Just a few days away from the gym reduces your heart’s ability to pump oxygen through the body efficiently. But the opposite phenomenon is also true. Beginners can improve their rate of oxygen consumption by 20 to 30 percent in just a few weeks if they workout consistently, according to sports scientist Tony Boutagy.
So as not to get your hopes too high, most experts say noticeable muscle growth isn’t typically visible until about three to six weeks, according to Weight Watchers. But in the grand scheme of life, six weeks can seem like the blink of an eye, especially with all these “newbie gains” on your side. Call it beginner’s luck, but it’s a luck that can be turned into skill with hard work, consistency and a little sweat.
Take it from me:
Newbie gains gave me the fire I needed to turn a temporary workout kick into a long-term lifestyle. Pretty early on, I could feel my old athlete muscles shaking off the dust and coming back to life. I dropped 8 pounds in the first two weeks and was so proud of myself, that I worked even harder going forward. The weight loss eventually slowed, but that beginner’s luck gave me a jumping off point. I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me, but I tried to recognize the smallest improvements and appreciate the process. I started loving it because every day was an opportunity to create real change. Yes, it takes months and years of dedication to transform your figure, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t small victories along the way worth celebrating. In my experience, a sedentary life wasn’t what my body was built for and as soon as I got a little active again, it jumped at the chance to adapt and grow.