On FeastGood.com, we have several free meal plans for those looking to optimize their health and physique.
This one is the 2500-calorie meal plan that helps promote lean muscle (click to download PDF).
Depending on your starting weight and gender, 2500 calories may promote weight gain or weight loss – I discuss these factors in more detail below.
I also explain the macronutrient split that is optimal for building a lean physique on 2500 calories, as well as a complete food list and ways you can customize it based on personal preferences.
Once you’ve downloaded the meal plan, please read everything below so you have all the tools necessary to achieve success on this meal plan.
Macronutrient Split For 2500 Calorie Diet
While most of us are familiar with counting calories, going the step further to understand what macros make up those calories is important since these are what contribute to your physique and performance goals.
A macronutrient split is simply how many grams of protein, carbs, and fat someone is eating to consume their daily calories.
While there are individual factors that may impact this, most people looking to optimize their lean muscle do well on a diet that is 30% protein, 40% carbs, and 30% fat.
I suggest sticking to this macronutrient ratio for a few weeks before adjusting it. I explain later in the article how to adjust it if that’s something you’re wanting to do.
Who Is The 2500 Calorie Meal Plan For?
A 2500-calorie meal plan is ideal for the following individuals:
|Weight loss||250lbs +||190lbs - 225lbs|
|Maintain weight||210lbs - 250lbs||160lbs - 190lbs|
|Increase weight||180lbs - 210lbs||140lbs - 160lbs|
Figuring out what quantity of calories you need to be eating each day can be challenging but our online calorie calculator can be a great place to start.
It’s important to keep in mind that the calories the calculator will provide you are only a starting point.
Once you can consistently follow a specific calorie diet, you should begin collecting data on your body weight and assessing how your clothes fit to determine how you are progressing toward your goal.
I recommend using a nutrition-tracking app like MacroFactor to collect this data (click to read my review of this app).
If, after at least three weeks of consistently following your calorie intake, you are seeing yourself progress towards your goal, then you can continue to follow that calorie diet.
If you aren’t progressing, you will want to decrease your calories (if looking to lose weight) or increase your calories (if looking to bulk) by 150-200 calories.
Once again, follow these calories consistently for three full weeks and continue to assess progress before making any further changes.
What Results Can We See Eating 2500 Calories?
The results that you can expect eating 2500 calories will depend on how many calories you need to maintain your weight and how consistent you are with your 2500 calorie intake.
Those who maintain their weight eating 1800 to 2000 calories per day (i.e. 180lb women, 140lb men) could expect to gain 1 to 1.4lbs per week by eating 2500 calories per day.
Those who maintain their weight eating 2100 to 2400 calories per day (i.e. 210lb women, 160 lb men) could expect to gain 0.2 to 0.8lbs per week by eating 2500 calories per day.
Those who maintain their weight eating 2500 calories or more (i.e. 210+lb women, 160+lb men) could expect to maintain or perhaps even lose weight eating 2500 calories per day.
It’s important to note that not all of the weight gained will be muscle, those who are in a larger calories deficit (gaining more than 1lb per week) are more likely to put on fat than those who are in a smaller calories deficit (gaining less than 1lb per week).
That said, these results would be more realistic for those who are consistent with their intake and able to eat 2500 calories most days of the week.
If you’re closer to 2000 calories per day most of the time then you won’t achieve the same results as you would if you were consistently eating 2500 calories per day.
What Foods to Eat On A 2500-Calorie Muscle Gain Diet?
Protein is one of the most important macronutrients for bodybuilders as it’s the building block for muscle repair and recovery. Aiming for 30% of our calories from protein, which on a 2500-calorie diet is 188g, is an optimal amount.
If we pair sufficient protein in our diet with adequate training stimulus, that is what will lead to us building muscle. Even though it’s so important to consume, it’s what I often see my clients undereating the most.
To ensure we are getting enough protein for muscle growth, research shows that people involved in strength training should be consuming between 1.2 – 2.2g of protein per kg of body weight.
Based on this recommendation, this is where we settle on the 190g of protein on a 2500-calorie diet being optimal.
Sources of lean protein that are great include meat, dairy, and soy products.
Why leaner protein sources you may ask? Well, we want to make sure that we aren’t overconsuming fat, and therefore calories, to get enough protein in our day.
Lean sources of protein that I recommend include:
- Chicken breast
- Pork tenderloin and pork chops
- Lean steak
- Extra-lean ground meats
- Low-fat Greek yogurt
- Low-fat cottage cheese
I often have people ask me about beans and legumes as a plant-based source of protein.
While they do have some protein, they are mostly made up of carbohydrates so we are likely to consume too many carbs trying to get enough protein.
Instead, I recommend using these as carb sources that contain some bonus protein.
Carbs play a key role by giving you the energy needed for training. A good goal is to aim for 40% of daily calories from carbs, which on a 2500 calories diet is 250g.
Carbs often get a bad rep in the health and fitness community because, unlike protein and fat, our body does not require them for any bodily functions. However, carbs do play a key role in athletic performance, which is critical for anyone who works out.
Consuming enough carbs, especially around our training sessions, will ensure we have the energy we need to perform at our best and see the physical results we are looking for.
For the majority of our carbs throughout the day, we want to focus on slow-acting carbs as these will provide a consistent energy source.
Some good sources of slow-acting carbs include:
- Sweet potatoes
- Whole grain bread
- Whole-wheat pasta
There are also quick-acting carbs, which are your sweeter carbs. These are great to have immediately before or during your workout as they will give you a quick boost of energy.
Good sources of fast-acting carbs include:
- Dried fruit
- Maple syrup
- Coconut water
Note: I put together a list of all the cheap bodybuilding carbs that are still healthy for you but won’t break the bank.
Fat plays a key role in keeping our body functioning, in particular for things such as hormone regulation and nutrient absorption. Keeping about 30% of our calories from fat, which on a 2500 calorie diet is 83g, will ensure we both look and feel our best.
Dietary fat recommendations from The World Health Organization are 20 – 35% of our daily calories. Eating within this range will ensure our body has what it needs for the key functions dietary fat plays a role in.
Fat is also important for anyone using the 2500-calorie diet to lose body fat since it’s the slowest digesting macronutrient.
This simply means that if your meal has fat, it will help slow down the digestion process keeping you more full and satisfied after you eat. This can help to reduce hunger.
The focus for our fat sources should be to get the majority of our daily fat from unsaturated sources which include:
- Olive oil
- Nuts and nut butter
A lot of protein sources, especially cuts of meat, will also contain fat so ensure you are considering that as well when tracking your intake.
What Foods To Avoid On A 2500 Calorie Meal Plan
If you are on a 2500-calorie meal plan with the goal of weight loss or maintenance, it’s important to avoid overly processed foods that are easy to overconsume.
When you are eating with a weight loss goal in mind, you are consuming fewer calories than what you are burning in a day, which often results in hunger. If you can focus on eating whole foods, the volume of that food is much higher and you will find you aren’t as hungry.
However, if you are eating highly processed food that is very low in volume, think foods like cookies and chips, you’re not only likely to be more hungry but it’s really easy to overeat those foods.
Therefore, I generally recommend focusing on getting 80% of your food from whole food with the occasional processed food added in for variety.
If you are on a 2500-calorie diet to gain mass, it’s important to avoid foods that are overly high in volume as you will feel more full and may find it difficult to eat enough.
Eating in a caloric surplus means you are likely to need to eat more than what you would normally feel hungry to eat. Focusing on food that is lower in volume, and skipping some high-volume food, is important to make this process more comfortable.
Foods that are high in volume so you want to consume in moderation include lettuce, cruciferous veggies, berries, and root vegetables. Lower-volume foods that you want to eat more of include oils, nuts, nut butter, dried fruit, and whole grains.
The 2500 Calorie Bodybuilding Meal Plan
The meal plan below includes two options for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack.
Each option will have the same nutrition and macros so you are free to mix and match based on your preferences.
Lunch and dinner also have the same nutrition so all four meals can be mixed and matched as you please.
Daily Meal Plan
Total daily nutrition:
- Calories – 2500
- Protein – 190g
- Carbs – 245g
- Fat – 84g
|MEAL||NUTRITION||OPTION 1||OPTION 2|
|Breakfast||Calories - 591|
Protein - 40g
Carbs - 65g
Fat - 19g
- ¾ cup / 68g oats
- 1 tbsp / 10g chia seeds
- 1 scoop / 30g protein powder
- 1 tbsp / 15g peanut butter
- ⅔ cup / 100g berries
|Veggie Omelette |
- 3 eggs
- ½ cup / 125g egg whites
- 1 handful spinach
- 2 whole-wheat English muffins
- 2 tbsp no sugar added jam
|Lunch||Calories - 705|
Protein - 55g
Carbs - 65g
Fat - 25g
|Chicken Burrito Bowls|
- 8oz extra lean ground chicken seasoned with taco seasoning
- ¼ cup / 50g basmati rice (measured when dry)
- ½ / 80g red bell pepper sauteed
- ½ / 80g onion sauteed
- 1 medium / 100g avocado
- Top with cilantro
|Chicken and Avocado Wrap |
- 2 medium (8 inch diameter) whole wheat tortillas
- 6oz chicken thighs (skinless)
- A handful of romaine lettuce
- 2-3 slices of tomato
- ½ medium / 50g avocado
|Dinner||Calories - 705|
Protein - 55g
Carbs - 65g
Fat - 25g
|Spaghetti and Meat Sauce|
- 7oz extra lean ground beef
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 2oz whole wheat pasta (measured when dry)
- 1 handful of spinach
- 1 tbsp / 6g parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp / 5g olive oil
|Steak and Potatoes |
- 5.5 oz sirloin steak (fat trimmed off)
- 1 large / 300g potato with 1 tsp / 5g butter
- Salad made with lettuce and desired combination of carrots, cucumber, tomatoes, onions and peppers
- Salad dressing of 1 tbsp olive oil + ½ - 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
|Snacks||Calories - 495|
Protein - 40g
Carbs - 50g
Fat - 15g
|Greek Yogurt Parfait|
- ¾ cup / 175g 2% greek yogurt
- ¾ scoop / 25g protein powder
- ⅔ cup / 100g berries
- ½ cup / 60g granola
|Strawberry Banana Smoothie |
- 1.5 scoop / 45g vanilla protein powder
- 1 medium / 150g banana
- ⅔ cup / 100g frozen berries
- ¼ cup full-fat coconut milk (canned)
- 1 handful spinach
- 1 handful of ice
- Add almond milk if a thinner consistency is desired
How To Customize The 2500 Calorie Meal Plan
While this meal plan is a great starting point for most, there is some further customization that you can do based on the time of day that you work out to best optimize your energy and recovery.
Before a workout, the focus should be on a high-carb meal with some protein 1 ½ – 2 hours before your training. This will provide you with the energy you need for your workout.
It’s important to also keep the fat in this meal low as it will slow down how quickly your body can use the food you’ve eaten for energy.
For example, if breakfast is your pre-workout meal, we want to reduce the fat by excluding the chia seeds and peanut butter or reducing it to 2 eggs.
This fat can easily be added to a snack later in the day instead.
Similar to pre-workout, the focus will be on consuming a meal high in carbs and also high in protein to promote recovery.
It’s also important to reduce the fat as this will slow down the digestion process and make it more difficult for your body to recover.
Swapping Carbs & Fats Based on Your Preference
Once you have used the meal plan for 1 to 2 weeks you may decide that you prefer a higher fat intake and a lower carb intake, or perhaps even higher carbs and even lower fats.
As long as your calorie intake and your protein intake remains the same, you can change your ratio of carbs to fats to suit your preferences without drastically altering your results.
As you make adjustments, it is important to remember that consuming enough carbs is important for energy and consuming enough fats is important for hormonal health, so dropping either of them too low is counterproductive.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Eating 2500 Calories A Day Healthy?
2500 calories per day would be healthy for most people as it is a moderate calories intake for most people. Therefore, as long as you’re consuming enough of each nutrient (carbs, fats, and protein) to properly fuel your body then it should be a healthy intake.
How Many Meals Should 2500 Calories Be?
The number of meals that you should consume when eating 2500 calories per day depends on your personal preference; however, it is best to spread your protein intake over the day to encourage muscle protein synthesis (a precursor for muscle growth) so I recommend having at least 3 meals.
Can You Build Muscle With 2500 Calories?
If you maintain your weight by eating less than 2500 calories per day then you will have a better chance of building muscle by eating 2500 calories per day.
If 2500 calories per day causes you to maintain weight or lose weight, you could still build muscle but it would be much slower and less productive.
Is Eating 2500 Calories OK For A Woman?
Eating 2500 calories is okay for a woman, especially women who are active and have a significant amount of muscle mass because these individuals will likely maintain their weight eating 2500 calories per day.
Women with less muscle mass or who are less active may need to eat 2500 calories to bulk.
Should I Eat The Same on Rest Days?
I recommend eating the same number of calories on rest days as you do on workout days because your body needs fuel on rest days to promote muscle growth and recovery.
Is A 40/40/20 Macro Ratio Better For 2500 Calories?
A higher carb intake and protein intake would provide you with more energy for training and more protein to put towards muscle recovery but having your protein be this high is unnecessary when you’re not dieting.
Additionally, having your fats set to 20% is low and may be hard to adhere to.
Other Similar Meal Plans
Check out all our meal plans or view similar calorie specific meal plans.
Liu, A. G., Ford, N. A., Hu, F. B., Zelman, K. M., Mozaffarian, D., & Kris-Etherton, P. M. (2017). A healthy approach to dietary fats: understanding the science and taking action to reduce consumer confusion. Nutrition journal, 16(1), 53. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12937-017-0271-4
Helms, E.R., Aragon, A.A. & Fitschen, P.J. Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. J Int Soc Sports Nutr 11, 20 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-11-20
About The Author
Laura Semotiuk is a Precision Nutrition Level 1 certified nutrition coach. She works with athletes and active individuals looking to improve performance and develop healthy nutritional habits and behaviors. She has a passion for cooking, meal prepping, and creating simple and healthy recipes.