Last updated on August 25th, 2023 at 11:47 am
The 5×5 workout program is well-laid out and easy to follow, but I’m sure you’re wondering what your calorie intake should be.
In fact, you’ve probably searched for information about nutrition while performing 5×5, but still aren’t 100% sure what you should be doing.
So, I’d like to discuss the optimal number of calories, plus a few other factors that can take your 5×5 training to the next level.
The 5×5 workout is a strength training program, which means you should be eating at a calorie surplus. You should initially eat at around 200-300 calories above maintenance calories. Track your workouts and recovery for a couple of weeks before deciding whether to stick with, reduce, or increase your daily calorie intake.
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Strength Training Requires a Calorie Surplus
The 5×5 training protocol is a strength training workout program.
Therefore, you should realistically be eating at a calorie surplus when doing 5×5.
However, this will very much depend on your powers of recovery and your overall training experience.
So, if you’re someone very new to weight training, in general you’ll typically find that you’re devoid of energy if you’re not eating enough.
Basically, you’re burning more calories than usual on a daily basis, so it makes sense to increase your calorie intake.
With that being said, I don’t believe you should make huge sweeping changes.
This is true whether you’re bulking, cutting, or simply trying to get stronger.
Firstly, use the following TDEE calculator to determine your maintenance calories.
This is calculated via your age, sex, height, weight, and current activity levels.
Then simply add 200-300 calories to this figure while you’re training 5×5.
You’ll often hear of people who increase their daily calorie intake by 500-1,000 calories.
But, in truth, most of us don’t need to be eating anywhere near this amount in order to achieve positive changes in strength and physique.
In fact, this is typically why so many people end up getting fat when they’re bulking.
As the name suggests, maintenance calories will help you to maintain your weight.
So, any number of calories above this amount will see you put on weight.
However, increasing your calorie intake by small increments, as well as eating whole, unprocessed foods, will help you put on weight, while keeping body fat to a minimum.
If you’re training 5×5 and eating sensibly, the majority of your weight increase will be lean muscle mass.
Now, don’t get me wrong, eating at a calorie surplus will usually mean that you’ll add some additional body fat.
But, the sensible approach can keep this to the bare minimum.
What if You’re Carrying Excess Body Fat?
I know that you’re probably worried about increasing your calorie intake if you’re carrying excess body fat.
I mean, who realistically wants to eat more when they have surplus body fat?
One of the main reasons that you’re training is to produce an awesome-looking physique.
So, this can be difficult to do if you’re having to eat more, while you’re still not in the greatest shape to start off with.
As I’ve mentioned, you can definitely increase strength while eating maintenance or below maintenance calories.
However, you have to take into consideration your energy levels and powers of recovery.
So, you’ll initially need to decide what’s more important to you – building muscle and strength or losing body fat.
If you are worried about your current levels of body fat then there are workout programs that specifically focus on building muscle and losing body fat at the same time.
With that being said, I still think that a strength training program, such as 5×5, can help you achieve your goals.
Basically, building muscle should always be your main focus.
The reason I say this is that it will increase your metabolic rate.
So, in effect, you’ll be burning additional calories even after you’ve finished working out, and potentially well into the next day as well.
Furthermore, due to weekly progressions with 5×5 it makes sense to fuel your workouts by eating additional calories.
Therefore, I wouldn’t overly worry about your current levels of body fat.
If you train efficiently, while eating clean and at a slight calorie surplus, you’ll stand a better chance of achieving your physique goals.
I’ll add that you can also do some low-intensity cardio on your off days from the gym, but not something that will impact on your training.
Personally, I honestly believe that walking is one of the best forms of cardio.
Test, Track & Assess
Something else to consider is that your calorie intake is not set in stone.
Yes, it makes sense to eat at a calorie surplus when you’re strength training.
However, it makes even more sense to constantly test, track, and assess both your training and nutrition.
You may find that you’re struggling with both your training and recovery after a couple of weeks.
If this is the case then it’s likely that you’ll need to increase your calorie intake slightly more, particularly carbs.
Then again, you may find that your training is going great, but you seem to be adding too much body fat for your liking.
So, in this scenario you may wish to decrease your overall calories, while maintaining your protein intake.
Basically, there is no one-size-fits-all.
What works for one person may not work for another.
As I’ve mentioned, your main aim with 5×5 is to start out fairly light and easy, but then progress by increasing weight on a weekly basis.
Plus, the longer you’ve been doing 5×5, the more your nutritional requirements may change.
The main point being that you want the workouts to be tough, but not so tough that you’re missing reps and then feeling wiped out for days afterwards.
But then again, you don’t want to blow up in size, mainly in the form of body fat.
So, for me, it’s extremely important that you assess how things are going on a regular basis.
I will also say that as you get stronger, add more muscle, and increase your metabolic rate, you’ll definitely need to consume more food.
So, as I say, start off with a 200-300 calorie surplus above maintenance, but regularly check how your body looks in a mirror, and how you feel energy-wise too.
So, as you can see, it’s ideal to be eating at a calorie surplus when doing 5×5.
However, this shouldn’t be a huge increase above maintenance, and a 200-300 calorie surplus will suffice.
The exact same can be said even if you’re carrying excess body fat.
Don’t forget that intense strength training will increase your metabolic rate and therefore help to burn body fat.
Finally, it makes a great deal of sense to regularly track your training and nutrition.
You’ll want to ensure that your lifts are regularly increasing and that you’re not lacking in energy.
This is where tracking your calorie intake will make all the difference.
Take this opportunity to check out the workout program that claims it will help you add 14lbs of lean muscle in 60 days using just THREE exercises. This really is strength training at its best – Here’s the Anabolic Aftergrowth Workout Program.
Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.