The Muscle Gaining Game

October 7, 2009

Yesterday I wrote a post titled “gaining weight”, which received some interesting comments.

First, by “gaining weight”, what I meant was gaining muscle mass, not fat weight.  Still, gaining weight isn’t a typical desire of adults.  Most adults over the age of 35 or so would like to reduce their body fat level and/or “tone up”.  If that is the case for you, read on.  This post has something in it for you.

As for those adults that desire to gain weight, why would they want to do such a thing?  One common reason is for aesthetics.

These adults may be very thin and feel that they would look better with more muscle.  Or they may have a small frame, as was the case with one guy I spoke with, and want a more “physical presence”.  The hope is that more muscle on their physiques will help them achieve that goal.

Another reason some adults want to gain weight has to do with insecurities, which was the case for the author of the book, “Muscle: Confessions of an Unlikely Bodybuilder” (quite an entertaining read, by the way).  However, this post isn’t about why people want to gain muscle, it’s about how they can do it.  So, let’s talk about that.

How do you gain muscle?  The formula is this:

progressive muscle overload through resistance training + adequate food + enough rest = more muscle

Let’s look at the food part of the equation.

If you want to build muscle, you have to supply your body with enough energy (food) to maintain itself AND power its way through your daily activities, which on some days will include a workout.  In addition to this, additional nutrients are needed to add more muscle tissue.  Really, gaining muscle is entirely dependent upon the amount of calories you take in.

You've got to eat to gain muscle

You've got to eat to gain muscle

How much food is this?  Measure your body fat level.  Next, calculate your estimated daily caloric needs based upon your body fat percentage and activity level.  Then, add 2 calories per pound of lean body weight to your estimated daily caloric intake.

For example, if you weigh 200 pounds and your body fat percentage is 20%.  Then your lean body weight is 160 pounds.  If you add 2 calories per pound of lean body weight, then that would be 320 additional calories.

By the way, in order for additional calories to result in more muscle, you MUST resistance train!  Otherwise the extra calories will go to fat.

For those of you that have no desire to gain muscle mass, simply skip adding more calories.  If you do this, you will gain little to no additional muscle even if you lift weights.  In fact, if you reduce your calories by 2 calories per pound of lean body mass below your calculated daily needs, your weight lifting will help you to retain your muscle mass (a very desirable thing) while you lose fat.  You will become leaner while “toning up”.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about what those extra calories should consist of.


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15 Responses to “The Muscle Gaining Game”

  1. Michael R says:

    Man, I would love to get some more posts about this topic. Thanks alot.

  2. JJ Jalopy says:

    It is a very simple formula really, isn’ it?

    Requires willpower!

  3. Pam Schulz says:

    Kate raises a great point – anything that lets me indulge in dessert is a good thing!

    Expert Houston Retirement Planning & Wealth Management Services

  4. I need to do something – anything! I haven’t lifted a dumbell in years. I want my machines back! I look at all the pictures of the hot bods on here and I’m chomping at the bit to get back to the gym or get some new machines.

    Lisa McLellan
    Child Care Expert,
    Babysitting Services, Babysitting Tips, Babysitters, Nannies

  5. Very simple formula, but I know it’s harder in practice than in theory. Funny that some people struggle with this their entire lives, just as others struggle with losing weight.

    Steve Chambers, Sale Trainer Speaker

  6. Scott Payne says:

    Thanks for the information, thats a perspective I never thought of. Keep up the good work.

  7. Vicki says:

    Weight gain isn’t important to me as a woman but muscle toning is. Thanks for clearing up the weight gain from yeaterdays post


  8. I’m not so much interested in gaining weight as having abs like the guy in the picture…purely for aesthetics!

    Good explanation of why and how. Physical presence is an important element of impact.

  9. David says:

    Great post! Nutrition is such an important component for those wanting to gain weight in the form of lean muscle, and this post really drives home this message. On those intense workout days you will be running to the kitchen to cook something up 🙂

  10. Hi Darryl,

    This is great information and super clear about both the benefits really of Resistance Weight Lifting and Resistance (bands etc) Training both to gain weight with muscle and to tone up. Thank you for making it so clear.

    Happy Dating and Relationships,

    April Braswell

  11. Rob Northrup says:

    Great information… this girl in this photo needs to gain weight…


  12. John Ho says:


    I’ve also heard of gaining weight thru’ taking olive oil TOGETHER with protein in a meal.

    John Ho
    Numerology Expert Helps Understanding Personality for Better Influence & Persuasion

  13. Kate McKeon says:

    Gaining muscle mass will help you boost your metabolism which gives you more options for dessert! 🙂


  14. Lisa says:

    I’m not interested in gaining muscle mass, but I calculated how many calories to reduce to if I wanted to tone up – in addition with weightlifting – and it was only a couple hundred calories. That’s not too bad, it’s like one less granola bar a day.




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