People always ask us what kind of daily, or weekly surplus is required to optimize muscle gain and hopefully avoid excessive fat gain, so I decided to break down some of the factors that determine the calorie numbers that we are looking at for gains in mass, although this is more of an estimate than perfect numbers we will do what we can to be as accurate possible. All these numbers will assume proper training techniques.

Maximal Muscle Gain (Men)

Beginner (Less than 1 year of training)       1-1.5% total body weight/month
Intermediate (1-3 years of training)            0.5-1% total body weight/month
Advanced (Over 3 years of training)           0.25-0.5% total body weight/month

Maximal Muscle Gain (Women)

Beginner (Less than 1 year of training)       0.5-0.75% total body weight/month
Intermediate (1-3 years of training)            0.25-0.5% total body weight/month
Advanced (Over 3 years of training)           0.125-0.25% total body weight/month

What do these numbers mean?

So if a man is 160 lbs and can expect a rate of muscle gain of 1-1.5% of that per month for year one.

160 lbs * 0.01 = 1.6 lbs/month
160 lbs * 0.015 = 2.4 lbs/month

So the man may gain between 19 – 28.8 lbs in year one. Most gains will fall somewhere in between those numbers. Lets say the gains were 22lbs, he would weigh 182 lbs. When he get in the following year the gains normally will slow down until he reaches his genetic muscular potential.

How Many Calories Does it Take to Gain Muscle?

If you break down a pound of muscle for energy it only provides about 600 calories. That pound of muscle is about 120-125 grams of total protein, a good bit of water, some glycogen, intramuscular triglyceride and cellular machinery. However, this doesn’t mean that you fill 600 calories and you gained your pound. But, rather it takes about 2,400-2,700 calories because the reality is that it’s very rare to gain 100% muscle without fat.

Gain Surplus

Beginner           1.5 lbs/month            5250 calories per month       175 calories per day
Intermediate     1 lb/month                3500 calories per month       120 calories per day
Advanced          0.5 lbs/month           1750 calories per month         60 calories per day

Let me say that for some people they need much higher calorie intakes than the above to gain at any appreciable rate due to a natural thermogenesis that can occur for some thin persons. Which basically means that they burn off the excess calories through excess activity which means that the energy needed for muscle growth isn’t there and thus no gains.


Written by: Robert Blair; Staff Writer

ROBERT BLAIR is the Operational Manager of WhenEver Fitness, editor of fitness-news, has been in the fitness industry since 2010, and is a certified personal trainer. He attended the UW-Superior and Brown College for Media Creation, Design and Television Production. From 1992 to 2000, he had written and produced several films, music videos, and video advertisements. He has now been able to combine those skills of fitness and media creation to produce high-quality fitness productions and articles. (Click for Bio/Contact)

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