A 2,000-calorie diet is considered standard and meets the nutritional needs of most people.
However, depending on your activity level, body size, and goals, you may need more.
This article discusses everything you need to know about a 3,000-calorie diet, including reasons for following one, what foods to eat and limit, and a sample meal plan.
Your daily calorie needs are based on several factors, including:
Daily calorie needs range from 1,600–2,400 calories per day for adult women and 2,000–3,000 calories for adult men, with the low ends of the ranges being for sedentary people and the high ends for those who are active (4).
These estimates are based on equations using an average height and healthy weight for adult women and men. The reference woman is 5’4” (163 cm) tall and weighs 126 pounds (57.3 kg), whereas the reference man is 5’10” (178 cm) and weighs 154 pounds (70 kg).
Depending on your body size and activity level, you could require 3,000 calories or more per day to maintain your body weight.
Though athletes generally have higher calorie needs than the general public, people with physically demanding jobs, such as farm laborers and construction workers, may also need a high number of calories to maintain their weight.
Conversely, if you perform moderate exercise a few days per week with little activity in between, you probably don’t need that many calories, as exercise burns far fewer calories than most people assume (5, 6, 7)
Factors like gender, age, height, and activity level influence whether you should follow a 3,000-calorie diet.
While many people are aiming to lose weight, others are looking to gain it.
Weight gain occurs when you consistently consume more calories than you burn each day. Depending on your activity level and body size, 3,000 calories may be greater than your current calorie needs, causing you to gain weight (8).
There are several reasons for wanting to gain weight.
If you’re classified as underweight according to your body mass index (BMI), your healthcare provider or registered dietitian may recommend that you gain weight.
Alternatively, if you’re an athlete, you may want to gain weight — ideally in the form of muscle mass — to perform better at your sport.
Similarly, if you’re a bodybuilder or into powerlifting, you may desire to gain weight for increased muscle size and strength.
While studies on the topic are scarce, an acceptable rate of weight gain is 0.5–2 pounds (0.2–0.9 kg) per week (11).
However, in people with severe undernutrition, weight gain of about 4.4 pounds (2 kg) per week has been accomplished safely (12).
Rapid weight gain may lead to uncomfortable side effects, such as bloating, stomach distress, and fluid retention. If you’re an athlete, these side effects can hinder your performance by negatively affecting your workouts or practices (13).
How fast you gain weight depends on how many calories you need to maintain your weight.
If you maintain your weight on 2,000 calories per day, you will gain weight much quicker on a 3,000-calorie diet than someone who maintains their weight on 2,500 calories per day.
For example, one 8-week study showed that when 25 healthy people ate an additional 950 calories over their weight-maintenance calorie needs, they gained an average of 11.7 pounds (5.3 kg) — 7.7 pounds (3.5 kg) of which was fat (16).
If those same participants ate only 500 calories above their maintenance calorie needs for the same duration, they would likely gain much less weight.
For some people, a 3,000-calorie may help you gain weight. An acceptable, safe rate of weight gain is 0.5–2 pounds (0.2–0.9 kg) per week.
The calories in your diet come from three macronutrients — carbs, fat, and protein.
Protein and carbs provide four calories per gram, compared with nine for fat.
The Acceptable Macronutrient Distribution Ranges (AMDRs) set forth by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies recommend that people get (17):
The chart below applies these percentages to a 3,000-calorie diet:
Resistance training can promote muscle gain instead of fat gain on a high-calorie diet (21).
Higher protein intakes combined with resistance training can help optimize your body composition.
Consuming 3,000 calories per day from whole, unprocessed or minimally processed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins, can be challenging.
That’s because these foods contain many nutrients but relatively few calories, requiring you to eat a much larger volume of food.
Conversely, it would be relatively easy to consume 3,000 calories from highly processed refined foods, such as bacon, potato chips, candies, cookies, sweetened cereals, and sugary drinks, as they’re highly palatable and packed with calories.
Yet, because these junk foods lack important nutrients for health, it’s vital to get most of your calories from nutritious whole foods, including:
Plus, protein powders, including whey, casein, and plant-based powders like rice, soy, or pea, can be added to smoothies for a nutrient- and calorie-packed snack.
Lastly, mass gainer supplements, which often provide 1,000 calories per serving, are a convenient option, but it’s best to meet your calorie and nutrient needs through diet first.
Highly-processed, nutrient-poor foods to avoid or limit on a 3,000-calorie diet include:
If most of your diet consists of whole, nutrient-dense foods, you can enjoy your favorite treats in moderation.
Make sure most of your calories come from minimally-processed, nutrient-dense foods and reserve sweets and junk foods for the occasional treat.
Here’s what 5 days on a 3,000-calorie diet may look like.
This 3,000-calorie, 5-day sample menu includes a variety of nutrient-dense foods, such as lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits, and vegetables.
Depending on several factors, including your activity level and body size, a 3,000-calorie diet may help you maintain or gain weight.
Whole, unprocessed or minimally processed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins should make up the majority — if not all — of your diet.
One the other hand, highly processed refined foods like bacon, potato chips, candies, cookies, sweetened cereals, and sugary drinks should be limited.
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