How many calories should I eat to gain muscle? That’s a common question amongst anyone wanting to fuel their exercise regime without piling on pounds of fat. You know that if you’re working out more, you need to eat more, but how much more? We look at how many more calories you need to be eating and what types of food will help you build muscle fast.

How Many Calories in a Pound of Muscle?

This intriguing question asks specifically how many calories to build muscle, depending on how many pounds you want to put on every week. For an extra pound of muscle a week, you should be aiming for around 3500 to 4000 calories a week extra.

Can you pile on muscle faster than this? Sure, but you’ve got to remember that your weight gain isn’t just muscle- it’s fat too. If you pile on muscle too fast, you’ll also start to pile on fat. So weigh up the pros and cons when starting your muscle-building diet plan.

How Many Calories a Day to Gain Weight?

So, how much should I eat to gain muscle? The extra 3500 calories equate to 500 calories a day, which is a nice, round number to work with. Calorie counting allows you to keep track of what your eating compared to your weight gain, which should allow you to manage your diet and track your progress with ease.

Look for calorie counting apps like those attached to fitness trackers, or My Fitness Pal, which allows you to input the exact food you’ve eaten, and it will tell you how many calories you’ve consumed each day.

Best Muscle Building Foods

Best Muscle Building Natural Foods

Some foods are natural muscle builders, because of the high amounts of protein they contain. These include:

  •         Eggs
  •         Skinless chicken
  •         Greek yogurt- which has more protein than regular yogurt
  •         Salmon and Tuna
  •         Soybeans
  •         Pinto and kidney beans
  •         Edamame beans
  •         Quinoa

Of course, you can’t live off protein alone. You need a balanced diet of carbohydrates, micro-nutrients, fiber, and fats.

Depending on your body type, you might need more or less of these different food groups.


Endomorphs tend to accumulate fat as well as muscle and usually find it easier to gain weight. Endomorphs should eat a low-fat diet with moderate carbs, plenty of protein, plus lots of fresh fruits and veggies.


Mesomorphs tend to have a naturally “slimmer” build than endomorphs but can gain weight well with the right exercise and nutrition. Fat tends to appear more around the gut rather than the hips and thighs. For muscle gain, mesomorphs should eat plenty of carbs during the day but slow down on this carb intake later in the day, focusing on protein, fresh greens, and fruits, plus healthy fats.


Ectomorphs are often envied for their slender physique, but actually, they struggle to gain weight, so they have their own challenges. Increasing muscle tone can be tough for ectomorphs, so eat plenty of carbs, healthy fats, plus protein and fresh fruits and vegetables.

For all body types, plenty of water is essential. Dehydration does not help build muscles. Aim for 2 liters a day.

Foods to Avoid When Building Muscle

Additional sugars aren’t recommended when trying to build muscle. Glucose and similar sugars break down so quickly that they can cause spikes in blood sugar levels. This can leave you feeling fatigued and hungry quickly and can spoil your workout regime or diet. Switch out sugary snacks for fruit or yogurt.

How Often to Eat for Muscle Gain

Knowing how many calories a day to gain weight is only half the battle. Eating at the right times throughout the day can also be an important factor. We’re often conditioned to have three fairly large meals a day, but if you’re trying to fit an extra 500-580 calories a day in, that’s going to make one of these meals massive! That can lead to you feeling tired, sluggish, and in no mood to work out.

Aim to eat six smaller meals per day.

Muscle Gain Diet Plan 7 Days

Our 7-day meal plan for muscle gain presumes you will be working out regularly, 3-5 days a week, with cardio in between.

Monday: protein powder pancakes with berries/Greek yogurt and banana; lean burger with cheese and sweet potato wedges; chicken breast and veggies in a tortilla; lasagna made with lean beef; banana and peanut butter wrap

Tuesday: scrambled eggs; green smoothie; chicken noodle stir fry; trail mix; meatballs and spaghetti; beef jerky with a glass of orange juice (vitamin C helps with iron absorption)

Wednesday: cereal with fruit and yogurt; cottage cheese with pitta bread and cucumber; sausage and veggie bake; rice cakes with peanut butter; chicken breast and baked potato with greens; oatmeal with berries

Thursday: oatmeal with fruit; hummus with carrot sticks; chana masala (chickpea curry); fish goujons with fresh lemon; steak with mushrooms and tomatoes; peanut butter protein balls

Friday: fruit and oatmeal smoothie; poached egg on toast; dahl; tuna and bean salad; Spanish omelet; apple slices with cheese

Saturday: avocado and egg on wholegrain toast; protein bar; smoked salmon and cottage cheese wrap; crackers with meat paste; baked beans on a baked potato with salad; dried apricots and raisins

Sunday: breakfast burrito of eggs, cheese, and lean sausage; fruit salad with Greek yogurt; paella; banana and yogurt smoothie; chicken fajitas; popcorn and a movie!

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, substitute the meat-based proteins in our bodybuilding meal planner with:

  • Beans
  • Pulses
  • Soy alternatives

Finding good muscle building workouts is essential while eating this additional number of calories. If you don’t do the work, the surplus calories may turn to fat, so you will gain weight- but not in the way you want! Search online for a male or female bodybuilding workout plan or similar to ensure you’re doing the right exercises for your body type. Combining the right nutrition with the right kind of exercise will yield the best results- and the quickest muscle gain.


How many calories to gain muscle? 3500 to 4000 calories a day should allow you to gain a pound of muscle weight a week; however, eating the right types of foods and your own body type are also important factors. Increasing calorie intake without increasing muscle-building activity can lead to fat gain instead of muscle gain.