It can be very frustrating to be eating 3000 calories a day and not gaining weight. If you’ve experienced this, you’re definitely not alone. In this article, we’ll show you why this might be happening so you can get back on the gain train.
So why would you not gain weight when eating 3000 calories a day?
If you are eating 3000 calories a day and not gaining weight, it is likely that you have a fast metabolism or a very active lifestyle and are burning all of the calories that you are consuming. You may also be losing fat at the same rate you are gaining muscle.
You may find that your 3000 calorie intake needs a slight adjustment in order for you to make progress, or that you need a strategic way to increase your calories further without being uncomfortable (i.e. always full from eating so much food).
After reading this article, you’ll feel more confident knowing:
- If it’s possible to eat 3000 calories and not gain weight
- 4 reasons why you’re not gaining weight while eating 3000 calories
- Other things to consider if you’re still not gaining weight
Is It Possible To Eat 3000 Calories & Not Gain Weight?
For many people, eating 3000 calories a day would result in weight gain. However, it is certainly possible that eating 3000 calories a day won’t be enough to gain weight, for a few reasons which we’ll discuss here.
While it might seem surprising for some people to hear, there are many people who have experienced eating 3000 calories each day without gaining weight, and this can be an incredibly frustrating feeling when your goal IS to grow.
Reading through forums on Quora, those who are trying to figure out why they aren’t gaining weight on 3000 calories are saying things like:
- “I feel like my metabolism is messed up”
- “I’m starting to hate meal time”
- “I’m sick of feeling full all of the time”
- “I’m feeling frustrated not knowing why I can’t gain weight”
- “It’s hard to eat this much food every day”
You might recognize some common themes among these individuals:
- Wondering what’s wrong with them
- Worrying that something is wrong with their metabolism
- Frustration at why they aren’t gaining weight with so much food
- Struggling to eat all the time
If you’re struggling with this same issue, rest assured that there are solutions that will help you get to the bottom of the issue.
Why Are You Not Gaining Weight While Eating 3000 Calories? (4 Reasons)
Here are 4 of the most common reasons that you may not be gaining weight while eating 3000 calories:
- You have a very high basal metabolic rate (BMR)
- You’re burning a lot of calories due to an active lifestyle
- You are not counting your calories accurately
- You aren’t gaining weight, but you ARE gaining muscle mass
1. You Have a Very High BMR
Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the number of calories that your body burns each day to keep you alive. The number of calories that your body needs to burn in order to survive will depend on your height, weight, sex, and age.
If you are a larger male and/or you have a substantial amount of muscle mass, your BMR alone could exceed 3000 calories per day, and you might need more calories to put you in a caloric surplus to allow for weight gain or muscle growth.
You likely need to look past BMR to total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) to calculate the total number of calories you are burning in a day.
Your TDEE includes calories burned from all exercise and non-exercise activities, while your BMR doesn’t count calories burned through exercise. If you are curious to know your BMR, use our BMR calculator.
Here is an accurate TDEE calculator. Knowing how many calories your body burns in a day will show you how much you need to eat to gain weight.
2. You Burn a Lot of Calories Due to an Active Lifestyle
If you have an extremely active job, your TDEE will be much higher than if you had a sedentary desk job, and you may be underestimating your calorie needs if you haven’t taken this into consideration.
Here are some physically active jobs that typically burn a lot of calories daily:
- Registered Nurse
- Physical Therapist
- Personal Trainer or Fitness Instructor
- Powerline Technician
- Landscaper or Construction Worker
If you have a very active occupation and are working out regularly on top of this, it’s very likely that you’re burning a substantial number of calories.
Once you’ve factored your occupation into your TDEE calculations, you may need to increase the number of calories you are eating.
If you already feel like you are eating a huge amount of food, the thought of trying to fit more in can be daunting. Thankfully, there are a number of ways that you can eat more calories without significantly increasing your food volume.
Here’s how you can fit more calories into a meal without adding more food volume:
- Include avocado, olive oil, or coconut in your smoothies, which will help increase the calories in your protein shake.
- Swap out low-calorie/high-volume veggies like broccoli for a greens supplement, which likely won’t be as filling
- Use full-fat milk in your protein shakes. If you want high-calorie milk alternatives then check out my other article.
- Eat more peanut butter and/or nut butters
You’ll notice that most of these options point to increasing your fat intake versus your carbohydrate intake.
This is because fats and oils have a higher caloric density (9 calories per gram) than carbohydrates (4 calories per gram). Gram for gram, you get more than double the calories by using fats to increase your intake.
- If you’re still finding it difficult to increase your caloric intake, check out these 15 tips to follow when you’re struggling to eat enough.
3. You Aren’t Counting Your Calories Accurately
If you are estimating or eyeballing foods when entering them into your food tracking app, this can very easily make it seem like you’re eating 3000 calories when in actual fact, you’re undereating.
If you don’t already have one, you may want to consider getting a food scale to improve the accuracy of your tracking.
This isn’t to say that you will have to weigh every morsel of food for the rest of your life.
But if you are willing to commit to weighing and tracking your food accurately for at least 4 weeks, you will then have certain “go-to” meals that you know you can accurately track without weighing.
In order to log your calories accurately, I recommend using the app Macro Factor. This calorie counting app has the largest verified food database, making it a very accurate resource to use when counting your calories.
Use this link and enter the code FEASTGOOD when signing up to get an extra week on your free trial (2 weeks total). Cancel any time before your trial ends without being charged.
4. You Aren’t Gaining Weight, But You ARE Gaining Muscle Mass
If you are consistently eating 3000 calories but the scale isn’t going up, you might be enjoying what many consider the holy grail of bodybuilding: body recomposition.
This is where you are losing fat at the same rate as you are gaining muscle, so your weight remains the same, but your body fat percentage goes down.
This is where the scale alone is not an accurate indicator of progress.
While it shows you how much you weigh, you’re not likely to get an accurate measure of body composition changes unless you have a highly accurate body composition scale (usually costing in the thousands of dollars).
This is where other progress indicators such as measurements and photos are very important because they will capture changes that you might not otherwise see from the scale alone.
Other indicators would be your clothes fitting more loosely and your waist shrinking.
Other Factors To Consider If You Still Can’t Gain Weight
Time and consistency are two of the most important factors to keep in mind.
If you have only recently started eating 3000 calories per day, you may just need to give the process more time.
Ultimately, in order for a caloric surplus to be effective, you need to maintain it for months to do a proper bulk.
The other thing that you may overlook is not consistently eating 3000 calories every day.
As an example, let’s say you’re undereating by 200 calories per day. Over the course of a month, that would add up to 6000 calories not consumed, which is equivalent to two full days of not eating.
If you have discovered that you need to eat more calories and want a meal plan that facilitates a higher caloric surplus, then I recommend checking out our meal plan category. We provide meal recommendations and macros to help facilitate your bulk.
In particular, you may want to consider the following meal plans:
- 3000 Calorie Bodybuilding Meal Plan (check this one out if you want a consistent method for getting 3000 calories per day)
- 4000 Calorie Bodybuilding Meal Plan (check this one out if you need a diet with more than 3000 calories)
If you want a more personalized approach to your nutrition plan, or you simply want to talk with a nutrition coach or Registered Dietitian, book a free 20-minute consult to ask one of our coaches your specific questions.
You should also check out the following resources:
- 10 Easy 1000 Calorie Meals
- 15 Cheap Bulking Carbs That Are Still Good For You
- 50g Protein Meals (15 Ideas)
Bulking can be a challenge. While it might seem like it should be as simple as “eat lots of food,” as you now know, there are a few other factors to consider if you want to properly eat to gain weight.
Make sure that you are tracking accurately and consistently eating in a calorie surplus each day, and remember that this is a process that takes months, not weeks.
Barakat, Christopher MS, ATC, CISSN1; Pearson, Jeremy MS1; Escalante, Guillermo DSc, MBA, ATC, CSCS, CISSN2; Campbell, Bill PhD, CSCS, FISSN3; De Souza, Eduardo O. PhD1. Body Recomposition: Can Trained Individuals Build Muscle and Lose Fat at the Same Time?. Strength and Conditioning Journal 42(5):p 7-21, October 2020. | DOI: 10.1519/SSC.0000000000000584
About The Author
Jon McLernon (aka Coach Jon) is a Precision Nutrition Level 2 Certified Master Coach. With a background in chemistry and psychology, Coach Jon has a passion for supplement/nutrition science and behavioral psychology. When he’s not helping his clients crush their nutrition goals, he’s usually trying to wrangle a busy toddler (and get him to eat more veggies), or he and his Aussie wife are off on another globetrotting adventure!
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