Just How Fast Can I Get the Body I Want?

Be honest, you’ve said the following sentence before:

“I want to lose 20-50 pounds, and I’d like to pack on some muscle too…but not too much! Can I do this in 2-3 months? How long will this take?”

I know you have, because I certainly did when I started training.

Men want to know “the secret” to a thinner waistline, but also get bigger arms and chest.

Meanwhile, women ask how they can lose weight while getting more toned, without getting too bulky. And apparently, according to that magazine cover above, how to get a firm butt in 22 minutes.

That is an incredibly specific amount of time. Anyways!

If you’ve had those same thoughts, then today’s article is for you.

Today we’re going to dive into these goals, and how to best go about them.

Spoiler alert: if you want to get in shape and lose weight the RIGHT way, and actually keep the weight off, there’s no “secret formula” or shortcut. There IS, however, a strategy you can implement that can help you get the results you’re after in a healthy way. 

We created a 10-Level Nerd Fitness Diet that takes reality and your behavior into account, because we know how tough it is to stick to a diet long term. Grab our strategy guide when you sign up in the box below, pick the level you’re comfortable with, and then follow the instructions and start leveling up!

What We’re After

toned abs

I know why we have those goals of “smaller waistline and bigger/toned muscles.” 

We’ve been listening to and following the image put forth by the infomercials, magazines, and advertisements that in just 30-90 days with a few workouts (or one key piece of equipment) – we can accomplish everything we want:

  • Shredded, six pack abs!
  • Lose stubborn “belly fat!”
  • Bigger chest and arms!
  • Hot women falling all over you!

For women, the message is only tad different:

  • Lose stubborn “belly fat!”
  • Tone your hips, butt, thighs, arms!
  • Get that bikini body!

Regardless of which camp you fall into, you see these commercials full of professional fitness models and genetically flawless dudes, and then we look at ourselves in the mirror…and we decide enough is enough: we want to look like them!

And here’s a program that tells us we can get there in just 30 minutes a day, 3 days a week, for 90 days.

And thus we get started.

90 days later, we’re slightly closer to our goal, but we didn’t build a lot of muscle and we only lost a bit of weight. So we freak out: “those other people got results, but I only lost a few pounds and I don’t have women falling all over me. What did I do wrong?”

Forgetting the fact that I can pretty much guarantee the actors/models in those ads definitely did not use the program they’re advertising to get fit, these programs aren’t even designed with you in mind.

Don’t worry, we CAN turn you into a superhero. It’s just going to mean going about things a bit differently…

Okay, but I want to lose fat and gain muscle…

ChangeAllTheThings

If you are trying to lose ‘belly fat’ and also get bigger and stronger, it’s incredibly difficult to do both at the same time. It’s just how our bodies work. 

Which then might lead to your next question:

“Well, Steve, I want to gain muscle and lose weight, but I have no muscles and I have a gut. What do I do first? WHY CAN’T I JUST DO BOTH AT THE SAME TIME!?”

Putting on weight (be it fat or muscle) requires eating more calories than you burn every day.

Losing weight requires burning more calories than you eat… so if you have these two goals, it can feel as if you are watching a battle of tug-of-war. If you try to do both at the same time, neither side can get an advantage and you’ll struggle to see any discernible results in either direction.

OUR RECOMMENDATION: For most people, the first thing we recommend is to drop your body fat percentage: put the focus on fat loss (notice I didn’t say weight loss) and maintain the muscle you already have. Once you get your body fat percentage down to a specific level, you can then turn your focus to packing on muscle.

Here’s why we recommend this:

  • Carrying extra body fat isn’t healthy: if you’re already overweight, packing on MORE muscle and fat is going to push you farther away from a healthy body fat percentage (which is our ultimate goal).
  • Build momentum early. Losing weight, for most people, is an easier and faster process than building muscle. When you get rid of the body fat covering up the muscle you already have, you’re going to build up emotional and mental momentum.
  • Create a great starting point: Physiologically, when you get rid of excess body fat and are down to a level that you’re happy with, you can adjust your training and nutrition so that your whole body, all the way down to the cellular level, is now dedicated to a single cause: BUILD MUSCLE!

So, what should your game plan be? Here are a few strategies to drop weight while retaining as much muscle as possible:

  • Focus primarily on Paleo-type foods
  • Eat more carbs on workout days, especially right after your workout (sweet potatoes, fruit, rice)
  • Eat more fat on non-training days (almond butter, avocado or guacamole, nuts)
  • Always eat enough protein (lots of chicken, fish, and a protein shake here and there)
  • Get enough sleep!
  • Consider working out in a fasted state – as explained in our article on Intermittent Fasting.

I know all of the above is much easier said than done. We know we need to eat healthier, we just can’t get ourselves to do it! Which is why we created our free 10-Level Nerd Fitness Diet strategy guide, that takes all of that into account. Grab yours now when you sign up in the box below and Join the Rebellion:

Next, after fixing your diet, pick one (or all) of the three types of exercise below:

When you strength train, your muscles are broken down and need to recover. The calories you are consuming during this period are used to rebuild those muscles and recover, keeping them strong. When you walk (especially first thing in the morning, in a fasted state), you don’t tax your body enough to need to pull from your muscles’ fuel stores.

Instead, you pull from the fat you already have.

Everybody wins!

ONCE YOU’VE DROPPED YOUR BODY FAT LOW ENOUGH (somewhere between 10-15% for guys, 18-22% for women), you can adjust your diet to consume more calories/carbs on training days and start building muscle – making adjustments along the way.

How much weight can I actually lose?

Athena Final Before and After

For most Rebels who email us, your first step should be to cut down your body fat percentage by combining healthy eating with strength training. If you happen to be super skinny, you can probably skip straight to the “how to get big” article!

Your next question might be, “Just how quickly can I lose the fat then?”

We’ve shared tons of success stories here on Nerd Fitness where people have lost 100+ lbs in a year, and even one story where Anthony lost 200+ pounds in a year:

Before After Anthony

Whenever we post these stories, we receive a few dozen emails from people saying “But that can’t be healthy to lose all of that weight so quickly.”

Our response is always the same: every person will react to strength training and healthier eating decisions differently. If somebody is incredibly overweight, and they switch to a healthy diet and proper exercise and stick with it for months and months, their transformation COULD be drastic and also completely healthy.

In this nerd’s humble opinion (and I am not a doctor), any day spent 200+ pounds overweight is unhealthy, and the faster we can get a person down to a healthy body fat percentage, the better (provided it’s done in a sustainable, healthy way).

We encourage people to NOT starve themselves, to NOT overexert themselves with exercise, and to listen to their bodies.

The Nerd Fitness training and diet philosophy involves healthier eating decisions, building exercise habits, and months and months of dedicated work! Depending on your situation, you could lose anywhere from .5 lbs to 5+ lbs a week and be completely healthy. Everybody is different, so if you are concerned about your rate of weight loss, be sure to check with your doctor.

One BIG factor here: If you are strength training and actively trying to preserve the muscle you have, the weight will drop off more slowly than if you solely focused on eating better and eating less and exercising as much as possible at all costs. However, in the long run, we believe most people find this route preferable.

Again, our goal is not pure weight loss. It’s building a body that is healthy and gives you confidence. Don’t just focus on the scale, but the big picture.

If you want to learn more about getting started with strength training (our recommended method for training to help you build the body you want), we created a free guide that virtually holds your hand through the entire process: Strength Training 101: Everything You Need to Know. 

Grab our guide free when you join the Rebellion in the box below:

What’s really possible?

steve push ups

Here’s the truth: we’re human beings. Y

es, we are capable of freaking amazing things, whether it’s Joe transforming, or Saint getting in incredible shape for his wedding, Anthony dropping 200 pounds, or Bronwyn becoming an actual superhero.

Unfortunately, unlike in superhero movies, there’s no super serum we can take to turn us from Steve Rogers into Captain America in a matter of minutes – or even in a matter of months! No matter your desired level of superhero status, it’s gonna take hard work! And a crazy amount of patience and dedication.

Focus on the fundamentals above, and be aware of these advertised shortcuts:

1) Those magazines, DVDs, infomercials, and books that promise amazing results in minimal time and with minimal effort are often designed to prey on your insecurities about your body, and paint an unrealistic picture of what you can accomplish in a few short months. Not cool! They don’t want to get you healthy; they want to sell products. If they got you healthy AND taught you how to keep going, you wouldn’t need them anymore! If you LOVE these DVDs, great! As long as you are also fixing your nutrition, then any form of exercise can help you in your quest for a flatter stomach or slimmer body.

2) Unless you’re a member of the X-men (if you are, let’s hang out), or on steroids, it’s brutally difficult to build lots of muscle while simultaneously losing fat. As explained above, to build muscle, you need to eat a caloric surplus so the extra calories go into muscle building.

To lose fat, you need a caloric deficit so your body is forced to burn fat for energy. How does one eat too much and too little at the same time? It’s kind of like trying to thread a needle while riding Space Mountain after eating a gallon of Dippin’ Dots.

Not impossible, but certainly no walk in the park.

Fortunately, if you are just getting started with strength training, you can make some SERIOUS strength gains (which is not the same as muscle gains) while simultaneously losing weight. We’ll explain that in Thursday’s article.

3) If you’re trying to lose weight and the scale went up, you probably did NOT build muscle. We get this quite a bit too, from people that are overweight and in their first two weeks of attempted weight loss.

The conclusion they come to, thanks to what we’ve been told, is “muscle weighs more than fat, so I must have put on muscle AND lost fat!”

Building muscle is not as easy as you’ve been told, so it’s likely that you either:

  • Put on fat because you are still eating too much (a caloric surplus), OR
  • Are carrying additional water weight, or your first weigh-in was inaccurate. Remember, the scale lies. Increased carb/sodium consumption for a few days, menstrual cycle for women, or any number of factors can give you a totally inaccurate starting weight, or progress weigh-in.

If you are overweight, the scale should be trending down if you are eating properly and exercising. If after a month you’re not seeing results, or the scale is going up, we’ll need to make some small adjustments to your diet (look at your total calories and the sugar/grain consumption).

Yes, you can EVENTUALLY accomplish each goal if you have a solid plan to follow, and you’re dedicated. Becoming Captain America, Black Widow, or Katniss Everdeen is possible. It just depends on how badly you want it, and what you’re willing to give up to get it.

I can tell you building a body to be proud of is absolutely worth it, but you’re much better off building that superhero frame one step at a time, instead of all at once!

But I’m ready to see Results now

alarm clock

I hear ya! Look, I would LOVE to get you in killer shape for your wedding in two months and help you lose 50 pounds, and give you a bigger chest and arms (or ‘toned’ arms and legs), and make you look like Daniel Craig in James Bond or “famous action star in big movie.”

Unfortunately, here on planet Earth, in a place we call “reality,” we have to attack this differently than in Hollywood.

We’re much more interested in getting you down the proper path, with a strong, solid base, that sets you up for year after year of success (rather than for 15 minutes during a movie shoot).

I want this article to become a resource for the Rebels who are confused about weight loss –  so let’s hear your questions!

I guarantee if you have one, there are a dozen others with the same question, too. It’s why we created a ton of free resources to help you too.

Grab our 10-Level Nerd Fitness Diet strategy guide and our Strength Training 101 guide free when you sign up in the box below, and let us help you get started on transforming like Optimus Prime today!

If you’re curious, there’s another side of this coin that we’ve delved into as well: “how fast can I build muscle?”

What else can I answer for you about healthy weight loss? What tips do you have for your fellow Rebels?

-Steve

PS: We have 650+ free articles and dozens of free workout plans on Nerd Fitness, but if you’re looking for a comprehensive course that covers all of this stuff, check out the Nerd Fitness Academy – level up a character by completing quests and missions, follow the workout plans, and level up your nutrition to get started down the path to life as a superhero.

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photo source: Ray Sawhill: Tone your butt, Ray Sawhill: 22 minutes

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  • JulianMorne

    You can get go with the best supplements for fast fat burners try out this website for reference.

    http://bestfatburners2015.net/

  • Prachi

    I have started altitude training.I am doing it since last 2 weeks alternate days
    I feel like my first abs are coming
    So is it possible that training for only 2 weeks can give me abs??

  • Jen

    Yes, hello nerds! I was wondering if you could shed some light for me. I am a 5’3 medium build female 140 lbs, 39-30-38, I eat paleo/primal 75 % of the time ( drink wine often) and drink cream in my coffee once/day, my caloric intake usually rest between 1300 -1600 per day, and I also have been doing resistance training for the last 3 months, ( deadlifting, squatting , benchpressing at a beginner level) 3 times per week with about 1 hr of cardio per week which includes 15 minutes of Hiit on the treadmill….. I have not lost a single pound in 3 months. My clothes fit better and I have lost an inch or two where it matters, but I have read that it is very difficult, almost impossible to lose weight and gain muscle at exactly the same rate , which unless my scale is broken , seems to be my case. I don’t understand what is happen with my body, ( a bit of history though: three years ago , I decided to go paleo after the college 25 hit lol, I lost 15 lbs, maintained, then fell off the wagon gaining 15 back, I decided that was enough, and returned to my paleo ways, but have not experienced the same weight loss like the first time. Did I break my metabolism? Should i just be happy and shut the hell up?

  • Leila Batelic

    this is all great and accurate (as far as my understanding of the meter goes) but I still have a problem. every website, blog, group that I researched, talks about loosing weight. I weigh 52kg (about 114 lb) and measure 5.3 foot and my problem is just the opposite, I have trouble gaining body mass and I loose it very fast. I would like a program to tone my body in 90 days but actually keep my 52kg or even gain a little more
    thank you

  • stacey

    I have been on such a roller coaster since I had my last child 4 yrs ago. I have hypoglycemia, a kidney disease (MSK) I create stones. I have been trying to get in nice shape, but I cant. I have gotten down to a good weight, (116 I’m 5’3) but I’m skinny fat. I have pudge on my belly and I hate it. I just wish I could love myself the way I am. I have been consistently working out, and trying to eat healthy for 1 yr… and in 1 yr, I went down from 124 to 116. That sucks! I wanted to get down to 110. I lift, I do cardio (not easy for my because I get dizzy and sometimes black out, and it takes me a long time to recover from working out) I hate exercise because of it. I love food. I’ll never get to where I want to be. I was totally expecting my body to be in MUCH better shape by now, and I can HARDLY tell a difference, other than muscle tone UNDERNEATH my fat…. I stay discourage over not being able to get in better shape.
    And my husband doesn’t like to eat the healthy food I cook, so I can’t always make good food, or I’d have to make separate meals.. ugh I know I’m being a whiney baby. Just needed to rant a little bit..

  • stacey

    I’ll add, my fitness has majorily improved as far as my strength. But my body doesn’t look any better.

  • Rachael

    Hi Marc, there is something to be said for loving yourself as you are but there is nothing wrong with loving yourself AND looking to improve yourself. A year ago I was 101kg and I did something about it. Now I weigh 67kg and am in a healthy bmi range for my height. But just yesterday I measured my body fat percentage and I am still in the obese range for body fat % because I didnt know I had to preserve my lean muscle mass with strength training while I lost the weight. So now I have a new goal: lose the extra fat and gain muscle. Dont get me wrong I LOVE the way I look in the mirror right now and I am so proud of myself but my ultimate goal is to be healthy all round. And I dont think personal trainers promote obsession with body image they just want to help people reach their goals. Whether it be a moderate body or one with six pack abs.

  • britney

    My name is Susan I want to use this opportunity to thank Doctor Ayo for what he has done for me, I saw so many testimony on how Dr Ayo the herbs medicine man help to cure so many people obesity.i never intend to contact any more doctor because their prescription was not working out for me at all,and it has make me miss out on life.i cant walk,am always on bed,the worst part of it is that i don’t breath well,Sorry to say i just hate myself, So i contact him for help and tell him my obesity problem,without any delay he sent me a herbal medicine which i took as prescription, In not less than two week i have loss so much weight,i don’t know how to explain this magical medicine,Now i believe life is so much better at a healthy weight I am totally loss of weight and am in a good shape.i also breath freely now, so brothers and sisters if you are obese or your child or overweight, please quickly contact him now at obesityherbalcure@gmail.com
    He will response to you urgently.

  • The before and after pictures are incredible! Excellent post thanks!

  • Jasmine Ramirez

    So I don’t have that much body fat to begin with, but since I am a bit on the shorter side it looks like I do. It piles up around my midsection which I know is common. Should I start with the cutting down my fat percentage article or on the how to get big? I’d really appreciate your help with this!!!

  • Leon

    It’s been one year since I started losing weight and I’m down 80 lbs. and just about to my goal of around 170 (I’m male 57, 180 lb, 5′ 9″). I eat around 500 calories per day less than what I burn with exercise (biking, walking, tennis), and my rate of lose has been about 1 lb. per week. Recently I started lifting weights for my upper body and arms and doing planks for my abs and it seems like its working. However my scale says that I really haven’t lost anything in a week or so, and maybe gained 1 or 2 pounds. Is this normal, and when should it start to go down again?

  • Mr Blogger AK

    Thanks a ton once for sharing this information, Regards, How to lose weight in your Arms

  • Benito

    I started a weight workout routine for muscle tone and to drop some serious pounds and inches so I can get back to bike racing and half marathons next year. Not that I can’t do that now, but I’d like to accomplish those without carrying around an obnoxious gut.

    My question is, will weights make me more bulky? …cuz that’s not my intention. What can I do to avoid getting all “Lou Ferigno” n stuff? Should I drop my post workout protein amount?

    My workouts are early in the morning, combined with cycling and running intervals in the afternoon.

    Thanks!

  • Benito

    Woh!!! 500 calories a day?!

  • Benito

    Walking is better than nothing, no doubt. But running is better than running.

  • Pierce Bivens

    I lost 51 lbs then put on 12 in muscle. I’ve been Atkins for 6 months. Started out 210, 5’9, and am now 171, 5’10, because I’m 15 and I’ve grown a bit. Looking pretty good, and can lift way more, but I still want to cut back down to maybe 160 while maintaining my recent muscular gains. At the beginning, I cut to 1700 cals a day, and now I’m eating 3000 to maximize muscle gains, and training almost every day. I’m considering dropping to 2200 and doing cardio half the days.

  • Marcus

    Thanks helped a lot I’m in the army an I needed a website that gave tips. In 6 months I lost enough fat then went into mucle building! Great article and all the pain and tiring work was worth it!

  • Marcus

    with a lot of determinatio and mind set I have managed to gain 50 pounds of mucle in 2 and a half months!

  • Geoff Walsh

    I do Group Power class, very similar to Body Pump. Have you noticed a difference in your body? Did you lose weight or build definition? I was reading somewhere else that those two classes don’t actually help…but how can that be?

  • Ann Plicque

    Yes indeedy, Geoff!!! I am now a certified Body Pump coach and it was a long journey. Right after I took the training, I broke my shoulder and was in rehab from Nov. 2015 to June 2016. Blew up 20 lbs. Then resumed my training, lost the 20 and 7 more. I did both. Built definiton and lost weight in both cases. My shoulder is ALLLLmost as strong as it was in August 2015. Still needs more work though. I’m 60. So my bounce back isn’t so bouncy. Ha! But I have 12 lbs to goal weight. EVERYONE comments on how lean I’ve gotten. And that’s the thing w BP. You gain lean muscle mass like crazy. It’s not a bulk up class. For that you have to do Grit or Combat (also Les Mills classes. Check out their website.) They even have in video home training you can sign up for if you can’t get to the gym and have equipment at home. i have home weights so I can train, as a coach, if I can’t get to gym classes for myself. My legs, calves, butt are TIGHT! I have definition in triceps, biceps. Thing about BP is you go at your own pace. You should always gradually increase your load in three to four week increments. But you do so in small increments. 5 to 10 lbs. As a man you could probably err on the 10 lb side. I don’t know who said BP doesn’t help. When I first took it in 2014, I dropped weight immediately with no change in diet. Then I changed to paleo and dropped more. This year I’ve started on a near vegetarian diet with 10-15% meat in diet. No dairy, lactose issues. Beans and rice, flax and chia and whey protein supplement to keep my intake between 35-70 grams of protein a day to build and retain muscle while I lose these last pounds. As a male you’ll have to do the math for how much you’ll need per day. I also do vinyasa yoga and mat pilates for core work. The yoga really pushes my shoulder flexibility and strength and stretches me out. Pilates is kickass for core and having a strong core aids BP lifts. Anyone who doesn’t get fit doing BP isn’t lifting correctly, isn’t lifting enough, or may have a less than great coach. There are many factors You should also mix it up. Crosstrain. What I find great about BP is it encourages SAFE lifting. No knees past toes, great form and technique. Fun music, so it’s aerobic workout. When you’re in a class with a great coach and everybody’s lifting together it creates such a buzz!!!!

  • Ann Plicque

    There is this problem with losing weight and gaining muscle mass. When you lose weight, you lose weight in every area, unless you add protein to your diet with supplements such as whey protein, flax and chia seeds and nuts. Beans and rice help too. You have to do some math to find out how much protein you need by determining your basal body weight needs and protein needs. The shredded chef cookbook has some of this information. I can’t use most of his recipes since he uses cheese on practically everything and I’m no lactose. But some of the info he provides is enlightening.

  • Jeff

    When I started crossfit I lossed 30 lbs and went from 150 deadlift to 270 in about 6 months. So no it’s not true you can’t gain and lose. Different bank accounts. I can lose debt and earn savings. But it is a bit easier to do both. But the habit of building muscle is worth more than a few temporarily losses lbs.

    Right now I am aiming to lose 30 lbs and go from 355 dl to 400+ this year. But all comes down to paleo.

    Idiotic to talk about calories. That fitness mag talk. Its like saying earth when you mean gems metals and fossils fules. Quality and balance.

  • The picture of the woman in grey tshirts; looks like two different people. So she lost all they weight; including her breast and now her breast are just sitting up? Unbelievable

  • Hey Denyce, same “woman”! Her name is Bronwyn, she lives in Australia, and here is her full story with more photos 🙂

    https://www.nerdfitness.com/blog/bronwynathena-success-story/

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