How much calories do bodybuilder eat day?

Bodybuilders require a lot of calories to build muscle mass. The exact amount depends on many factors like gender, body weight, activity level, and goals. On average, male bodybuilders eat between 2,800-5,500 calories per day, while female bodybuilders eat 2,000-3,500 calories per day.

The three key questions around a bodybuilder’s calorie needs are:

How many calories do male bodybuilders need?

The average male bodybuilder needs around 2,800-5,500 calories per day. Those trying to gain mass may consume over 5,000 calories.

How many calories do female bodybuilders need?

The average female bodybuilder needs 2,000-3,500 calories per day. Lower body weights and goals mean fewer calories than male bodybuilders.

How are the calorie needs calculated?

A bodybuilder’s calorie needs are calculated by factors like baseline metabolic rate, activity level, macro nutrient targets, and goals like bulking up or cutting weight.

Determining Calorie Needs as a Bodybuilder

Calculating a bodybuilder’s calorie needs starts with determining their resting or baseline metabolic rate. This is the minimum energy needed to perform basic functions at rest. The Harris Benedict Formula uses height, weight, age and sex to estimate this:

For men:

BMR = 66 + (6.3 x weight in pounds) + (12.9 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years)

For women:
BMR = 655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)

This basic calorie need is then multiplied by an activity factor based on your lifestyle and exercise regimen. For bodybuilders, this ranges from 1.7-2.0 to account for intense training for several hours a day.

Next, the desired macronutrient breakdown is factored in – how many grams of protein, carbohydrates and fats you want to consume per day. One gram of protein or carbohydrates has 4 calories, while 1 gram of fat has 9 calories.

Finally, specific goals around building mass or losing fat determine how many calories above or below maintenance levels are required. Those bulking up need a calorie surplus, while those cutting weight require a deficit.

Sample Calorie Needs Calculation

Let’s take a 175 pound male bodybuilder who is 5’10” and 25 years old:

BMR: 66 + (6.3 x 175) + (12.9 x 70) – (6.8 x 25) = 1,719 calories

Activity Factor: 1.7 to 2.0, let’s take 1.8

1,719 x 1.8 = 3,094 calories for maintenance

Add a calorie surplus of 500 calories for bulking phase:

3,094 + 500 = 3,594 calories per day

20% of calories from protein is 179 grams protein or 716 calories

50% of calories from carbs is 450 grams carbs or 1,800 calories

30% calories from fat is 116 grams fat or 1,044 calories

Calorie Needs for Male Bodybuilders

The average male bodybuilder requires around 2,800-5,500 calories per day. However, this varies based on factors like:

Weight and Height

Larger, more muscular bodybuilders need more calories. A 200 pound bodybuilder requires more energy than a 150 pound athlete at the same height.

Intensity of Training

Those training only 3 days a week require fewer calories than someone training 6 days a week with multiple daily sessions.

Years of Experience

A beginner bodybuilder may utilize a smaller calorie surplus to build muscle compared to a more seasoned athlete who has plateaued.

Building vs Cutting Phases

During mass gaining phases, bodybuilders require a calorie surplus of up to 500 calories above maintenance. Cutting phases require a deficit of up to 500 calories below maintenance.

Percentage of Lean Body Mass

The more muscle you carry, the higher your metabolism and calorie needs. Bodybuilders aim for high percentages of lean mass.

Cardio and Endurance Training

Lots of cardio can increase calorie needs by 500-1,000 calories per day for some bodybuilders.

Calorie Needs for Female Bodybuilders

The average female bodybuilder requires around 2,000-3,500 calories per day. However, this varies based on factors like:

Lower Body Weight

The average female bodybuilder weighs less than the average male. Smaller bodies need fewer calories.

Smaller Calorie Surpluses and Deficits

Women utilize smaller calorie surpluses for bulking and deficits for cutting, around 300 calories instead of 500.

Lower Protein Requirements

Female bodybuilders need around 0.7-1 gram of protein per pound versus 1-1.5 grams for men.

Fewer Years of Training

Women tend to have fewer years of bodybuilding experience than men, impacting calorie needs.

Less Testosterone

Lower muscle-building testosterone levels mean women can’t utilize as many calories for bulking up.

Less Cardiovascular Training

On average, female bodybuilders perform less intense cardio than male counterparts.

Detailed Calorie Needs by Weight Class

Here is an overview of the typical calorie needs of competitive male and female bodybuilders in different weight classes:

Weight Class Typical Calories for Males Typical Calories for Females
Bantamweight (<120 lbs) 2,400-2,800 1,800-2,200
Featherweight (120-125 lbs) 2,600-3,000 1,900-2,300
Lightweight (125-139 lbs) 2,800-3,200 2,000-2,500
Welterweight (140-149 lbs) 3,000-3,500 2,100-2,600
Middleweight (150-159 lbs) 3,200-3,700 2,200-2,700
Light-Heavyweight (160-169 lbs) 3,400-4,000 2,300-2,800
Middle-Heavyweight (170-179 lbs) 3,600-4,300 2,400-3,000
Cruiserweight (180-199 lbs) 3,800-4,600 2,500-3,100
Heavyweight (200+ lbs) 4,000-5,500 2,700-3,500

These ranges account for variables like additional cardio, years of training, and specific bulking or cutting phases. For example, a heavyweight male on a intense bulk may consume over 5,500 calories per day.

Adjusting Your Calorie Intake as a Bodybuilder

To meet your body’s needs as a bodybuilder, you’ll need to adjust your calorie intake from time to time. Here are some tips:

Track Your Macros

Measure your protein, carb and fat intake daily to ensure you’re getting your targeted ratios to support your goals.

Monitor Your Weight

Weigh yourself regularly to track mass gained during a bulk or fat lost when cutting.

Assess Energy Levels

Low energy, fatigue, lack of strength gains or loss of endurance can indicate underfueling.

Observe Physical Changes

Inspect your body in the mirror to see if your physique is transforming week-to-week.

Adjust Your Surpluses and Deficits

Increase calories further if not gaining mass or decrease more if cuts are too gradual.

Sample Meal Plans for Bodybuilders

To give you an idea of how many calories bodybuilders require, here are some sample meal plans:

3,000 Calorie Meal Plan

Meal 1 – 400 calories
3 whole eggs, 3 egg whites

1 cup oatmeal

Meal 2 – 350 calories

8 oz chicken breast
1 cup brown rice

1 cup vegetables

Meal 3 – 350 calories
Protein shake with water

Meal 4 – 500 calories

8 oz salmon
2 cups sweet potato
1 cup vegetables

Meal 5 – 550 calories
8 oz steak
2 cups white potato

Meal 6 – 500 calories

Greek yogurt
1 cup cottage cheese
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 cup blueberries

4,000 Calorie Meal Plan

Meal 1 – 600 calories

6 egg omelet with cheese, ham and vegetables
2 cups oatmeal


Meal 2 – 500 calories
1 can tuna
2 cups white rice
1 cup vegetables

Meal 3 – 450 calories

Protein shake with milk, banana, and whey protein

Energy bar

Meal 4 – 700 calories
10 oz salmon

3 cups sweet potato
1 cup vegetables

Meal 5 – 750 calories

12 oz steak
3 cups baked potato

Meal 6 – 700 calories
2 cups cottage cheese

2 tablespoons peanut butter
1.5 cups mixed berries

1 cup Greek yogurt

Meal 7 – 500 calories
Mass gainer shake


Bodybuilders require a high caloric intake to support muscle-building goals. The average male bodybuilder eats 2,800-5,500 calories per day, while the average female bodybuilder consumes 2,000-3,500 calories daily. Exact needs are based on factors like weight, training intensity, body composition, and specific bulking or cutting phases. Tracking macro levels, monitoring physique changes, and adjusting surpluses or deficits allows bodybuilders to fuel their bodies properly.

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