T Nation

Calories to add muscle or lose fat.

I’ve heard in the past that 3500 calories are needed to add a pound of muscle. I wanted to know if this was true, and what kind of research is out there about it. I just don’t believe it.

3500 Cals for who??? 3500 Cals of what??
It depends on the size of the person, a scrawny person may gain, a giant will lose… check out “Appetite For Construction” and all articles by John M. Berardi
There are many more excellent diet articles on here that are a must read. Everyone’s metabolism, is different so no caloric figure can be used as a general rule of thumb.

SPE: Got it a little mixed up. That figure represents (roughly rounded) the calories in 1 pound of fat. (Again, rounded: 1 oz=30grams; 16 ozs in a pound; 30x16= 480 grams in a pound of fat; 480x 9cal/gm for fat= 4380 cals (closer to 3,500 when you use exact numbers).


IF you EAT 3,500 cals ABOVE what you utilize in a weeks time (again, roughly) you will gain a pound of fat. IF you eat 3,500 cals BELOW what you utilize in a weeks time, you will LOSE a pound of fat. (By the way; this is where those 250/500 calorie daily adjustments come from that you read about; 3,500/7days- 500cals).


So…this isn’t some profound research article, but basic thermodynamics, physiology and biochemistry. The important thing to remember is that these figures represent STARTING points. You adjust based on your body’s individual response. Hope this helps!

The amount of calories it takes to gain a pound of muscle depends on a lot of things. The amount will be different for everybody. It depends on your weight, metabolism, daily activities, sleep, training regimine, etc. There is an article about how to calculate it somewhere, but I don’t remember which article it was. Hopefully somebody who reads this can post a link to it. But also remember that your training has to be good as well. If it’s crappy or non-existent you won’t gain any muscle (unless you’re one of those lucky SOB’s who is just naturally muscular).

Again, just to clarify: when you see the concept in the literature and lay press (and it is EVERYWHERE!), it never is used as a figure to measure MUSCLE loss or gain, but FAT loss or gain.

Thanks guys. Some idiot on another board said that to gain a pound of muscle, your body needs an additional 3500 calories. I knew this wasn’t right and it was very dependent on the individual. Thanks again.

Off the top of my head (not an exact
recollection) a pound of muscle contains
about 100 grams of protein. So that’s
400 calories (not counting fat content
or glycogen content, and glycogen content
isn’t much.)

Feed efficiency – percent of added calories
that are converted to body mass, or percent
of added dietary protein that becomes protein
in the body – is never anything like 100%.
So I’ve estimated that at least 1000 calories
surplus, and maybe somewhat more, is needed
for each pound of muscle gained.

Practical observations are that in a steroid
cycle, if added calories are less than 1000
above maintenance, the adverse impact on
gains compared to 1000 calories is clear;
but if surplus is more than 1500 calories/day, any possible
further benefit past 1500 either doesn’t exist or
seems unclear.

And for that matter, it’s not really clear
that a 1500 cal/day surplus helps at all
relative to 1000 cal/day… but it sure
packs on fat faster.

1.1 pounds of lean body mass is around 100 grams of protein. It’s a 1:5 ratio when converting protein to LBM. So, 10 grams of protein is equivalent to 50 grams of LBM. This is when it’s accruing in the body though, not when you’re just considering ingestion of X amount of protein calories. Like Bill said, it’s not a 100% conversion.

“10 grams of protein is equivalent to 50 grams of LBM”? Isn’t it the other way around?

No! I tried to make it clear that this is when it’s accruing in the body. It’s not the other way around.

I see where I confused you bud. I should have included the word “within” in that post. There are 100 grams of protein WITHIN 1.1 lb of Lean Body Mass. Now remember Lean Body Mass doesn’t include only muscle tissue.