Eating 4000 Calorie A Day and NOT Gaining Weight (5 Reasons)

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What happens when you have drastically increased your food intake to 4000 calories, and you still aren’t gaining weight?

If you are eating 4000 calories and not gaining weight, it is most likely because you are burning more calories than you are consuming. 

This can be caused by having a fast metabolism, or a very active lifestyle. 

Another reason might be that you are putting on muscle while at the same time losing fat.

Below, I’m going to cover the main reasons that make it difficult to put on weight despite eating in a caloric surplus. 

And importantly, what to do about it so you can continue putting on weight.  

Key Takeaways

  • While the majority of people will experience weight gain from eating 4000 calories, certain people may find it tough to gain weight despite trying to eat large amounts.
  • We recommend tracking your caloric intake as there is a possibility that you may not be counting your calories accurately and unknowingly undereating.
  • If you have been eating 4000 calories a day for a week or two with no sign of weight gain, your body may just need more time in a consistent calorie surplus. Before throwing in the towel, give yourself another 4 weeks in a calorie surplus to see weight gain.

Is It Possible to Eat 4000 Calories & Not Gain Weight?

For most people, eating 4000 calories a day results in weight gain. 

However, it is absolutely possible that for certain individuals, eating 4000 calories a day won’t be enough to gain weight.

This can be an incredibly frustrating situation to be in.

Those who are searching for why they aren’t gaining weight on 4000 calories have reported:

  • “Feeling like “there is something wrong with my metabolism”
  • Like they are “starting to hate food”
  • That they are “feeling full all of the time”
  • Feeling “confused about why I can’t gain weight”

The main consistencies that are seen among those that are experiencing a lack of weight gain despite eating a large number of calories are:

  • Frustration with why they can’t gain weight on so much food
  • Not knowing how to gain weight when they feel like they cannot eat more than they already are
  • Is typically someone that is naturally lean and struggles to keep weight on

If this sounds like you, rest assured that there are not only reasons for why you are not gaining weight on 4000 calories but practical solutions to help you get to the bottom of the issue.

Related Article 10 Easy 1000-Calorie Meals

5 Reasons You Aren’t Gaining Weight Eating 4000 Calories

1. Your Basal Metabolic Rate Is Very High

One of the first things that you must consider if you have a hard time putting on weight despite eating an extremely high number of calories is that you might have an extremely high Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).

Your BMR is the number of calories that your body will burn simply by performing its basic bodily functions needed for survival. 

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 someone who has a large amount of lean body mass (muscle) your metabolic rate will be higher in comparison to someone who has less muscle mass and more fat. 

The higher your BMR is, the higher your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) will be.

For example, a 30-year-old football player who is 6’2” and weighs 285 pounds, will have a BMR of 2322 calories, and a TDEE of around 4413 calories.

With this example, we can see that there are certain individuals who would need more than 4000 calories in order to gain weight.

If you wish to calculate your own BMR, you can use our BMR calculator.

Similarly, if you wish to calculate the total amount of calories you are burning in a day, use our TDEE calculator

Understanding how many calories your body burns in a day will help you to understand how much you need to eat to gain weight.

2. You Are Burning a Lot of Calories Through Physical Activity

Just as seen in the scenario above, the amount of physical activity that you do in a day will influence the number of calories that you burn.

Even if you have a lower BMR, your overall calorie expenditure in a day will be elevated if you take part in a lot of physical exercise.

While most people will only relate intense physical activity to workouts and sports, it is most definitely not limited to this.

If you have an extremely active job, such as a firefighter, you will be burning many more calories in a day than if you had a sedentary job, such as sitting at a desk.

Some examples of extremely active jobs that might elevate your TDEE are:

  • Maintenance and repair worker
  • Wind turbine technician
  • Landscaping and groundskeeping
  • Roofers and construction carpenters
  • Correction officers and firefighters
  • Choreographers and fitness instructors

If you are someone who has a very active career, and you are scheduling planned workouts on top of this, you are probably burning a very large number of calories.

If you calculate your TDEE and factor in your workouts and very active days, there is a possibility that it will show that you are burning more calories than you thought. If this is the case, you may simply need to eat more in order to gain weight.

If you are already eating a large amount of food, but you still need to increase your calories in order to meet your goal, there are a few things that you can do to boost the calorie content of your meal without drastically increasing the volume.

A few ways to boost the calories in your meal are:

  • Eat several small meals throughout the day
  • Drink your calories in the form of protein shakes and smoothies
  • Add calorie-dense, low-volume foods to your meals in the form of healthy oils such as olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil
  • Reduce your intake of low-calorie veggies (like celery or broccoli) and increase your intake of higher calories veggies (such as sweet potato, and avocado)
  • Increase your intake of nut butters such as peanut butter or almond butter
  • Use higher calorie sauces and condiments to flavor your food

3. You Are Not Counting Your Calories Accurately

you are not counting your calories accurately

If the scenarios above do not sound like you, and you still cannot figure out why you are not gaining weight on 4000 calories, you must consider the possibility that you are not counting your calories accurately, and therefore you might be eating less than you think.

Unless you are using tools such as weighing and measuring out your food, logging your calories into verified food apps, and doing so with consistency, there is a chance that your calorie count could be off.

It can be very easy to make errors in the number of calories you are consuming when you are simply estimating your amounts rather than using exact measurements.

For example, if a bodybuilder was eating 7 meals a day, in order to get his calories in he would have to eat 571 calories per meal to reach his 4000-calorie goal. If he is using estimations and is under his correct calorie count by 100 calories per meal, he would be off his daily target by a whopping 700 calories.

While being under 100 calories in a meal does not seem like much, this can add up to the point where it would severely affect progress in weight gain. 

In this case, the bodybuilder would be consuming around 3300 calories a day, even though he thinks he is consuming around 4000.

In order to avoid this frustration and confusion, it is best to use accurate tools for counting your calories if your goal is to gain weight. 

  • Using a food scale like this one here to measure your food will ensure that you are aware of exactly how much you are consuming.
  • 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 you are counting your calories.

4. You Aren’t Gaining Weight on the Scale, but You ARE Gaining Muscle Mass

you aren’t gaining weight on the scale, but you are gaining muscle mass

If you have been eating in a caloric surplus of 4000 calories and working out consistently, but you haven’t seen the number on the scale go up, this could be caused by body recomposition, which means you might be losing fat while putting on muscle.

While losing body fat and putting on lean muscle mass is an indicator of progress, it is not something that your bathroom scale can measure. 

Therefore, you could be making some awesome gains, but you will never know if you are only using your scale weight to measure your development.

In order to avoid this, I would highly recommend relying on multiple forms of measurement when it comes to keeping track of your progress. This doesn’t mean you have to stop using your bathroom scale, but it would be advised to add in other tools such as:

  • Using a tape measure to take body measurements on a weekly basis
  • Taking progress photos on a weekly basis
  • Evaluating how your clothes feel and if they are fitting differently
  • Testing your body fat (manually with fat calipers, or with a paid Bod Pod test)

It is important to remember that putting on weight is not always the same as putting on muscle. Because of this, you want to be sure that you are using multiple forms of measuring progress while you are trying to make any gains.

 5. You Have a Medical Condition That Is Preventing You From Gaining Weight

There are certain scenarios where a person’s inability to gain weight despite eating a large number of calories is caused by a medical condition. 

Certain medical conditions can make it extremely hard to gain weight, and will often be accompanied by other symptoms.

Medical conditions such as an overactive thyroid or hyperthyroid, or Inflammatory Bowel Diseases such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, or ulcerative colitis will make it very difficult for the body to put on weight, no matter how much you feed yourself.

At times, sudden weight loss can also be caused by hyperthyroidism (or Grave’s Disease), a hormonal condition that can trigger metabolism issues such as overproduction of the thyroid hormone. There’s a process in your body where your metabolism has changed so that you’re burning energy off more quickly”

-Dr. Holly F. Lofton, MD

If you suspect that your inability to put on weight could be due to one of the medical conditions listed above, it is recommended that you seek medical attention immediately, due to the fact that these ailments can be very threatening to your overall health if left untreated. 

Is Not Eating Enough Protein The Issue? 

You might be wondering if the amount of protein you are consuming in a day is affecting your weight gain journey. 

While the most important factor in gaining weight is to consume more calories than you burn, your protein intake could affect the type of weight that you put on.

For example, if your protein intake is extremely low (below the recommended minimum of 0.36 grams per pound of bodyweight) and your diet consists of large amounts of carbs and fat, your calorie surplus might result in you putting on a higher percentage of fat compared to muscle.

It is also important to consider that a high-protein diet can be extremely satiating, therefore eating too many calories from protein could make it difficult for you to hit your calorie surplus in order to achieve weight gain.

For this reason, I recommend eating around 25%-35% of your calories from protein when you are trying to bulk or put on weight. 

This will be enough to contribute to building muscle while still allowing the majority of your calories to come from carbs and fat. 

Adam Meyer, Certified Holistic Nutritionist, says that for people wanting to gain weight, you can’t put all the priority on protein: 

Essentially, your body won’t have the energy to allow protein to do its job without sufficient carb intake. Also, combining these two macronutrients helps stabilize blood sugar when consumed simultaneously

To learn more about the best macro split for bulking, check out the article below:

Other Tips If You’re Still Not Gaining Weight

other tips if you're still not gaining weight

If you have been eating 4000 calories a day for a few weeks, but are frustrated that the scale hasn’t budged, you may just need to give the process more time.

Like a calorie deficit, a caloric surplus will only be successful if you carry it out consistently over an extended period.

If you lack consistency with your surplus, or you simply just haven’t been in a surplus for long enough, you may just need more time to see the results that you want to see.

If you are eating 4000 calories in order to gain weight, give yourself at least 4 weeks to see progress before you worry about making any changes to your protocol.

If you want to fast-track your results, check out our coaching service.  You can book a free 20-min consult with one of our coaches to get personalized advice and see how we can help you further.  

Frequently Asked Questions

Are 4000 Calories Enough To Bulk?

For most people, 4000 calories would be enough for a bulk. However, the number of calories that you need in your bulking phase will depend on how many calories you normally eat in order to maintain your weight.

For example, if you normally eat 3500 calories to maintain your weight, then 4000 calories is the perfect amount for a lean bulk.

On the other hand, if you normally eat 1700 calories a day to maintain your weight, then eating 4000 calories will likely be too high for your bulking calories, and could result in rapid and excess fat gain.

And finally, if you are extremely active and normally eat 4000 calories or more to maintain your weight, then you will need more than 4000 calories for your bulking phase.

A good amount of calories for a lean bulk is about 250-500 calories more than your maintenance intake.

How Much Weight Should You Gain Eating 4000 Calories Per Day?

The amount of weight that you gain while eating 4000 calories a day will vary greatly depending on each individual and their metabolism.

For the average person with maintenance calories of 2500-3000 calories, eating 4000 calories a day should result in a weight gain of around 2-3 pounds per week.

Other Bulking Articles


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

Colby Roy

Colby Roy is a holistic health and nutrition coach. She is certified through Precision Nutrition and has a passion for all things nutrition and healing the body. More specifically, Colby likes to work with clients who want to optimize their gut health and energy levels.

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