5 Steps to Break free from Skinny Fat.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional nor am I prescribing any of the below as treatment or prevention of disease or treatment. Utilizing information in this blog is at the sole choice and risk of the reader. See a medical professional where appropriate. These are simply my suggestions and observations through years of training a wide spectrum of clients with varying results.
"I was what they call 'skinny fat' - a body that resembled a python after swallowing a goat" - A. J. Jacobs
Reader Experience Level: Beginner.
Skinny fat is a cultural phenomenon that's been thrown around a lot in the fitness and internet space that generally refers to anyone who has a small amount of muscle on their frame, yet with a high body fat percentage. More often than not, it involves people who are not trained physically, or have very little experience exercising. It's a place where most people do not want to be.
If you are skinny fat and want to change, here's a few steps you can take:
Step 1: Access to Exercise
If you consider yourself to be skinny fat and have a limited exercise history, this can be a good thing. You only need to start exercising to take that first step in the right direction!
In order to do that, you need access to a gym, or equipment if you have the money to buy it.
Weights and resistance training is your best friend here. There is no other way you will tone up without resistance and strength training. The good news is that if you haven't been exposed to weight training before, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain! In essence you will see a lot of progress in the first few phases of your program.
Who ever has regrets getting stronger?
Have a look at my post: 5 Steps to start Weight training the right way if you need some guidance.
If you fit in the camp that considers themselves as skinny fat and have been exercising for a while, don't worry, there's still hope! Often the remedy is in the programming, exercise selection and training volume; that is, how much have you been exercising throughout the week/month/year, not to mention the quality of your training. More often than not, here's where a lot of beginners get it wrong.
Step 2: Starting Point - More Skinny, or more fat?
Broadly speaking if you're skinny fat, it means your metabolism isn't where it needs to be. How do you fix it? Glad you asked. In order to get your metabolism in check, you need to figure out where you are on the scale of "skinny fat". Do you consider yourself more skinny, or do you hold more fat?
This is an easy suggestion to where your metabolism lies. Generally those who are more skinny-than-fat have less metabolic issues such as insulin resistance, than those who are more fat-than-skinny. An in-body scanner or a DEXA scan can give you the accurate details here, most modern gyms will have someone who can provide you with a scan.
More Skinny > Fat: Males: 15% - 20% Body fat Range
Females: 20% - 25% Body fat Range
More Fat > Skinny
Males: 20%+ Body fat Range
Females: 35%+ Body fat Range
Figuring out where you are on the spectrum is important, because it implies which direction you should go. Do you eat to burn fat, or do you eat more to build muscle?
The short (oversimplified) answer is: if you are more fat than skinny, you can burn fat and build muscle simultaenously by eating in a slight deficit (less calories).
Step 3: Nutrition
The steps below are written with the assumption that you, the reader know what Calories are and what Macronutrients are.
If you do not, have a quick read of my post: Calories and Macronutrients. What the hell are they?
Now that you've figured out where you are on the skinny fat see-saw, it's time for you to decide whether you're eating at a calorie surplus, or at maintenance calories.
More Skinny > Fat = Maintenance/Slight caloric Surplus
Fat > Skinny: Maintenance/ Slight Caloric Deficit
To calculate what your calories are:
You can map them out yourself using this macronutrient calculator, or I can calculate them for you in a free nutrition consultation.
Ultimately, your one way ticket out of skinny fat is to:
Build Lean Muscle tissue = visually resulting in muscle tone and volume.
& Reduce body fat percentage = visually resulting in looking lean.
Step 4: Programming: Building Strong Basics.
Choosing the right program for yourself is key. It needs to have exercises that are relevant to you and the physique you're looking to achieve. It needs to consider whatever injuries, imbalances or physical considerations that are unique to you. It needs to have a training volume that fits in with your lifestyle and you need a program that is going to challenge you, but not destroy you and it needs constant progression.
The single BIGGEST mistake I see beginners make is following the same program, with the same weight, the same intensity and the same number of reps and sets, week in and week out with zero progression. Then they wonder why they haven't progressed. If your strength and performance haven't leveled up, why would you expect to?
Would you stay in a minimum wage job and wonder why you haven't gotten any wealthier?
Long story short, be smart with your programming. Build Strong Basics. That means, choose the exercises that build you both strength and muscle growth. There's usually nothing sexy or fancy about these exercises, but they work.
If you need to chat about what that may look like for you, you can book a free consultation with me here.
Starting Point? Check
Access to Exercise? Check
Nutrition Fundamentals? Check
Program/Exercise Selection? Check
All that's left is
Step 5: Track.
Tracking and progressing is the way you will get out of being skinny fat. It's the way you'll progress towards any goal you have. Your program needs to show progress. As it does, so will you.
There are many ways to progress in your program but the easiest way as a beginner is to aim to beat your overall weekly volume from the week before, especially in your first few weeks.
This approach will work for a while to start, but as you get stronger, the more the complexity and accuracy of the alterations your program will demand.