More Calories = More Muscle?
By Karen Sessions

More Calories = More Muscle? I often get questions about caloric intake and muscle gain. Many times, ladies rely on fitness magazines for training and dieting information. They read how the latest top Figure or Fitness Pro eats 2,300 to 3,000 calories or more a day. Yet, when the reader applies the same technique, they see little progress and if any thing, dreaded fat gain. What is it that makes it work for them, but not you?

Many Fitness athletes and now Figure girls are on performance enhancement supplements. Although it's not openly discussed, that doesn't mean it's not happening. Those who do take "supplements" can eat more calories because the drugs require a lot of carbohydrates and protein (calories) for them to work to their fullest.

Many people are under the assumption that in order to build bigger, stronger, and denser muscle, they must boost their caloric consumption to unreal numbers. The popular idea is, 'to add muscle you must consume calories over maintenance level'. Natural athletes will require far less calories.

Covering Basic Jargon

Bulking Up is basically fattening up, eating loads to gain weight, a majority of it being body fat. Personally, I don't believe in bulking up. I don't see the purpose of adding a great deal of body fat in order to put on 2 to 5 pounds of muscle when you could have done the same with proper eating, without the excess fat gain. When you diet down after bulking, you have to diet hard to lose the fat and end up losing that muscle you gained.

Building Muscle is simply keeping the body fat the same or lowering it while gaining muscle. This is ideal.

Growing Phase is increasing the calories a bit to add some weight, some body fat but mostly muscle. The body fat may go up 2% or so. This is acceptable as well.

Cutting is detailing the muscle. You can't cut if you are in the 20% body fat range. You must first lose fat, then detail (cut).

Calorie for Calorie

So my question is, what type of calories are you increasing and by how much? Will eating two heaping bowls of cereal on top of your regular diet prompt muscle growth? It is, after all, extra calories.

Your caloric maintenance level is the number of calories your body needs each day for it to function and grow. Anything above that number that is not used will be stored as fat.

Your body does require calories for activity, as well as repair and growth, but it doesn't need excess calories to do its tasks.

Give your body exactly what it needs to support muscle growth without going overboard. Contrary to popular belief, you CAN build muscle and lose body fat at the same time. I have e-client after e-client proving it all the time. How do they do this? Then eat exactly what their body needs, no more and no less.

How do you know how many calories you require to build muscle and keep fat to a minimum? That depends on your lean muscle mass and activity level. There is no one formula to give, as everyone is different. Base your calories on your lean body mass so you feed the muscle and not the fat.


Once you establish your caloric intake, figure the rest of your macro nutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) to finish the equation. After you have all your numbers outlined, give the program a week trial to see how your body responds and from there you can add calories if you feel it's needed. Make small tweaks so you know what's working and what isn't.

Use calories wisely and they won't let you down.

About The Author

Karen Sessions has been in the fitness industry since 1988 and is a certified personal fitness instructor and specialist in performance nutrition. She is a nationally qualified natural female bodybuilder, holding numerous titles in the southern states including two overalls.

Karen has written six e-books on fitness. She also writes articles for several fitness websites, and distributes two monthly newsletters regarding weight loss and female bodybuilding.

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