Struggling to put on muscle in the gym? I hear you. It is a hard process which involves many aspects.

Firstly let’s look into diet, the main foundation of muscle growth.

Calories in vs calories out

In short, in order to put on muscle you need to be consuming more calories then you are burning on a daily basis.

This is evident because when you are working out in the gym you are not putting on muscle, you are tearing away your muscle fibres. The other 23 hours of the day when you’re not training is when you are putting on muscle (Muscle Recovery).

In order for your muscles to grow they need fuel (calories). The amount of calories required from person to person varies.

In order to determine your maintenance calories you first need to determine your Basic Metabolic Rate (BMR). Your BMR is the amount of energy your body needs to survive, breathe and think. This can be determined using the Mifflin St. Jeor equation:

Men: BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) + 5

Women: BMR = 10 x weight (kg) + 6.25 x height (cm) – 5 x age (y) – 161

For example:

Ben is 80kg, 185cm tall and 23 years old.

BMR = 10 x weight (80kg) + 6.25 x height (185cm) – 5 x age (23) + 5= 1846 calories.

Once you have worked out your BMR you can then use the Harris Benedict equation.

Step 1: Pick the category that suits your activity level per week:

Sedentary: 15 minutes or less of daily exercise (anything goes) with a desk job | 12
Lightly Active: 1-2 hours of weights and/or cardio exercise per week | 13.5
Moderately Active: 3-5 hours of weights and/or cardio exercise per week | 15
Very Active: 6-7 hours of weights and/or cardio exercise per week | 16.5
Extremely Active: 7+ hours of weights and/or cardio exercise per week | 17+

Step 2: Once you have this number simply multiply your body weight in kg by the category you picked.

For example:

Ben is an 80kg male he goes to gym for one hour, four times a week. He fits into the moderately active category.

Multiply 80kg by 15 = 1200 calories.

Once you have this number you can determine your maintence calories.

Simply add your BMR worked out above and add it to your maintence.

For example:

Ben’s BMR is 1846 calories +1200 = 3046 is Ben’s maintenance calories.

How many calories over this maintenance calories do you require to lean bulk?

There are different approaches to putting on muscle. You can do what is know as a “Dirty Bulk” which is eating everything in sight. This approach is not beneficial at all because our main goal here is to put on lean muscle tissue.

A good approach is 300-500 calories over your daily maintenance calories.

Ben requires a maintence calorie intake of 3046 calories a day and would have to consume at a minimum 3350 calories on a daily basis in order to be in a calorie surplus (consuming more calories than your body is burning per day).

Once you have this number you can work out what is know as your macro-nutrient breakdown. This will be breaking down 2800 calories into the three macro-nutrients:

1. Protein (4 calories per gram)
2. Carbohydrates (4 calories per gram)
3. Fat (9 calories per gram)


Protein is a key macro-nutrient which is a driver for muscle growth. In a study by Mannings (2011) she concluded that “A sedentary person needs to eat about 0.8g of protein per kg of body mass each day. Athletes, and people who want to build muscle, need about double this (1.2 – 1.7g of protein/kg of body mass).

I would suggest for males to go on to the higher end and females slightly less due to bone density and overall structure.

For example:

80kg x 1.7= 136 grams of protein required per day.

Calories for protein 136 x (4 calories) = 544 calories per day required.


A good starting point for fat is between 0.15-0.25 of your daily calorie goal. Whether you want to be at 0.15 or 0.25 is personal preference. If you are someone who puts on fat easily opt for 0.25. However, if you are someone who struggles to put on muscle go down to the lower range.

For example:

Let’s go in the middle here at 0.20 of daily calorie goal.

Ben requires 3046 calories per day.

3350 calories divided by 5 = 670 calories.

As there are 9 calories in 1g of fat.

670 divided by 9 = 74g of fat.


This is the body’s optimal energy source. There is a lot of negative thoughts about carbohydrates but when putting on muscle this macro-nutrient is essential.

The amount of carbohydrates can now be worked out by adding the amount of calories required from fat and protein.

Protein (544 calories) + Fat (670 calories) = 1214

Now to determine your subtract the above number from 3350 your calories required to put on muscle.

3350 – 1214 = 2136 calories required from carbohydrates. 2136 divided by 4 = 534 grams of carbohydrates required each day.

Now this number may seem high to many but people don’t realise that carbohydrates are your body’s number one source of energy.

Having carbohydrates at the highest amount will make it a lot easier when the time comes to lose weight. If you are sensitive to carbohydrates you can raise your fats and/or protein, but experiment with this number first and adjust where necessary. Just make sure these carbohydrates are mostly coming from complex carbohydrates being your (rice, oats, sweet potato and vegetables).

Final macro-nutrients for Ben

1. Protein = 136g
2. Carbohydrates = 536g
3. Fat = 74g

This is a basic guide to putting on lean size, which should be looked into instead of getting those unwanted fat gains.

Remember that gaining muscle is a long-term project and not something that can be simply turned on. If you’re dedicated and diligent in your efforts, you’ll not be disappointed! A weight range I would recommend to aim for through personal experience is 0.8kg-1kg per month gained.

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Ben Disseldorp

Ben Disseldorp

Ben is a young and upcoming natural lifter who is very passionate about healthy well-being and diet.

Through Ben’s experience of being at an unhealthy body weight, he has developed a wide knowledge surrounding body composition and putting more muscle on his frame.

Ben has completed an Advanced Diploma of Justice and wishes to have a body that is functional and healthy that enables him to perform his law enforcement role.

Ben is currently in the process of furthering his nutritional knowledge in conducting a Diploma of Nutrition. Ben trains with many like-minded individuals in the North Eastern suburbs of Melbourne.