How Many Calories Should I Eat to Build Muscle?

Creating a Calorie Surplus by Earning more than You Spend.

How many calories should I eat per day to build muscle?

“You have to eat big to be big.” This is the fundamental truth to bodybuilding and building muscle.

Your business must earn more than it spends for its banking account to grow. This means that you have to eat more calories than you burn to gain weight and build muscle.

However, there is a fine line between eating the proper amount to build muscle and while minimizing fat storage and building muscle and putting on a lot of fat.

After all, what good are those extra pounds of lean muscle if you hide them under a layer of fat?

So, the question you have to answer when determining the number of calories you should eat to build muscle is how big is too big?

Fortunately, a simple rule of thumb will allow us to estimate the number of calories we should eat to pack on quality muscle.

Process to Approximate How Many Calories You Should Eat to Build Muscle

Q: How many calories should you eat to build quality muscle?
A: The process below will allow us to calculate a target calorie intake per day that will allow you to maximize muscle gains while minimizing the amount of fat you put on.

The method is a four-step method:

  1. Determine your weight and % body fat.
    • Example: 210 pounds at 20% Body Fat

  2. Calculate your lean body mass.
    • Example: 210 x (100% - 20%) = 168 pounds
    • Note: If you do not know your lean body mass, do not worry. Use “0%” in the above calculation. The result below will still give you a good starting point for determining how many calories you should eat per day to build muscle. Adjust the calories upward if your lean body mass is not increasing.

  3. Determine your caloric needs per day by multiplying by lean body mass by 19.
    • Example: 168 x 19 = 3192 calories eaten per day to build muscle
    • Note: This calculation assumes you are undergoing a rigorous workout program that includes weight training several times per week.

Another method for determining how many calories you need to build muscle

Another easy to use method would be to follow the first 3 steps of the “How many calories do I need to lose weight?” method above.

Then, instead of subtracting 500 calories from your result in step 3, you would add 500 to 1000 calories.

  • Example: Assume you lift weights 4 times per week. Your result from step 3 would be x 15 = 2520 calories burned per day as your baseline.

    Add 500 calories to this number to determine your approximate calorie needs to build muscle.

    2520 + 500 = 3020 calories per day to build muscle

As you can see, you get a similar result using both methods.

Keep in mind, there is a lot more to building muscle than simply eating more. While you can lose fat by eating less, the same does not hold true for building muscle. Having the right workout program and nutrition plan is extremely important is you really want to build muscle fast.

What if my Bank Account Stays the Same?

These processes for determining the number of calories you need to build muscle are a "quick and easy" estimate. If want more accurate estimate, then please read this three part article to answer "How many calories should I eat in a day?"

Just like a bank account, your calorie intake should be tracked daily. Tracking your calories will allow you to make informed judgments on how your "spending habits" are affecting your progress.

If you are not putting on enough lean muscle mass or are putting on too much fat during your muscle building phase. Knowing your daily calorie and nutrient intake will help you make data based decisions on changes that you need to make to your diet.

Knowing how many calories you need to eat is a great start when beginning any muscle building program.

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