Here is an interesting question I was recently asked on Quora. What Calories Should I Eat To Gain Muscle?
This was a few weeks ago now and I wrote it down to answer later on. Even then I had this idea. That I could turn this into a blog post. I am no expert on bodybuilding (I must admit) but I do know a fair bit about nutrition. So with this in mind – let’s try to answer this question… What Calories Should I Eat To Gain Muscle?
So to begin with yes, you do need to consume calories to gain muscle. It’s kind of a complicated concept but it is all the better for understanding. Building muscles is essentially weight gain. You can either gain weight by storing fat or building muscle mass.
Some people believe that you can actually eat and get fat for a few months then start hitting the gym after. Turn the fat into muscle. This is a funny idea and I think it can help. Stored fat is essentially stored energy and for this reason, it helps to eat well if you are training. However, you don’t need to spend months storing fat before you start training.
You can do it simultaneously. All you need is the right diet plan and a bit of maths can help as well.
What Calories Should I Eat To Gain Muscle?
One approach is to calculate with a formula that includes your age, gender, height, and weight. Typically for say the average Male the general idea is they should consume 2000 calories a day.
Then on top of that add 250 calories and that is more or less it. From a weight gain/muscle building perspective.
Except this depends if somebody is quite big already it may be more than 2000 calories (providing they want to get even bigger). Or somebody who is quite tall or short may be different.
For females, it may be less (1500 + 250 calories). It all really depends on the person.
The 2000 calories aren’t the amount you need to consume before adding the 250 just remember this. In fact, it is whatever the average is of calories you consume each day + 250.
You can never really work this out exactly but the first thing is first is to make a food chart. It could be like Monday:
2 bits of toast with butter,
a bowl of pasta with cheese for lunch,
burger chips and beans for dinner,
and a bowl of custard for dessert.
If you do this for one to 2 weeks then you can start trying to figure out your calorie intake.
Here are some examples below;
- Banana – 72-135 calories
- Peanut Butter Sandwich – 327 calories
- Burger and Chips – 881 calories
- 100g of Baked Beans 151 calories
- Chocolate Bar – 200-600 calories
- A Glass of Milk – 91 Calories
Other Factors to Consider
So the plus 250 calories rule is all good but how much protein?
We all know of the meatheads that go to the gym drinking their protein shakes who fill up their trolleys at the supermarket with all the steaks but seriously. If you have only just started going to the gym do you even need to know all this nutritional information?
I would say probably not at first. The most important thing is you just get out there and do it. If this is really what you want then just go for it. Get over the initial mental challenge of starting to train in the first place.
Just know that training consumes a lot of energy.
Then after the first maybe 2 weeks, you will maybe then want to be a bit more prepared. This is why I would say you should keep a food diary to get a rough idea of what calories you are consuming.
Then as you go on. Other than this there are other things you will want to consider as well. Like how much time are you training for? and how hard you are training? etc. The reason being is as when you train for longer and more vigorously you may need to consume more calories.
This is also when you may need to start increasing your protein intake to make sure you are actually building muscles.
How Much Protein Do You Need To Start Gaining Muscle
Actually, it isn’t just about how much protein that you eat but also how much of this protein your body actually uses. In fact, there is no sense in eating a whole cow’s worth of beef and heading straight to the gym. As It is also important to consider how much of this protein is being converted into muscles.
To understand this one must first understand how the body develops muscle in the first place. The key is protein digestion and the release of key amino acids.
For this reason, I highly recommend the supplementation of proteolytic enzymes.
What Are Proteolytic Enzymes?
So, enzymes are what digest our food. Different enzymes work in different ways. For instance, there is one type of enzyme for metabolizing carbohydrates, and another that is needed especially to metabolize gluten and casein. Then there are of course (amongst others) enzymes that metabolize dietary protein.
Proteolytic Enzymes actually are vital for many different biological processes. Sometimes these are also known as protease and peptidases. Naturally, they are produced inside the pancreas and stomach. They are essential for many things including immune function and blood clotting but of course most importantly protein digestion.
This is why bodybuilders take these as supplements because they help to increase the amount of protein that is digested and metabolized into muscle-boosting amino acids.
Finding the Right Balance To Gain Muscle
So this is my tip. Firstly try and work out how many calories you consume a day. Then work out a meal plan on top of that which includes the right kinds of food. If you have a PT (personal trainer) speak to them about helping you to develop a meal plan. The general idea they say for new bodybuilders is to try to consume a high-calorie, protein-rich diet.
One good idea is to regularly weigh yourself and to keep track by downloading a calorie counter app. You can write everything down and google it if you don’t have a smartphone or tablet but this obviously a more convenient way of doing things.
The other thing I am yet to mention is that for bodybuilding especially this falls into 2 different stages.
Bulking and Cutting.
The first stage (bulking) is just to start building muscle. Whereas the second stage is to lose fat and maintain muscle.
Each stage is designed in a certain way so you can fully optimize your body to be in the best shape. It is recommended for the bulking phase that you increase your calorie intake by 15%. Whilst during the cutting phase instead decrease by 15%.
Then from here when you have a more or less complete understanding of your calorie intake there is something new to consider. The ratio of macronutrients. This means getting the ratio right for fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.
This involves yet more mathematics. Generally, this is as follows 30% Protein, 60% Carbs, and 10% Fat.
For each food type, you can give or take 5%. So 5% extra protein for 5% less carbs.
Speak To a Dietician for Best Results
So, What Calories Should I Eat To Gain Muscle? My Own Analysis. I have answered this now I think, and this would apply to those that are bulking rather than cutting. So whatever your usual calorie intake is then add 15% and overall look to modify your diet to the following ratio – 30% Protein, 10% Fat, and 60% Carbohydrates.
I would say if you want to go down the route I mentioned above with proteolytic enzymes then add 5% more protein.
Overall, this is probably the best I can answer this. I am no expert when it comes to bodybuilding. The GIF I shared above is more like me but please rest assured I have done my due diligent research here and this should be enough information to at least help you get ready to start building more muscles.
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