In the world of muscle gains, a simple question often surfaces: would you prefer a scenario where you gain 10 pounds—eight pounds being body fat and only two pounds muscle—or one where you gain five pounds, of which only one pound is body fat and the rest (four pounds) is pure muscle? On the surface, choice B seems like the smarter, more effective option. Yet, surprisingly, when many individuals decide to up their calorie intake for muscle gains, they often choose scenario A.
Why the preference for scenario A? The desire to eat abundantly and the lack of desire to track calories and macros could be key factors. Most people find it easier to indulge in all the food they desire instead of meticulously consuming just the right amount of additional calories required for muscle growth. The deceptive scale also plays a role—gaining 10 pounds appears more successful than a mere 5-pound difference, but the mirror tells a different story, revealing the truth about where these gains are going.
However, there’s a built-in limitation to how much muscle we can gain by overeating. Attempting to exceed this natural limit doesn’t result in accelerated muscle growth; instead, it leads to excess fat gain. The goal is not to grossly overeat but to optimize muscle growth by consuming the right amount of additional calories.
So, what is this “right amount” of extra food? Generally, it hovers around 500 calories above your maintenance intake—the number of calories that neither causes weight gain nor weight loss. This surplus number can fluctuate based on individual factors such as genetics, age, activity levels, and overall health. It’s a balance aimed at achieving muscle growth at an optimal rate while minimizing fat gain—a pursuit often termed as achieving “clean” gains.
For individuals who struggle to eat enough or tend to overeat easily due to habitual or genetic factors, aiming for this 500-calorie surplus can serve as a helpful guideline. It encourages the former to eat more and restrains the latter from overindulging, striking a balance for both categories.
One of the simplest methods to add roughly 500 calories to your diet involves incorporating a protein-based shake into your daily routine. This shake should contain whey protein isolate and micellar casein, combining fast-acting essential amino acids with sustainable protein synthesis. The goal here is to facilitate clean muscle gains. Following certain guidelines—such as having the shake between meals, before bed, or instead of skipped meals—can help achieve this caloric surplus.
One recipe recommendation, the Peanut Butter Cup Shake, consists of chocolate MD protein, a medium banana, natural peanut butter, water, and ice cubes. This shake amounts to approximately 520 calories and provides a good balance of protein, carbs, and fats essential for muscle growth.
While the 500-calorie guideline might not be the fastest route to gaining weight, it stands out as a healthy and efficient strategy for muscle building, aligning perfectly with the pursuit of clean and sustainable muscle gains—a fundamental goal for many fitness enthusiasts.