4000 calorie diet

The average adult man needs approximately 2500 calories on a daily basis to maintain his weight, whereas the average woman needs around 2000 calories. These numbers of course vary from individual to individual, being dependent on factors such as weight, height, age and activity levels.

To gain weight, it is generally recommended that you should consume around 500 calories above your maintenance amount. This means that for most people, energy requirements are unlikely to surpass 3000 calories.

So the obvious question that arises is:

Is 4000 calories too much?

In 2008, the well-known Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps claimed that he would eat upwards of 8000 calories a day. Because he was training vigorously, he needed to consume large amounts of food to meet his energy demands. Phelps would eat pizza, pancakes and pasta, without gaining large amounts of weight.

A second example is Dwayne Johnson, the famous wrestler, bodybuilder and now actor, who eats 5000 calories or more per day. The foods that he eats include oatmeal, sweet potato, fish and eggs.

Whilst Michael Phelps has a lean and toned body, Dwayne Johnson has a large muscular one. What they do have in common is that they are both tall men who lead very active lifestyles. This is a crucial point. 4000 calories may be fine, so long as you are not already overweight and lead a very active lifestyle.

Whether you gain weight by eating 4000 calories a day will depend on how much energy you are expending. If all of the 4000 calories that you are consuming are burnt by your body, your weight will remain pretty stable. If on the other hand you are burning 3500 calories per day, the excess 500 calories will lead to weight gain.

In order for most of the weight gain to be in the form of muscle (some fat gain is inevitable when you are in a caloric surplus), you need to ensure that you are eating adequate amounts of protein and doing some form of resistance training.

You can use the tool below to determine whether 4000 calories would be right for you. Speaking to your doctor or another qualified medical professional is also highly recommended.

Gender Age Weight Switch to lbs Height Switch to feet and inches Activity Level

This calculator will never show a number below 1000 calories per day. Please speak to a qualified health professional before attempting to eat less than that.

For example, using the tool we can see that a 25 year old man who weighs 180 lb, is 6 foot tall and exercises more than once a day will need to consume approximately 3500 calories to maintain his weight. 4000 calories would be an ideal amount for him to consume if he wanted to put on some muscle mass.

Macro nutrients

The 3 macro nutrients are protein, carbohydrate and fat. Protein and carbohydrate provide you with 4 calories per gram, whereas fat provides you with 9. All 3 macro nutrients are important and are needed for a variety of bodily processes.

  • Dietary protein is a source of the 9 amino acids that the body cannot create on its own, also known as the essential amino acids. Foods that provide all of these 9 amino acids are known as complete protein sources, whereas those that provide only some of them are incomplete protein sources. Protein is required for the growth and repair of muscle tissue as well as the maintenance of healthy hair and skin.
  • Fat provides the body with energy. When it is eaten, it is broken down into fatty acids, which cells use for fuel. Unused fatty acids are stored in fat cells. Dietary fat comes in a number of forms, including monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats and saturated fats.
  • Carbohydrates are broken down into glucose, another source of energy. Carbohydrates are utilised for energy before fat is because only a limited amount can be stored by the body. Any excess glucose is converted into fat.

Your overall goals and the type of activity that you engage in will determine how much of each macro nutrient you should consume. That said, roughly 35 – 45% of calories should come from carbohydrate, 25 – 35% from protein and 20 – 35% from fat.

Foods that you should eat

We mentioned that Michael Phelps would eat large amounts of pizza and pancakes. The reason for this is because these foods are very high in calories. For example, a 14 inch cheese pizza has around 2400 calories!

However, these foods are not very nutritious. They are often highly processed and lack many of the vital nutrients needed by the body.

A large part of your diet should consist of whole natural foods that have undergone as little processing as possible, because these are the foods that contain significant quantities of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

There are plenty of unprocessed foods that are high in calories and nutritious. Below are a few examples.

Nuts, seeds and their butters – these foods contain large amounts of fat (most of which is healthy monounsaturated fat), which means they are also calorie dense. At the same time, they provide the body with significant amounts of protein, dietary fiber, vitamins and minerals.

As an example, 100 g of almond butter, which is about 6 tablespoons worth, contains 614 calories, 56 g of fat (32 g monounsaturated), 19 g of carbohydrate (10 g dietary fiber) and 21 g of protein. Other great options are peanut, cashew and pumpkin seed butters.

Avocados – commonly mistaken for being a vegetable, the avocado is in fact a fruit. However unlike most other fruits, it is a rich source of healthy fat. An average 200 g avocado provides you with 320 calories, 29 g of fat, 17 g of carbohydrate and 4 g of protein.

Oats – an excellent source of slow digesting complex carbohydrates, uncooked oats provide you with 300 calories per 1 cup serving. This also contains 10 g of protein and 5 g of fat. Oats are a rich source of a variety of minerals including iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, manganese and selenium.

Fatty fish – such as salmon is very nutritious because it contains large quantities of lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids. A 200 g serving of salmon that has been cooked under dry heat contains roughly 400 calories. Whenever possible (and if budget allows), opt for wild caught fish instead of the farmed variety.

Dairy products – these tend to come in high fat and low fat varieties, the former of which is more calorie dense. Examples of dairy products that you can include in your diet are cheese, milk and yogurt. As an example, 100 g of cheddar cheese has 400 calories, 33 g of fat, 25 g of protein and 1 g of carbohydrate.

Together with these foods, it is important to eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruits. Even though they are low in calories, they are crucial for optimal health.

Splitting up your meals

Unless you are able to eat large amounts of food in one sitting, it would be recommended that you split your food intake into 6 – 8 meals per day.

Eating this many times a day may seem like a daunting task, but by preparing some meals beforehand (e.g. in batches on the weekend, and storing them in the freezer) and sticking to an eating schedule, it will become easier to manage.

One easy way to consume a large amount of calories without much effort is by making drinking them. Smoothies are easy to prepare and allow you to combine lots of healthy ingredients into one beverage. You can then carry the smoothie with you and take sips at a pace that you find comfortable.

An example 4000 calorie meal plan

Meal 1 Calories Protein (g) Carbohydrate (g) Fat (g)
3 large eggs, cooked with coconut oil 351 18 3 29
2 slices of wholemeal bread 140 7 24 2
Avocado butter 70 1 4 7
Total 561 26 31 38


Meal 2 Calories Protein (g) Carbohydrate (g) Fat (g)
Smoothie made from 1 cup of whole fat milk, 100 g of almond butter, 60 g of oats, 1 medium sized banana, 1 date, 1 cup of mixed berries, 1 cup of spinach and 1 scoop of whey protein powder. 1315 61 127 74
Total 1322 61 127 74


Meal 3 Calories Protein (g) Carbohydrate (g) Fat (g)
200 g grilled salmon 412 44 0 24
1 cup of cooked quinoa  220 8 40 4
Steamed vegetables 150 5 23 4
Total 782 57 63 32


Meal 4 Calories Protein (g) Carbohydrate (g) Fat (g)
1 cup of cottage cheese 220 25 8 10
1 medium sized banana 120 2 31 0
A handful of walnuts 185 4 4 18
Total 525 31 43 28


Meal 5 Calories Protein (g) Carbohydrate (g) Fat (g)
2 chicken breasts, grilled 280 54 0 6
1 cup of sweet potato mash 250 4 58 0
Steamed vegetables 150 5 23 4
Total 680 63 81 10


Meal 6 Calories Protein (g) Carbohydrate (g) Fat (g)
1 cup of low fat yogurt 140 14 19 0
1 cup of strawberries 50 1 11 0
Total 190 15 30 0


Calories Protein (g) Carbohydrate (g) Fat (g)
Grand Total 4060 253 375 182
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