How Many Calories Do You Need To Build Muscle?

How Many Calories Do You Need To Build Muscle?

People tend to forget their calorie intake when attempting to gain muscle. You need to consider the amount of calories you are consuming every day to ensure proper muscle growth.

Calories are important in the growth and development of your muscles. Every day your muscles burn them to maintain its shape and strength. Because of this, you'll want to know exactly how much calories you are taking daily to ensure that your muscles remain strong.

How much to eat?

However, this can be a complicated task for some. It requires a lot of calculations and knowledge that can be rather challenging to understand. That is why we've made this article so that you can maximize your muscle gains.

So how do you find out how many calories you need to build muscles naturally?

You'll need three different things:

  • Estimation of Lean Weight
  • Your BMR
  • Calories Burned Daily Throughout Activity

In this article, we'll go in depth on these three aspects of calorie calculation. Our goal is to give you the right information needed to calculate your calories accurately. By the end of this article, you will know how much calories you'll need to consume daily to help you build muscle.

Estimation Of Lean Weight

First, you'll want to hop on the scale to determine your body weight. For this example, I'll use 200lbs.

  • Bodyweight: 200lbs

After finding your bodyweight, you'll need to calculate your Body Fat Percentage (BFP). To calculate this, you'll need to measure the circumference around your body. For males, you need to measure your weight and waist circumference.

actual body fat percentage photo in men

Females have to add in their waist, hip and forearm circumference. To make is simple, there is a Bodyfat Calculator Online. Find the circumference of your body by using a measuring tape. Then, place the numbers you found into the Bodyfat Calculator to find your BFP.

Here is an example of a body fat percentage that we'll use in our calculation.

  • BFP: 20%

Finding Lean Body Mass

After that, you'll need to find out your Fat-Free Mass. This stands for the amount of lean weight you have in your body. To do this, look at the following formula:

  • Step 1: body fat % x Body Weight = BF (0.20 x 200 = 40lbs. body fat)
  • Step 2: Bodyweight – body fat = lean body mass (200 – 40 = 160lbs. lean body mass)

Here are your results:

  • Bodyweight: 200lbs
  • Body Fat Percentage: 20%
  • Body Fat: 40lbs
  • Lean Body Mass: 160lbs

Now, you're ready to find your BMR.


Your BMR stands for the Basal Metabolic Rate. It stands for the number of calories you burn while at rest. This is the number of calories needed to keep you alive and have your body function properly.

1 Pound of Muscle vs 1 Pound of Fat

BMR accounts up to ¾ the of the calories burned daily. Multiple factors such as gender, age, metabolism, weight, and height that determines your BMR. While there are various online calculators used to help you measure your BMR, we'll teach how you to do it manually.

Here are the BMR calculation formulas for men and women:

  • Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)
  • Men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years)

To determine your BMR, you need to find your height, weight, and age. After that, just place the numbers in the formula to see your average BMR.

For instance, let's say that you're 20 years old, weighing in at 200 pounds that's 5 feet tall.

  • Women: 655 + 870 + 270 + 94 = 1889 Calories
  • Men: 66 + 1246 + 762 + 136 = 2210 Calories

If you are female, you'll need at least 1889 calories a day to determine your BMR. For males, you'll need 2210 calories. Calculating your BMR is an important step in growing muscle. After calculating it, you can figure out the number of calories you burn throughout the day.

Daily Calories Burned

Your calories rely on constant activity to keep them burning. To increase the rate of calories burned, you need to exercise. Certain exercises such as cardio and strength training are useful in maintaining the fat off of your body and allowing your body to grow lean muscle.

Cardio and Strength Training on the field

To figure out how many calories you need to burn, you need to know two things.

  • How much physical activity do I engage in daily?
  • How many extra calories can I consume?

Physical Activity

Physical activity amounts to the rate of how fast you will burn calories. The more you work out, the faster you will burn them.

Here's the formula for calculating your total daily calories in regards to your BMR and the Benedict Activity Formula. It's a number that takes account the intensity of physical activity done daily.

The Benedict Activity Formula * BMR = Total Calories Daily

  • Sedentary
  • Little to no activity – BMR x 1.2
  • Minimal Activity
  • Light sport and simple exercises - BMR x 1.375
  • Moderate Activity
  • Average level of activity or sports activity. – BMR x 1.55
  • Active
  • Having a very intense exercise or sports activity – BMR x 1.725
  • Extreme Activity
  • Physically demanding occupation or extreme level of activity. - BMR x 1.9

For instance, the male from the previous example of has a BMR of 2210 calories, exercises four days a week at a moderate activity. He would use the moderately active level and then multiply by his BMR.

BMR 2210 x 1.55 (Moderate Activity) = 3425

This means that on average he burns at least 3425 calories a day. He'll have to consume this amount of calories to maintain his body weight.

Gaining Or Losing Weight

Consider if you want to gain or lose weight after calculating your total calories. You'll need to add 300-500 calories on top of that number to build muscle.

Gaining weight will require you to go over your normal caloric intake. For instance, say that you are a hard-gainer that wants to gain muscle. To gain muscle, you'll want to eat 500 more than your daily calorie intake.

To gain muscle, you'll want to eat 500 more than your daily calorie intake

Let's look at our previous example. The male has a total calorie intake of 3,425. He'll need to add 300-500 calories to this number to gain muscle. This method works because it allows him to make small gains while avoiding extra fat.

Remember, there is not a perfect set of calorie surplus. Some people do well with 300 extra calories while some do great at 500. Understand which surplus grants you the most results. Cut back the calories if you are gaining too much unnecessary fat. Add extra calories if you don't see any results.


We suggest staying active now that you know how to calculate your total calories. Having a proper diet and an efficient exercise routine will help you build muscle at a natural rate. Remember, you'll need a mixture of both of them to receive results.


BMI Calculator

Natural Bodybuilding Nutrition & Supplementation, Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition

How to Calculate BMR, Daily Burn

Macronutrient Calculations to Gain Muscle, My Fitness Pal

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