The Conscious Gut

4000 Calories A Day: Getting Through The Bulking Phase Like A Boss

4000 Calories A Day Meal Plan

Have you ever wondered what 4000 calories a day would look like? Or better yet, have you ever considered what eating 4000 calories a day would do to your body? For many people, this would seem like an impossible task; however, you would be surprised to learn that some people live most of their lives on a 4000 calories a day meal plan.

Do you need to consume 4000 calories a day?

No, you do not. So, how many calories does the average person need in a day?

It is estimated that the average woman requires 1600 to 2000 calories a day to maintain her weight while the average man requires 2000 to 3000 calories a day as a norm. This amount of energy intake per person is determined by multiple factors such as age, gender, height, level of physical activity, and more (1).

Anyone looking to lose weight would need to reduce their energy intake by 500 to 1000 calories a day, with the minimum number of calories to stay healthy being 1200 calories for women and 1500 calories for men (2). On the other hand, people looking to gain weight slowly and steadily would need to bring up their daily energy intake by 300 to 500 calories a day – 700 to 1000 more calories for fast weight gain (10).

With this in mind, it is clear to see that for the average person, a 4000 calories a day meal plan would be something of overkill.

Who can eat 4000 calories a day?

As seen above, eating 4000 calories a day would most likely be quite hard for the average man or woman. However, as with everything in life, there are exceptions to this rule. They are as follows

1. Bodybuilders – While preparing for a competition, a 200-pound (91 kgs) bodybuilder may have to consume 4000 calories a day as a bulking diet for maximum muscle building (9).

2. Basketball, football, and rugby players – They may need to consume anywhere from 3000 to 4500 calories a day (7).

3. Endurance athletes such as cyclists, swimming competitors, marathon runners, rowers, etc. – Depending on the type and intensity of the sport, these athletes could end up consuming 3000 to 8000 calories a day or more. Olympic winner Michael Phelps once confessed to eating 12,000 calories a day before his Olympic competition (7).

How to eat 4000 calories a day

It can be quite easy to reach 4000 calories a day if you are filling up on unhealthy, fast foods as they are loaded with calories and fats. However, eating 4000 calories a day on a healthy meal plan can be quite daunting as the volume of food you have to ingest is quite a lot. That being said, you should not let this discourage you from your bulking goals.

You can use the following tips to help you eat this much food without feeling like you are stuffing yourself.

  • Eat smaller meals throughout the day

While some people may find it easier to eat bigger and more calories dense meals at a go, beginners to bulking may not be as comfortable. After all, not everyone wants to have a 1000 calorie smoothie in one sitting. Try eating calorie-dense meals in five to six meals (or more a day) to prevent this.

  • Opt for nutrient-dense foods

A 4000 does not mean that you should indulge in all the pizza and burgers that you can find. Always choose nutrient-rich foods as they are low in added sugar, sodium, simple carbohydrates, and unhealthy fats while being full of vitamins and minerals to help nourish and keep you healthy (3).

  • Drink more smoothies and shakes

It is sometimes easier to drink your calories than to have them as a meal. Your smoothies could be made using some milk, fruit, nuts, green vegetables, and seeds; making them healthy, calorie, and nutrient-dense.

  • Snack more

But only if the snacks are healthy. Popular snack options include nuts, peanut butter, cheese, dried fruits, and avocados.

  • Top up your meals

Add some nuts and seeds to your salads, top your rice with an egg, add an extra drizzle of oil to your salad, use some cheese on your meals or make some soups with milk instead of just water or broth.

How to eat 4000 calories a day healthy

As we have stated above, eating 4000 calories a day from whole, unprocessed, or minimally processed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins, can be challenging. While junk food would make the process much easier, it could lead to side effects such as (11)

  1. Increased risk of insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and unwanted weight gain
  2. An increase in LDL (bad cholesterol) and lowering of HDL (good cholesterol) in the body which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease
  3. Elevated pressure leading to heart conditions due to high sodium levels in such foods
  4. Increased risk of depression and reproductive issued

Foods to eat

In order to avoid the above issues, it is best to have a healthy and well-balanced 4000 calories a day diet. Such an eating plan should include

  • Fruits and vegetables

They can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, help prevent some types of cancer, lower the risk of eye and digestive problems, and positively affect your blood sugar (15).

  • Dark leafy greens

Great examples include spinach, Swiss chard, kale, Romaine lettuce, and collard green. Leafy greens are low in carbohydrates, sodium, and cholesterol but high in fiber, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamins, and calcium (5)

  • Animal protein

Such as salmon, skinless chicken, turkey, bison, whole eggs, and lean cuts of beef, such as flank or sirloin steak. Protein is essential in a 4000 calories a day meal plan as it contributes to greater strength and muscle mass gains when coupled with resistance exercise (6).

  • Plant-based protein

These come from sources such as tempeh, seitan, tofu, legumes, lentils, and hemp seeds, among others (14).

  • Whole grains

They are packed with nutrients such as protein, fiber, B vitamins, antioxidants, and trace minerals (iron, zinc, copper, and magnesium). Whole grains help reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some forms of cancer (13). Some examples include oats, brown rice, whole grain breads, whole wheat pastas, and quinoa.

  • Dairy

Milk and other dairy products are fantastic sources of protein. They are also higher in calories than most plant-based options meaning they will help you reach your 4000 calories a day goal faster.

  • Healthy fats and oils

These can be found in nuts and seeds such as almonds, walnuts, and flax seeds. They can also be found in olive oil, avocados, and nut butters like natural peanut or almond butter.

How to eat 4000 calories a day vegan

The only difference between a vegan meal plan and a normal meal plan is the source of protein. Vegans do not eat animal protein or products. This means that all meat, fish, milk, and dairy products are prohibited on the 4000 calories a day vegan meal plan.

As a vegan, your diet will consist of all the above mentioned factors of a balanced diet except for animal protein. You can also substitute dairy with plant-based milks such as oat milk, cashew milk, almond milk, and coconut milk. Look for plant-based milks with added plant protein.

Sample of a 4000 calories a day meal plan

Option one

Meal 1 – Breakfast 1

1 scoop whey protein and 2 cups unsweetened almond milk

Cals: 178. Fats: 7 g. Proteins: 26 g. Carbs: 4 g.

Meal 2 – Breakfast 2

1 cup rolled oats, 1 medium-sized red apple, 4 large boiled eggs

Cals: 705. Fats: 27 g. Proteins: 36 g. Carbs: 81 g.

Meal 3 – Chicken and Sweet potatoes

226 g boiled chicken, 226 g boiled sweet potato, 1 cup broccoli florets, 1.5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Cals: 614. Fats: 23 g. Proteins: 60 g. Carbs: 50 g.

Meal 4 – Tuna sandwich

2 slices whole-wheat bread, 5 whole wheat crackers, 1 can tuna (packed in water), 1 tbsp reduced-fat mayo, 1.5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Cals: 612. Fats: 32 g. Proteins: 32 g. Carbs: 55 g.

Meal 5 – Snack

1 serving of almonds – about 23 almonds

Cals: 160. Fats: 13.8 g. Proteins: 5.8 g. Carbs: 5.9 g.

Meal 6 – Protein shake and sandwich

1.5 scoops whey protein, 20 g dextrose, 2 slices whole wheat bread, 2 tbsp peanut butter, 1 tbsp grape jelly

Cals: 627. Fats: 20 g. Proteins: 43 g. Carbs: 76 g.

Meal 7 – Post-workout smoothie

2 tbsp dextrose, 1/2 cup oats, 1.5 scoops whey protein powder

Cals: 377. Fats: 5 g. Proteins: 34 g. Carbs: 49 g.

Meal 8 – Dinner

226 g boiled chicken, 1 cup cooked jasmine rice, 2 cups unsweetened almond milk, 1 cup broccoli

Cals: 505. Fats: 7 g. Proteins: 62 g. Carbs: 5 g.

Meal 9 – Late night snack

1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese and 1/4 cup 4% cottage cheese

Cals: 155. Fats: 5 g. Proteins: 21 g. Carbs: 7 g.

Total Intake for the Day: Calories: 3933. Fats: 139 g. Proteins: 319 g. Carbs: 379 g.

Option Two

Meal 1 – Egg and cheese sandwich

200 g egg whites, 4 whole eggs, 2 small bananas, 3 slices low-fat cheese, 3 buns flaxseed bread loaves

Cals: 1140. Fats: 36 g. Proteins: 90 g. Carbs: 114 g.


Meal 2 – Yogurt bowl

500 g low-fat yogurt, 124 g sliced bananas, 100 g granola, 20 g peanut butter

Cals: 840. Fats: 20 g. Proteins: 58 g. Carbs: 107 g.

Meal 3 – Post-workout smoothie

250 g blueberries, 484 g bananas (about 4 large bananas), 200 g egg whites, 200 g oat milk, 60 g whey protein

Cals: 1028. Fats: 12 g. Proteins: 711 g. Carbs: 159 g.

Meal 4 – Rice and beef

226 g cooked ground beef, 200 g uncooked basmati rice, 1 slice low-fat cheese

Cals: 4020. Fats: 80 g. Proteins: 285 g. Carbs: 540 g.

Total Intake for the Day: Calories: 4020. Fats: 80 g. Proteins: 285 g. Carbs: 540 g.

Sample of a vegan 4000 calories a day meal plan

Meal 1 – Coffee

1 cup black coffee and 1/4 cup dairy-free soy creamer

Cals: 85. Fats: 4 g. Proteins: 0 g. Carbs: 12 g.

Meal 2 – Overnight oats

1 cup rolled oats, 1 tbsp chia seeds, 1 cup almond milk, 1 and a half tsp peanut butter

Cals: 443. Fats: 16 g. Proteins: 15 g. Carbs: 63 g.

Meal 3 – Tuna pasta

1 cup plant tuna, 4 tbsp vegan mayo, 800 g cooked whole wheat fusilli pasta

Cals: 1562. Fats: 32 g. Proteins: 60 g. Carbs: 246 g.

Meal 4 – Buddha Bowl

1 medium-sized sweet potato, 3 tbsp tahini, 1 cup cooked quinoa, 30 g baby spinach, 1 can of roasted beets

Cals: 861. Fats: 38 g. Proteins: 28 g. Carbs: 102 g.

Meal 5 – Smoothie

4 medium-sized bananas, 1 cup unsweetened almond milk, 1 and a half cups unsweetened coconut milk, 1 scoop plant protein powder, 1 tbsp turmeric powder

Cals: 653. Fats: 13 g. Proteins: 30 g. Carbs: 117 g.

Meal 6 – Snack

1 vegan cookie and 1 cup of watermelon

Cals: 406. Fats: 8 g. Proteins: 17 g. Carbs: 68 g.

Total Intake for the Day: Calories: 4010. Fats: 111 g. Proteins: 151 g. Carbs: 607g.

If I eat 4000 calories a day how much weight will I gain?

If you are looking to add a couple of pounds, healthy and gradual weight gain  allows you to add 1 to 2 pounds per week. This is achieved by an increase of 300 to 500 calories a day (10). If adding 300 – 500 calories a day does not level out to 4000 calories a day, then this means that you will be adding weight at a very fast rate.

Remember that excess weight gain could lead to obesity which increases the risk of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, gallbladder disease, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, and breathing problems (12).

If you are looking to gain weight through muscle gain, then a 4000 calories a day bulking meal plan combined with working out could lead to you gaining about 2.5 pounds of muscle per month. Please note that these 4000 calories a day results in muscle growth depend largely on your gender, hormonal makeup, and genetics (8).

How can I burn 4000 calories a day?

Unless you are among the athletes whose rigorous training burns up to 8000 calories a day or more, you can not burn 4000 calories a day. Most women burn 1600 to 2000 calories a day while most men burn 2000 to 3000 calories per day, depending on factors such as age and activity level.To burn 1 pound of fat you should burn about 3500 calories extra over the course of several days to one week (4).

The Bottom Line

A 4000 calories a day diet is not for everyone. This kind of eating plan is best left for bodybuilders and athletes who truly need these many calories due to their high-intensity workout routines. For anyone looking to gain weight or muscle, it would be best to speak to a doctor or dietitian on the matter. These people will help you determine how much calories you can safely consume to help you achieve your goals without putting your health at risk.

Sticking to a healthy diet based on your health needs, allergies and preferences is a great idea, however when combined with a workout plan that meets your goals, it might bring you significant benefits. Better mood, stronger muscles and endurance are just some. Supplement your diet with some exercise to double your results.

Alexandra Danieli

Alexandra Danieli, CHC, The Conscious Gut
🥑 Overcome Anxiety and Depression
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