How Many Calories Do I Need To Eat Per Day To Build Muscle Or Gain Weight?

If you’re here, it means you want to build muscle. You may just want to gain weight in general, but the “weight” you typically want to gain is muscle. Either way, you’re ready to figure out how many calories you need to eat per day to make that happen as effectively as possible. Awesome.

Before we get to that, here’s a quick recap of what you’ve done so far:

  • You learned that in order to build muscle or gain weight, a caloric surplus is the #1 requirement.
  • You learned that a “caloric surplus” means eating more calories than your body needs, which means you need to be above your calorie maintenance level. (Muscle can’t be built out of thin air. Additional calories above what your body normally needs is required for new muscle tissue to be created.)
  • You estimated what your daily calorie maintenance level is. (If you skipped that step, now is the time to go back and do it.)

Now, with your estimated calorie maintenance level in mind, the next obvious step in figuring out how many calories you need to eat per day to build muscle is figuring out what size the caloric surplus should be.

Meaning, how many calories above your maintenance level should you be each day to build muscle?

Let’s answer that…

Creating Your Ideal Caloric Surplus

Even though your #1 goal here is to build muscle, there’s really always 2 goals that need to be kept in mind when creating a caloric surplus:

  1. Maximizing muscle gains.
  2. Minimizing fat gains.

Because of this, there are 2 main factors that dictate what the ideal size of the caloric surplus should be:

  1. The surplus needs to be big enough to build muscle as effectively as possible.
  2. The surplus needs to be small enough to avoid gaining unnecessary fat.

You see, since there is a limit to the amount of muscle the human body is capable of building (and the rate at which it can be built), that means there is also a limit to the number of calories your body is capable of using to build muscle.

If you supply your body with more calories than that amount, those extra calories will always be stored in the form of fat, not muscle. It’s almost like an extra surplus on top of the required surplus.

For that reason, we need to avoid making the surplus TOO big.

At the same time, if the caloric surplus is TOO small, muscle will either not be built at all, or it will be built at a rate so unbelievably slow that it might as well not even exist in the first place.

This means that the goal here is to get the surplus just right. So, with all of that said, here are my recommendations for most people, most of the time…

How Many Calories Should I Eat Per Day To Build Muscle?

  • The Ideal Caloric Surplus for MEN: 250 calories per day.
  • The Ideal Caloric Surplus for WOMEN: 125 calories per day.

Let me break that down…

  • Men: 250 additional calories per day.
    For example, if you are a guy with a daily calorie maintenance level of 2000 calories, you should now eat about 2250 calories per day to build muscle. Whatever your maintenance level is, just be 250 or so calories above it each day.
  • Women: 125 additional calories per day.
    For example, if you are a girl with a daily calorie maintenance level of 2000 calories, you should now eat about 2125 calories per day to build muscle. Whatever your maintenance level is, just be 125 or so calories above it each day.

So, take the estimated calorie maintenance level you got in the previous step and create your ideal caloric surplus. Did you do it? Good. That’s how many calories you need to eat per day to build muscle. Taaadaaa!

Make sure you write it down.

Additional calories above this amount would cause too much fat gain, and fewer calories would likely slow down muscle growth to nonexistent levels.

That’s why this is the caloric surplus that will usually produce the best results possible in terms of maximizing muscle gains and minimizing fat gains for the majority of the population looking to build muscle.

Of course, one of the main reasons this surplus is so ideal is that it will cause you to gain weight at the ideal rate of weight gain.

What ideal rate of weight gain, you ask?

This one…

The Ideal Rate of Weight Gain

You see, if you have properly created the ideal caloric surplus and are therefore eating the right amount of calories each day, it will cause you to gain weight at the ideal rate.

What makes this “rate” so ideal is that, if you exceed it, you’ll be gaining too much fat. If you fall below it, you’ll be gaining way too little muscle (or more likely, none whatsoever).

So, just what is the ideal rate of weight gain when trying to build muscle? This is…

The Ideal Rate Of Weight Gain For Men & Women

Gender Ideal Rate Of Weight Gain For Building Muscle
Men 0.5 pound per week.
(2lbs per month)
Women 0.25 pound per week.
(1lb per month)

So, men looking to build muscle should aim to gain about 0.5 pound per week (or 2lbs per month). Women looking to build muscle should aim to gain about 0.25 pound per week (or 1lb per month).

Got all that? Good. Now let’s make sure it all works correctly…

How To Guarantee You’re Eating The Right Amount Of Calories Per Day

OK, let’s recap real fast. First, you learned what the ideal caloric surplus is. Then, you used that information to adjust your estimated calorie maintenance level and figure out exactly how many calories you need to eat per day to build muscle (or just gain weight in general).

After that, you learned what the ideal rate of weight gain is for you and this new ideal calorie intake of yours.

All that’s left to do now is make sure everything is 100% accurate and guaranteed to work.

Remember in the previous step when I mentioned that there would be a way to double check your daily calorie intake to make sure it was 100% perfect for your goal of building muscle? Well, here it is.

All you need to do is start eating your new ideal amount of calories each day and then just weigh yourself about once per week (first thing in the morning on an empty stomach) and watch what happens.

Based on what your weight is doing from week to week, here’s what you should do:

  • Are you gaining weight at the ideal rate? If so, congrats. Keep eating this amount of calories each day and make sure you’re using an intelligent and effective workout program (more about that later). The best possible muscle building results are guaranteed to follow.
  • Are you losing weight or just maintaining your current weight? If so, your surplus is too low (or it just doesn’t exist at all) and therefore needs to be increased. So, just add about 250 calories to your current calorie intake (so if you were just eating 2500 calories per day, you’d now eat 2750 calories per day) and then monitor what your weight does over the next couple of weeks. Based on what happens, come right back here and follow the appropriate instructions.
  • Are you gaining weight faster than the ideal rate? If so, your surplus is too big and it needs to be reduced. Just remove about 250 calories from your current calorie intake (so if you were just eating 2500 calories per day, you’d now eat 2250 calories per day) and then monitor what your weight does over the next couple of weeks. Based on what happens, come right back here and follow the appropriate instructions.

Basically, weigh yourself once per week first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and keep track of it somewhere (or, weigh in every morning and take the weekly average).

If you are gaining weight at the ideal rate, you’re perfect. If you aren’t, then just adjust your calorie intake up or down in small 250 calorie increments until you are. Simple as that.

What if I reach a “plateau” and I stop gaining weight/muscle?

Depending on how much muscle you’re looking to build, it’s possible that some people may eventually reach a point where they are no longer gaining weight at the ideal rate.

If this happens (and it’s been like that for a couple of weeks in a row), guess what you should do? Yup, just increase your current daily calorie intake by about 250 calories (for guys) or 125 calories (for girls) and see if you get back to gaining at the ideal rate then.

And with that, the most important part of your diet is all figured out and ready to go. Good job!

What’s Next?

Now that you know how many calories you should eat per day to build muscle/gain weight, it’s time to figure out where those calories will come from.

First up is protein, which is the second most important part of every muscle building diet. Let’s find out why, and how much of it you should eat…

Daily Protein Intake – What Does Protein Do & Why Do You Need It?

(This article is part of a completely free and amazingly awesome guide to creating the absolute best diet plan possible for your exact goal and preferences. Check out the entire guide here: The Best Diet Plan)

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