There seem to be a lot of misconceptions about how much food needs to be consumed in order to get big.
While there is some truth to the truism “you need to eat big to be big,” you don’t want to put on poor quality mass in the form of fat and bloat.
And, apart from being apart to grow in a calorie deficit, there is no upside to overeating. Think about it, do you want to bulk for 6 months, put on 5lb of muscle and 15lb of fat, only to have your abs fade and lose half of that muscle mass in dieting back down to reveal your hard-earned gains?
No, of course not. It’s a lot more sensible to eat in a marginal caloric surplus — no more than 100-200 calories above your base metabolic rate — than overeat to get big; slonking down thicc mass gainer shakes and shoveling pizza into your pie hole.
How Many Calories Do You Need Per Day to Get Big?
Well, to get big, it depends on a lot of factors ranging from activity levels, body composition, thyroid activity, testosterone levels, etc.
But assuming that everything is functioning within the normal range, you need around 15 calories per pound of bodyweight a day for maintenance. And muscle is metabolically expensive; a pound of muscle will increase your base metabolic rate by 20-30 calories per day.
Out of those 15 calories a day, 4 calories — just under a third — needs to be earmarked for protein. For optimal growth, you would need a gram of protein per pound of LEAN body mass. However, for most, this would be too difficult to calculate and we are trying to keep the math simple.
Then, out of the remaining 9 calories a day, it’s really up to you as to how choose to fill your macronutrients on your mission to get big.
Too many carbohydrates may leave you sluggish and more insulin resistant; and you need dietary fats from responsible food sources such as grass-fed beef, salmon, nuts, avocados, olive oil, butter, and hard cheese for healthy hormonal balances and joint health.
How Should My Diet Be Divided Up?
My preferred macronutrient breakdown is:
or, put simply:
4 calories per lb bodyweight protein
4 calories per lb bodyweight carbohydrates
7 calories per lb bodyweight fat
Let’s keep the math simple and let’s assume you weigh 200lb, then your macronutrient/caloric intake should be as follows:
200lb x 15 calories: 3000 calories a day base metabolic rate (this is assuming that you completely sedentary and not taking exercise, lifting weights, and movement into account).
200g of protein: 800 calories
200g of carbohydrates: 800 calories
156g of fat: 1400 calories
This is, of course, an example of what the macronutrient breakdown could look like. You could increase intake of one macronutrient while simultaneously lowering another.
How to Increase Calories Sensibly
So, if this hypothetical 200-pounder were seeking to gain muscle, he would have to slightly increase his daily caloric intake — and it doesn’t have to be anything too drastic.
He could eat an extra banana and apple as a snack or even have a scoop of protein powder in water to compensate for the slight increase in daily caloric intake.
You don’t have to stuff your face to get big; but some people struggle with getting in enough calories. If this is you, check out this article:
As your weight increases, you would need to revise you caloric intake to keep growing.
Now, I’m going to have to ask you, dear reader, to exercise some common sense; your diet model doesn’t have to be micromanaged every time your weight fluctuates.
Making sure your weigh-ins are honest and at the same time of day, it’s best to take either a weekly average or median weight to evaluate your caloric intake.
It could even be a monthly average.
And there shouldn’t be any wild fluctuations, assuming everything is in order — you should be on your way to get big.
Adjusting Calories While Building Muscle
Assuming you have average-to-decent genetics, you should be able to gain around 10-15lb of muscle in your first year of training, then 5-8lb the following year and following a law of diminishing returns every year thereafter. After 5 years of natural training, if everything is on point, you can’t expect any massive leaps in natural muscle growth.
So, after a year of training, let’s say you’ve put on 10lb of lean muscle tissue; you would have to increase your daily caloric intake by 200-300 — remember, muscle is metabolically expensive and requires a greater expenditure at rest or activity.
Then, your revised base metabolic rate, at a new bodyweight of 210lb (assuming you haven’t put on any fat) would be 3000 (200lb bodyweight x 15) + 200-300 (10lb muscle x 20-30 calories) = 3200-3300 calories a day.
While the new daily caloric intake appears rather daunting, it doesn’t mean you should eat 3300-3500 calories per day. As I previously mentioned, you can continue to grow muscle in a deficit.
You really don’t need to eat all that much to get big. It is a pernicious prevailing misconception that has many impatient lifters — myself included, in my younger years — following a seesawing bulk/cut schema that is not only arduous, but can lead to metabolic damage, insulin resistance, and other problems down the line.
You should always strive to be within striking distance of revealing your abs with a small diet — no longer than 6-8 weeks.
I know this topic might be controversial to some, but getting fat is something nobody wants to be.
Don’t hesitate to email us at [email protected] for personalized coaching and a client questionnaire if you’d like DEDICATED tailor-made personal training on strength training, building muscle, losing fat, developing athleticism, and more — all to your liking, lifestyle, habits, and taste!