I want to gain weight (muscle). How many calories should I eat daily? Is there anything I shouldn’t eat? What are “empty calories”?

It is impossible to give specific advice without knowing more details (ie…height, weight, body fat %, exercise routine, etc…), so I will just lay out some general guidelines.

Remember that body weight is generally determined by the balance of energy in (food consumed) and energy out (energy expended). Therefore, in order to gain muscle mass, it is necessary to increase your intake, while at the same time forcing your muscles to bear some sort of load (weight training). To answer the question of how many calories to eat, I would recommend using a calorie calculator to begin with. If you are not getting the results you like, tweak your caloric intake up or down by 200-500 kcals/day, depending on your individual situation.

There aren’t really any specific foods that you should avoid when trying to gain weight, except maybe alcohol, which does have some anti-protein synthesis properties. Obviously, if you eat too much, you will gain fat mass in addition to muscle mass, so if this is a concern, you should limit your caloric intake.

Empty calories refer to foods which provide calories without any vitamins/minerals to accompany them. Foods such as sodas, potato chips, pretzels, and alcohol are included in this group. They are not necessarily “bad for you”, but they do not provide any essential nutrients.

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