How To Build Muscle: Calorie Surplus

Article by: Sila Kurtoglu

Despite the claims of various fad diets, pseudoscientific nutjobs and the countless Instagrammers willing to say whatever is needed to get them more likes, calories are the most important part of your diet. Whether you want to lose weight, gain muscle or simply maintain your current weight, how many calories you eat a day is always going to be the key determining factor.

(Muscle Growth)



(Weight Loss)

Some of my clients ask how to bulk up (requiring a Surplus diet), others may want to lose weight (requiring a Deficit diet), and the few in between may just want to stay the same, once they’re happy with their perfect self.  Whichever you are, the equation is simple, by looking at calories in vs calories out:

3,000 Calories Consumed

2,500 Calories Burned

500 leftover calories Stored as fat or muscle

A Calorie Surplus diet is when you consume more calories than you burn, i.e. calories in is greater than calories out. The above scenario leaves the client with 500 calories “leftover”, but they have to go somewhere; they don’t just disappear. Your body stores them either as fat cells or muscle tissue.

To gain muscle, you must combine a Calorie Surplus diet with a strength training routine. When you overwork your muscles by training with weights, your body directs extra energy (Calorie Surplus) to build muscle.  When you work out, you create small tears in your muscle tissue. Your body reads these tears as injuries and repairs them during rest. Once the tissue is repaired, the muscle fibre becomes bigger and stronger, resulting in muscle growth.

If you don’t provide your body with enough calories, you will not gain weight or muscle. The fastest way of achieving this is increasing your protein intake.

High Protein Food Sources

  • Eggs - One large egg has 6 grams of protein and 78 calories
  • Chicken breast - One roasted chicken breast without skin contains 53 grams of protein and only 284 calories
  • Prawns - A 3-ounce (85-gram) serving contains 20 grams and only 84 calories
  • Oats - One cup of oats has 11 grams of protein and 307 calories
  • Cottage cheese (low in fat, high in protein) - One cup (226 grams) of low fat cottage cheese with 1% fat contains 28 grams of protein and 163 calories
  • Greek yogurt - One 6-ounce (170-gram) container has 17 grams of protein and only 100 calories
  • Milk - One cup of whole milk contains 8 grams of protein and 149 calories. One cup of soy milk contains 6.3 grams of protein and 105 calories
  • Lean beef - One 3-ounce (85-gram) serving of lean sirloin steak contains 25 grams of protein and 186 calories
  • Tuna - One can (142 grams) contains 27 grams of protein and only 128 calories
  • Lentils - One cup (198 grams) of boiled lentils contains 18 grams of protein and 230 calories
  • Fish (all types) - Salmon is 22% protein, containing 19 grams per 3-ounce (85 gram) serving and only 175 calories
  • Peanuts - One ounce (28 grams) contains 7 grams of protein and 161 calories
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