An intake of 6,000 calories a day is about three times the average daily recommended caloric intake, as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) percent daily value recommendations are based on a 2,000-calorie daily intake. There are few instances when this level of regular intake is healthy.
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Eating 6,000 Calories a Day
In a small-scale September 2015 study published in Science Translational Medicine, six healthy men were fed 6,000 calories a day with no physical activity for a week. The diet was 50 percent carbohydrates, 35 percent fat (no indication of how much was saturated fat) and 15 percent protein.
Over the course of the week, the men gained an average of 8 pounds. Beyond this, they showed signs of oxidative stress and insulin resistance.
Oxidative stress, according to a July 2017 article in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, is an imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants, where there are more free radicals in the body than the antioxidants that combat them.
Free radicals, according to the National Cancer Institute, are unstable molecules made during normal cell metabolism. They can build up in the cells and cause damage to other molecules leading to an increase in risk for cancer and other diseases.
Insulin resistance, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, is when the cells in your fat, liver and muscles don't respond well to insulin and do not easily take up glucose from your blood. Your pancreas produces more insulin to help glucose into your cells. Left untreated, it can lead to diabetes.
Read more: How to Meal Plan for Every Diet and Budget
Who Needs 6,000 Calories Daily?
If you are underweight, you may benefit from an increase in caloric intake to help you reach a normal weight. According to the Mayo Clinic, being underweight can be concerning if it's because of poor nutrition or if you are pregnant or have other health issues.
The Mayo Clinic also says there are about 3,500 calories in one pound. If you are a highly active person with a great deal of muscle mass, you will need a higher caloric intake to sustain that muscle.
However, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services state that only active men between the ages of 16 and 18 require 3,200 calories per day, which is the maximum daily intake listed for any age group or activity level.
Because of this, you should only follow a 6,000 calories a day meal plan at the direction of a dietician, and for a brief period of time. Consuming too many calories for too long can lead to unhealthy weight gain.
Keep It Healthy and Balanced
If you choose to use a 6,000 calories a day meal plan for weight gain, it's important to keep it nutritionally balanced. This means avoiding junk food and seeking quality over quantity. Although candy, soda and chips may be full of calories, they won't provide the nutrition you need to build muscle and strengthen your bones.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics suggests:
- Avoiding supplements and gimmicks marketed toward weight gain.
- Eating smaller meals more often and drink fluids before and after meals to leave room in the stomach for food.
- Adding concentrated calories to your usual foods, such as adding cheese to chili, or adding peanut butter to a whole grain muffin.
- Prepare oatmeal and other hot cereals with milk instead of water.
- Go for full-fat versions rather than "light" or "low-calorie" yogurt, milk and cheese.
When you work with a nutritionist, you can develop a healthy eating plan that will allow you to gain weight using the food you enjoy.
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration: "% Daily Value"
- Science Translational Medicine: "Excessive Caloric Intake Acutely Causes Oxidative Stress, GLUT4 Carbonylation and Insulin Resistance in Healthy Men"
- Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity: "Oxidative Stress: Harms and Benefits for Human Health"
- National Cancer Institute: Dictionary of Cancer Terms: "Free Radical"
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: "Insulin Resistance & Prediabetes"
- Mayo Clinic: "What's a Good Way to Gain Weight If You're Underweight?"
- Mayo Clinic: "Counting Calories: Get Back to Weight-Loss Basics"
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Appendix 2. Estimated Calorie Needs per Day, by Age, Sex, and Physical Activity Level"
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Healthy Weight Gain"
- American Dietetic Association: Choose Your Foods: Exchange Lists for Diabetes