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Adding weight can be a challenge, but it's all about taking in more nutritious calories.
You may be the envy of those people who have trouble losing weight -- but if you're a "hardgainer," then you know that gaining weight can also be a battle. You've probably heard the advice that you should just go out and eat whatever you want -- but if you're serious about gaining those 20 pounds in a healthy way, you'll need to be more strategic than that.
Find Your Calorie Needs
Find out how many calories your body needs in order to maintain your weight. First calculate the number of calories your body needs while at rest -- called your resting energy expenditure or REE -- by multiplying your weight in pounds by 11 for men or 10 for women. If you're a sedentary individual, multiply that REE by 1.3 -- for either men or women -- to arrive at your daily caloric needs total. If you do basic activities such as light walking regularly, multiply your REE by 1.6 for men or 1.5 for women. For moderate activity levels, multiply your REE by 1.7 for men or 1.6 for women. For very active people, multiply that REE by 2.1 for men or 1.9 for women. For extremely active people such as full-time athletes, multiply the REE by 2.4 for men and 2.2 for women.
Keep a Food Diary
Track what you eat. Write it down in a diet journal or enter what you eat into a calorie-tracking app or website. At the end of the day, tally your totals using a "calories in foods" estimator so you'll get a sense of your daily caloric intake. If you're hoping to gain 1 pound, you have to consume 3,500 more calories than your body needs. By adding an additional 500 calories over what your body needs on a daily basis, you could gain about 1 pound a week.
Eat more frequent meals. It can be tough to pack in a lot more food in just three meals a day -- especially if you tend to get full fast. Eating four, five or six meals instead may help.
Consider Food Quality
Focus on quality foods, not junk, to ensure you stay healthy throughout this process. Choose high-fat, high-calorie foods, but focus on nut butters, cheeses, natural oils such as olive and coconut oil, and nuts and seeds. Many of those foods will also provide additional protein. Avoid white flour, sugary foods and hydrogenated oils -- those are never healthy, even when you want to gain weight.
Try protein shakes or meal replacement shakes if you're having trouble eating more meals. This can be a beneficial way to add calories without feeling like you've forced yourself into eating a whole meal.
Limit -- But Don't Eliminate -- Cardio
Slow down on the cardio. If you enjoy going to that aerobics class or getting in your daily run, you don't have to stop all together -- but you might try to exercise at a lower intensity for a while. That way you'll be burning fewer calories during your workouts. If you do continue your regular exercise routine, be sure to factor the calories you're burning into your daily total.
Focus on Strength Training
Engage in regular strength training exercise, such as lifting weights, body weight exercises such as pullups or pushups or exercises using resistance bands. Building muscle can help you put on extra weight in the form of muscle instead of fat -- which will be healthier for you.