Creating the Ideal Calorific Surplus for Muscle Gains

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When your #1 goal is to build muscle, there are two things that need to be kept in mind when creating a caloric surplus:

  • Maximizing muscle gains
  • Minimizing fat gains

There is a limit to the amount of muscle the human body is capable of building (and the rate at which it can be built). There is also a limit to the number of calories your body is capable of using to build muscle.

If you supply your body with more calories than that amount, those extra calories will always be stored in the form of fat, not muscle.

For that reason, we need to avoid making the calorie surplus TOO big.

At the same time, if the caloric surplus is TOO small, muscle will either not be built at all, or it will be built so unbelievably slow that progress will go unnoticed.

So the goal here is to get the surplus just right. Here are my recommendations for most people, most of the time…

  • Ideal Caloric Surplus for MEN: 250 calories per day.
  • Ideal Caloric Surplus for WOMEN: 125 calories per day.

Additional calories above this amount would cause too much fat gain, and fewer calories would likely slow down muscle growth to nonexistent levels.

The caloric surplus above will usually produce the best results possible in terms of maximizing muscle gains and minimizing fat gains for the majority of the population looking to build muscle.

It is also ideal because it will cause you to gain weight at the ideal rate. So, just what is the ideal rate of weight gain when trying to build muscle?

  • Men: On average 1kg per month
  • Women: On average ½ kg per month

When you start training, muscle gains occur more rapidly in the first 3-6 months, thereafter it will slow down. To reach a head-turning fitness physique women need to gain on average 5-6kg of lean muscle and men 10-12kg. That means you should reach your goal within 1 year, if you are consistent. 

You can monitor your progress based on what your weight is doing from week to week by doing the following:

Weigh yourself once a week first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, or, weigh in every morning and take the weekly average.

Are you gaining weight at the ideal rate? If so, congrats. Keep eating this number of calories each day and make sure you’re using an intelligent and effective exercise program and the best possible muscle building results are sure to follow.

Are you training but losing weight or just maintaining your current weight? If so, your surplus is too low (or it just doesn’t exist at all) and therefore needs to be increased. Just add 250 calories for men and 125kcal for women to your current calorie intake and then monitor what your weight does over the next couple of weeks. 

For simplicity, you can simply download the “Eat for your Goal Weight” chart below.  To create the ideal calorie surplus for building muscle, choose a Goal Weight higher than your current Goal Weight. Just make sure you are training to build muscle or you will just get fatter with the extra calories!

  • Men: plus 10kg
  • Women: plus 5kg

Most people don’t eat enough protein, therefor I highly recommend that you start by using the meal plan calculated for your ideal weight. You will gain lean muscle mass, especially during the first 3-6 months. Only increase your goal weight once you have achieved your desired fat percentage and if you have reached the point where you have completely stopped gaining. This is a good place to start increasing, but keep an eye on your progress because not everyone’s metabolism is the same nor does everyone exercise at the same intensity and adjustments may be required. 

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