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How Many Calories Per Day Do I Need To Build Muscle?

How Many Calories Per DayHow Many Calories Per Day Do I Need To Build Muscle?

A vitally important question and one you need to get right in order to both gain maximum muscle and limit fat accumulation on a mass-gain bodybuilding diet.

NOTE: This formula has recently (2012) been simplified and made into a free downloadable calculator that does all the math for you! Go here to grab it now: Calories to Build Muscle Calculator (it’ll also calculate your body fat percentage and tell you how much protein you need!)

We first need to find out how many calories per day it takes for you to just maintain your current weight. Let’s refer to this as your Daily Calorie Expenditure.

There are 3 factors that come into play when calculating your Daily Calorie Expenditure

  1. Resting Metabolic Rate – The amount of calories your body would burn if you just lay still all day.
  2. Occupation – The amount of calories your job or daily life would burn
  3. Exercise – The amount of calories your daily exercise burns

Calculating Resting Metabolic Rate

The best way of calculating your Resting Metabolic Rate is with something called the Katch-McArdle formula.

RMR = 370 + (21.6 x lean weight in kg)

To get from pounds to kg simply divide pounds by 2.2.
You’ll also need know your body fat percentage. This is where a cheap pair of body fat calipers comes in very handy. If you have 15% body fat at 160 lbs that means you carry 24 pounds of fat and your lean weight is 136 lbs.

Calculating Calories Burned From Occupation

Different daily activities obviously have different energy requirements. That’s why it’s important to factor in your occupational calorie burn.

Light work – multiply your RMR by 1.5

Moderate work – multiply your RMR by 1.7

Heavy work – multiply your RMR by 1.9

Calculating Calories Burned From Exercise

Here are a sample list of exercise activities and their calorie burn for 1 hour:

520 – Aerobics (high intensity)
400 – Aerobics (low intensity)
370 – Badminton
865 – Boxing (sparring)
385 – Cycling (10 mph)
250 – Cycling (5.5 mph)
760 – Judo
445 – Rowing machine
1000 – Running (6 mins/mile)
750 – Running (9 min/mile)
615 – Squash
630 – Swimming (fast)
415 – Tennis
270-450 – Weight training

Adding It All Up

A person weighs 160 lbs with 15% body fat.

This means they carry 24 lbs of fat.

160 – 24 = 136 lbs lean weight

136 / 2.2 = 61.8 Kg

His resting metabolic rate = 370 + (21.6 x 61.8) = 1704.88

He works an office job…..

1704.88 x 1.5 = 2557.32

He also does weight training 5 days a week for 40 minutes at a time which burns 170 calories. His Daily Calorie Expenditure on training days is therefore:

2557.32 + 170 = 2727.32 calories

Putting it all together, this guy burns 2727.32 per day on weekdays.

Assuming he moves around as much at the weekends as he does during his working week, we simply add 2 days minus the weight-training sessions to give a weekly total of 18751.24 calories (5 x 2727.32 add 2 x 2557.32).

Then we divide this figure by 7 to give us an Average Daily Calorie Expenditure of 2678.75 calories

So How Many Calories Per Day Do You Need To Bulk-Up?

Bear in mind that 2678 calories is his maintenance level calorie requirement. For bulking with the Glycemic Load Anabolic Diet you should consume 200-300 extra calories per day. For this example, this guy would be shooting for 2878 – 2978 calories per day to pack on the muscle.

This will greatly help you in your quest to build muscle and keep fat gains at bay. Go here to read up on the higher-carb bodybuilding diet that stills minimizes fat gains while allowing you to pack on new slabs of muscle.

Your buddy,

Mark McManus

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Mark McManus
Mark McManus
Mark is now available for 1-on-1 consultations to help you take your results to the next level. Click here for more details.
Mark McManus is a trainer & author from Ireland. His work has been featured in major publications all over the world. He is the creator of the free growth-promoting workout Targeted Hypertrophy Training' (THT) and author of the NEW fat-torching system Total Six Pack Abs.
He has also created the BREAKTHROUGH arm and chest maximizer programs The Arms Blast' and 'Chest Blast' workouts.
And if you're a fan of delicious high-protein recipes to fuel your muscle growth, check out his cook book 'Buff Baking' here.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Homy April 10, 2008, 3:54 am

    Hey Mark,
    So how about for the MANS diet? Same goes? like 300-500 extra calories or is it a differente method of calculating how much I need to put on some muscle?
    Great post!

  • Andrics April 10, 2008, 7:35 am

    Mark the advert for the calipers are in the US and wont ship to the UK.Amazon UK price is 10 times higher ! Any UK based sources that you are aware of? thanks

  • Mark McManus April 10, 2008, 3:34 pm

    @ Homy. Well it’s a good idea to use the formula to make sure you’re hitting your minimum requirement but it’s really easy to do with MANS. Remember just 100ml of heavy cream gives almost 500 calories, it shouldn’t be an issue getting enough calories to bulk on MANS.
    @ Andrics. I got mine at UK Amazon.

  • Andrics April 11, 2008, 6:42 am

    UK ripping us off again ;0) thanks

  • Andrics May 14, 2008, 7:57 am

    Mark I assume the figures in this example would be the minimum when sticking to MANS diet also?

  • Mark McManus May 14, 2008, 7:53 pm

    That’s correct Andrew

  • dorian July 14, 2008, 12:35 pm

    Hey Mark! It’s me again! I just read this post the first time (really didn’t find it neccesarry since I love following my MANS lifestyle). Great article but I have one question. Is that RMR formula accurate? I just punched in my values in the calculator and it tells me I burn 1980 calories while resting! I weigh 85kg with ~15% bodyfat. Can this be accurate? If so, I guess I’ll be sleeping for the next couple of days^^
    Alright, see you!

  • Mark McManus July 14, 2008, 9:55 pm

    It sure is Dorian.
    People overestimate the role of exercise in weight loss because they don’t realize that the vast majority of energy expenditure goes into just keeping them alive.
    Cardio is useful though for cutting to very low body fat percentages and weight-training should never be skipped.
    No general formula can be 100% accurate for the individual, but Katch-McArdle is as good as it gets IMHO. As long as your input figures are accurate, the output will be.

  • Jonathan July 30, 2008, 8:00 pm

    Hey Mark,

    I started the MANS diet. I have a few concerns. I already have body fat. I am using your anabolic workout plan to cut down the fat and replace it with muscle. On a lowcarb diet, I usually lose weight and I feel as if I am going to do the same with this one. My main goal is to burn the fat, and replace it with muscle. Am I on the right track with this? I probably ingest up 10 1500-2000 calories a day. Can you shed some light on this?

  • Mark McManus July 30, 2008, 8:04 pm
  • arn November 20, 2008, 3:12 am

    thats me at the top! you noobs! lol

  • Sam Gibbons January 7, 2009, 7:59 pm

    I am 6’2″ and 272 lbs. My LBM is 196lbs.


    370 + (21.6 x 89.1) = 2,294.4

    I have a light desk job:

    2,294.4 * 1.5 = 3,441.5

    I workout heavy 3x a week and do HIIT cardio for 30 minutes after lifting session for about 500 cal each day.

    (3,441.5 + 500) * 3 = 11,824.6


    3,441.5 * 4 = 13,766


    (11,824.6 + 13,766) / 7 = 3,655.8

    I am approximately 28.3% body fat.

    So you are saying I should eat that many calories for what I am doing? I should eat a little less if I want to lose fat — say 3,200 kcal?

    Is that right? Seems way too high to me. Right now I am on about 2,000 kcal/day.

  • Andrics January 8, 2009, 7:22 am

    Sam out of curiousity how long you been on 2000cals a day for?I would have though the fat should be steadily dropping of at that rate especially with your HIIT etc. If you are trying to loose wieght rather than bulk you need to be 500cals less than maintainance which at a glance you are doing.

  • Sam Gibbons January 8, 2009, 2:15 pm

    Andrics: About a month. I haven’t lifted seriously since HS so I am taking it from the beginning.

    Ideally I would like to make the best muscle gains while shedding the fat. I would rather get stronger than focus entirely on fat loss. The loss will come as I get stronger and develop more LBM, I would think. I also want to be realistic and not undereat. Lately I have been feeling tired in the afternoons with a headache. I am starting to think that I am getting too few calories — hence the query.

  • KenyaSpeaks March 6, 2009, 7:27 am

    Gosh, I had to comment when I saw someone write that the US is ripping them off again. Please! Why are you all so jealous of people in this country? And why do you blame the US for your struggles? It drives me nuts when I hear this type of whining.
    In all actuality, you are trying to rip the US off because you hate us. Everyday people are just like you and we are not as RICH as you all act. Get over it!

  • Andrics March 10, 2009, 8:23 am

    The only comment I can see about rip offs refers to the UK in this string. Although have you seen the news lately about the great decision making the US bankers make ;0(

  • James April 28, 2009, 1:59 am

    Hey Mark,

    Suppose my total comes to 3000 calories and I am on the MANS diet…does that mean I should be taking 3000 calories on the MANS diet, or something like 3300?

    Also, what is the fat, protein, carb ratio for the MANS diet

  • James April 28, 2009, 2:00 am


  • WHO AM I May 27, 2009, 3:13 pm

    Mark can you clear the following up please?
    You add all the calories up and then divide them so I would need to take in 20719.92 kcals all week and divided by 7=2959.98 kcals to maintain my weight. Is it right to have the same amount each day or is it better to have different totals for each day depending on what your doing in regards to work and exercise?

  • Mark McManus May 27, 2009, 6:02 pm

    @Who Am I. It’s fine to keep it constant and much easier to implement. What tends to happen is that it’s the day AFTER a very active day that you feel that extra hunger.
    You can go ahead and satisfy this hunger as your higher calorie day if you wish. It really won’t make much difference long term.
    Let your hunger dictate your eating habits.

  • mario October 7, 2009, 5:41 am

    how many calories does high intensity cardio on the stationary bike burn?
    say 15 mins?20 mins?
    thanks for any help

  • zoheb October 20, 2009, 10:10 pm

    mark, give me a proper name of a mass building supplement man.. like one which REALLY puts on mass