How many calories should I eat to gain 5 pounds of lean body mass?

Janet  Brill, PhD, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
To gain lean body mass, one needs to eat nutrient-dense, balanced meals rich in carbohydrate and moderate in lean protein and fat to supply your body with the energy and nutrients needed to build lean tissue. Understand that excess protein will not build new muscle tissue. An appropriate training stimulus (weight training geared towards muscle hypertrophy) plus about 300 extra calories per day over your current calorie needs are key to muscle growth.
Fuel your strength training sessions with foods containing carbohydrate and protein to provide energy for muscle contraction, spare protein from use for energy, and supply amino acids for building and repair. (Snack on a carb/10-20 grams of protein combo both before and immediately after your workouts such as chocolate milk.)
Be sure to have your body composition assessed by a professional before weight gain to ensure that the added weight is muscle mass, not body fat. Ideally, a registered dietitian who is a certified specialist in sports dietetic (CSSD) would be your best bet. You can find one practicing near you on the following web site:
To gain weight, whether lean or fat mass, you must take in more calories than you burn. 1 pound equals 3,500 calories. To gain 5 pounds you must take in 17,500 calories more than you burn. Sounds easy enough, but how can you guarantee these extra calories will go to build muscle and not be stored as fat? Well, you can’t really. But, if you put the correct amount of stress on the body, it will maximize the amount of muscle you gain and minimize the amount of fat you gain. First, it is important to make sure the extra calories you are consuming are nutrient dense calories, such as protein and carbohydrates, as opposed to energy dense, such as fat. Although your body does need fat for many important functions, it is also easier for your body to store fat. It is recommended to take in 1.6-2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day and 50%-70% of your total calories should be made up of good carbohydrates, such as whole oats and grains. Fat should make up 10%-30% of your total calorie intake. To help stimulate muscle growth, your exercise program should consist of higher volumes of training, such as 3 to 5 sets of 6 to 12 repetitions, and intensities of 75%-85% of your 1 repetition maximum.

Continue Learning about Calories


Every time we talk about food it seems we also talk about calories. Calories, those numbers found on nutrition fact labels and what diets tell us to watch. Calories are really the measure of how much energy is available to our bod...

ies from what we eat. Every calorie is the same, whether it comes from legumes or lard. We burn calories from food when we perform any activity. When we eat more calories than we burn, then our bodies happily store the remaining calories as fat. Each pound of fat stores about 3,500 calories. How many calories you should have each day depends on many things, from your level of activity to your age and desired body weight.

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.