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skinny fat

Are You Skinny Fat? Here’s How To Fix It

It’s the worst feeling ever.

Standing in front of the mirror.

Watching your thin arms, flabby stomach, and bulging love handles.

You’re not fat. But you’re not thin either. Hell, with a shirt on you look like an average guy. But take that shirt off and you look like shit.

Sorry to tell you but you’re skinny fat.

But why? Why must you suffer this awful type of body?

Is it your genetics? Is it some disease? Or is it punishment for eating too much candy?

These questions circle your head as you try to figure out a way to change your body.

Maybe you tried to eat healthy. Maybe you tried running on the treadmill. And maybe you even went to the gym to work out.

Then why are you still the same? Is there no way to end this suffering?

Don’t worry.

Because there is a way to change your body. There is a way to get out of the skinny fat curse. And there is a way to become lean and muscular.

Will it be easy? Hell no.

But it will be worth the effort when you get a lean, strong, and muscular body.

So get ready to change your life.

How did you end up like this?

What was it?

What was the reason your body ended up like this?

Let’s look at some of the reasons that made you skinny fat. Because once you know them you can work on fixing them.

Eating like crap

Maybe you ate a lot of junk food. Not so much that you got fat but enough that you got skinny fat.

All that processed food and extra calories ended up on your stomach, chest, and back as fat.

Or maybe you ate less food. Maybe you were fat and wanted to lose weight.

So you did what most people do. Drastically cut down the food that you ate with an extreme diet.

That’s a sure-fire recipe for skinny fat.

The problem with extreme diets is that while you lose fat in the beginning, you also lose muscle. The more muscle you lose, the more your metabolism slows down. And the harder it becomes for you to lose body fat.

And less muscle more fat is the definition for skinny fat.

Doing a lot of cardio

Cardio — some love it, others hate it.

Cardio is great for your heart, great for your weight loss, and great for your overall health.

But cardio can be a double-edged sword.

Do enough of it and it will help to lose weight. Do too much of it and you end up losing a lot of muscle as well.

And we have seen what happens when we lose muscle.

Yeah, you know, it’s a trip to skinny fat city.

Missing out on strength training

Some people just hate the gym.

It’s hard, painful, and tiring to workout, isn’t it?

But strength training is awesome when you want to leave skinny fat city behind and move to lean and muscular town.

Strength training helps you build and maintain muscle.

If you don’t work out you won’t build muscle. And as you already know, the less muscle you have, the shittier your metabolism and the more fat you have on your body.

And you end up being skinny fat.

How can you get out of the skinny fat trap?

Now you know the reason you’re skinny fat.

It’s because you have more fat and less muscle in your body. And to fix this you need to build muscle and lose fat.

But there’s just one problem.

It’s freaking hard to do both at the same time.

You need to make a choice.

  1. For a certain period of time, build muscle and then lose fat.
  2. Or for a certain period of time, lose fat and then build muscle.

You can choose whatever you’re comfortable with.

I’ve tried both options and personally, I prefer option 2. That’s because, in option 1, you focus on building muscle. And when building muscle, you’re also going to gain some fat. And I don’t like getting fat.

So if you don’t mind getting gaining some fat then you can choose option 1. If you want to stay lean and then get strong, choose option 2.

My advice is to use option 2 to lose the fat and then build some muscle. I prefer it because of the following reasons.

  1. It’s easier to see the muscle definition on your body when you are lean.
  2. It’s easier to build muscle when you are lean.
  3. You will feel a lot healthier when you are lean and build muscle.
  4. It’s a lot harder to lose fat while maintaining muscle.

Phase 1: Let’s go from being skinny fat to lean

There are two things you need to do to get lean. You need to lose fat and maintain muscle.

Lose body fat

There’s just one way to lose fat.

A calorie deficit.

It means that you consume fewer calories than your body requires. The body then uses the remaining calories from body fat. And that is how you lose body fat.

Great! Now you know what you need to lose body fat. But how do you do it?

Eat fewer calories than what your body needs.

Eating less food will make you lose fat.

But there’s a problem.

Eat too little and you’ll lose muscle as well. As we’ve seen, that’s a big no-no. Because the less muscle you have harder is it to lose fat.

How can you know exactly how much food you should eat?

Just follow these steps and you’re good to go.

  • Find out your Total Daily Energy Expenditure.

Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is the number of calories that your body needs to maintain weight. It’s the energy your body needs for its organs to function and for daily activities like walking, breathing, etc.

Use an online calculator like this one to figure out your TDEE. This won’t give you an exact TDEE but it comes pretty close.

  • Find out the total calories you need to eat for a calorie deficit.

Now that you know your TDEE, you just need to eat fewer calories than that.

How many calories less?

The same online calculator will show you exactly how many calories you need to eat to lose 1 pound of fat every week.

As a skinny fat person, your aim is to lose 1 to 2 pounds every week. Trying to lose more carries the risk of losing muscle.

  • Figure out your daily macro-nutrients

You now know how many calories you should eat to get lean. But there is one more thing you need to be careful about.

The macro-nutrients — proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that you eat.

When you’re losing weight, you want to have a high-protein diet because it works best to lose fat and preserve muscle. You need to eat at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.

Don’t worry. It’s not that hard once you get used to tracking your calories as we will see.

Use this online calculator to figure out your macro-nutrients.

  • Track your calories every day

So you’ve figured out how many calories and macro-nutrients you need to eat. Now you need to track the calories and macro-nutrients you are eating every day.

To do that you need two tools. One is a food scale and the other is MyFitnessPal.

Measure the food that you eat with every meal and add it to your diary in MyFitnessPal.

This will help you know exactly how many calories you are eating so that you can hit your calorie deficit and macro-nutrient numbers.

  • Measure your progress every week

It’s great to know if you’re on the right track and losing weight.

So every day when you wake up and have taken a dump, measure your weight. At the end of the week, calculate an average.

If you’re losing 1–2 pounds every week, then that’s great. Keep eating the same calories and macro-nutrients.

If you’re not losing weight then drop your calories by another 200 and follow the same steps above to lose fat.

Perform cardiovascular exercise to burn calories.

You’re in a calorie deficit and losing body fat. That’s great.

But it won’t hurt to do some cardiovascular exercise. Because it will keep you healthy and it will help you eat more food.

How does that work?

When you exercise, your daily activity levels increase. This means your TDEE has increased.

So if your TDEE without cardio was 2000 calories, you need to eat 1500 calories to lose 1 pound a week. But with cardio, your TDEE might increase to 2200 calories. So you can eat 1800 calories to lose 1 pound a week.

Isn’t that wonderful?

Now you can eat more food while still being in a calorie deficit and losing weight. And let’s be honest, who does not like to eat food especially on a diet.

You can do any cardio you like running, swimming, cycling, etc. But there’s a type of cardio that is even better.

It’s called high-intensity interval training.

Why is it better?

Because not only does it take less time but it also burns a lot more calories even hours after the exercise. You just need 2 sessions of 30 minutes each every week. And your body burns calories even hours after the sessions due to the after-burner effect.

So what is high-intensity interval training (or HIIT)?

With HIIT, you perform high-intensity exercise for a period of time followed by low-intensity exercise or rest for a period of time. The period can be a few seconds or minutes.

Let’s use running as an example.

With steady-state running, you run for the entire duration at the same pace. Your heart rate may be around 70–80% for this duration.

With HIIT running, you sprint for a few seconds and then jog for a few seconds. You keep alternating between the sprint and jog till the duration of the workout. Your heart-rate should reach 100% during the sprint.

HIIT workouts can be done using running, walking, swimming, jump rope, and body weight exercises. Or a combination of these exercises. That’s what makes HIIT fun and interesting. You can use different exercises in your workout.

If you’re just starting out you can use this beginner HIIT workout program to get started.

Maintain or even gain muscle

You’re losing weight with a calorie deficit and doing great.But our goal is not just weight loss. Our goal is to go from skinny fat to lean.

The problem with a calorie deficit is that your body will try to get calories by burning both fat and muscle.

But losing muscle is a bad thing because it slows down your metabolism and stops your weight loss.

So we need to tell the body to use body fat but not muscle.

The way to do that is with strength training.

That means you need to go to the gym and lift weights with intensity. It signals your body that you need your muscle so don’t consume it as fuel. If you’re a beginner, you will also build some muscle because your body is not used to the exercise.

That’s great because with more muscle you’ll lose more fat and you’ll also get in better shape.

The best workout program you can use is a full-body workout program that uses heavy, compound exercises.

Such a workout program works best to build and maintain muscle. And you just need to perform them three times a week to get the maximum benefit.

The StrongLifts 5×5 is a good full-body workout program that uses heavy, compound exercises. But I would suggest using a 3×5 version when you’re in a calorie deficit because your body might not be able to handle a lot of exercise.

For week 1, you perform Workout A on Monday, Workout B on Wednesday, and Workout A on Friday. For week 2, you perform Workout B on Monday, Workout A on Wednesday, and workout B on Friday. As you see, you need to alternate between workouts A and B.

The workouts use compound exercises: squats, bench press, deadlifts, overhead press, and barbell rows.

Workout A and B are shown below.

StrongLifts 3×5 Week 1
Monday – A Wednesday – B Friday – A
Squat 3×5 Squat 3×5 Squat 3×5
Bench Press 3×5 Overhead Press 3×5 Bench Press 3×5
Barbell Row 3×5 Deadlift 1×5 Barbell Row 3×5

 

StrongLifts 3×5 Week 2
Monday – B Wednesday – A Friday – B
Squat 3×5 Squat 3×5 Squat 3×5
Overhead Press 3×5 Bench Press 3×5 Overhead Press 3×5
Deadlift 1×5 Barbell Row 3×5 Deadlift 1×5

See the videos below to perform the StrongLift 5×5 workouts. Remember to perform 3×5 when you’re in a calorie deficit.

Phase 2: Let’s go from being lean to muscular

OK. So you’ve been doing great with your calorie deficit. In fact, you’ve lost a ton of body fat and become lean (around 10–12% body fat).

The next step is to go from being lean to strong and muscular.

There are two things you need to do to get big and strong. You need to be in a calorie surplus and you need to gain muscle.

Get in a calorie surplus

To get stronger you need to work out with intensity at the gym.

All that heavy weight lifting causes micro-tears in your muscle fibers. And the body needs nutrients and amino acids to repair those tears and make your muscles stronger.

To get those nutrients you need to be in a calorie surplus.

It means that you consume more calories than your body requires. The body then uses the extra calories to repair and strengthen your muscles.

But there’s a problem.

Eat too much food and you’ll gain more fat than muscle. And we don’t want that. We want to eat enough food to strengthen our muscles but not so much that we are getting too fat.

You can figure out how much food to eat similar to how you did for the calorie deficit.

Just follow these steps and you’re good to go.

  • Find out your Total Daily Energy Expenditure.

Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is the number of calories that your body needs to maintain weight. It’s the energy your body needs for it’s organs to function and for daily activities like walking, breathing, etc.

Use an online calculator like this one to figure out your TDEE. This won’t give you an exact TDEE but it comes pretty close.

  • Find out the total calories you need to eat for a calorie surplus.

Now that you know your TDEE, you just need to eat more calories than that.

How many calories more?

You can eat 300 calories more than your TDEE. Your aim should be to gain 0.5 pounds every week. This will help you gain weight slowly so that most of it is muscle.

  • Figure out your daily macro-nutrients

We now know how many calories we should eat to get bigger. But there is one more thing you need to be careful about.

Macro-nutrients — proteins, fats, and carbohydrates that you eat.

When you’re gaining weight, you want to have a high-protein diet because it works best to build strength and muscle. You need to eat at least 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight.

Don’t worry. It’s not that hard once you get used to tracking your calories as we will see.

Use this online calculator to figure out your macro-nutrients.

  • Track your calories every day

So you’ve figured out how many calories and macro-nutrients you need to eat. Now you need to track the calories and macro-nutrients you are eating every day.

To do that you need two tools. One is a food scale and the other is MyFitnessPal.

Measure the food that you eat with every meal and add it to your diary in MyFitnessPal. You will be able to see the calories and macro-nutrients you are eating every day.

This will help you know exactly how many calories you are eating so that you can hit your calorie surplus and macro-nutrient numbers.

  • Measure your progress every week

It’s great to know if you’re on the right track and gaining weight.

So every day when you wake up and have taken a dump, measure your weight. At the end of the week, calculate an average.

If you’re gaining 0.5 pounds every week, then that’s great. Keep eating the same calories and macro-nutrients.

If you’re not gaining weight then increase your calories by another 200 and follow the same steps above.

Gain muscle

You’re gaining weight with a calorie surplus and doing great.But our goal is not just weight gain. Our goal is to go from lean to muscular.

The problem with a calorie surplus is that your body will store the excess calories as fat if it has no need for them.

We need to tell the body that it should use the surplus calories to repair and build muscle.

The way to do that is with strength training.

That means you need to go to the gym and lift weights with intensity. It signals your body that it needs additional calories to repair and build muscle.

The best workout program you can use is a full-body workout program that uses heavy, compound exercises.

Such a workout program works best to build and maintain muscle. And you just need to perform them three times a week to get the maximum benefit.

The StrongLifts 5×5 is a good full-body workout program that uses heavy, compound exercises. It is made with the goal of gaining strength and muscle.

For week 1, you perform Workout A on Monday, Workout B on Wednesday, and Workout A on Friday. For week 2, you perform Workout B on Monday, Workout A on Wednesday, and workout B on Friday. As you see, you need to alternate between workouts A and B.

The workouts use compound exercises: squats, bench press, deadlifts, overhead press, and barbell rows.

Workout A and B are shown below.

StrongLifts 5×5 Week 1
Monday – A Wednesday – B Friday – A
Squat 5×5 Squat 5×5 Squat 5×5
Bench Press 5×5 Overhead Press 5×5 Bench Press 5×5
Barbell Row 5×5 Deadlift 1×5 Barbell Row 5×5

 

StrongLifts 5×5 Week 2
Monday – B Wednesday – A Friday – B
Squat 5×5 Squat 5×5 Squat 5×5
Overhead Press 5×5 Bench Press 5×5 Overhead Press 5×5
Deadlift 1×5 Barbell Row 5×5 Deadlift 1×5

See the videos below to perform the StrongLift 5×5 workouts.

It’s time to change your life

I know it’s tough.

Being skinny fat can be frustrating. And it takes a long time to get rid of it.

But here’s the thing.

It’s very much possible to get rid of.

Imagine looking at your lean and muscular body in the mirror.

You’ll be proud of your body. You’ll be proud of your strength. And you’ll be proud of what your mind has achieved.

So don’t give up.

Patiently, sincerely, calmly. Just keep following the process and you’ll see great results in just a few months.

Take the first step today.

You can do this. Just go for it.

Leave a Comment:

Daisy says

Hey so I’ve been on a journey for quite a few years now, I’m 16 (female) and I’m a junior in high school.
I’ve been hitting the gym since freshman year and only did cardio and abs until this year.
I became vegan last year and have permanently lost 10 lbs I went from 135 to 125 and I basically lost all that extra fat- the thing is I still categorized my self as “skinny fat” because I dont have abs and skinny arms. I go to the gym about 5 times a week and hit the weight room and my cal intake is 2,310. my TDEE right now is 2,073. I’m afraid I’m going to gain fat which is seriously my biggest fear lol.. I went from eating only 900 cals frehsman-sophmore year becuase all i wanted to do was lose weight. i gradually increased my intake and i started seeing better results. i also dont want to get like “bullked” id rather get lean right now and tone up everything. im sending this in so i can just get some advice and make sure im on the right path. any tips would be greatly appreciated!!! (also im 5’4) p.s should i do some quick abs workouts every day after the gym? or dedicate one day for abs (like 15 min) thank you!

Reply
    Kevin says

    Hey Daisy,

    Thank you for your great comment. You’re awesome for starting your fitness journey at such a young age.

    You should not worry too much about getting fat because it seems to me that you’re on the skinny side. Losing any more weight will make you even more skinny. I think you’re doing great with your calorie intake which is just about 200 calories higher than your TDEE. So you’re giving your body enough calories to be able to build muscle without gaining too much fat. I would suggest you continue eating the same amount of calories and workout with intensity at the gym. Make sure that you’re not gaining more than 1 pound a week. If you are, then drop your calories by 100 and check how it goes next week.

    Not sure what workouts you are doing but I would recommend focussing on heavy, compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench press, and overhead press to get good newbie gains fast.

    Once you are done with the main lifts, you can do any accessory exercises you like including ab exercises. Abs recover pretty fast so you can even hit them two times a week if you wish.

    Let me know if you have any other questions or need help with your workouts. I’ll be happy to help.

    Reply
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