Building muscle mass doesn’t mean you’ll become huge and look like a bodybuilder. Gaining muscle mass can actually help women burn body fat and lose inches. Although additional calories are needed to gain muscle, it’s not as many as you may think.
Additional Calories Needed
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reports that you only have to increase your current energy intake by 200 calories per day to effectively build muscle. Those calories should come from nutrient-rich foods, such as whole grains, lean meats, low-fat dairy products, fruits, vegetables, legumes, soy products, seitan, nuts or seeds. The U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Data Laboratory reports that 1 ounce of almonds, or about 23 whole almonds, contains about 163 calories. Eating nuts or seeds throughout the day can help you easily meet your increased calorie needs.
Calories Per Pound
You can use your body weight to help determine your calories needs to gain muscle by adding 200 calories to your weight-maintenance calorie needs. The University of Washington suggests that moderately active adults need 15 calories per pound of body weight and active men and women require 18 calories each day to maintain a healthy weight. For example, a 120-pound, active woman needs about 2,160 calories to maintain her weight and about 2,360 calories each day to build muscle.
Your protein needs also increase when you’re trying to build muscle. A review published in a 2011 edition of the “Journal of Sports Sciences” reports that protein intakes of 0.59 to 0.82 gram of protein per pound of body weight -- 1.3 to 1.8 divided by 2.2 -- will maximize muscle gains. This means a 120-pound woman trying to gain muscle needs 71 to 99 grams of protein each day, which is much higher than the Institute of Medicine’s recommended dietary allowance of 46 grams of protein per day.
Considerations for Exercise
If you increase your calorie and protein intake but don’t exercise, you’ll likely gain fat instead of muscle. To tighten and tone your body, incorporate exercise, specifically resistance training, into your daily routine. If you aren’t able to make it to the gym, you can use resistance bands, dumbbell weights or even your own body weight at home to build muscle and burn body fat. Resistance exercises that work your main muscle groups include squats, lunges, pushups, situps, biceps curls, triceps extensions, shoulder presses and bent-over flys.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Build Muscle, No Steak Required
- U.S. Department of Agriculture Nutrient Data Laboratory: Nutrient Data for 12061, Nuts, Almonds
- Journal of Sports Sciences: Dietary Protein for Athletes: From Requirements to Optimum Adaptation
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes: Macronutrients
Erin Coleman is a registered and licensed dietitian. She also holds a Bachelor of Science in dietetics and has extensive experience working as a health writer and health educator. Her articles are published on various health, nutrition and fitness websites.