Here’s What Mark Zuckerberg’s 4,000-Calories-a-Day Diet Can Do to Your Body

Mark Zuckerberg
Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently went viral online after claiming that he eats 4,000 calories a day to bulk up and offset the demands of his physical training routine. Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images
  • Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently claimed that he eats 4,000 calories a day.
  •  Zuckerberg is believed to be training intensely and says the calories “offset all the activity.” 
  • Calorie needs are highly individual, however, experts agree that 4,000 calories a day will be more than most people need if they are trying to bulk up.
  • Eating too many calories can contribute to fat gain, digestive issues, and cardiovascular problems.

Mark Zuckerberg has gone viral for his unusual eating habits. The internet entrepreneur and CEO of Meta has been busy with intense physical training and eating a whole lot of food in the process it seems.

McDonald’s recently asked on Threads, “y’all want anything from McDonald’s?” In response, Zuckerberg said he’d order “20 nuggets, a quarter pounder, large fries, Oreo McFlurry, apple pie, and maybe some side cheeseburgers for later.” Such a meal adds up to 2,619 calories.

He later said he is “not cutting weight” and so needs to eat 4,000 calories a day to “offset all the activity,” adding that “it’s so delicious.”

Four thousand calories a day may well tickle Zuckerberg’s tastebuds, but do you really need to eat this much to gain muscle? And can consuming calories in such high volumes ever be considered healthy?

How your body builds muscle

The body builds muscle through a process known as hypertrophy. Muscle growth occurs when muscle fibers are damaged during weight training.

The damaged fibers fuse together to form bigger and strong muscles.

Lifting weights is just one part of the equation; nutrition is also key.

To effectively build muscle, you need to be in a calorie surplus, meaning you eat more calories than you burn. You also need to up your protein intake. This supports protein synthesis or the building of new muscle.

Do you need 4,000 calories a day to bulk up?

How many calories you need to eat is highly individual and will depend on many factors, from your age and gender, to how intensely you train. That said, 4,000 calories a day could be considered extreme.

“Four thousand calories for the average person is a lot and unless it’s combined with the right training you will be in a pretty large calorie surplus and more likely to store it as fat,” warns personal trainer Nicole Chapman.

Pinpointing your exact calorie needs can be tricky. Dietitian and personal trainer Nichola Ludlam-Raine says eating 4,000 calories a day probably isn’t necessary for most people — but that doesn’t mean it isn’t right for Zuckerberg. 

“While 4,000 calories might be suitable for someone with Zuckerberg’s training intensity and metabolic rate, it could be excessive for others,” she points out.

“To determine the right caloric intake, you need to calculate your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) and add a caloric surplus, typically ranging from an extra 250-500 calories per day for a controlled bulk,” Ludlam-Raine explains.

In theory, if Zuckerberg’s TDEE was high enough, 4,000 calories could well be in his calorie surplus range.

The quality of the food you’re eating matters too

Chapman says to build muscle you must consider the nutritional value of the calories you’re eating and ensure your diet is high in protein.

Ludlam-Raine agrees. “The quality of calories matters just as much as the quantity,” she says. “While the body can utilize calories from any source for energy, nutrient-dense foods provide essential vitamins, antioxidants minerals, and other beneficial compounds that will help you feel your best.”

To fuel his training and to support muscle growth, Ludlam-Raine says Zuckerberg’s 4,000-calorie diet would need to include slow-release carbohydrates, an adequate amount of protein, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

“This would help him to feel good and perform at his best, thus getting better results quicker,” she explains.

The risks of excessive calorie consumption

Gaining fat instead of muscle is an obvious risk when eating so many calories. Ludlam-Raine says this is particularly true if your calorie surplus isn’t combined with resistance training.

She says the risks of this are potential metabolic disturbances, cardiovascular issues, and strain on organs, especially if those calories come from relatively unhealthy sources.

When you rely on nutrient-lacking calories, Ludlam-Raine says it can contribute to nutrient deficiencies, poor recovery, and inflammation, as well as long-term health problems, increasing your risk of conditions such as heart disease and diabetes.

Additionally, Chapman says you may experience nausea, bloating, excess gas, low energy, mood swings, sleep deprivation, and low libido.

Ultimately, Chapman says she wouldn’t recommend eating 4,000 calories a day to anyone. She says this kind of plan should only be followed on the advice of a qualified nutritionist or personal trainer who has created a program that supports your body, lifestyle, and goals.

Healthier ways to bulk up

While it’s impossible for anyone other than Zuckerberg and his trainer to pinpoint his exact calorie needs while training intensely, Ludlam-Raine says bulking isn’t something Zuckerberg — or anyone else — should do for an extended period of time.

“It’s often recommended to cycle between periods of bulking and cutting (reducing calorie intake to shed fat) to maintain a healthy body composition, as bulking with a significant caloric surplus for extended periods can lead to excessive fat gain,” she explains.

Chapman agrees, dubbing Zuckerberg’s 4,000-calorie-a-day plan as “unsustainable.”

So, if muscle growth is your goal, how can you bulk up in a way that is healthier and more sustainable?

Ludlam-Raine advises making strength training a part of your weekly routine and focusing on compound resistance exercises like squats, deadlifts, and bench presses.

You’ll need to up your protein intake too. Ludlam-Raine says you should aim for 1.2 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of your body weight.

“Don’t forget to consume a balanced diet rich in lean protein, complex carbs, healthy fats, and fiber,” she adds.

Rest is also crucial. You need to schedule rest days to give torn muscle fibers a chance to repair. Finally, consider periodized training — a cyclic approach to things like exercise duration, load, and volume.

“This can maximize muscle growth and minimize plateaus,” Ludlam-Raine explains.

As for calories, a small increase is key.

Without knowing Zuckerberg’s metabolic needs, lifestyle, or training schedule, it’s impossible to tell how healthy or unhealthy his plan is. However, it’s fair to say that most people won’t need to eat 4,000 calories a day to pack on muscle. 

Your calorie needs are based on lots of different factors and a personal trainer, nutritionist, or even an online calorie counter can help you figure it out.

Takeaway

Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently claimed that he eats 4,000 calories a day. Zuckerberg is believed to be training intensely and says the calories “offset all the activity.” 

Calorie needs are highly individual, however, experts agree that 4,000 calories a day will be more than most people need if they are trying to bulk up.

Eating too many calories can contribute to fat gain, digestive issues, and cardiovascular problems.

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