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

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If you are struggling to gain weight and looking for some support, you came to the right place! I was a hardgainer for years! When I started trying to gain weight I weighed around 100 pounds on a good day. Now, I weigh about 230 pounds. Yep, I more than doubled my weight! But it took time and I learned a lot along the way. So if you are wondering for yourself “How many calories should I eat in a day to gain weight?” I have the answer for you!

The easy answer: eat more calories than you burn! But, I am sure you already have heard that. So, I want to break it down better for you!

How many calories should I eat in a day to gain weight – YouTube

How Many Calories Should I Eat a Day?

If you are trying to gain weight you first need to know how many calories you burn throughout the day. This is different for everyone, but there are tools that can help you determine YOUR approximate number. I’ll give you those in a second.

Maintenance Calories

First you need to determine how many calories you need to maintain your current weight. Here is a simple equation that can help. However, this is not the method I recommend… Who wants to do math? Am I right?

Take your current weight and multiply that number by:

  • 13 if you don’t exercise at all
  • 15 if you exercise a few times per week
  • 18 if you exercise 5 or more days per week

This will tell you about what your calorie intake would need to maintain your current weight with as much exercise as you are currently doing. Remember, be honest with yourself here or the calculation will not be as accurate. This won’t give you your true Basal Metabolic Rate but it is a good starting point.

For example: if you weigh 165 pounds and exercise three times per week, then you would multiply 165 by 15. This would mean it takes a total of about 2,475 calories to maintain your current weight.

Stay with me here.

Calculate Calorie Intake

Knowing how many calories you need to consume to maintain or to grow is not enough. You also need to know that you are, in fact, hitting those numbers. There are two easy ways to do this.

The first way is to write down the calories you consume throughout the day. I actually don’t recommend this as it becomes very tedious.

The second way is significantly easier! Download a food tracking app like this one, and scan your food or enter it at the end of the day.

Of course you could also build a diet plan or have one built for you so you know if you eat everything in the plan you are hitting your goals.

Calorie Calculator

To find your baseline for calorie intake OR to find out about how much you need to consume to gain weight it is easiest to use a calorie calculator like this one. This takes all the math out for you and gives you a good starting point. You will most likely need to adjust calories after you have tracked them for some time as your body could require more or less than the recommendation.

Gaining Weight

Weight gain truly only requires one thing: a caloric surplus. However, you also want to consider whether the weight you gain is healthy weight or not. You don’t want to just eat a bunch of junk food to gain weight or you risk complicating your health along the line. If you are trying to gain muscle then you also need to be working to build that muscle. Here are some workout plans that you can use to help you grow.

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You also need to be eating the RIGHT calories. The main things to keep in mind are that you want to be consuming enough protein for your muscles to repair and enough carbs to keep your calories above maintenance. Protein intake should be around 1.1-1.2 grams per pound of lean body mass (not total weight).

To be safe you can also just consume 1 gram of protein per pound of total body weight. If you are trying to grow muscle you also want to be replacing glycogen in your muscles. You do this by consuming carbs. Try not to just eat a bunch of fats to increase your calories!

How Many Calories Should I Eat to Gain Weight?

How Many Calories Should You Eat to Gain Weight?

It’s worth mentioning that you don’t need to eat in a surplus every day to gain weight. You will gain as long as you are eating in an overall surplus throughout the week.

For example, if you need to eat 3,000 calories a day to gain weight, instead, you can eat 2,500 calories three days a week and 3,375 calories the remaining four days. In fact, I eat maintenance calories five days a week and surplus calories two days anymore just because it is easier for me.

The best thing to do is whatever you can maintain that will keep you healthy while gaining the weight you want.

How to Gain Weight Fast

Now, I want to start off by saying, I am not recommending this! But, I know that if you are struggling to gain weight you may keep looking until you find something extreme because nothing else seems to work. I mean, that’s what I did.

Additionally, this does not answer the “how many calories should I eat a day to gain muscle” question. Gaining muscle comes down to more than just calories.

There was a period of time that I felt like nothing could make me gain weight. I searched and searched until I came across a 10,000 calorie per day diet. Let me tell you… It worked. I gained more bodyfat than I had ever had in my life. But! I also gained some serious muscle.

At the time I was training around 4 hours per day in the gym. THAT was the problem. I was burning so many calories that I couldn’t eat enough to keep up until I ate so much that I was sick every day.

So, rather than making yourself sick and trashing your body, what you need to do is calculate out your maintenance calories. Add in one to two thousand calories a day. Add in some creatine, and then be patient. Your body will thank you!

Think about this too: If you did a slower bulk to gain 2 pounds per month, after one year you would weigh 24 pounds more than you do right now!

If you are struggling to eat enough you could also add in a mass gainer shake to increase your daily caloric intake. But honestly, it’s better to get it from food.

Mass Gainer Shakes

Click here to find mass gainers on Amazon!

High Calorie Foods For Weight Gain

Sometimes finding the right foods to gain healthy weight can be difficult! Here are 21 foods you can eat to gain healthy weight!

Nut ButtersSmoothiesYogurt
Full-Fat MilkCheeseLegumes
BananasDried FruitCereal Bars
MeatsPastaDark Chocolate
RiceMangoTrail Mix
SalmonTahiniProtein Bars
How many calories should I eat in a day to gain weight – high calorie healthy foods

Why You Can’t Gain Weight

If you struggle to put on weight, it usually comes down to one of three things. The good news is that all three are in your control!

You’re Not Eating Enough

Weight gain comes down to eating more calories than you burn throughout the day. 

So, if the scale hasn’t budged in the last weeks, you need to start eating more food. Try including more calorie-dense foods in your daily diet if you always feel stuffed. Here are some foods we recommend:

  • Nuts, seeds, and nut butter;
  • Salad dressings and condiments;
  • Whole eggs;
  • Dried fruits;
  • Fatty fish and red meats;
  • Dairy products:
  • As a last resort – junk food.

You’re Not Training Optimally

Training for muscle and strength is nuanced, as many variables are considered. But, as long as you cover everything below, you should be okay:

  • Train all of your muscle groups;
  • Train in a variety of rep ranges (5 to 12; 12 to 15; 15 to 25);
  • Focus on increasing strength over time;
  • Give your muscles enough time to recover.

You’re Doing Too Much Cardio

Some people do everything right yet can’t seem to put on much weight because they either: 

  • do too much cardio
  • move around a lot throughout the day 
  • have a high Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT).

It’s essential to look at your daily life. For example, if you’re doing too much cardio, cut back for a couple of weeks. If you move around a lot during the day, try limiting that. If cutting back isn’t possible, increase your caloric intake to make up for it.

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

More than you eat to maintain weight! How many calories should I eat to gain weight calculator.

Shoot for a 500-1000 daily calorie surplus. If you are really struggling- shoot for 2000. If you would like additional help, talk to a trainer! You can find a good one here.

In 2013 I attended TVCC with my studies focusing on nutrition and biology. After leaving TVCC I pursued a career in inbound marketing and have worked in many different industries including health and fitness, firearms, coaching, and many more. I spent 6 years training for powerlifting and 6 years after training for a bodybuilding show in Idaho, which sadly did not come to fruition.

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