How to Calculate Calories for Bulking

Two young men smiling and lifting weights in the gym
Men lifting weights in gym. (Image: XiXinXing/XiXinXing/Getty Images)

Athletes who want to increase their muscle mass need to increase their caloric intake beyond what their body uses for energy throughout the day. While the simplistic approach would be to eat anything within arm's reach that is high in calories, that is a sure method to gain more fat than muscle. Although you cannot avoid adding fat to your body when bulking, your objective is to minimize fat gain by accurately calculating a caloric intake that provides the extra nutrients to add muscle, but not so many that your body stores them as fat.

Step 1

Determine your weight using the scale. For our example, we'll use 200 pounds.

Step 2

Multiple your weight by 17.5 to determine the number of calories you need to consume every day. At 200 pounds, you would need to consume 3,500 calories a day.

Step 3

Calculate your daily protein intake at 1 gram per pound of body weight. Accordingly, a 200-pound individual would strive to consume 200 grams of protein a day.

Step 4

Calculate your daily fat intake at 0.5 gram per pound of body weight. This would equal 100 grams of fat per day for our 200-pound athlete.

Step 5

Convert the daily intake of protein and fat from grams to calories. Multiply the number of protein grams by four and the number of fat grams by nine. For example, 200 grams of protein equals 800 calories, and 100 grams of fat equals 900 calories.

Step 6

Calculate your daily carbohydrate intake by subtracting the protein and fat calories from your total caloric intake. In this case, the daily caloric intake is 3,500 calories. Subtracting 800 calories for protein and 900 calories for fat leaves a balance of 1,800 calories to come from carbohydrates.

Step 7

Divide the carbohydrate calories by four to determine the gram equivalent. Accordingly, 1,800 calories divided by four equals 450 grams of carbohydrates per day.

Step 8

Divide the daily protein, fat and carbohydrate intake by the number of meals you will be eating each day to determine what you need to eat at each meal. With most bodybuilders eating five meals a day, a macronutrient target for each meal would be 40 grams of protein, 20 grams of fat and 90 grams of carbohydrate.

Things You'll Need

  • Scale

  • Calculator

Tip

These figures are starting points, and you will have to adjust your intake based on how your body is responding. If you are gaining too much body fat, drop your daily caloric intake by 500 calories. Likewise, if you find that you are not gaining weight after two weeks, increase your calories by 500.

You must pair your diet with a well-designed exercise program for muscle growth and bulking.

Warning

You may experience gastrointestinal distress if you increase your caloric intake by more than 1,000 calories a day. If you are currently eating significantly fewer calories than those prescribed by your bulking calculations, ease into the increased eating plan by adding no more than 250 calories a day. Continue increasing your daily calorie consumption by 250 to 500 calories a day until you reach your starting point.

REFERENCES & RESOURCES
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