How Many Calories Should I Eat to Build Muscle?

If you are trying to boost muscle growth, you may need to add more calories and protein to your diet, but how much do you need? 

Do Calories Matter for Muscle Building?

If you are trying to build lean muscle, it’s important to ensure you are consuming enough protein. When bumping up your protein intake, you will also likely be consuming slightly higher calories, but do calories matter for muscle building?

Yes, to build lean muscle mass you will likely need to increase your calorie intake as well. Most people can build lean muscle mass by increasing their daily calories by 5-10% however, you may need more than this if you are bulking [1].

Bulking is when you consume a calorie and protein surplus to gain weight and muscle rapidly, typically in preparation for an event. In this case, most research supports increasing your calories by 10-20% [2, 3].

For example, if you consume roughly 2,500 calories per day, you want to increase your calorie intake by 125-250 calories to build lean muscle or by 250-500 calories for bulking.

Resistance Training for Muscle Growth

Regular resistance training, sometimes referred to as strength training or weight training, is an essential component of muscle growth. 

Resistance training uses external force from free weights, barbells, circuit machines, resistance bands, or other types of exercise equipment as well as body weight to push your muscles to work harder.

When you do regular resistance exercises you are creating tiny tears in the muscle fibers that heal and become a little bit bigger and a little bit stronger to better handle that exercise the next time you do it [4].

By continuously challenging your muscles with higher levels of resistance or heavier weights, you will begin to see muscle growth; however, you don’t need to do resistance training every day. 

Adding in 2-3 resistance workouts per week that work all your major muscle groups, such as the back, legs, chest, shoulders, arms, and abdomen. 

There is no evidence that doing strength training workouts more frequently than this will provide better results. In fact, excessive strength-based exercise without rest days in between can increase the risk of developing an injury [5, 6, 7].

Protein, Recovery, and Muscle Synthesis

When incorporating regular strength-based exercise, you also need to prioritize protein intake for both recovery and muscle growth.

Protein is an essential nutrient for healing those tiny tears in the muscle fibers that develop from the extra load of resistance training. Without adequate protein intake, those fibers may not be able to heal properly which can leave you more susceptible to injury [8]. 

Protein is also an essential component in muscle-protein synthesis, the process of creating new muscle tissue. Consuming adequate protein throughout the day helps to support muscle growth so you aren’t doing all that hard work in the gym for nothing [9, 10].

How to Calculate My Daily Calories for Muscle Growth?

To build lean muscle, a calorie surplus of 5-10% is required, but how does that translate to each individual?

Everyone’s calorie range will differ based on a variety of factors, including age, weight, height, gender, and activity levels. Therefore, this means you need to be familiar with your current calorie intake for maintenance before you can determine how much you need for muscle growth. 

You can estimate your maintenance calorie range by using an online TDEE calculator that factors in those different variables that are individual to you. 

From there, you simply add 5-10% to that number, which typically means serving yourself an extra snack during the day that emphasizes protein such as low-sugar Greek yogurt with granola and fresh berries or a few hard-boiled eggs and a slice of whole grain bread with natural peanut butter.

How to Calculate My Daily Protein Requirements for Muscle?

Since we know that protein plays a major part in muscle growth, we want to make sure we are getting the right amount in and not just focusing on calories.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), those who are trying to increase muscle mass should consume between 1.2-2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (0.5-0.9 grams per pound) per day [11].

For example, if you weigh 160 pounds you want to be getting somewhere between 87-145 grams of protein per day. 

This is compared to the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight which would have you consuming only 58 grams of protein per day [12].

Morning Muscle Shake Recipe

Whether you are trying to build more lean muscle or you are preparing for a bulk, you may be looking for some nutritious ways to add a calorie surplus to your diet. If this sounds like you, check out this morning muscle shake to start your day off ahead of your goals. 

Morning Muscle Shake 

Serves 1


  • 1 scoop of chocolate peanut butter weight gainer protein
  • 1/2 frozen banana
  • ¼ cup frozen strawberries 
  • 1 tablespoon of natural peanut butter
  • 1 cup milk (or milk alternative)
  • ¼ cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp of honey 


  1. Add all ingredients into a high-powered blend and blend until smooth. 

Calories: 650; Protein 30 grams