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How long is a reasonable amount of time to assess whether or not a new workout and/or diet regimen is working?

I've heard many people complain about not losing weight after a week but I've also heard people not seeing/feeling a difference after a month or so.

edit: The assessment is subjective to the individual on what he/she wants to see but the question is "in general".

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"I've heard many people complain about not losing weight after a week"

These are the same people who jump from program to program, expecting quick results. They're also the kind to jump on the latest weight loss fad/bandwagon. Don't be that guy :)

"I've also heard people not seeing/feeling a difference after a month or so"

These guys have the patience; however, they need legitimate information and feedback. And frankly, weight loss or strength training, I expect to see some results within a month. The result doesn't have to be earth-shattering; it doesn't have to be noticeable by sight; however, it should be felt.

In order to expect such results within a month, I think the person

  • must have committed to the program as perfectly possible (strictly followed the process, equipment, form, etc).
  • must have some yardstick for measurement (usually before and after photos/numbers).
  • must be realistic about their expectations.
  • must be more concerned about progression than specific numbers.
  • must be honest with themselves about their efforts/intensity.

If I'm following a weight loss program and don't see a result in a month, it means I'm doing something wrong. Same goes for my weight lifting training. Very importantly, what I'm looking for is progression (something that shows that I'm moving in the right direction).

I haven't been in a program in which I haven't seen the results within this timeframe; however, if I do find myself in one, I'll follow the above list to determine what I might have missed. If I couldn't find any reason, I'll have tweak the program a little (as well as ask/research to determine what could have gone wrong) to determine if there's a difference.

If there's no progression in 2 months, the program isn't for me.

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It's a pretty broad question and all I can offer up is anecdotal knowledge, but I'll take a stab at it.

If I really dial in my diet, walk a couple of hours each day, and keep lifting, I can drop about 1lb of fat per week. I think that's "noticeable" on someone who otherwise stays pretty lean. More simply, a skinny person losing 10 pounds looks a lot skinnier than an obese person losing 10 pounds.

For strength training, I recommend to anyone starting that they give themselves 6-9 months before they start flexing in the mirrors and seeing definition. It's coupled with body fat: the more fat you have, the harder it will be to see muscular definition.

Maybe this picture will help explain a bit. The lower your body fat gets, the more impact 1lb of fat loss has. At the same time, the lower your body fat, the more noticeable any changes in muscle definition will be.

enter image description here

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The question is quite generic (no objectives on train or diet given). So, I'll answer based on my experience. When I want to cut (lose fat) I give a 3 week buffer period before changing the plan (diet or train) if not seeing the desired results.

For instance, you are aiming to lose 1 lb of weight per week. But, it is common for the weight to fluctuate (water retention, more food in your gut, ...). To minimize this, you should try to weight yourself always in the same conditions - fasted, first thing in the morning. Still, it happens quite frequently.

Consider the following weekly weight evolution:

  1. -3 lbs (nice! - but most part of it is just water and glycogen depletion...)
  2. -0.5 lbs
  3. -0.7 lbs
  4. -0.4 lbs
  5. ...

Looking at weeks 2, 3 and 4 you are clearly not losing an average of 1 lb per week. Now, after 3 weeks of not seeing the desired results, I usually do a slight adjustment - decreasing the calories by, for instance, 10% (cut on carbs and fats, maintain protein quantities high). This pretty much covers the diet part.

Now, adjusting the train routine is quite more complex. What I believe works best is continuing with your strength train (to retain as much muscle as possible) and do some [more] low intensity cardio in off days. The more cardio you do (let it be low intensity or it can tamper with recovery), the more calories you burn.

Problems? Well, most of the times when you go for a huge caloric deficit your lifts will suffer. Here, a more mild approach might be desirable according to your objectives (the urgency to lose fat and how much you value your muscle mass). Also, the leaner you are, the more strict you need to be (tighter diet and maybe more cardio depending on your genetics).

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