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Calculating Calories to Build Muscle

You don’t need to lose fat, you want to build muscle? Well, you can use the same activity level chart and formula to get an approximate number of calories you should eat to build muscle.

Acitvity Level          Score

Sedentary                  11
I don’t exercise, I work at a desk job, my hobbies are quiet, I don’t move around a lot

Little Exercise            13
I have a sedentary job but I do some exercise, about 1-2 hours every week, or I may have some light activity because of my work

Moderately Active      15
I get a moderate amount of exercise through my job or outside activities, about 3-5 hours a week

Active                         17
I am very active through my job or by exercising, 6+ hours a week

Presume you have an LBM of 150 and you are moderately active, the score is 15.According to the formula you should be eating 2,225 calories to maintain your LBM.

150 x 15 = 2,225

Instead of putting your body into calorie deficit you want to eat MORE calories than your body needs. So add an extra 500-1000 calories a day to your diet to give your body enough fuel to build muscle. Your brain is the most important, most protected part of your body...if you don’t have enough calories in your diet your body will start to protect the brain and other organs. It will start attacking your existing muscle tissue and using it as fuel.

So your calories count, even when you want to bulk up. Based on this example, you calculate you should eat 2,725 calories a day to gain a pound of muscle a week.

But wait, there’s more to it than that. It isn’t that hard to put on pounds...if you eat more calories than your body burns you will gain weight, either in the form of muscle or fat.

Putting on lean muscle tissue is not just about adding calories, it is about adding them in the right balance and from quality sources. The foods we eat fall into three categories: protein, carbohydrates and fats. Diet ratios are expressed as a percentage of the total calories taken in, in each of these 3 categories in this order, the total of course should equal 100.
Why is the ratio important in determining the number of calories to eat? For one thing, because protein and carbs contain 4 calories per gram and fats carry 9 calories per gram.

For building muscle, a commonly recommended ratio is 40/30/30. To determine what you need to eat on a daily basis you need to break down the total calories into each category.

Total calories 2,725

  • Protein:
    40% from protein = 1090 calories
    (2725 x .4) = 272 grams of lean protein (1090 / 4)
  • Carbs:
    30% from carbs = 817 calories
    (2725 x .3) = 204 grams of carbohydrates (817/ 4)
  • Fat:
    30% from fats = 817 calories
    (2725 x .3) = 91 grams of fats (817 / 9)

Determining the exact ratio that works best for you may be a bit of an experiment. It will vary based on your build, your exact goal and your activity level, but this 40/30/30 ratio is a good place to start.

Track your results for several weeks and if you are not seeing the results you want then you adjust two of the numbers, but don’t drop the fats below 20%.

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