How to Maintain a Calorie Surplus for Weight Gain

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One of the most onerous yet significant interrogations in the fitness journey is how to maintain a calorie surplus to gain weight/muscle dexterously with all speed.

Gaining muscle is all the more difficult than losing it, but nobody’s actually up for this discussion. How can you actually gain muscle without gaining body fat, and how do you maintain a calorie surplus for muscle gain?

When you are on the hunt for the many ways that can help you buff up and get an athletic build, you must have come across the term ‘calorie surplus’. However, if you aren’t completely sure what that is all about, you do not need to scratch your head and sweat it. I’m here to help you out on that.

Calorie Calculator for Weight Gain

What is a Calorie Surplus?

A calorie surplus diet simply incorporates consuming more calories than burning, which can benefit you to gain weight in the form of both fat or muscle.

what is a calorie surplus

If you are on a lookout to gain body muscle or weight, you need to put your body in an energy surplus condition (providing an excessive amount of energy for the muscles to grow), and for that, you need to consume larger meals at accurate timings.

On the other hand, a caloric deficit diet results in the decrease of body mass which is why when you are looking to lose weight you’re asked to eat less than you can burn through workout.

calorie surplus to gain weight

Although, I will pull the brakes here, if you’re thinking loading up on junk and eating like you’re a black hole is going to help you gain weight. There are several factors that decide how much caloric surplus you should be in such as:

  • Level of training
  • Hormone levels based on Gender differences
  • The genetic limits
  • Work out volume and frequency
  • Steroids (whether you consume it or not)

Now that you know what rounds up your caloric surplus game, let’s understand why you need a calorie surplus to build muscle, afterall?

To put it simply, unless you pamper your body with calorie-rich foods, you cannot build muscle, my friend. Period. A calorie surplus diet will lead to a significant fat gain and an adverse quantitative relation of fat to muscle gain.

A rough calculation of 500 calories over your maintenance rate is required to gain 1 to 1.5 pounds of lean mass. But too large of a calorie surplus diet would do more harm than good to you as it will typically slow down the procedure of getting to your paragon body structure.

This translates to the fact that you will have to spend more time in dropping the body fat rather than maintaining the calories. When you are consuming a surplus diet, you are enabling your body to utilize the excess energy (in the forms of protein, carbs and fats) to build muscle.

It also depends on other crucial factors such as body composition, genetics, harder training and overall diet.  Increased calories go hand-in-hand with the amount of protein you consume. So, pack yourself with the right food, instead of fries and pizza dripping with cheese!

Sample Calorie Surplus Diet for Bulking:

  • Breakfast 1:
    • 1 scoop whey protein (any flavour)
    • 8 oz orange juice
  • Breakfast 2:
    • 3 whole eggs
    • 3 egg whites
    • Cooked oatmeal
    • Omelette with vegetables and cheese
    • 200g Greek yoghurt with muesli, nuts and berries
  • Snacks:
    • 2 slices whole-wheat bread
    • Peanut butter
    • Pot of Greek yoghurt with almonds
    • Smoothies
    • Crackers rich in grains
  • Lunch:
    • Light mayonnaise
    • Wheat bread sandwiches
    • Green salad (mixed with spinach and other veggies)
    • Top salad with dressing
  • Dinner:
    • Cooked brown rice
    • Black beans
    • Steamed chopped broccoli
    • Chicken Breast (200g)

How Many Calories Do You Need to Gain Weight?

calorie surplus diet

Doesn’t matter what your calorie maintenance level is, you should significantly eat 300-800 extra calories to reap the benefits of calorie surplus.

For example, people who are on a calorie maintenance level of 2500 calories should use 20% of 2500 calories, which would result in 500 calories. This leads to the cessation that you should consume about 3000 calories to be in a caloric surplus (when your regular caloric intake is 2500).

Should you consume more calories on off days?

Well, why not? On off days, you are in a stage of muscle recovery and your body requires both calorie-dense and nutrient-dense whole food, such as rice, whole eggs, red meat, lean protein, nuts, fruits, vegetables, whole grains, cereals, healthy fats, and other dairy products.

Initially on off days, your body shall require more energy to recover from the extensive wear and tear and if you can’t provide the same it’s more harm than good at the end of the day.

Why is a Calorie Surplus Diet Important?

calorie surplus to build muscle

Many people are wary of getting bulky from weight training through supplements (here is the list of best weight gain supplements) but you always have a way out. In this case it’s a caloric surplus.

There are innumerable health benefits linked to building muscle mass through caloric surplus instead of hitting steroids or other potentially harmful ‘solutions’.

  • Enhances your overall body metabolism
  • Boosts your strength and stamina
  • Prevents hormonal imbalance
  • Builds bone and supports your joints
  • Improves muscle mass
  • Improves sleep and mental health
  • May change your emotional state
  • Improves the overall quality of life

How Does Calorie Surplus Lead to Weight Gain?

calorie surplus meal plan

Gaining weight definitely needs an abundant amount of calories. When you intake more calories than you burn, the body stores up all the excess energy or leads to muscle gain. A larger calorie surplus results in rapid weight gain (excessive fat gains).

However, do not mistake it for eating too much. When you are on a surplus diet, gaining fat is normal as you are trying to gain muscle. If you limit your calorie intake up to 500 calories each day, you will gain less fat over time.

So, what do you do?

Well, you can prevent gaining fat by keeping a record of your body weight, fat deposition and calorie consumption which will help you keep the fat content relatively low. If your body fat is still increasing, cut back the calorie consumption or increase your cardio workouts or any other physical activity that you perform. Easy peasy!

While gaining weight clearly needs a calorie abundance, gaining muscle needs incorporating a surplus with an endurance exercise training. When you overstuff muscles with working out (strength training), the body organizes additional fuel (calorie surplus) to build muscle.

Few tiny tears appear in your body when you work out. The body considers them as injuries and repairs them when you rest. The muscle fiber then gets bigger and healthier causing weight gain after these injuries are repaired.

However, the entire process requires a lot of energy consumption. If you don’t provide adequate amounts of calories to your body, you won’t gain any weight or get stronger.

How to Create a Calorie Surplus to Build Muscle?

best calorie surplus for muscle gain

Healthily gaining weight always needs good food habits and you can’t eat whatever you want to as I keep telling.

You have to be very picky with what food you are eating. Think of it as a kid who hates broccolis and beans and is extremely picky about his food, only that this time you have to be picky about loving all the healthy greens and cut down on junk.

So what do you do?

Eat high complex carbs, unsaturated fats, lean proteins, such as green veggies, fruits, chicken, beans, beef, seafood, low-fat milk, fat-free dairy products, turkey, and vegetable oils.

Do not consume foods rich in sugars (here are sugar-free options instead), simple carbohydrates, trans fats particularly soda, chips, white bread, fruit juice, doughnuts, muffins, pasta or candy.

If you’re on a calorie surplus diet, you for sure will gain weight and that is solely dependent on the quality and quantity of food you intake and how much you work out.

As you must already know, increasing your calorie consumption beyond a specific point might lead to body fat rather than muscle gain (growth of muscle is limited to 10-15 lb/year).

For healthy results, do not just eat anything, try to increase your calorie consumption slowly, make a list of healthy foods(budget-friendly weight gain foods), give yourself a sufficient cause and cue to generate muscle growth.

How does your sex play a role in the general caloric surplus?

The sex of an individual influences the general caloric surplus. We know, men and women differ considerably in their capability to gain muscle mass. Men having the privilege of producing testosterone possess a large body structure as compared to women (bigger bones and joints, bigger muscles, broad shoulders, facial hair, body hair, and sharp jawlines).

While women on the other hand do not possess such masculine traits (women do not secrete the hormone ‘testosterone’, duh!) and thus their genetic possibility for gaining muscle mass is lesser than that of men.

how to calculate a calorie surplus

Scientifically, the testosterone level in men is seven to eight times (daily production is 20x times) greater as compared to women. Hence, men have a greater ability to gain more muscle or weight from a large surplus caloric diet and they can consume more food than women.

Caloric Surplus For Men:

For men, consumption of around 100-500 extra calories per day can be considered a good start, in general. If they consume more than that right in the beginning, the muscle to fat gain ratio is likely to incline more towards increased fat gain and not muscle gain.

Caloric Surplus For Women:

For women, consumption of around 100-300 extra calories per day is an ideal place to start bulking up and putting more weight. If they consume more than that when they have just started their calorie surplus diet, the muscle to fat ratio is more likely to bend towards increased fat gain and not muscle gain.

By preference, for every pound of muscle, you will definitely not want to synthesise more than 1lb of fat. When you are eating food because you want to gain more muscle, it is however a quick method of putting on more body fat and cutting down the muscle gain stages.

Generally, the more time you invest in consuming a surfeit for muscle gain (an anabolic state), the more muscle you will gain over time. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to spend the initial two to three months gaining muscle and then spend the rest of the months dieting and doing cardio workouts to drop the extra fat you gained.

How to do a calorie surplus in order to gain weight or build muscle?

There are multiple ways that you could opt for. Here I have mentioned about a few:

  • Determine Total Calories First: First things first, let me get that introduction! Before starting with your calorie surplus meal plan, you will have to determine the overall calorie intake in a day (using the weight gain calculator above).
    And that’s quite obvious because if you do not understand your maintenance intake, you will not know if you are consuming enough calories, too much, or less.

    Once you accomplish this, then determine how many calories you are burning each day. You can utilize any calorie surplus calculator available for an estimate. The weight gain calculator analyses your day-to-day necessities based on gender, age, size, and any physical activity level.
  • Determine Macronutrients: This is again a very crucial step while you set up your calorie surplus to lead to muscle gain. Once you know your maintenance calories and the number of calories you are burning, now you will need to set up your macronutrients ratios.

    These are the necessary components that us living beings need in our everyday life, in varying amounts to put together the normal functioning of our body, maintaining our health and fitness. The seven major micronutrients are Carbohydrates, Fats, Dietary Fiber, Minerals, Proteins, Vitamins, Water.
  • Keep fat content relatively low: Through a surplus diet or in any regular diet, the amount of fats that we gain is stored in our body itself as there is no such mechanism that authorizes the conversion of fats to another form that can possibly lead to healthy muscular weight gain.

    When you are on a calorie surplus diet, the extra fats that you gain will be stored in our body. All that you can do then is to limit the intake of foods rich in fats as much as possible thereby keeping the fat content relatively low.
  • Do not just focus on strength-related training types: One of the most common mistakes that people do is they focus on strength related training types to gain muscle mass. NO! To build muscle, we need a combination of:
    • Mechanical tension– Any resistance against the muscle that creates tension over a while.
    • Metabolic Stress– It is generally attained through 10-20 rep spans which stimulate exhaustion or brevity of breath. It also induces the burning irritation, as you drain oxygen from the muscles.
    • Muscle damage– Muscle soreness occurs days after your exercise resulting in micro-tears in the muscle tissue. These micro-tears are referred to as muscle damage.
  • Track your progress: It’s very crucial to track your progress so that you know you are on the right path. You need to track three major things – Bodyweight, Body fat percentage, and gym progressions.
    • Bodyweight- When you are on a calorie surplus diet, measure your body weight every day or every other day to make sure the extra calories are helping you gain weight. You will have to collect as much as your body weight info because there are myriads of factors that can influence your scale weight daily.

      If you observe changes in your body weight for the first two weeks, it means you are on the right track. But if there are no such changes, add an additional 10 per cent onto your calorie consumption.
    • Body fat percentage- You can probably get a body composition scan. It can actually enable you to estimate your body fat percentage.

      How does this help you?
      When you measure your body weight, you will only know your scale weight, and it does not determine any alterations in the body composition. It is absolutely okay to gain some fat while on your Calorie Surplus diet.
      You will have to watch if you are increasing muscle abundance, which, relying on your familiarity status could be anywhere from 0.25 – 2lbs every month.
    • Workout progressions: Schedule your workout sessions so you can see your advancements in stamina. You can use any app to ascertain this. This will restore in the pairs, reps, and weight for every workout based on strength-training satisfactory exercises.

As you get tougher or master workouts, these apps will modify to shove you a little harder in your next workout. By utilizing an app like such, you can ensure that your activity is optimized to the expectations of your size.

Factors Affecting Calorie Intake to Gain Weight

A calorie is a CGS unit of energy, one calorie is equal to 1.42 joule (SI unit of energy). In nutritional value, calories are considered as the energy one gets from the food they eat or drink, or the energy they utilize during physical activity.

There are many factors which affect gaining or burning the calorie, you better need to decide whether you want to put on weight or you want to lose it. Other than the external factors, the caloric intake requirement also depends on how your body works and factors associated with it.

Here are some factors affecting how many calories you need:

1. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Resting metabolism is the energy needed when our body performs its basic fundamental works when it is at rest or sleep. These may include many important functions such as breathing, blood circulation, digestion or other activities by the brain.

RMR (Resting metabolic rate) is very similar to basal metabolic rate (BMR) and they are often used together. What we eat or drink gets converted into energy and the body uses it as fuel to perform many functions such as breathing.

The whole metabolic process is a combination of several chemical reactions that keeps us alive and healthy, the overall process is known as BMR. It’s of no count whether you are sleeping or you are awake; this energy is always required to carry out the fundamental functions of our body.

You may be surprised when you know that dieting decreases BMR, that’s a reason why people gain weight after they stop dieting, and start eating the food they like. Metabolic rate also implies the rate at which your process of digestion occurs.

2. Physical Activity level

Systematic physical activity is very important for retaining good health. It becomes more important when you are trying to lose weight or putting on some weight. When you go for losing the unnecessary weight you possess, you need to increase the level of physical activities to burn more and more calories.

If you want to gain weight, they will provide you with workouts which result in fewer calorie burn. Exactly the opposite for the person who wants to lose their weights. If you want to get a healthy body and achieve a great physique you must have to do workouts regularly.

3. LBM (Lean Body Mass)

Lean Body Mass is similar to Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR); it defines the amount of energy/calories you burn during sleep or while resting.  LBM and BMR are directly proportional to each other, greater the LBM more will be BMR.

what should my calorie surplus be

It indirectly implies people having LBM (Lean Body Mass) will expend more energy if they don’t do anything, it helps to maintain calorie balance and in a way heftiness. Without even getting proper food, sleep and water they’ll have better metabolism rates.

It’s a common fact if anybody promises you to shed off the fats you possess, what will be your answer? Of course, yes. They do it by changing your diet plans and providing the essential things required for your body.

4. Your Sex

As per several pieces of research, every day consumed calories by a man is 5:4 in ratio with women. A man consumes 2500 calories per day whereas women only consume 2000 calories per day.

Women have more body fat than a man and almost a man possesses 15 to 22 % more muscles than women of the same age and height, and muscles burn almost two-thirds the calories than fat does. However, women in their pregnancy or breastfeeding phases consume more calories than average individuals do.

Generally, men do much more physical activities than women throughout the day and burn more calories than women. As a result, they require extra calories. Around 70% of the women keep on dieting, throughout the year to get an attractive figure and consume 40% fewer calories as they should consume.

How to Find the Calories Needed to Gain Weight

The first and foremost thing you need to do before finding the calorie surplus for muscle growth is to ascertain what your day to day calorie requirements are. You can use the weight gain calculator above to determine your daily calorie necessities.

Calories provide energy to the body, and without energy, your body will stop functioning – the cells would die, the organs would stop, and even the basic life processes could not be performed. To put it simply, the human body just cannot survive without calories.

It’s all a calorie game! Start off with “maintenance”. Now, what is it? It is the criterion where you can maintain your present weight. Your maintenance weight is approximately similar to your TDEE or total daily energy expenditure (total calories you burn in a day).

Majority of us either under-eat or overeat, but that will not help us in any way. You will have to maintain the number of calorie intake.

Now that you have a little insight into the maintenance, gain or loss of calories, let’s find out how many calories your body needs. Aforementioned, you simply need a weight gain calculator. It will provide all the necessary details about how many calories you should consume to gain weight and vice versa.

Here are a few tricks to increase your calorie intake if you’ve been struggling to do it:

  • Eat high energy density diets such as dry fruits, oats, pasta, and meat.
  • Mix food! Mixtures can curtail food percentage quite considerably and make it simpler for your body to absorb the meal.
  • Begin your day with a meal and break it off with a meal. It is crucial to utilize all of the digestion period feasible.
  • Skip the regular ‘healthy eating guidelines’. Generally, these approaches are utilized to prevent fat increase and adiposity. You may require to eat elevated energy refined food periodically to obtain the calories that you require.
  • Drink as much water as you can! If you curb on the amount of water intake, you restrict the growth of muscle. Dehydration can influence your body’s capacity to regain from a severe workout routine. The shorter the period that you train yourself, the less you can grow. Aspire to drink at least 5-6 glasses each day if you can.


Q1. What happens to a person who is on a continual calorie surplus diet?

Ans: A calorie surplus is simply increasing the number of calories in your day-to-day diet. When a person is on a calorie surplus diet, they gain muscle or body mass over time. Increasing the number of calories increases the body mass or leads to the growth of extra muscle in the body.

Q2. Will a calorie surplus diet make me fat?

Ans: No. If your calorie surplus is moderate (300-700), you won’t gain a lot of weight. However, a large calorie surplus will definitely lead to unfavorable fat gain rather than muscle gain. It’s for a fact that a calorie surplus diet can lead to a little fat gain down the line.

Q3. Can I eat 5000 extra calories every day when I’m on a calorie surplus diet?

Ans: Yes, why not. But consuming so many calories every day does not imply the fact that you can eat whatever you feel like.

Do not consume sugars or refined carbs, keep your meals extremely nutritious and healthy with green veggies, healthy fats, whole grains, lean proteins, and all the good stuff.

Q4. How can you prevent gaining fat and gain only muscle?

Ans: While building muscle or gaining body mass, the majority solely focuses on protein intake. You will anyway gain a little fat while you’re trying to gain muscle.

To prevent the excessive fat gain, you will have to carefully plan your meals with the right amount of calorie intake and align it with high-intensity cardio workouts or resistance training to build muscle.

Q5. Should you lose weight before gaining muscle?

Ans: No. Before building muscle, losing weight before the process will do you more harm than good.

You will need to work out to build or maintain your musculature to some extent, but when you lose your body weight, you will lose the muscle mass you already had. Hence, losing weight before gaining muscle is not a prerequisite.

Now that you have a good idea of what calorie surplus is, and how you can use calorie surplus for muscle gain, let me know your transformation story in the comment section below!

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