When building muscle is your goal, one of the key things you must keep in mind is your calorie intake.
It’s not just about how much you lift or your exercises, but also about what you eat.
Research shows that to increase muscle mass, you must consume more calories than your body burns, a concept known as a calorie surplus.
But how many calories should you eat to build muscle? It’s not a one-size-fits-all answer, depending on your age, gender, weight, and activity level.
However, a common suggestion is adding 200 calories to your daily diet. This increase and regular strength training can help you achieve muscle growth.
Remember, these calories should come from nutrient-dense foods, including plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are high in fiber and essential vitamins and minerals.
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How Many Calories Do You Need Per Day To Build Muscle
You need to consume more calories than your body burns to gain muscle. An additional 250-500 calories per day is often recommended.
However, this can vary based on weight, metabolism, and workout intensity. Always consult a nutritionist for personalized advice.
What Is A Calorie Surplus
A calorie surplus occurs when you consume more calories than your body needs to maintain weight.
This excess energy is typically stored in the body as fat or used to build muscle, especially if you’re in resistance training.
It’s a key factor in weight gain and muscle-building strategies.
Why Calories Matter For Building Muscle
Calories matter for building muscle because they provide the energy your body needs for muscle synthesis.
When you’re in a caloric surplus, your body has extra energy that can be used to build new muscle tissue.
This is especially true if you consume adequate protein and undergo resistance training.
However, balancing caloric intake with physical activity is important to ensure that surplus calories are used for muscle growth and not stored as fat.
Calculating The Number Of Calories You Need
Using the calculator above will make figuring out your calorie goal much easier.
- Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR): The number of calories your body needs to perform basic functions like breathing and digestion. It can be calculated using the Mifflin St. Jeor equation: For men: 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) + 5 (kcal / day). For women: 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) -161 (kcal / day)
- Physical Activity Level (PAL): This reflects the amount of physical activity in your life. It ranges from sedentary (little or no exercise) to extra active (intense exercise daily, plus a physical job).
- Caloric Surplus: To gain muscle, your goals will include consuming more calories than your body burns. A common recommendation is to aim for a daily surplus of around 500 calories.
- Macronutrient Distribution: Calories come from protein, fats, and carbohydrates. For muscle gain, a common recommendation is to consume 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight and fill the rest of your calories with a balance of carbs and fats.
Understanding The Basics Of Muscle Growth
Muscle growth, also known as muscle hypertrophy, is an approach that involves an increase in the size of muscle cells. Here are the basics:
- Resistance Training: When you lift weights or perform other forms of resistance training, you create microscopic damage in your muscle fibers. This is often referred to as “muscle breakdown.”
- Repair and Growth: In response to this damage, your body repairs the muscle fibers by fusing them, which increases their size and number. This process occurs during rest periods, not during the workout itself.
- Nutrition: For your body to repair and grow muscles, it needs the right nutrients. Protein is crucial as it provides the building blocks (amino acids) for muscle repair and growth (muscle protein synthesis). Carbohydrates provide the energy needed for your workouts and recovery, while fats are essential for hormone production, including testosterone, which plays a key role in muscle growth.
- Caloric Surplus: To build muscle, your body needs extra energy, which comes from consuming more calories than your body burns (a caloric surplus). However, this doesn’t mean you should overeat or consume unhealthy foods. The surplus should come from nutrient-dense foods and be moderate to avoid excessive fat gain.
- Rest and Recovery: Adequate rest is crucial for muscle growth. During sleep, your body produces growth hormone, which aids in muscle repair and growth. Also, resting between workouts allows your muscles to recover and grow.
- Consistency: Muscle growth takes time and consistency. Regular workouts, proper nutrition, and adequate rest are all necessary for sustained muscle growth.
Everyone’s body responds differently to exercise and nutrition, so what works for one person may not work for another to change their body composition.
Studies about muscle hypertrophy show that following these guidelines will increase your health and results.
Calories Per Gram Of Protein, Fat, and Carbohydrates
This might sound confusing but let’s break it down piece by piece.
Remember the calories per gram of each macronutrient
In our example, we will use an individual who weighs 180 pounds and consumes 3000 calories a day.
Protein: 4 calories per gram
Since this person weighs 180 pounds, he eats 180 grams of protein daily.
Since protein contains four calories per gram, we will multiply 180 x 4 to get the daily amount of calories from protein, which is 720 calories.
For optimal protein intake, use eggs, milk, types of protein powder, and lean proteins as the base of your diet.
Fats: 9 calories per gram
You want 25% of your daily caloric intake from fat consumption.
So, from this example, we take our 3000 calories and multiply by 0.25. That number is 750.
Now add the total calories from protein and fats up to 720+750=1520.
Carbohydrates: 4 calories per gram
We now take our daily calorie number (3000) and subtract the protein and fat calories (1520) from it;
This means 1480 calories a day should come from carbohydrates.
Remember, carbohydrates have four calories per gram. So if you divide 1480 by 4, you get 370.
Your result is 370 grams of carbs, which will equal 1480 calories.
It’s easy once you break it down, BUT if you are still confused, read through the article again and, more importantly, redo your calculation to ensure it checks out.
How To Create a Muscle-Building Meal Plan
Creating a muscle-building meal plan involves a few key steps to keep you from feeling stress from inadequate diets that will increase the risk for nutritional deficiencies.
- Calculate Your Caloric Needs: This is based on your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), which includes your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), the calories you burn through physical activity, and the calories burned through the digestion of food.
- Determine Your Macronutrient Ratio: The ratio of protein, carbohydrates, and fats you consume. A common macronutrient ratio might be 40% protein, 40% carbohydrates, and 20% fats for muscle gain.
- Choose Nutrient-Dense Foods: Prioritize lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. Protein sources include lean meats, poultry, fish, and plant-based proteins. Carbohydrates should come from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Healthy fats can be found in avocados, nuts, seeds, and olive oil.
- Plan Your Meals: Divide your daily caloric intake into 5-6 smaller meals spread throughout the day. This can help maintain steady energy levels and give your muscles a constant supply of nutrients.
- Adjust Based on Progress: Monitor your progress and adjust your meal plan. You may need to increase your caloric intake if you’re not gaining muscle as expected. If you’re gaining too much fat, you may need to decrease your calories or adjust your macronutrient ratio.
Meal frequency, or how often you eat, is a topic of much debate in the fitness and nutrition world.
Some experts advocate eating many small meals throughout the day (5-6 meals), while others suggest sticking to the traditional three meals a day, and some even promote intermittent fasting.
When it comes to muscle building, the idea behind eating more frequent, smaller meals is that it provides a steady supply of nutrients to your muscles, which can aid in recovery and growth.
It’s also thought to help control hunger and blood sugar levels, benefiting those trying to gain muscle without adding too much body fat.
However, it’s important to note that total caloric intake and macronutrient balance (getting enough protein, carbohydrates, and fats) are more important than meal frequency for muscle growth.
As long as you’re consuming enough calories and getting the right balance of macronutrients, you can build muscle whether you eat three meals a day or six.
This works if you’re on a calorie deficit or a surplus.
Everyone is different; what works best for one person might not work well for another.
Some people feel better and have more energy for their workouts when they eat more frequently, while others prefer fewer, larger meals. It’s important to experiment and find what works best for you.
Timing of Meals
The specific time you eat meals can give you benefits in muscle growth, particularly in pre- and post-workout nutrition.
Pre-Workout Nutrition: Consuming a meal 2-3 hours before your workout can give your body the energy it needs to perform at its best.
This meal should contain a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
Protein provides the amino acids necessary for muscle growth and repair, carbohydrates provide energy for your workout, and fats can help satisfy you.
If you find it hard to eat before a meal, read this Total War pre workout review
Post-Workout Nutrition: Eating a meal or snack within 30 minutes to 2 hours after your workout can help optimize muscle repair and growth.
This meal should contain protein (to aid muscle repair) and carbohydrates (to replenish muscle glycogen stores).
Some research suggests that a ratio of 3:1 or 4:1 carbs to protein can be effective for post-workout recovery.
This time would be considered the anabolic window when your body absorbs nutrients more aggressively.
Regular Meals: Aside from pre- and post-workout nutrition, consuming regular meals throughout the day is important to provide a steady supply of nutrients to your muscles.
This can help support ongoing muscle repair and growth.
If you have a hard time receiving all of your macronutrients in your meals, you can use supplements like whey protein for elevated performance, weight loss in a maintenance phase, and bulking phases to build lean muscle
How To Measure Muscle Gain
You must keep track of your progress as you move forward so that you don’t do the wrong thing for too long.
For example, you don’t want to have too high of a calorie surplus and start gaining excess fat on top of your newly built muscle.
What would make this worse was if you weren’t paying attention and didn’t notice that you were gaining more than you should be every week.
Since you are tracking your progress, it’s no big deal for you to tweak your daily caloric intake and limit the fat you build.
If you’re worried about losing weight after you are done with your bulking phase, try a lean bulk; this will give you a lean body with less body fat to lose during your cutting cycle.
Here are some tips to track your muscle growth…
- Strength gains
- Bodyweight gains
- Measure body fat with calipers
- Before and after pictures
Understanding your calorie needs is a crucial part of a muscle-gain diet.
While the exact number can vary, increasing your daily intake by about 200 calories is a good starting point. However, it’s not just about eating more.
The quality of your diet matters too.
Incorporating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins can provide the nutrients your muscles need to grow without having to worry about fat loss later.
It’s also important to pair your diet with a consistent exercise routine.
And remember, everyone’s body responds differently to dietary changes and exercise routines.
So, it’s always a good idea to consult a doctor or nutritionist to create a plan tailored to your needs. By understanding this information, you can make your muscle-building journey a successful part of your lifestyle.