ask our dietitian your question todayeat right to gain muscle

question-answer-color-v-2Hi! I have been a member of LA fitness for the past 2 years; I am 6 feet and 177 lbs and 33 years old. I am trying to gain about 13 lbs. of muscle weight but it’s been harder to put on weight then I imagined. Any ideas on how much calories, good fat and protein I should consume daily in order to achieve that? – Alex



Let’s imagine that you fit right into metabolic calculations that predict a total of 2700 calories for you to maintain weight. Now, let’s add around 500 calories per day for gaining weight for a total of 3200 calories. That should cover you if working out 3-4 times per week up to an hour. For every session half-hour longer than that add 300 calories.

How much fat, protein, carbs, fiber, water, etc. do I need to build muscle?

Eating 3200-3500 calories a day from healthy food can become quite a chore, so your difficulty is expected. Here’s how I recommend you break that down:

Weight gainer shake 500 Calories. Whether from complete powder, premixed or made from scratch, a hearty beverage will contain fats, sugars, protein and additional nutrients in about 2 cups. Drinking a shake is an easy way to get down 15% of your day’s intake.  Fruity blender shake recipe — 1 cup mango nectar, 1 cup frozen berries, 25 gm whey protein, plus 1/3 cup coconut milk (500 Calories, 35% fat, 47% carb, 23% protein).

Protein bar 300 calories. Convenient for after the gym, a typical 3-4 ounce bar will provide some ready energy for recovery. Whole foods are best but to be realistic, all you have to do is unwrap and chew!  You CAN make a homemade dense energy bar. Alternatively, eat this as a snack and have the shake post workout.

I am underweight and want to have more muscle and definition, what can I do?

Foods and beverages 2500-2700 calories. Here’s where the base of your energy intake should come from – meals, snacks and beverages. Breaking it down, these should contribute roughly 25% protein, 50% carbohydrate, and 25% fat. To reach those targets the following number of servings* can be consumed daily:  8 ounces protein, 3 servings plain milk or yogurt, 10 ounces grain, 4 cups vegetables, 3 cups fruit, 3 tablespoons (9 teaspoons) of added fat.

Your best bet is to choose energy-rich options in each of the food groups so you get more calories per bite. Examples would be choosing a banana instead of watermelon, opting for pork loin instead of whitefish, and selecting granola instead of air-popped popcorn. Your choices all depend on how much you’re willing and able to chew!

*See for what counts as a serving from each group.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

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