Achieving the best calorie meal plan is not about starving yourself or depriving yourself of the foods you love. The trick lies in knowing how to smartly increase your calorie intake to gain weight or build muscle. And it is not that hard.

Online Calorie Calculators

Most people looking to gain more weight and muscle run to online calorie calculators to determine how much calories they should be taking. The only issue with these calculators is that they determine your calorie intake by considering your age, gender, weight, and activity level. This is quite a general calculation for someone who wants to get a specific figure to stick to.

Calorie Surplus

Before you start calculating your calories, first determine what your end goal is. Are you looking to add weight or muscle? The secret to gaining weight or muscle lies in knowing how to calculate your exact calorie surplus.

Our body has an optimum calorie level it needs each day to maintain our current weight. To add more weight or gain muscle, we have to increase the number of calories we consume. The difference between our initial calorie intake and the new calorie consumption is what we call the calorie surplus.

For you to successfully gain weight or build muscle, you have to calculate your exact caloric surplus. If the calorie level goes beyond what the body needs to build muscle or add weight, the excess is stored as body fat. On the other hand, if the calorie surplus is abysmal, the weight or muscle gain won’t be at all noticeable.

Calculating Caloric Surplus

The standard calorie intake for your body to function is 250 for men and 125 for women. So, to gain weight or muscle, you only need to add 250 or 125 to your current calorie intake. This surplus is what the body will use to build muscle or help in weight gain.

To calculate your correct caloric surplus, you have to calculate the correct amount of calories you take in a day. And you are going to do this manually.

First, get your body weight in kilograms or pounds. Next, multiply this number with 0.9 if you are a woman and 1.0 if you are a man. Multiply the resulting number with 24. This final number is multiplied by your Lean Factor which is your current body fat percentage.

You can easily calculate your body fat percentage by measuring your waistline then use an online body fat calculator to get an estimate. This is your Lean Factor which you multiply with your other figure (after multiplying with 24) to get your Basal Metabolic Rate or BMR.

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

BMR is the number of calories you burn in a day given your current lifestyle. So if your average BMR is 800, you only need to add 250 (man) or 125 (woman) to determine how many calories you need to eat to add weight or gain muscle (1050 and 925 respectively).

Always track your progress by measuring your weight. If you notice an increase, then you are doing fine. If not add another 250/125 to the new calorie intake and track the progress. Gradually increase your calorie intake to avoid your body from plateauing. For example, if you are a guy, increase your calorie intake from 800 to 1050, 1300, 1550, and 1800 respectively tracking your progress along the way.


You don’t have to start or deprive yourself of the foods you love to eat. Once you determine your calorie surplus, it becomes easier to balance your daily diet. Who knows, you could be left with enough room to enjoy a bowl of ice cream too!

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