How many Calories do I Need each Day to Gain Muscle?

Posted by Dana R. Arevalo
Written by Drew Stegman
Asking yourself how many calories you need each day to gain muscle is a vitally important question that cannot be underestimated on your quest to pack on lean mass. Although everybody has a unique metabolism and is going to be different, there is a basic formula that is very accurate at helping you determine exactly how many calories you need each day to gain muscle.

In order to calculate how many calories we need to gain muscle mass, we first need to take a look at how many calories it takes to maintain our current body weight. This is also known as your daily calorie expenditure. When it comes to calculating your daily calorie expenditure, there are a few things you need to take a look at:

1. Resting Metabolic Rate – This is the amount of calories your body would burn if you sat on your butt all day.
2. Occupation – This is the amount of calories your body would burn going about your daily activities (i.e. work, doing household chores, etc.)
3. Exercise – This is the amount of calories your body burns anytime you exercise.

Calculating Your Resting Metabolic Rate
Probably the best way to calculate your resting metabolic rate is through the use of the Katch-McArdle formula. It looks like this:
RMR = 370 + (21.6 x lean weight in kg)

To convert pounds into kg, simply divide by 2.2.

In order to calculate your resting metabolic rate more effectively, you’re also going to need to find out your body fat percentage. To do this, investing in a cheap pair of skinfold calipers would not be a bad idea. So for example, if you are currently at 15% body fat and you weight 160lbs, you carry 24 pounds of fat and the rest of your body composition is lean weight – 136lbs.

Calculating the Amount of Calories Burned From Occupation
It’s pretty obvious that doing different activities are going to burn more calories than others. That’s why you need to take into account your daily occupational burn. To do this, take the following numbers into account:
Light work – multiply your resting metabolic rate by 1.5
Moderate work – multiply your resting metabolic rate by 1.7
Heavy work – multiply your resting metabolic rate by 1.9

Calculating the Amount of Calories Burned From Exercise
Although it’s difficult to know for sure how many calories you burn from working out, here is a list of exercises to help you get a basic idea:
500 – Aerobics (high intensity)
420 – Aerobics (low intensity)
350 – Badminton
875 – Boxing (sparring)
390 – Cycling (10 mph)
260 – Cycling (5.5 mph)
770 – Judo
440 – Rowing machine
950 – Running (6 mins/mile)
740 – Running (9 min/mile)
625 – Squash
640 – Swimming (fast)
420 – Tennis
250-500 – Weightlifting
Adding Everything Up
So let’s go ahead and take an example to determine how many calories a person would burn with the following information:

Let’s say that a person weighs 160lbs and has a body fat percentage of 15%. Knowing this, we can infer that they have 24lbs of fat and 136lbs of lean body weight. To put it in another perspective this person would carry 61.8 Kg of lean mass.

So using the resting metabolic rate formula: 370 + (21.6 x 61.8) = 1704.88 calories per day.

But let’s say he works a desk job as well: 1704.88 x 1.5 = 2557.32 calories per day.

Let’s also say he lifts weights 5 days per week for about 40 minutes per session and burns 170 calories while doing so.

So on the days he trains, his daily calorie intake would be: 2557.32 + 170 = 2727.32 calories per day.

So knowing all of this, we can infer that he burns 2727.32 calories each day on the weekdays.

Let’s assume that he gets the same activity level on the weekends that he does during weekdays. In this case, we would simply add 2 days and subtract the weightlifting sessions, so we could get a weekly total of 18751.24 calories (5 x 2727.32 add 2 x 2557.32).Then, you would simply divide this number by 7 to get your Average Daily Caloric Expenditure, which in this case would be 2678.75 calories per day.

So How Many Calories Do You Need To Gain Muscle?
You need to keep in mind that 2678 calories each day is just for maintaining this individual’s body weight. If you want to bulk up and gain muscle, you would need to add an additional 200-300 calories per day and eat this amount of calories. So this guy would be eating 2878 -2978 calories per day to gain muscle.

This will help you to build lean muscle mass with minimum fat gain.

About the authorMy name is Drew and I specialize in nutritional biochemistry and have been working out all my life. I know what it takes to gain muscle, lose fat and achieve a killer physique. If you need more tips, be sure to check out my site:

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