How Many Calories Should I Eat To Gain Lean Muscle?

How Many Calories Should I Eat To Gain Lean Muscle?


March 6, 2022

“How many calories should I eat to gain lean muscle?” This is a fairly common question among those looking to build muscle but want to maintain a healthy balance with their calorie intake.

Your weight and your regular type of activities can help you get a fairly accurate answer to this question. There are other ways you can determine this, though. 

Whether you simply want to look good or you are obsessed with the idea of gaining lean muscle and remaining physically fit like on-screen celebrities, this article will give you the answers you seek.

How Many Calories Should I Eat To Gain Lean Muscle?

How Many Calories Should I Eat To Gain Lean Muscle?

The most efficient way to do your calculations on the number of calories you need to gain lean muscle is to use your body weight as a determinant.

To do this, simply multiply your body weight by a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 17 calories.  This means your daily calorie consumption should be between 1500 and 1700 per day if you weigh around 100 pounds. Try this method for a few weeks to see if it works well for you.

Nevertheless, if you do not notice any positive result after a few weeks, you should increase the number of calories you take by at least 10%.

This is how it works: eating more calories than what your body burns is the key to calories weight gain. The point here is this: you will need to burn fat to reduce their gains while at the same time maximizing muscle gains.

The Connection Between Calories and Muscle Gain

The Connection Between Calories and Muscle Gain

Fat does not burn as many calories as muscles because the latter is more metabolically active than the former. This means strengthening your muscles can help you lose weight.

This has to do with the number of calories you burn per pound of your muscle gain. The metabolic rate of muscle tissue is estimated to be around 4.5 to 7.0 calories for each pound of body weight a day. 

That means your muscle tissues burn about 20% of calories daily per day while fat tissues burn only about 5%. Here’s what this means for you? You can burn significantly more calories in a day through strength training.

In addition, you get the benefits of improved sleep, mood, and cognitive function. Working to increase your muscle gains can also reduce overall stress and anxiety, allowing you to enjoy better mental and emotional health.

Sufficient Calories For Muscle Gain

You need a positive energy balance when you are working on building muscle. In other words, the calories you consume must be more than what your body burns to maintain this positive balance.

The average person requires around 2,800 calories to build a pound of muscle. Consider the following tips to help you consume a sufficient amount of calories for muscle gain.

Don’t Skip Breakfast

Don’t Skip Breakfast

Eating breakfast helps you stay full until your next meal. It will also help you eat healthier throughout the day.

Eat healthy foods like cottage cheese, omelets, and smoothies at the start of your day to help you achieve positive results in terms of building muscle mass. 

Add Protein to Every Meal

Protein is very necessary for building and maintaining muscle. Ideally, aim to consume around 1g of protein per 454g of body weight. 

For example, plan to eat about 200g of protein per day if you weigh 91kg. Your best bet to achieve this is to focus more on eating whole protein sources, such as:

  • Poultry (chicken, turkey, and duck)
  • Fish (sardines, salmon, tuna, and mackerel)
  • Dairy (cottage cheese, milk, cheese, quark, and yogurt)
  • Red meat (lamb, pork, and beef)
  • Egg yolk
  • If you are a vegan, go with options like tofu, lentils, nuts, and seeds

Eat Every Three Hours

Make it a habit to eat right at the right time to adequately build muscle mass. Consider interspersing your regular meals (breakfast, lunch, and dinner) with up to two snacks and post-meal workouts.

Eating well translates to less hunger and less or no cravings. Also, all your meals should be at fixed times every day to train your body to get hungry at those fixed times.

Eat Healthy Fats

Healthy fats (not margarine and trans-fat) don’t digest very quickly. Eating them improves your fat loss. Eating artificial fats is unhealthy!

Drink Plenty of Water

Drink Plenty of Water

You can lose a lot of water (through sweating) while working out for muscle gains. For this reason, you should increase your water intake to help you stay hydrated and encourage muscle recovery.

Increase Fruit and Vegetables Intake

Most fruits and veggies are low in calories and packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. They also contain lots of fibers, which aid good digestion. 

You can eat plenty of these without gaining fat or adding weight, but be sure about the sugar content before taking them.

Do Your Workouts Before Eating Carbs

Don’t eat too many carbs than your body needs; save them for after your exercises. Eat oats, potatoes, quinoa rice, pasta, and bread. Stay away from white carbs and eat whole grain. Also, eat fruits and veggies with your meals.

Increase Whole Foods Intake to About 90%

Eat more whole foods if you wish to get impressive results in terms of muscle mass. That’s because they are unprocessed and mostly in their natural state.  Processed foods are usually not healthy, as they contain added sugar and preservatives.

Can You Build Muscle On Caloric Deficit?

Can You Build Muscle On Caloric Deficit?

Building muscle mass on a calorie deficit will depend on the specifics of your fitness situation. It may not be an ideal approach, though. 

If you are a bodybuilder, a better approach would be to switch between bulk and shred cycles. However, it is a lot easier to build muscle and maintain lean muscle mass while on a calorie deficit if your goal is general weight loss.

In other words, combining the right workout with the proper nutrition will help you gain some muscle on a calorie deficit. Nevertheless, it is important to prioritize preserving the lean muscle mass you already have.

What Happens If You Consume Too Many Calories?

What Happens If You Consume Too Many Calories?

If you consume too many calories, you could be doing yourself more harm than good. Here are all the possible things that can happen to you when you consume calories in excess:

  • Your body will start storing the fat
  • You are at risk of overstressing your digestive system
  • It may contribute to organ damage
  • You will be putting too much stress on your heart.
  • It can affect your ability to think straight (mental fog)
  • It can increase lethargy and sleepiness

Does Source of Calories Matter?

Does Source of Calories Matter?

Your metabolism responds differently to calories in different foods. Digesting and absorbing certain types of foods require more thermic effect of food (TEF) or work than others. Also, it takes a lot more work to metabolize certain types of foods.

More energy is needed to metabolize foods with higher TEF. For example, foods high in fat have low TEF, meaning they don’t boost your metabolism as much as foods high in protein.

This is why eating high-protein foods is a good way to boost your metabolism than eating fat or carbohydrate.

Always remember that your hormones, feelings of fullness, metabolism, and hunger levels respond to different types of food in different ways no matter the number of calories they contain.

For this reason, it is important to be mindful of your source of calories because not all calories are created equal. However, if you are focused on losing weight and building lean muscles, the number of calories you consume should be fewer than what you are burning. In other words, weight loss always requires a calorie deficit.

How To Keep Calories In Check

How To Keep Calories In Check
Woman checking nutrition information and calories on her phone when eating

Here are some effective ways to keep calories in check:

  • Regularly weigh yourself to see you are gaining, losing, or maintaining the ideal weight for your body.
  • Eating breakfast every morning will help you get less hungry during the day. You are less likely to consume lots of calories when you don’t feel too hungry.
  • Performing regular exercise will also help you keep calories in check.
  • Plan your meals so you will know the number of calories that go into your meal preparation.
  • Use a calories counter to keep track of the calories you consume.


While it is important to know the answer to the question, “how many calories should I eat to gain lean muscle?” it is also necessary to understand that not all calories you consume are healthy for your body.

Gaining lean muscles is a good thing, but remember that it takes time before you get it right – practice makes perfect! And this applies to meal preparations, the type of food to eat, and what to avoid. 

Stay focused on your goal and don’t hesitate to seek expert advice.



Justin Rodriguez has spent most of his adult life inspiring people to take their fitness more seriously. He is not new to the business of providing practical solutions for those looking to set and smash their fitness goals. From sharing professional tips and tricks to recommending awesome products, Justin Rodriguez helps just about anyone who wants to get the best out of their workout routines.Having gathered a lot of experience both in and outside the gym, Justin Rodriguez uses DSW Fitness as a medium to show you exactly how to get that great-looking body with toned muscles you’ve always wanted.