A big misconception in adding muscle mass is that you must consume above maintenance level calories to fuel the muscle growth process. This is wrong, and I believe it stems from “incomplete” thinking.

The human body is a very precise machine. You don’t just throw calories at it in hopes that some will stick in the form of new muscle mass. That’s a blind approach that will more likely lead to greater fat mass than actual muscle. That’s not bulking up that’s fattening up.

Your individual daily calorie maintenance level is the EXACT amount of calories your body requires to maintain all body functions, fuel activity and support muscle growth. All calories above your maintenance level WILL be stored as extra body fat. That’s the simple fact of the matter.

I can hear some of you now. “No, no, no. You need extra calories to support the muscle growth.” Yes, and no. Remember what I said, “Your individual daily calorie maintenance level is the EXACT amount of calories your body requires to maintain all body functions including activity and muscle growth.”

For a bodybuilder on anyone wanting to add lean muscle, the calories required to fuel this muscle growth on a daily basis is part of your daily calorie maintenance requirement. You see, in bodybuilding, you’re always trying to add lean muscle. When your body requires calories for muscle repair and growth, those calories are maintenance calories. You’re feeding your body what it requires to adapt and grow from the training you perform. Of course, it’s more calories than if you were not trying to build muscle, but it’s an exact amount and not an excessive amount.

Your body in no way needs an excessive amount of calories for growth and repair. An excessive caloric intake, assuming the nutrients from these calories are constructive, will promote muscle growth, but every single extra calorie above what your body needs will be stored as fat.

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So what’s the answer? The answer is simple; provide your body with the exact amount of calories it needs to support maximum muscle growth without exceeding your total caloric needs. Now I said the answer was simple, the execution is not so simple.

How do you know exactly how many calories you need? This is different for everyone. And it can change from day-to-day. You’ll need more calories on the days you train than on the days you don’t. However, very few people are going to measure their caloric expenditure and adjust their calories on a daily bases according to this expenditure. That’s reality. Only the rare and obsessive athletes will do this. But then again, elite level athletes are rare.

Where to start . . .

A few years ago I developed the Nutritional Calculator to put you in a “caloric ballpark” based on gender, body type, age, and activity level. Plug in your parameters, and you’ll get a caloric starting point, but more importantly you’ll get a nutrient breakdown of these calories that I have fine tuned over the years that are optimum for lean muscle growth. Constructive nutrition is essential for maximum muscle growth.

Like I said, this is a “caloric ballpark.” In many cases, it will be precisely the amount needed, in other cases, these calories will need to adjusted either up or down depending on the individual.

If you need to adjust your calories, I recommend adjusting 200 calories at a time. Don’t make big jumps in calories either way. What you are doing if fine tuning this number to arrive at your exact caloric need for maximum lean muscle growth without adding fat.

Adjusting your calories is easy, and I have included a Nutrient Ratio Calculator so you can arrive at the optimized protein, carbohydrate and fat ratio with your adjusted calorie intake.

Take advantage of these important tools to create a perfect metabolic environment for muscle growth without the fear or uncertainty of adding extra body fat.

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Building Muscle and The Calorie Myth

by Paul Delia time to read: 3 min