How much of a calories surplus do you need to build muscle?

What is a calorie surplus?
With a proper calorie-rich diet loaded with proteins and healthy fats, it is possible to maintain a calorie surplus. This has to be supported by strength training workouts. Before we get to the main question at hand, let us explore what the term ‘calorie surplus’ actually means. Calorie surplus for weight gain is a state of your body where you consume more calories than you expend. Your consistent weight loss or inability to gain weight and build muscle is a result of you being in a calorie deficit, which is the opposite of a surplus.

How do you know whether you are in a calorie surplus?
The most effective way to recognize whether you are in a calorie surplus state is to watch the weighing scale regularly (not frequently). If you are maintaining a calorie surplus, you will gain weight over a while. If your scales show notable variations (1-2 pounds) over a fortnight, you can be sure that you are in a calorie surplus and your weight gain regimen is working out well for you.

Is calorie surplus necessary to gain weight?
The answer to this question depends on what you expect from your weight gain process- do you wish to increase your overall body mass or just focus on muscle development? A healthy weight is important for more than just aesthetic reasons. Maintaining your BMI in the normal zone is important to have a good level of immunity, physical and mental health. Depending on how underweight you are, gaining weight and muscle mass simultaneously can be a very beneficial thing and you can achieve this without gaining unnecessary fat.

Benefits of Calorie Surplus:
  • You give your body enough energy to carry out its normal activities while supplementing it with enough to use for building muscle without tapping into your storage units (fat).
  • Your muscles need protein to grow. Maintaining calorie surplus promotes the synthesis of muscle proteins.
  • It boosts your progress and you will be able to achieve results quicker than if you were in a deficit or neutral state.
  • Healthy weight gain is important to maintain strong immunity and balanced metabolism levels.

How much of a calorie surplus do you need to build muscle?
This might sound exactly like clickbait, but the honest answer to this question will surprise you. Earlier, ‘experts’ (bodybuilders) used to insist that about 500Kcal per day of additional energy was mandatory to see effective muscle gain results in a reasonable duration. The trick to building muscle using calorie surplus is to make sure that you do it just right so that the surplus is not stored as fat. Now the problem with the 500 additional calories per day theory is that yes, you will have enough calories to build muscle.

But this also means that you will inadvertently gain fat. You are probably here because you expect to gain muscle without any of that unwanted fat gain, which is fair. Even if in theory you are okay with ‘temporarily’ gaining fat just because you can shed it later, this is your reminder that you will be putting yourself through a calorie deficit to do so thus hindering your muscle gain progress. So what is it? What is the magic number that you can rely on in terms of calorie surplus for lean bulk and none of that fat?

The correct answer is that it depends on how quickly and how much muscle you wish to build. Ideally, you could aim to gain about 1-5 kgs of muscle mass in one year and this is quite feasible when approached the right way. One kilogram of muscle gaining requires roughly 5950 kcal of energy. You can do the math on the rest but this means that you will have to up your calorie intake daily by up to 50 calories per day to gain 3 kg weight in a year. Yes. Now if you are aiming higher and wish to gain 5 kg muscle mass in a year, just add about 17 more calories to the 50 (and up your exercise regimen rather significantly).

Can weight gain supplements help with calorie surplus to build muscle?
On their own, weight gain supplements are rather ineffective but in combination with a strict diet and exercise regimen, they can help you accelerate the muscle gain process quite notably. You need to start using an effective weight gain supplement that does not offer false promises and is not laced with any artificial ingredients. The idea behind using these supplements is to regulate your metabolism and increase your appetite such that it becomes easier for you to maintain a calorie surplus. Hence they show best results when you use it as a part of your regimen, ideally after you have fixed your weight gain plan.

A calorie deficit is not a compulsory aspect of muscle gain but for the sake of your health and wellness, you need to eat healthily and have enough energy throughout the day. For muscle gain, achieving sustainable calorie surplus is very easy as all you need to do is add a few bites of protein and ‘good’ fat into your diet plan. Your diet alone is not going to help you gain muscle mass. Strength training is the core of muscle building and whether you wish to accelerate the process through weight gain supplements and other means, is something you need to contemplate before you get started.