We can all agree that the list of diet plans available in today’s society is endless. There are, perhaps, diet plans that can help you attain possibly any fitness goal. Some will help you shed pounds, build muscle mass, or gain weight. Of all these, the 3500 calorie diet has stolen the spotlight because it is believed to help you attain these three listed goals. But what does science have to say about this?
This article will analyze the 3500 calorie diet plan concept. We will discuss what it is, what it entails, and the individuals advised to follow this meal plan. Keep reading to determine if this meal plan can help meet your fitness goals.
What Is The 3500-Calorie Diet?
The 3500-calorie diet is a meal plan that restricts your daily calorie intake to 3500 calories. When following this diet, the idea is always to hit this mark and not eat anything less or more. There are several reasons why you may consider trying out this diet plan. Some of these include:
The most common reason why most individuals opt for this meal plan is that it may promote weight gain. The large calorie intake can help contribute to weight gain, making it practical for an underweight individual who wants to add pounds.
Increase Food Intake
Other individuals may also consider this meal plan if they want to increase their food intake. However, you may want to avoid any diet plan that focuses on calorie counting if you have an eating disorder and are yet to talk to a professional. Remember that eating disorders are medical health conditions and not lifestyle choices that you can quickly sweep under the rug.
They can, with time, become severe and develop into fatal health conditions like kidney and heart problems or even death (1). So, it would help if you first seek professional consultation instead of taking matters into your hands.
Increase Nutritional Support
The 3500 diet plan is a very high-calorie meal plan. It can be suitable for a person looking for extra nutrition, especially if they undergo medical treatment. Even so, you are asked to first seek consultation before blindly following such a diet plan.
Vigorous Aerobic Activity
If you recently started a vigorous aerobic activity, you may end up sticking to a 3500 calorie diet. However, it helps your body keep up with the calories it is burning during your workout sessions. As always, only make this change after you get the go-ahead from both your fitness instructor and healthcare provider.
Will I Gain Weight Eating 3500 Calories A Day?
Some people struggle to add weight, which is why you may find searches such as these on weight gain. However, the reality is that, like weight loss, some people have to put in a little more effort than others to add a few pounds.
Eating 3500 calories every day can help you gain weight, only if you maintain a calorie surplus. Again, you will add some pounds to such a diet if you consume more calories than you are burning. It means that you have to burn calories that are less than 3500.
However, you are not advised to consider such a diet plan without first seeking professional advice. According to Mayo Clinic, a 3500 calorie diet plan may be recommended to individuals who have been termed as underweight (11). A healthcare practitioner must conduct an evaluation test to determine if you are underweight.
In most cases, individuals become underweight due to poor nutrition habits or an underlying health condition. Being underweight can increase your risk of health conditions such as (5):
- A weakened immune system
- Developmental delays
- An increased risk of complication during surgery
Is Eating 3500 Calories Every Day Too Much?
3500 calories are equated to one pound of fat. So, judging from this, you can say that these calories can be too much to consume in a day. However, you cannot just arbitrarily decide the number of calories you will eat in a day.
According to food experts and nutritionists, your daily calorie intake is determined by several factors. Some of these include your weight, height, physical activity, sex, body composition, and overall general health (6).
Typically, an average man must consume at least 2700 calories daily, while an average woman needs 2200 calories daily (6). By comparing the 3500 and 2700 or 2200 calorie limit, you will notice that the 3500 calorie limit is way higher. So, yes, consuming 3500 calories can be a bit much even for individuals involved in vigorous physical activity.
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Can Pregnant Women Follow The 3500-Calorie Diet?
During pregnancy, pregnant women are asked to focus on eating a healthy and balanced diet. It is essential as it helps the baby attain the nutrients they need to grow at a healthy rate (4). But how many calories do pregnant women need?
According to WebMD, the calorie intake of pregnant women will differ. There is an assumption that an expecting woman has to eat a lot, mainly because she eats for two or three. However, WebMD refutes these claims. Instead, they acknowledge that an average pregnant woman will need only an extra 300 calories every day (4).
However, pregnant women who are carrying twins may need to consume as much as 3000 to 3500 calories every day, depending on their usual calorie requirements. So, yes, women who are expecting twins may follow the 3500 calorie diet plan. However, it is imperative to consult to learn the best calorie diet plan to follow.
Again, you also need to consult to determine the right amount of weight to add when carrying twins. Remember that the 3500 calorie diet may result in excessive weight gain, and too much weight gain may not be healthy for an expecting mother.
If you gain more than the recommended weight in pregnancy, you may end up having a baby who is born too large. According to the CDC, this may lead to delivery complications, cesarean delivery, and obesity during childhood (9).
Can You Eat 3500 Calories And Lose Weight?
Yes, you can. However, it is not that easy. Keep in mind that weight loss requires that an individual consumes fewer calories than your body is burning. So, if you consume 3500 calories every day, your body must be burning more than this amount.
It is challenging for your body to burn such a high amount of calories. Let us break this down by calculation.
According to Medical News Today, one pound (lb) of fat contains 3500 calories (10). The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises people looking to shed pounds to follow a steady and gradual process. The process highlights healthy weight loss and targets shedding one to two pounds a week (7).
To lose this one pound of fat, you will have to burn an extra 500 calories every day (3500 calories/ 7 days of the week). You can lose those 500 calories by consuming 500 calories less from your meals or by exercising, or a combination of the two. The amount of calories burned from exercise depends on the type and intensity of the workout.
Below is a profile detailing the number of calories an individual weighing 160 pounds can burn in an hour of exercising (2):
- Bicycling at a speed of less than 10mph for leisure- 292 calories
- Hiking- 438 calories
- Dancing in a ballroom- 219 calories
- Low-impact aerobics- 365 calories
- Running at five mph- 606 calories
- Walking at 3.5 mph- 314 calories
- Skiing downhill- 314 calories
If you were to run at such a speed and eat fewer calories, you would manage to create a 500 calorie deficit every day. Keep in mind that if you are consuming 3500 calories and want to maintain a 500 calorie deficit, you would need to burn 4000 calories every day through daily activities and exercise, which is not easy to do.
In light of this, it is safe to say that unless you are an elite athlete with a rigorous training regimen, it is unlikely that you will lose weight when following a 3500 calorie meal plan.
How Can You Manage A 3500-Calorie Diet Plan Every Day?
As mentioned earlier, consuming 3500 calories is a bit much, even for highly active individuals. However, there are some methods you can adopt to help you meet this daily calorie limit. Some of these include:
Eating More Frequently
Forget about following the three meals a day eating technique if you want to consume 3500 calories in a day. You will have to eat small meals frequently to help you reach this target. Divide your meals equally into five or six meals instead of your usual two or three meals.
It can be challenging for someone underweight to eat all five or six meals in a day. It is because they are used to eating small meals and feeling full pretty quickly. Talk to your doctor if you are among such individuals.
Eating Foods To Help You Gain Weight Quickly
If you follow the 3500 diet plan for weight gain, you need to consider adding foods that can help you gain weight. According to Medical News Today, some of the nutrient-rich foods you can add to gain weight safely and quickly include (5):
Anyone looking to add weight using the 3500 calorie diet plan can have milk throughout the day (5). It offers a mixture of fat, proteins, vitamins, minerals, and carbohydrates. The protein content in milk is essential for anyone who is trying to build muscle. It means that milk should not miss in a 3500 calorie diet to gain muscle. Other dairy products such as yogurt and cheese are great to incorporate as well.
A cup of rice has roughly 200 calories and is a good source of carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are essential food groups as they help provide your body with energy. They also contribute to weight gain and can be effective for underweight individuals (5). Brown rice has fiber which can help promote good digestive health.
Medical News Today acknowledges that eating red meat can help you build muscle and gain weight (5). Steak has two vital nutrients that help with muscle development. These include leucine and creatine (5). It also contains fat and proteins that help promote weight gain.
Whole Grain Cereals
Another food you need to add to this meal plan is whole grain cereals. The keyword here is whole grain. Some cereals are refined and contain high sugar contents and low complex carbohydrates (5). Such cereals should be avoided.
So, pay close attention and read the labels of your cereals when you are doing your grocery shopping. Pick the cereals that contain high nuts and whole grains content. Make sure they also have a substantial amount of fiber and antioxidants.
Salmon is also an excellent food addition in the 3500 calorie diet plan for weight gain and muscle development. According to Medical News Today, six ounces of salmon contains about 240 calories (5). It also has a high healthy fat content that contributes to weight gain. You will also benefit from additional nutrients, proteins, and omega-3 fatty acid content.
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Smoothies can also help you reach your 3500 daily calorie goal. They are all prepared with ingredients that contain extra calories. When combined, they result in a drink with either average or high amounts of calories. It all depends on the elements you chose.
For example, let us analyze the number of calories you can obtain from a fresh fruit smoothie. An eight-ounce serving of such a drink contains roughly 72 calories (3). However, this is if it has been prepared with half a cup of melon chunks or cantaloupe, juice of two oranges, and one cup of fresh pineapple chunks (3).
Talk to your dietitian or nutritionist before trying out a smoothie recipe. Keep in mind that some smoothies help with weight loss and others with weight gain. They can recommend ingredients that add calories and/or protein to your smoothie, depending on your needs and goals.
Developing A Meal Plan
The only way you can be sure that you have met your 3500 daily calorie needs is by developing a practical meal plan. A healthy meal plan will keep you accountable for all your five or six meals. Additionally, the meal plan will help you avoid consuming excess calories throughout the day.
Seek the help of a licensed dietitian or nutritionist when crafting your diet plan. It may seem easy, but it requires a lot of attention as you have to account for so many things. For example, you have to consider adding foods that meet your daily dietary requirements.
Similarly, you have to consider adding foods that can help promote weight gain if this is your goal. You also have to account for healthy foods so that you add weight healthily. Ask your nutritionist also to recommend diverse recipes, especially if you hate bland food.
Topping Your Meals
You will also manage to consume 3500 calories in a day when you start topping off your food. Add extra healthy foods or toppings to your meals to help meet this calorie count. For example, if you have casseroles, you can choose to add cheese.
Similarly, you can also add cheese to your scrambled eggs. Another topping you can add is dried milk in stews or soups. Remember that these toppings contain calories that help in increasing your calorie intake from one specific meal.
Eating More Fruits
According to Medicine Net, you need to consume two cups of fruit every day to meet the 2000 calorie diet requirement (8). Based on this information, it is safe to say that you need more than a two-cup serving of fruit to get 3500 calories daily.
But what does a two-cup fruit serving look like? Medicine Net explains that it may contain one small banana, one large orange, and one-fourth of a cup of dried peaches or apricots (8). You will have to eat something extra to increase the fruit serving required for a 3500 calorie diet.
Talk to your nutritionist if you have no idea how to make such a change. Similarly, let them know of your fruit preferences, dietary fruit requirements, and underlying medical conditions. These three aspects will come in handy when determining what fruit to include in your 3500 calorie diet plan.
How Effective Is The 3500-Calorie Diet?
Although most people may advocate for this diet plan, others may not. The differences in opinions are because this meal plan can be used for different reasons. However, it is mainly used to contribute to weight gain.
It can be effective for weight gain as it helps you maintain a calorie surplus. However, if you were thinking of using this diet plan for weight loss, you may have contradicting results. So, it may not be effective in weight loss but instead effective in weight gain.
However, this theory may not apply to every individual. Remember that we have different body types, and some may lose or gain weight depending on the diet plans they adopt. So, it may not be ideal for everyone. It would help if you talked to your healthcare provider to determine the best diet plan that suits your fitness and healthcare needs.
The Bottom Line
The 3500 calorie diet is an example of a high-calorie diet that specific individuals follow. These include underweight, pregnant women carrying twins, individuals who want to add weight, build muscle, and increased food and nutrition intake.
Because of its high calories, this diet plan is not highly recommended for individuals who want to shed pounds. However, it does not mean that it cannot promote weight loss. It can, but this is pretty rare.
So, before you go through with this diet plan, make sure you have an in-depth talk with both your doctor and nutritionist. Also, be sure to discuss your fitness goals to understand better if this meal plan can do the trick.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on for decision-making. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Eating Disorders (2021, medlineplus.gov)
- Exercise for weight loss: Calories burned in 1 hour (2019, mayoclinic.org)
- Fresh fruit smoothie (2019, mayoclinic.org)
- Gain Weight Safely During Your Pregnancy (2020, webmd.com)
- How do you gain weight quickly and safely? (2020, medicanewstoday.com)
- How many calories do you need? (2017, medicalnewstoday.com)
- Losing Weight (2020, cdc.gov)
- Nutrition: Healthy Eating (2008, medicinenet.com)
- Weight Gain During Pregnancy (2021, cdc.gov)
- What to know about calories and body fat (2019, medicalnewstoday.com)
- What’s a good way to gain weight if you’re underweight? (2020, mayoclinic.org)