How Many Calories Should I Eat a Day to Gain Weight and Muscle?


How many calories do I need to gain weight?

To gain weight, you need a surplus of calories instead of a deficit. To gain 1 lb per week, you need to consume 3,500 extra calories or 500 extra calories above your requirement for weight maintenance daily. Thus, if you are a 38 year-old moderately-active female, 5’4” and 142 lbs, your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) plus an activity factor of 1.55 = approximately 2,050 calories. If you wish to gain 1 lb per week, increase your daily calorie intake to 2,550 calories daily.

What foods should I eat to gain weight?

Choose dense cereals such as granola, muesli and grape-nuts and/or prepare hearty hot cereal with low-fat milk instead of water. Instead of light breads, try dense, grainy breads and top slices generously with mashed avocado or nut butters, low sugar jams, light mayonnaise and/or soft tub ‘butter’ spreads.

While fresh fruits are great, dried fruits and 100% fruit juices provide more calories. Legumes, nuts and seeds as well as low-fat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt and cottage cheese are also top choices. For a post-workout snack, make your own ‘protein fruit smoothie’ with low-fat milk, a frozen banana (peel before freezing!) and a scoop of chocolate-flavored protein powder.

Be creative with your meals. Stuff pita breads with tuna or chicken salad fillings; make hearty homemade soups such as beef lentil, split pea and vegetable-barley; eat peas, corn, carrots and winter squash more often than watery vegetables, such as lettuce. Add cheese, chickpeas, seeds, nuts, lean meats and/or fish to your salads and be liberal with the salad dressing (for heart-health, stick to olive or canola oil-based dressings). Prepare your mashed potatoes with extra (trans-fat free) margarine spreads and powdered milk to increase the protein content. While eating four or five medium-sized meals is best for weight gain, if you choose four meals per day, include a snack or two. Rely on low-fat yogurt, cheese & whole-grain crackers, nuts and seeds, higher-calorie fruits, such as bananas and dried fruits and sandwiches. Be sure to eat enough protein throughout the day.

For more information, see How to Gain Weight and Muscle.


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