The variational approach is a cornerstone of computational physics, considering both conventional and quantum computing computational platforms. The variational quantum eigensolver algorithm aims to prepare the ground state of a Hamiltonian exploiting parametrized quantum circuits that may offer an advantage compared to classical trial states used, for instance, in quantum Monte Carlo or tensor network calculations. While, traditionally, the main focus has been on developing better trial circuits, we show that the algorithm's success, if optimized within stochastic gradient descent (SGD) or quantum natural gradient descent (QNGD), crucially depends on other parameters such as the learning rate, the number Ns of measurements to estimate the gradient components, and the Hamiltonian gap Δ. Within the standard SGD or QNGD, we first observe the existence of a finite Ns value below which the optimization is impossible, and the energy variance resembles the behavior of the specific heat in second-order phase transitions. Second, when Ns is above such threshold level, and learning is possible, we develop a phenomenological model that relates the fidelity of the state preparation with the optimization hyperparameters and Δ. More specifically, we observe that the computational resources scale as 1/Δ2, and we propose a symmetry enhancement of the variational ansatz as a way to increase the closing gap. We test our understanding on several instances of two-dimensional frustrated quantum magnets, which are believed to be the most promising candidates for near-term quantum advantage through variational quantum simulations.