If you’re skinny but still have a small belly and little to no muscle definition you are skinny fat. Both men and women can be skinny fat and even though you might look normal with your clothes on, you look soft and weak when you’re shirtless.
The problem is that many people who are skinny fat don’t know what to do about it and if they should gain weight or lose fat first. In this post I will answer that question for you and also show you the right workout and diet to make you look leaner and generally healthier.
Before we get started let’s first cover the three main reasons why people get skinny fat in the first place.
Want To Watch The Video Instead?
3 Main Reasons Why People Get Skinny Fat
1. Poor nutrition
The number on reason why people get skinny fat is that they follow the wrong diet. The standard western diet is pretty low in protein. Protein is extremely important for muscle growth and muscle maintenance and if you are not providing your body with enough of it, you will quickly lose muscle mass especially when you are dieting.
That’s why many people who only cut calories but don’t keep their protein high will not only lose fat but also muscle. The less muscle you have the more likely you are to look skinny fat.
In fact, the main difference between someone who looks fit and someone who looks skinny fat is often their percentage of muscle mass and not body fat. That’s why building more muscle should be at the very top of your priorities if you want to lose skinny fat.
2. No Resistance Training
Unfortunately, this is where many people make the second mistake, which is that they do no type of resistance training. Resistance training can be anything from bodyweight workouts to heavy weight lifting. Next to protein, resistance training is the second key factor to building muscle or maintaining it when you are dieting.
It will also make your weight loss efforts easier because physical activity burns calories which means you can eat slightly more when to compared to only dieting without workouts.
3. Too Much Cardio
Of course, pretty much everyone knows of the health and fat burning advantages of exercise. The problem is that not only do most people do too little resistance training, they also do too much cardio.
Don’t get me wrong, cardio is important for your heart and lungs, but you can have too much of a good thing. If you are building muscle then long hours of endurance training will be counterproductive.
Not only will they wear you out and leave less energy for your strength training, but too much overall stress and exercise increases cortisol which hurts fat loss and suppresses anabolic hormones.
So the bottom line is that if you want to get rid of skinny fat and gain muscle your primary focus should be resistance training, maybe some small amount of cardio and the right diet.
With that in mind, we can build the right workout and the right diet for fast results. Let’s start with your diet.
Lose Skinny Fat And Gain Muscle: The Right Diet
Designing the right diet to lose skinny fat and gain muscle is actually pretty easy but there are a few things you need to be aware of.
First of all, what should you first focus on: fat loss or muscle growth?
As you probably know fat loss require a calorie deficit, while muscle growth usually needs a calorie surplus. This creates a problem because you won’t be able to do both at optimal rates at the same time.
That’s why most athletes work in two phases where they either focus on fat loss or on muscle growth but not both together.
My advice to you is to look in the mirror and ask yourself if you’re more scrawny than fat or more fat than scrawny. People who are more scrawny than fat usually have a body fat percentage below 15% . That means they don’t have very much fat, but because they also don’t have a lot of fat they still look skinny fat.
People who are more fat than scrawny usually have a body fat percentage above 15% but also some muscle. That means the reason they look skinny fat is not a lack of muscle but a thick layer of fat covering it.
If you fall into the first category and are more scrawny than fat you should focus on building muscle first and foremost.
To do this, eat slightly above your calorie maintenance level (5% – 10%) and make sure to keep your protein intake high (0.8 to 1 gram per pound of bodyweight). I have more a detailed post on what the right muscle building diet should look like, so make sure to check that one out.
If you fall into the second category and are more fat than scrawny you should focus on fat loss first.
To do this eat below your calorie maintenance level (a 20% deficit would be optimal) and also make sure to keep your protein intake high (again 0.8 to 1 gram per pound of bodyweight). You can check out this post to learn more about the right fat loss diet plan.
Lose Skinny Fat And Gain Muscle: The Right Workout
now that we have your diet covered, let’s talk about your workout. Like I said before resistance training should be your main focus. Even though any type of resistance training can be used to build muscle, studies show that heavy compound gym exercises are best for fast results.
So in your workouts you want to always include the big 4 lifts: deadlift, squat, bench press and overhead press. If you know your 1 rep maximum, use about 80 -85% of that weight on these lifts. If you don’t know your 1 rep maximum go with a weight that you can lift for 6 – 8 reps.
Next, you want to steadily increase the weights over time. That way you take advantage of what is called progressive overload, which is the primary driver of muscle growth. Simply put, you want to get stronger with each workout to force your muscles to adapt and grow.
Another good tip that I usually give to skinny guys, but that also works if you are skinny fat is to take longer breaks between sets. The problem with heavy compound lift is that they ware you out pretty quickly. The harder you go on your first few sets, the weaker you will feel during the rest of your workout.
A great way to not kill yourself at the beginning of your workout (when you should be doing the heaviest exercises) is by taking longer breaks between sets. My sweet spot is around 3:00 minutes for the four major lifts.
Summary: How To Lose Skinny Fat And Gain Muscle
– Most people get skinny fat because they follow the wrong diet, do no resistance training and often too much cardio
– The best way to not be skinny fat anymore is by following a high protein diet and doing heavy compound lifts
– If you’re more scrawny than fat: focus on building muscle first
– If you’re more fat than scrawny: focus on losing fat first