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How Many Calories Should You Eat to Gain Muscle?

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
How Many Calories Should You Eat to Gain Muscle?
Gaining muscle requires workouts coupled with an increase in calories.

Gaining muscle improves your body composition so you look more toned and lean. Bodybuilders and athletes may seek to gain muscle to improve their sports performance. Eating an adequate amount of calories is essential to gaining muscle.

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Calorie Needs

To gain weight experts like registered dietitian Joanne Larsen on Ask the Dietitain advise eating about 500 more calories than you burn daily to gain 1 lb. per week. For a 2 lb. per week gain, go for 1,000 additional calories daily. Combine these additional calories with a consistent strength training exercise routine. Simply eating more calories without exercise will result in fat gain.


Every person’s body builds muscle at a different rate, which can be affected by the intensity of your workout regimen. If you have a tendency to put on fat easily, you might try adding just 250 calories more than your burn rate daily to encourage a 1/2 lb. per week muscle growth and discourage fat accumulation says CNN’s Dr. Melina Jampolis, physician nutrition specialist. It may take some experimentation to determine the exact amount of calories that works for your body.

Types of Food

To encourage muscle growth, derive most of your calories from quality, nutritious foods. Junk foods high in sugar, refined flours, saturated and trans fats and sodium will encourage fat gains. Choose whole grains, fresh produce, unsaturated fats, low-fat dairy and lean proteins to make up your daily calorie intake.


A slight increase in protein intake over the Institute of Medicine minimum recommendation of .8 g per kg of body weight may help you gain muscle. Jampolis suggests increasing protein intake to 1.2 g per kg of body weight per day. To figure your weight in kilograms, divide your weight in pounds by 2.2. For example, a 150-lb., or 68.2-kg., person would need about 82 g of protein daily to support muscle growth. Stick to lean proteins such as egg whites, fish, skinless poultry and cottage cheese.


Try to get your extra calories from whole foods rather than supplements. Your body is likely to absorb the nutrients in real food better than from shakes and bars. Supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so there is no way to be certain their claims are legitimate. Some may also contain ingredients that could be harmful to people with certain conditions.

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