For most people, eating 4000 calories a day is well above what their body may need, but for bodybuilders or those trying to bulk and build muscle, or highly active endurance athletes, eating 4000 calories a day may be necessary to support activity and muscle growth.
But, is 4000 calories a day too much? How do you even eat 4000 calories a day?
In this guide to eating 4000 calories a day for gaining muscle, we will discuss who should eat 4000 calories a day, tips for how to eat 4000 calories a day, and a sample healthy 4000 calories a day meal plan for bulking, building muscle, or supporting endurance exercise.
We will look at:
- Is 4000 Calories a Day Too Much?
- Tips for How to Eat 4000 Calories a Day
- Sample Healthy 4000 Calories A Day Meal Plan
Let’s get started!
Is 4000 Calories a Day Too Much?
Before we look at how to eat 4000 calories a day for muscle gain, let’s answer the question: “Do I need to eat 4000 calories a day for bulking?”
Eating 4000 calories a day is more than most adults need on a regular basis, according to the 2020-2025 United States Dietary Guidelines.
However, a 4000 calorie diet is fairly common for bodybuilders in the bulking phase who are trying to put on muscle mass while supporting training.
Endurance athletes, such as marathon runners and triathletes, may also need a 4000 calories a day meal plan to support long-duration workouts and high-volume endurance training.
Determining whether you should follow a 4000 calorie meal plan is considering your caloric expenditure and weight goals (gaining muscle or bulking, maintaining your weight, or losing weight).TDEE refers to your total daily energy expenditure and is the total of four main sources of burning calories in a day: BMR, exercise, physical activity outside of planned workouts, and calories burned digesting food (called the thermic effect of food).
Of these factors, BMR generally constitutes the largest portion of your TDEE; however, if you are a bodybuilder spending numerous hours in the gym lifting heavy weights, your energy expenditure from exercise is also likely very high.
The primary factors that contribute to your BMR are your body size, body composition, age, and sex. The larger you are and the more muscle mass you have, the higher your BMR will be.
Regarding the NEAT—the calories you burn during daily life outside of exercise—the more active you are at your job or lifestyle, the more calories you will burn.
To determine if you should eat 4000 calories a day, you can estimate your BMR or even your entire daily caloric expenditure with online calculators.
Tips for How to Eat 4000 Calories a Day
If you are trying to gain weight, the notion of following a 4000 calories a day meal plan may be enticing, but it can actually be hard to eat 4000 calories a day for some people and keep up with training and feeling well.
Here are some tips for how to eat 4000 calories a day bulking for bodybuilding or trying to build muscle vs gain fat:
#1: Eat More Carbs
Although most bodybuilding meal plans or bodybuilding diets for muscle gains focus on protein, if you are trying to eat 4000 calories a day, increasing the relative percentage of carbs can be helpful.
Carbs tend to be slightly less filling, and eating too much protein is associated with kidney strain.
#2: Eat Often
Snacks and smaller, frequent meals can help you eat 4000 calories daily without feeling stuffed in one sitting.
#3: Drink Your Calories
Smoothies, shakes, and milk or plant-based milk can add nutritious calories to a healthy 4000 calories a day meal plan without feeling like as much “work” to eat.
#4: Use Healthy Fats
Fats and oils are energy dense, with 9 calories per gram vs 4 calories per gram of carbs of protein.
This means you can eat more calories in a smaller volume or portion size with fat vs protein or carbs.
Adding healthy fats like avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil, and coconut oil can help you eat 4000 calories a day for gaining weight or building muscle.
You can find some of the best nut butters to add to the healthiest 4000 calorie meal plan here.
#5: Eat Calorie-Dense Foods
Calorie-dense foods, also called energy-dense foods, contain a lot of calories for the volume or weight of the food.
For example, a good energy-dense food for a 4000 calorie weight gain meal plan would be dried fruit versus fresh fruit.
Because the water has been removed, dried fruit is a calorie-dense food and a much higher calorie food per gram than the fresh fruit version.
This is almost five times as many calories for the same volume of food in the same actual food product.
Sample Healthy 4000 Calories A Day Meal Plan
Here is a sample 4000 calorie a day meal plan:
Protein Shake After Waking Up: 540 calories, 42 g of protein, 49 g of carbs, 6 g of fiber, 23 g of fat
- 30 g of whey protein powder (120 calories, 25g of protein), 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, 1 cup of reduced fat milk, one medium banana, one cup of baby spinach
Post-Workout High-Carb Breakfast: 1050 calories, 37 grams of fat, 21 grams of fiber, 115 grams of carbs, 45 grams of protein
- Yogurt and granola parfait made with one cup (8 ounces) of whole milk Greek yogurt (320 calories, 20g of protein, 6 grams carbs, 7 grams of fat)
- One banana sliced (105 calories, 27 g of carbs, 3 g of fiber, 1.5 g of protein)
- One cup of raspberries (64 cal, 1.5 g of protein, 14 g of carbs, 8 g of fiber),
- One cup of healthy granola (we recommend Bear Naked Protein Granola Honey Almond flavor) (560 calories, 30 grams of fat, 22 grams of protein, 10 grams of fiber, 68 grams of carbs)
Snack: 300 calories, 16g of carbs, 37g of protein, 14g of fat, 14 g of fiber
- Small tuna salad wrap: One can of no-salt-added tuna (130 calories, 30 grams protein), 2 celery stalks chopped (2 grams of fiber), 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard, 1 high protein tortilla (70 calories, 15 g of carbohydrates, 12 grams of fiber, 3 grams of fat, 7 g of protein), 1 tablespoon of avocado mayo (we love Chosen Foods!) (100 cal, 11 g of fat)
Lunch: 740 calories, 41 grams of fat, 66 grams of protein, 32 grams of carbs, 12 grams of fiber
- 7 ounces of salmon, 1.5 tablespoons of lemon juice, 1 garlic clove, 1 tablespoon of olive oil (380 cal, 22 g of fat, 40 g of protein, 2 g of carbohydrates)
- Broccoli with hummus (we love Ithaca Hummus!) and sesame seeds: 2 cups of broccoli chopped (60 calories, 5 g of fiber, 6 g of carbs, 5 g of protein) 1/2 cup of hummus (240 calories, 12 grams of protein, 6 g of fiber, 16 g of fat, 24 grams of carbs), 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds (60 cal, 3 g of fat, 9 g of protein)
Dinner: Cals: 650, Fats: 23 g. Protein: 62 g. Carbs: 50 g, fiber 8 grams
- Chicken and Sweet Potatoes: 8 ounces (227 grams) of baked chicken breast, 1 medium baked sweet potato, 1 cup Brussels sprouts, 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Snack: 350 calories, 20 grams of carbs, 12 grams of fat, 37 grams of protein, 5 grams of fiber
- 1 cup of low-sodium cottage cheese (180 calories, 1 gram fat, 12 g carbs, 28 grams protein) with 1/4 cup blueberries (20 calories, 5 grams of carbs 3 grabs fiber) and 3 tablespoons of pumpkin seeds (150 calories, 3 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 11g fat, 9 grams protein)
Bedtime Snack: 450 calories, 32 grams of protein, 18 grams of carbs, 13 grams of fiber, 30 grams of fat
- “High Protein Nice Cream”: 1 scoop of chocolate protein powder, 1 teaspoon of cocoa powder, 1 ripe avocado (320 calories, 4 grams protein, 13 grams fiber, 17 grams carbohydrates, 29 grams of fat), a splash of unsweetened almond milk, stevia to taste
Total: 4080 Calories, 170g of fat, 79g of fiber, 321 grams of protein, 300g of carbs
For more ideas on high-calorie snacks that are low on carbs, check out our guide to the best keto snack ideas here.