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Today we’re asking the age old question;

‘How much of a calories surplus do I need to build muscle optimally?’


This FAQ is down to many wanting to find that magical ‘sweet spot’ of maximising muscle gain without the unwanted fat Before giving you the recommendations, we first need to know where these extra calories go.

Well my friend, Slater et al (2019) has pinpointed the following contributing factors that require additional calories in your diet, aka the surplus are:

1) The calorie cost of lifting weights plus the post exercise elevation in metabolism.
2) The energy cost of building muscle itself, i.e. the breakdown and synthesis of new tissue.
3) The amino acids itself for new muscle tissue.
4) To overcome compensatory increases in diet induced thermogenesis (calories needed to break down food).
5) To overcome compensatory increases in metabolic rate due to extra NEAT (fidgeting etc).
6) Elevations in metabolism due to extra muscle (potentially, maybe, just slightly…imo perhaps not so much).

To maximise muscle growth, we first need to appreciate that you NEED a progressive weight training programme, adequate protein with every meal, sufficient carbohydrates to drive performance and adequate sleep whilst minimising stress.

Typically speaking, if one of these components is ‘off’, then it will be a rate limiting factor to muscle growth…so, this is very much a multifaceted approach.

We also need to consider that you can’t force-feed muscle growth; you’ll just gain unwanted body fat. Neither can you gain muscle optimally in a calorie deficit, albeit it is definitely possible.

To put a number as a starting point to work from, Slater et al (2019) has given us the magical range of ~1,500-2,00KJ extra per day. In old money, this is approx. 358-478kcal extra per day.

What I’d suggest is that you calculate your maintenance calories, then add the lower end of the range to your intake. Following this, adjust accordingly based on rate of muscle growth on a monthly basis. In terms of a target to hit, research suggests that you aim for ~0.5-1% gain in bodyweight per month (based on training status).

And this my friends, answers the age old question regarding the degree of your calorie surplus….for now!

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