How Much To Eat To Gain Muscle Without Gaining Fat? Lean = Good & Chubby = Bad

I decided to write this article outlining how much to eat to gain muscle but without gaining fat because it can be a little tricky. Right away, I’ll just say this: there is no dead-accurate, scientific formula for calculating how much you should eat to gain muscle without gaining fat.

Okay, well maybe there is, but it would require some sophisticated testing on an individual basis and I haven’t seen it. What could work for one person still might not work for another if their lifestyle is different.

Besides, where would they find volunteers for that kind of testing?

How Much To Eat To Gain Muscle

Another thing to realize is that everything you read online — mainly from supplement companies or those pushing to sell supplements — is not true. If you’ve been told that you need to eat 6 meals a day while taking a high calorie, high protein “muscle gainer” in order to gain muscle, don’t do it. In fact, I’ve tried this method a few times and the results were not pretty.


In order to gain muscle you do have to eat enough food, there’s just no getting around that. Where some say that you need to eat a lot to gain muscle, I really don’t think so. If you end up gaining a significant amount of fat along with your muscle gains, your overall results are going to be quite disappointing.

If I had the choice to gain 5 pounds of muscle with no fat vs 10 pounds of muscle along with 5 pounds of fat I would chose 5 pounds of muscle any day.

How Many Calories To Eat To Gain Muscle

First of all, we know (we need to thank the other lab rats for this one) that it takes 2,500 calories to build a pound of muscle. Taking this into account, we see that the answer to how much to eat to build muscle means that we need would need to eat around 360 calories above maintenance to gain 1.0 lb of muscle in one week.

  • 360 (additional) calories x 7 days = 2,520 calories = 1 pound of muscle

So if you wanted to gain 3 pounds of muscle in one week you should eat 1,035 calories above maintenance, right?

  • 1,035 (additional) calories x 7 days = 7,245 calories = 3 (2.89) pounds of muscle

Wrong. If you try this latter model you are almost guaranteed to gain quite a bit of fat in the process.

How Much Protein To Eat To Gain Muscle

Another big, as in popular, subject that relates to how much to eat to gain muscle is how much protein you should eat. I have another article on how many grams of protein per day you should eat when trying to lose weight while preserving muscle but in order to focus on gaining muscle you do need a little more.

In that article I suggested eating 0.8 grams of protein per pound of body weight. While this will certainly help you maintain muscle (assuming you are doing some type of resistance training) the number should be a bit more when trying to gain muscle.

You can gain muscle eating 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight but I like to play it safe. When I’m going for lean muscle gains I like to eat less overall calories so that I don’t gain fat, but also make sure that I’m getting enough protein to support muscle growth.

I suggest eating 1 1/2 – 2 grams of protein per pound while trying to gain muscle and that’s plenty.

How Much Muscle You Should Expect To Gain

While in theory the above formula to gain 3 pounds of muscle in a week should work but our bodies don’t work like that. A far better approach is to make lean gains in muscle and not sacrifice looking good throughout the process.

Although 1 pound of muscle doesn’t sound too impressive it really is. Checkout this video to see a visual of what a pound of muscle would actually look like on your body.

In fact, I would recommend that if you try eating for a 1 pound per week muscle gain — really watch your fat levels. For me personally, I shoot more for 1/2 pound of muscle a week when I’m trying to make gains in size.

Don’t let that number fool you. That is a realistic number. Online promises of 2-3+ pounds of muscle in a week are not true.

Although 1/2 pound of muscle in a week doesn’t sound like much, 4 pounds of muscle in one month or 12 pounds of muscle in three months is going to look amazing if it isn’t covered in fat.

Knowing how much to eat to gain muscle without fat is more important than knowing how much to eat to gain muscle with fat. Remember, the less fat you have, the stronger, more muscular, and often times, bigger you will look.