Dec 1, 2014
The cornerstone of building muscle is nutrition. Sure, a well laid out weight training program is a must but without an intelligent nutrition plan, it's only a matter of time before the routine stops working and you stop growing. The thing is, if you really want to build hard, lean muscle mass you need to eat a lot of clean, whole foods to support a progressive weight training program. And that's what a well laid out nutrition program does, it acts as a support system that works directly with your weight training program. As you get stronger in the weight room the more support your body will need in terms of nutrition. It's as simple as that.
The biggest problem that beginners face is making sure they're getting enough calories to support muscle growth. How do you know if you're getting enough calories? How do you figure out how much calories, protein, carbohydrates and fat to consume in order to building muscle?
I'm going to show you a relatively simple and accurate way to find out how many calories you need to start building muscle and what the ideal nutrient ratios you should be using. After which I'll provide some menu ideas and basic recipes.
How to Figure out How Many Calories You Need to Gain Weight and Build Muscle
The first thing we need to do is figure out our Basal Metabolic Rate. This will tell us how many calories we need just to keep breathing.
Male:
66 + (13.8 x LBS/2.2) + (5 x height (inches) x 2.54)  (6.8 x age in years)
Example: 140 pounds, 6 feet tall and 25 years old.
66 + (13.8 x 140 LBS/2.2) + (5 x (72 inches x 2.54))  6.8 x 25 years old)
BMR = 1,689 calories
Male: In this example, his base metabolic rate is 1,689.
Female:
655 + (9.6 x LBS/2.2) + (1.8 x height (inches) x 2.54))  (4.7 x age in years)
Example: 130 pounds, 5 feet 4 inches and 25 years old.
655 + (9.6 x 130 LBS/2.2) + (1.8 x (64 inches x 2.54))  (4.7 x 25 years old)
BMR = 1,395 calories
Female: In this example, her base metabolic rate is 1,395 calories.
The next step is to take into account activity levels. To figure out how many calories is needed to build muscle it is necessary to find out how many calories is needed to sustain a particular body weight given a person's activity levels. The schedule below describes certain activities and assigns a value to each.
Activity  Assigned Activity Value 

I am a total couch potato (lying down most of the day)  1.2 
I work sitting down but don't do any exercise  1.3 
I do a bit of stuff (seated work/light exercise)  1.4 
I am lightly active (some physical work / no exercise)  1.5 
I am moderately active (physical work / light exercise)  1.6 
I am very active (physical work / heavy exercise)  1.7 
I am super active (heavy work / heavy exercise)  1.8 
I am an exercise monster  2.0 
The equation is as follows:
BMR x assigned activity value = Daily caloric needs
Using the examples above, we can determine how many calories are needed to sustain a person's body weight given their activity levels.
Male:
Let's say the person in this example has an office job where he sits most of the day and lightly exercises 2 to 3 times per week. His activity level can be classified as seated work and light exercise and the value is 1.4.
BMR (1,689) x 1.4 = 2,364 calories
To sustain his current body weight of 140 pounds (given his activity level), he needs roughly 2,364 calories per day.
Female:
Let's assume the person in this example has the same activity level. Her assigned activity value will be 1.6.
BMR (1,395) x 1.4 = 1,953 calories
To sustain her current body weight of 130 pounds (given her activity level), she needs roughly 1,953 calories per day.
We now know how many calories are needed to sustain a person's body weight given their activity levels. We now have the necessary information to figure out how many additional calories are needed to gain weight (build muscle) or lose weight.
Calories Needed to Gain Weight and Build Muscle
To gain weight (and build muscle) a person will need approximately 500 additional calories over and above their current daily caloric maintenance needs. This can be given as follows:
Daily Caloric Needs + 500 calories = Daily calories needed to gain weight (build muscle)
Using the examples above, we have the following:
Male:
2,364 + 500 = 2,864 daily calories are needed to gain roughly 1 to 2 pounds of body weight per week.
To lose weight:
2,364 – 500 = 1,864 calories are needed to lose roughly 1 to 2 pounds of body weight per week.
Female:
1,953 + 500 = 2,453 calories are needed to gain roughly 1 to 2 pounds of body weight per week.
To lose weight:
1,953 – 500 = 1,453 calories are needed to lose roughly 1 to 2 pounds of body weight per week.
It's a pretty simple calculation to figure out. The best thing about this method is that it's probably one of the more accurate calorie needs calculator out there. It's based on the Harris – Benedict formula which uses weight, age, and gender to base its calculation on. We can take this a step further and add body fat percentage to the equation but it starts to get a little more complicated. For now, this method will give you a pretty good measure on how many calories you need to sustain your current body weight and how many additional you need to gain weight and build muscle.
We can take this one step further and figure out how much protein, carbohydrates and fat you need to gain weight and build muscle.
Figuring Out Protein, Carbohydrates and Fat Need To Gain Weight and Build Muscle
To gain weight and build muscle, I suggest approximately 25% of your calories come from protein. To find out how many grams of protein you need, simple use the following calculation (remember, there are 4 calories for every 1 gram of protein).
Protein
Calories needed to gain weight x percentage of daily protein = total protein calories / calories in one gram of protein = Daily grams of protein needed to gain weight and build muscle
Using the example above:
Male
2,864 x .25 = 716 protein calories / 4 = 179 grams of protein needed per day
Female
1,953 x .25 = 488 protein calories / 4 = 122 grams of protein needed per day
Carbohydrates
To gain weight and build muscle, I suggest 55% of your daily calories come from carbohydrates. Given as (remember, there are 4 calories for every gram of carbohydrate):
Calories needed to gain weight x percentage of daily carbohydrates = total carbohydrate calories / calories in one gram of carbohydrate = Daily grams of carbohydrate needed to gain weight and build muscle
Using the example above:
Male
2,864 x .55 = 1,575 / 4 = 393 grams of carbohydrates are needed each day to gain weight and build muscle
Female
1,953 x .55 = 1,074 / 4 = 268 grams of carbohydrates are needed each day to gain weight and build muscle
Fat
To gain weight and build muscle, I suggest 20% of your daily calories come from fat. One gram of fat has 9 calories. Using the above example, we have:
Calories needed to gain weight x percentage of daily carbohydrates = total fat calories / calories in one gram of fat = Daily grams of fat needed to gain weight and build muscle
Using our examples from above:
Male
2,864 x .2 = 572 / 9 = 63 grams of fat needed each day to gain weight and build muscle
Female
1,953 x .55 = 390 / 9 = 43 grams of fat needed each day to gain weight and build muscle
To find out how many grams of fat, protein, and carbohydrates (macronutrients) are needed for each meal, simple divide the total of each macronutrient by the amount of meals you have in a day. For example, if a person plans on eating 6 meals per day they will need:
Protein
Male
179 grams of protein needed per day / 6 meals per day = 29 grams of protein per meal
Female
122 grams of protein needed per day / 6 meals per day = 20 grams of protein per meal
Carbohydrates
Male
393 grams of carbohydrates per day / 6 meals per day = 66 grams of carbohydrates per meal
Female
268 grams of carbohydrates per day / 6 meals per day = 45 grams of carbohydrates per meal
Fat
Male
63 grams of carbohydrates per day / 6 meals per day = 11 grams of fat per meal
Female
43 grams of carbohydrates per day / 6 meals per day = 7 grams of fat per meal
Use the above methods to figure out how many calories and macronutrients you need to gain muscular weight. Once you've figured out how many calories you need you will need to put together a daily menu. Head on over to our menu and recipes page to grab some menu ideas for varying daily calorie needs:
In addition, try using our calorie calculator here.
Also take a look at Dave Ruels Cookbook called "Anabolic Cooking". It's got over 200 muscle building recipes so you don't have to guess what you should be cooking. Simply pick recipes from his breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks selections for a solid muscle building nutrition plan. Read my review here.
Click here to get your copy today!!
Good luck and all the best,
Blake
As the owner of Building Muscle 101, I am committed to providing you the best practical weight training advice. I've been training for over 24 years (and still train to this day!) and the advice and guidance I provide comes directly from my experience and knowledge. 

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