How Long Does It Take To Lose Weight, Get A Six Pack or Build Muscle?

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that people seem a lot more interested in how long it will take to reach a certain fitness goal than actually DOING what’s needed to reach that goal in the first place.

That’s probably why I get asked how long it takes to lose weight, or build muscle, or get a six pack almost as often as I do about HOW to reach those goals.

And this is reason #1,835 that people fail to get the results they want. They’re just too focused on time frames and making things happen fast that they never actually make things happen at all.

That’s why my answers to questions like these are always more sarcastic than useful. Something like “It will take you exactly 78 days, 14 hours, 32 minutes, 15 seconds” or “Infinity plus one” or “Longer than it would have if you didn’t waste time asking stupid time-frame questions first.”

Real mature, I know. However, since I still get asked these questions on a weekly basis, I figured I’d use this article to finally give my best non-sarcastic answers to them. Specifically:

  • How long does it take to lose weight?
  • How long does it take to get a six pack?
  • How long does it take to build muscle?

Since these appear to be the most common goals people want time estimates for, these are the questions I’ll try to give real answers to right now. Let’s begin…

How Long Does It Take To Lose Weight?

Well, on average, most people can lose weight at a rate of about 0.5-2lbs per week. That seems to be the sweet spot in terms of healthy, realistic, sustainable and permanent weight loss that doesn’t result in much (if any) muscle loss along with it.

Of course, the more specific answer to the “how long does it take to lose weight” question is that it depends on exactly how much weight you have to lose in the first place. Shocking, right?

Meaning, with effort levels and consistency being equal, it will obviously take someone with 100 pounds to lose a lot longer than it will take someone with 10. And the more fat you have to lose, the faster you can (and should) lose it.

So someone with A LOT of weight to lose might lose it at a rate of 2 pounds or more per week without any problem… especially early on. Someone with A SMALL amount of weight to lose might end up losing closer to 0.5-1 pound per week. Someone with an AVERAGE amount of weight to lose might end up losing between 1-2 pounds per week.

Which means, the more weight you have to lose, the faster you’ll lose it but the longer it will take due to the total quantity that needs to be lost. And the less weight you have to lose, the slower you’ll lose it but the sooner it will happen because there’s just not as much there to lose.

So, figure out how much weight you’re trying to lose and do some basic math to figure out how long it should realistically take you. But the second you figure it out, make sure 100% of your focus shifts into actually DOING what needs to be done to make it happen. You know, this: How To Lose Fat

Additional details here: How To Lose 10 Pounds In A Week, 2 Weeks, Or A Month

How Long Does It Take To Get A Six Pack?

The answer here is actually damn near identical to my previous answer.

You see, the reason you don’t have a six pack is rarely EVER because your abs aren’t developed enough or being trained properly. And it sure as hell has nothing to do with special ab workouts, magical abdominal exercises and fancy infomercial machines.

It’s simply because you have too much ugly body fat on your stomach, and it’s covering your pretty six pack.

This means that actually being able to see your six pack requires losing that fat. So how long will that take? See my answer from above regarding how long it will take to lose fat in general. The same thing applies here, with the only difference being that we don’t all lose fat from the same body parts in the same order.

I mean, we all lose fat the exact same way (that darn caloric deficit). But, our individual genetics predetermine the exact order and pattern it will happen in. And no… it can’t be changed.

All you can do is just start eating and working out in a way that effectively causes fat loss, and your body will eventually lose that fat from the specific area you want it to the most (in this case, your stomach). So while it’s easy to say you can lose X pounds of fat per week, it’s impossible to say where those X pounds will come from.

The more it comes from your stomach, the faster you’ll get your six pack (or technically speaking… the faster you’ll be able to see/uncover your six pack). And the more it comes from some other body part first, the longer it will take.

But again, there’s nothing you can do in your diet or workout routine to change this fat loss pattern. All you can do is just start losing fat as effectively as possible and wait for everything to take care of itself. At some point, you’ll have your six pack.

Additional details here: How To Get A Six Pack & Lose Belly Fat

How Long Does It Take To Build Muscle?

Based on my own firsthand experience, all of the real world results I’ve seen, and various research and expert opinions looking at the rate of muscle growth, here’s what I can tell you.

The average MAN can expect to build between 0.25-0.5lb of muscle mass per week. The average WOMAN can expect about half that.

But just like with weight loss, this is really just the general answer to the “how long does it take” question. The more specific answer again depends on you.

For example, a beginner to weight training will be able to gain more muscle much faster than someone who is advanced and has already built a significant amount of muscle. Someone with amazing genetics will be able to build muscle faster than someone with crappy genetics. And of course, someone using steroids will be able to blow everyone else away completely.

So while these individual differences play major roles in predicting exactly how long a certain amount of muscle growth will take, the majority of men can probably expect to gain (on average) about 0.25-0.5lb of muscle per week, and the majority of women can expect around half that.

For further details, read this: How Much Muscle Can You Gain & How Fast Can You Build It

(NEW: If you’re looking for a program that puts every single aspect of your diet and workout together for you in the way that will produce the fastest results that are realistically possible, my brand new Superior Muscle Growth program is designed for that exact purpose.)

How Do I Reach These Goals As Fast As Possible?

Now that you have a general idea of how long it will take you to lose weight, get a six pack or build muscle, there’s one last important point that needs to be mentioned: all of these time estimates are based on the best case scenarios.

Meaning, it assumes you’re using a diet and workout routine that is designed as effectively as possible for that specific goal. It assumes you’re as consistent as possible and working your ass off. It assumes you’re doing everything right and not screwing up along the way.

And especially of note for someone reading this article (that would be you)… it assumes you’re putting 100% of your focus into making all of this happen rather than just wasting time and energy obsessing over how long things will take and when you can expect to be done by.

Whatever super fast time estimate you’re looking for, you’re not going to find it. It’s always going to be a slow and gradual process, and anyone telling you differently is just trying to take advantage of your unrealistic expectations.

So, the moral of this story is simple. If you truly want to get the best results as FAST as possible… spend less time worrying about how long it will take, and more time just making it happen.

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About Jay
Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers, and diet professionals at every level.

51 thoughts on “How Long Does It Take To Lose Weight, Get A Six Pack or Build Muscle?”


    • Drop it because you’re unknowingly eating too much of it, or drop it because you just love sugary junk food and eat too much of it because you can’t stop yourself from eating it?

      If it’s the former, you just need to do a better job of tracking your diet.

      If it’s the latter, then besides the obvious (don’t keep junk food in your house, eat more filling/nutrient dense foods, etc.), it’s mostly just a matter of setting up your diet in whatever way best allows you to limit your consumption of sugar and keeps you the most satisfied. Whether that’s a bunch of smaller frequent meals or some form of IF, or using scheduled cheat meals to keep the cravings at bay or whatever else… you gotta figure out what works best for you.

      And regardless of what that is, there’s always going to be one final part of this equation, and that is just plain old will power. Can’t happen without having at least a little of that.

    • Stevia is a great sweetener if you must have something sweet. KAL and Sweetleaf are good-tasting brands. Get some plain Greek yogurt, add your favorite berries, stevia and stir. Add a little canned coconut milk if you like it creamier. This will add some healthy fat. If you have a soft drink addiction, go buy some carbonated water, chill it first, then mix a little stevia and lemon and/or lime juice into the bottle. Cap the bottle and gently swirl the mixture until mixed. It tastes a lot like Sprite. I usually get the lemon-lime flavored seltzer water from Walmart and just add the stevia.

  1. “That’s why my answers to questions like these are always more sarcastic than useful” Hmmm. I’m not sure how long it takes to get a six pack, but I know approximately how long it takes to drink one. Not sayin that I would do that, though. 😉 “Real mature, I know.” Ditto…;)

    Gotta love this site…and, I do.

  2. So i have been following your site for a while now and been doing the muscle bulding workout for over a month now with great results. I have came from the typical overtraining breed that destroyed every body part from all angles and luckily i found your site which inturn saved me from that nonsense. Anyways i have been following a strict 2000 calorie diet that gives my body weight in protein a day well over 200 plus grams of carbs and hitting damn near perfect in all categories of fat in diet etc. Well it has came clear to me that my abs seems to come dead last in the fat loss of my body. My veins pop out everywhere even on my v cuts(which seems to only wanna show more on my left side then right) i have dropped over 10pounds since i started this. I have no fat anywhere but my abs. Its like they refuse to wanna just pop completly out. I am 5ft 6 and started at 167 now at 154. Im starting to get that puny feeling lol but just refuse to stop till they pop out for once in my damned life. Any tips?? I havent lost any strength in my weights and i know its all mental but damn im not trying to lose too much weight. My abs really chap my ass

    • Sounds pretty normal actually. For men, the stomach (especially the lower part of it) will be the first place body fat is stored and the last placed it’s burned. So, it’s pretty much just a matter of continuing on with slow/gradual fat loss while also continuing to do what’s needed to maintain strength/muscle.

      At some point, those abs are gonna finally show up.

  3. Dude first of all amazing website im going to buy your ebook soon and i just have to say i cant wait to get swollen before summer im sure with the begginer workout routine plus the diet plan i have calculated and finished im sure i will get results soon i just have to rate this website 5/5 your straight forward you explain everything perfectly and plus you help everyone with there workout goals excellent

  4. i been trying to get a six pack forever but cant im 5’7 and started out at 181 chubby dropped to 148 and still got alittle belly flab but people say im to skinny so im stuck between a six pack and bulking up but no matter what i do cant achieve either of those goals i feel like im spinning my wheels ive plateaued BAD!!! got any advice im 28 male 5’7 148 use whey and creatine

    • As long as the belly flab you’re referring to is fat (and not, for example, loose skin), then it’s pretty much just a matter of losing more fat. The problem like you said is that losing that fat will require losing more weight, and when you’re not very muscular and have a skinny look as it is, this will only add to that and make you look a little worse in that regard. But, it will make you look a little better in terms of getting that six pack you want.

      So, it’s really going to come down to your goals right now. Do you want to build muscle and get bigger, or do you want to get a six pack and get leaner? If you sit around trying to make a decision or trying to do both at the same time, you will just spin your wheels and get nowhere… ever.

      You need to pick a goal and do what’s needed to make it happen, even if it’s going to temporarily move you a tiny bit further away from the other goal. As long as you do it right, you’ll then be able to come back to the other goal afterwards and eventually end up making both happen.

  5. How long do you recommend most people do a bulking or cutting phase for before switching to the other? I’m guessing you’re gonna say “until you get the results you want and your goals change” and that’s fine, but I’m looking for some general time guidelines. Do you switch at a certain body fat percentage? Timeframe?

    In particular, how quickly do you think the body can switch from fat loss to muscle building and vice versa? i.e. every other day is obviously to rapid, and so is every other week probably, but what’s a good lower end of the time frame?


    • For guys, staying within the 10-15% body fat range (give or take 1%) is the usual recommendation for the typical bulking/cutting approach. And I’d agree with that being a good general sweet spot.

      But if you’re looking to do something less typical and more advanced, then there’s really a thousand ways it could be done. X days/weeks/months of building muscle followed by X days/weeks/months of losing fat. Depends on how you want to do it.

      And then of course there are individual goals and preferences. Some people might not care how lean they are and don’t mind getting a little (or a lot) fatter if it means more muscle and/or strength. Others are obsessed with staying lean and will need to switch to fat loss much sooner than may have been ideal for muscle growth and strength.

      • In that case – how exactly do you measure body fat percentage? I know there’s the calipers, tape measures, etc, but they all have a pretty high margin of error, which makes it pretty hard to pinpoint the 10 -15% range. Any thoughts?

        • The best way is to probably have it done by someone who really knows how to do it.

          But since the odds of that are low, just using the mirror and honestly judging yourself and estimating where you’re at is the next best option.

          Of course, most people are 20% body fat and assume they’re 12%, so this is easier said than done too.

  6. Is it possible for everyone to have a FLAT belly? When I’m relaxed my belly sticks out and I look like Roger the alien in American Dad. Let’s say I get down to below 10% and my six-pack is reasonably defined – will my stomach pull in naturally or do some people just have to suck-in and tense-up for photos?
    Do any ab exercices actually flatten and tighten the waist or is this more to do with posture i.e. pelvic tilt?

    • It’s not that your stomach pulls in when you’re leaner, it’s that there is less fat sitting there to stick out. And yes, most people flex their abs when taking pics showing off their abs for the same reason you wouldn’t take an unflexed biceps shot.

      Issues with posture (like anterior pelvic tilt) are a separate thing.

  7. No BS, no scam, just facts. Thanks for putting out some solid info mane! Could not agree more with that last sentence.

  8. What body fat percentage should girls have? The Internet has so much crap that I don’t really know what’s true or not. You seem pretty legit so I thought I’d ask you.

  9. Hi there. I love your no nonsense attitude, so I’m hoping that you can give me a bit of advice too. I have had 2 children in 2.5 years. Before having them I was very active and toned. Pre and post birth I have been active but obviously no where near as active. I’m now 36years old, 179lbs and 5.9 tall. I’d like to drop 25lbs. iv been back in the gym for the past month now and have taken my diet down to appx 1400kal pd. At the gym I do an hour boxing circuits pw and 2-3 gym sessions burning appx (by machine stats) 550kal per session and doing weights and core. I know that it’s only been a month and that muscle weighs more than fat etc…. But I have not dropped weight at all and my clothes seem just as tight. I really am sweating and working at the gym and am not sabbotaging myself. Can you think of anything that I could be doing wrong or am missing. Getting really disheartened now. Thanks a squillion. Sabrina

  10. Loved this article for now I’m @100kg with 17.5% body fat. I hate that I’ll have to only cut about 500calories in deficit and lose a pound of fat a week, it seems too long….. For me. Can’t I burn calories additionally through weight training while eating at 20% deficit? Or that will affect metabolic adaption or metabolic thermogenesis (I hope that’s what it’s called) which will slow my metabolism down?

    • You can create a bigger deficit through diet and/or exercise, though once you start going much higher than a combined 20% deficit it becomes harder to sustain, harder to maintain strength and muscle, more annoying (hunger, mood, etc.) and so on.

  11. Hey! I’m 15 years old, weight 135 pounds, 5’10. I think I have a fast metabolism since I can eat alot and not gain weight (which is good, I guess) And I’m planning on getting a six pack by eating healthy food, protein, fruits, no sugars, etc. and I plan to Run a mile per day plus 50 sit-ups 50 push-ups 50 squats. I just want to start getting somewhat more muscular. Do you think this would work for me to get a six pack in a 1-2 months margin? I just want to know if this will really work so I can start applying it.

  12. Hello Jay,

    I’ve been following your program for a year now and finally I fully understand how does it work and the result is I’ve been actually getting muscle and also losing fat (not at same time though). I have a notebook and I can track my progress very accurately, and all of that is thanks to you.

    After this brief thanks paragraf, now the question. You say a person with average amount of weigh to lose should lose 1-2 lbs per week, and a lean person should lose like 0.5 pounds per week.

    Right now I have gone from 159 lbs to to 150 lbs in 3 weeks (I think it’s because I lost water and stuff the first week, but the average is 2 lbs per week) without losing strenght and now I’m about 17% body fat (estimated with caliper and with images).
    The thing is that I would like to cut as fast as I can without losing muscle (I could lose weight faster than now) and I wanted to know exacly what you mean for a lean person in terms of body fat.

    • If a guy wanted to go from something like 12% to 8%, that’s when I think “slow” is the best idea. If a guy wanted to go from something like 17% to 12%, that’s when something a bit faster (though still certainly moderate) would be okay.

  13. Should a person recalculate his/her calorie intake each time they lose 5 or so pounds? For example I started off at 205 lbs. now down to 194 after about two months of exercising and controlling my calorie intake. I did calculate it to around 2800/day at 200 lbs.

    If a person wants to get down to 180 lbs but continues with their daily calorie intake based on their original calculations weight loss would stall, correct?

    • Depending on how much fat a person has to lose, it’s normal for things to eventually stall and need to be adjusted.

      But, I don’t recommend adjusting anything until you actually reach that point. So, when you’ve gone about 3 consecutive weeks with no change in body weight (or measurements), that’s when it’s time to adjust.

      • I can see my body is getting toned and showing muscle growth. I still have that last little bit of jiggle around the waist area to get rid of.

  14. Hi,
    I’m loving all of your articles. I have a couple questions for you. I’m 5’1, 130 lbs, 4 months postpartum and new to fitness in general.

    1: do you have any advice for factoring breastfeeding into your fat loss diet?

    2: I’m very limited in the weight I can lift by my grip strength. Do I just need to be patient in strengthening my hands before I really start to test my major muscle groups?

    3: why can I do higher weight with standing calf raises than seated? Since the calves are at the bottom aren’t they still lifting the weight even though the rest of the body is working too?


    • 1. That’s one subject I know very little about.
      2. I would do whatever training you are capable of. As you progress, your grip strength will progress too. Also consider using straps.
      3. That’s normal. The standing version is just a stronger position.

      • 1. When I breastfed exclusively I just made sure to account for 300 extra calories a day (read: I ate some ice cream without guilt everyday). Once my children started eating other things in addition to breastfeeding, I didn’t worry abt calories. I also still ate ice cream (and probably SHOULD have worried about the calories, but that’s another topic).
        2. What he said. Same thing happens in aerial arts. Your grip improves along with your strength (all in good time).
        3. Stronger position: I would assume (just based on the core training I do for aerial work) that the standing version is “easier” for your calves to lift heavier because you are (unwittingly, prob) actually using a lot of stabilizing muscles throughout your legs and core in addition to your calves to lift the weight. Meanwhile when you’re seated, you don’t have those muscles engaged as an unwitting “cheat”, so you can’t lift as much.

  15. Hi – great article really enjoyed reading it. I’m 6ft 2 and around 13.5 stone fairly lean. I started weight training 8 weeks ago and I’ve noticed some results I’ve filled out. I was wondering how to go about bulking but also stay fairly lean. If I was to eat a hefty amount of brown rice/lentils and other clean carbs so to speak, and hit my calorie target per day by doing this, but also throw in some HIIT for fat loss would it be possible to put on clean weight and stay toned? Or is it just a case of one or another – put weight on and then take fat off? Thanks for any help.

  16. Hello, sir! i want to ask you something! do you think that bodyweight training like pushups, squats pull ups are good to maintain muscle mass while calorie deficit? If i follow , maybe you have heard about it (you are your own gym program (mark lauren)) , do you think is good for maintaining muscle , or I need to go directly to a gym and lift some weights? thank you very much and I’ll be grateful if you answer my question

    • The type of exercise (body weight, dumbbell, barbell, machine, etc.) isn’t what matters. It’s the fact that a heavy enough weight is being used to be challenging enough for a person to maintain muscle.

  17. So… what would you suggest for stubborn love handles and a little pooch belly? I just turned 54 a few weeks ago, started an exercise and weight training regimen about nine months ago and things are going great… except for those pesky things! I weigh 214, 6’3″, got down to 197lbs in July and have been making great gains in muscle mass, just can’t seem to get rid of that last bit of flab! Help!!!

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