This is a question I asked myself for 7 years straight. Am I eating enough to gain muscle? It turns out, I wasn’t, and once I figured out what to do, I built 20+ pounds of muscle in the first year of nutrition and weight training.
In this article, I am going to talk about the different things that we can do in order to ensure that we are putting on muscle. Too many people go around in life thinking it isn’t possible to put on muscle. It is possible, and there is a formula to it.
Personally, I was the skinniest person that I knew. As a young high school student, my height skyrocketed to 6’1”, but my weight didn’t follow it. People would say “wow, you are ridiculously skinny,” not knowing how self conscious I was about it.
I remember one time being interested in a girl in my junior year. She told all of her friends that I was way too skinny for her to ever date.
Why am I telling you all of this? Because I wish I knew what I know now back then. Maybe I could have put on some muscle and earned some respect. Unfortunately for me, I didn’t put on an ounce of muscle until I was in my mid twenties.
I spent too much time trying to find a quick fix instead of focusing on what works.
Eating enough calories to gain muscle
Am I eating enough to gain muscle? If you are asking this question, the answer is probably no. Chances are, you have either struggled with putting on muscle or have been inconsistent with your muscle growth.
I am going to take you through some steps that you will need to take in order to gain muscle. If you follow these steps, you will 100% gain weight. After this section, we will talk about working out.
If you are eating at a caloric surplus, your body is going to gain weight. And if you are working out regularly, that extra calories is going to be converted into muscle. If you are not working out, those extra calories will turn into fat.
Step 1: Calculating your maintenance calories
I always recommend this before you do anything else. Check out our article on how to calculate your maintenance calories.
Calculating your maintenance calories is an absolute necessity. If you want to make a change in your body, you have to know what your baseline is. Maintenance calories are how many calories per day your body needs to eat to stay the same.
And yes, you are going to need to count calories. So many people are opposed to this step, and they let it paralyze them from getting in the shape that they want. I know, because I was one of those people.
Luckily for us, you can use an app like MyFitnessPal to track every single calorie that you put into your body. I will admit that it is a little bit challenging at first, but once you get the hang of it, it’s a breeze.
One of the things that I use every single day is a cheap food scale from Amazon. It is so easy to weigh everything out, and know exactly what you are putting into your body.
Step 2: Eating at a caloric surplus
Now that you know what your maintenance calories are, you can eat at a caloric surplus. A caloric surplus is a state to keep your body in, where you eat more calories than your maintenance calories on a daily basis.
For me, this was the hardest part. Every single person in the world has a different maintenance calorie number, so the advice here is wildly different for everyone. My maintenance number is 3,100 calories. Meaning I needed to eat more calories than that every day in order to build muscle.
How many calories over your maintenance that you eat also matters a ton. You can’t just eat 3,000 calories over your maintenance calories and expect to just gain muscle. There is a threshold for how much muscle your body can build in a given amount of time.
For example, most bodies are only capable of producing a half pound of muscle per week in a caloric surplus. Which means, you probably don’t want to gain over a pound per week.
I recommend starting at 500 calories over your maintenance goal for EACH DAY. Weigh yourself each week, and make sure you are gaining at least a half pound per week. If you are not gaining a half pound per week, you should add more calories over your maintenance.
Keep up this monitoring until you are gaining at least a half pound per week. It is also important to note that your maintenance calories might change as you put on more muscle. For me, the bigger I became, the more I would have to eat to build muscle. So you might want to revisit your maintenance calorie goals once every 2 months.
Step 3: Doing it consistently enough to gain muscle
The formula has been simplified for us. Eat at a caloric surplus, and you will build muscle. Seems easy enough, but we really must consciously do this consistently if we want to build a solid amount of muscle.
Muscle does not get built overnight. It takes many months or years of consistency to build the body that you want. This is why being in shape is something that people aspire to and admire. The majority of the world population is out of shape, so getting in shape yourself is an impressive undertaking.
Let me tell you about some of the common pitfalls of eating enough food to build muscle. Before I learned about consistency, I would eat at around 2,500 calories on an average day. This is just an estimate.
Then, on the weekend, I would have one 5,000 calorie day. I knew that you had to eat a lot of food to build muscle, so I figured that one day of massive consumption was good enough. It wasn’t, and I have the math to show you.
Remember earlier when I mentioned that I found out my maintenance calorie intake is 3,100 calories per day? Let’s do some math. I ate 2,500 calories for 6 days of the week, and 5,000 calories on one day of the week. (2500 * 6) + (5,000) = 20,000. Now let’s divide that 20,000 by 7, and we get on average 2,857 calories PER DAY.
So even though I was having one substantial day of eating, I still was eating under my maintenance goal. This was an eye opener for me. What matters the most is how many calories you eat over a long period of time.
Is working out enough to gain muscle?
If you have gotten this far, you already know that working out alone is not enough to gain muscle. I was already the guinea pig for you when I spent 7 years trying that.
You know for a fact that your body has to be in a constant state of caloric surplus if you are going to build any sort of muscle. You cannot build muscle in a caloric deficit.
Even though you can’t build muscle out of thin air, it is important to have a plan. This website is packed with all sorts of free workout plans like our beginner bodybuilding routine for mass.
If you would rather have an app to track your workouts, choose muscle building plans, and make serious gains, go ahead and download our app All Workouts: Personal Trainer (iOS | Google Play). You can choose from one of our many FREE workout plans.
Or if you are really feeling committed, you can check out 3 DAY OVERLOAD. The exact workout plan that I created to help me build over 20 pounds of muscle in year 1 of eating in a caloric surplus.
Main Point: Am I eating enough to gain muscle?
Are you finally ready to answer the question, am I eating enough to gain muscle? It may not be a surprise that building muscle is something that doesn’t come easy.
There are countless gurus and companies out there that want to try and sell you a quick fix to your problems. I wasted so much time looking for a quick fix. It’s not going to happen.
Make a commitment right now to step up for the next 6 months. Eat at a caloric surplus, and do weight training 3-4 days per week. If you can do that consistently for the next 6 months, I promise that you will see changes that you never knew were possible.
I also suggest that you take “before” pictures. When you see yourself in the mirror every single day, you might not notice the subtle changes. But when you compare your current body to your past body through pictures, you may be shocked with the transition.
Best of luck building that muscle! You don’t need luck though. You need commitment and knowledge. This article gave you the knowledge part. It’s up to you to fill in the rest.