Gaining muscle can be challenging. I get asked the question ‘How many calories should I eat to gain muscle?' on a daily basis. That's why I wanted to prepare this guide, to get you on track from the get-go.

If you're training right, but not noticing the gains you should be, your diet is probably to blame.

The trouble for most ‘hard-gainers' is that they aren't taking in enough calories to increase muscle size.

how many calories should i eat to gain muscle

In this guide, we'll take a look at not only the number of calories you need to eat but how these calories should be split out to get the best effect.

I'm sure you'll agree, the last thing you want to do is add muscle, but have too much fat on top to be able to see it.

The process of gaining muscle with minimal fat is what we like to refer to as ‘lean-bulking'.

This is where I'm going to take you with this guide, so let's jump in and learn how to gain some solid, lean muscle.

What Are Your Options for Gaining Muscle?

how many calories should i eat to gain muscleThe most obvious option is to hit the gym.

However, unless you know what you're doing, you could end up wasting time doing training that won't benefit you.

To build muscle, you need to get a good balance between training, recovery, and feeding.

Muscles are torn in the gym, fed in the kitchen and built in bed.

This means using a workout plan that allows good recovery periods and an eating plan that adequately covers your calorie needs.

Our Old School Muscle program is a pre-prepared plan that incorporates the perfect blend of all these factors. If you want to take a look, click here.

It's vitally important that you get these three things in balance first, or you will not be successful.

Why is Eating so Important to Gain Muscle?

Eating is what will fuel your muscles and also repair them after training has broken them down.

If you train hard but don't eat right, your broken down muscles won't get the nutrients they need to repair and grow.

To illustrate my point, imagine building a wall.

The bricks are your muscles, and your calorie intake is the mortar.

If you don't have enough mortar, you will never be able to build a bigger wall.

Also, if you don't let the mortar set (resting your muscles), it will never be stable enough to get bigger or stronger.


Growing is a result of using your muscles to their limits, which causes micro-tears that heal and strengthen when you eat and rest.

Therefore, to gain muscle, you must eat more calories and rest your muscles!

So, How Many Calories Should I Eat to Gain Muscle?

The ideal number is between 250 and 500 calories over your maintenance figure.

Of course, to understand your total intake, you'll first need to know what your maintenance figure is!

Your maintenance figure is simply the number of calories you need to use to complete all your activities in one day.

It is often referred to as TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure).

Consuming this number of calories will keep your body in exactly the same shape and weight as it is now.

That will change as your metabolism and activity levels change!

If you eat too few calories, you will not have enough energy for your tasks, and you will not gain muscle.

If you have too many calories, you could start to store excess fat, unless you're training right in which case these extra calories will help you gain muscle.

This still leaves you asking how many calories should I eat to gain muscle, doesn't it?

Well, your TDEE can be calculated in two ways:

    • Take your weight in pounds and multiply it by 14 to get your lower calorie maintenance level. Multiply it by 17 to get your higher level.The exact amount you need will be within these figures; depending on your metabolism and activity level.
    • Use an online calorie counter like the one we offer you, by clicking here.This will take into account your age, gender, height, and current level of activity.Obviously this will be a much more accurate figure!

How Should These Calories Be Split?

You should consider which foods you're eating and ensure you have the right macro split every time. This will make sure your body is working at optimal efficiency!

The Split:
how many calories should i eat to gain muscleYour food needs to consist of around 40% carbs, 35% protein, and 25% fat.

Sticking to this will assist your body in having the right nutrients when it needs them, and help you to gain muscle.

The ideal way to consume these calories is through five meals.

Many diets will advocate more than this, but you are likely to find this exceptionally difficult to stick to when you have a busy life!

This method allows you to continue having breakfast, lunch, and dinner; as well as two snacks between.

Meal replacement bars and protein shakes make excellent choices for the between meal ‘snacks’.

Here at the Fit Father project, we provide a free 1-day meal plan to assist you in understanding the right food to eat.

You can even use the 5 Best Muscle Building Exercises or access the Old School Muscle Building Program to ensure you are undertaking all the right steps to build muscle.


Selecting the Right Foods

Your diet is easier to prepare than you think!

You simply need to understand which foods class as carbs, protein, and fat:

  • Carbs – Sweet potato, wholemeal pasta, quinoa and brown rice.
    It is important to note that these are healthy carbs and not the same as the ones you will obtain from pasta, white rice or regular potatoes.
  • Protein – lean meats, such as chicken and beef are excellent sources of protein.
    You can also eat sardines and egg whites.
  • Fats – Egg yolks! (This is handy since you can eat the white for your protein content.)
    Avocado is also a good source of healthy fat, as is coconut oil.

how many calories should i eat to gain muscle

You can also eat virtually any vegetable in as high content as you like.

These can help you to feel full and provide a range of valuable nutrients.

Timing Your Calorie Intake

A final point which is worth noting is that to optimize the effect of the calories you absorb, you should position them around your main activity.

For example, if you like to exercise in the morning then you should aim to have your protein shake after your exercise routine; mid-morning.

The best lean muscle workout guide for men over 40 can help you to get started with your muscle building goals.

If you prefer evening exercise, you may find it more beneficial to have a shake later in the evening.

This should be a Casein protein to assist you while you sleep!

The answer to the question “How many calories should I eat to gain muscle?” is relatively straightforward; once you have calculated your maintenance level.

You'll find the support we provide here at the Fit father Project to be invaluable and the lessons will help you build muscle whilst creating your own schedule and successfully gaining weight.

Of course, alongside the right number of calories, we suggest completing a workout like the 5 best muscle building exercises regularly!

I hope you've found this information beneficial. If you have, please feel free to share it with your friends.

Until next time!

Your new friend & health coach,

stuart-headshotStuart Carter
Head Training Staff, The Fit Father Project

Brotherhood Nickname: “The Fit Brit”
Bragging Rights: 16 Years in the fitness industry, Author of ‘The Easy Fitness Guide', Father of 4 boys and Husband to a Venezuelan beauty.
If you’re interested in a proven and completely laid out “done-for-you” muscle building meal plan & workout routine – designed for busy men…

Then I’d recommend you read the program overview letter for our Old School Muscle Program. Inside ‘Old School Muscle', you'll receive:

  • The simple & delicious Old School Muscle Meal Plan
  • The Old School Muscle Building Workouts
  • VIP email coaching where I'll personally walk you through the program

Read the ‘Old School Muscle' Program overview letter here to see how our plan can help you gain muscle – without the complication & restriction of normal diets.


Small note about research cited in this article:
*Always remember: weight loss results & health changes/improvements vary from individual to individual. Just because these studies cite certain data does not mean you will experience these results/outcomes. Always consult with your doctor before making decisions about your health. This is not medical advice – simply well-researched information about how many calories should I eat to gain muscle. Thanks for reading!