Skinny fat, as defined by Urban Dictionary, “When you skinny AF, and still got a sad, poochy, muffin-top, beer belly gut.” That definition is pretty blunt, but you get the point.
Skinny fat is when someone has very little muscle mass but are at a healthy weight or BMI. Loose skin, excess fat, and flab will be visible when the person is undressed. This condition isn’t necessarily unhealthy. It can be unattractive.
What causes you to be skinny fat?
It’s pretty easy to end up in a skinny fat condition when someone is trying to lose weight, and they do not follow the best dieting practices, or they strictly focus on cardio activities. Here are 3 top reasons someone will find themselves skinny fat:
- Severely low-calorie diet
- Excessive amounts of cardio.
- Limited weight lifting
This is quite common for individuals that are losing a lot of weight or rapid weight loss because these are the come weight loss protocols. Just take a look at any weight loss magazine or weight loss program, and you find two, if not all, 3 of these being suggested. Women are the typical target of these weight loss programs. There is a stigma that is promoted that women that lift weights will end up looking like a female bodybuilder, which is 100% untrue.
Let’s take a look into why these conditions create the skinny fat shape
Severe calorie restriction causing you to to lose muscle
Significant weight loss requires calorie restriction to achieve results. It is not uncommon for dieters to reduce calorie levels to a deficient level. To make matters worse, when most dieters hit a plateau(everyone does at some point), they reduce their caloric intake more.
Inadequate caloric intake can cause the body to go into starvation mode. If this occurs, your body tries to conserve fat reserves by using muscle mass for energy and conserve fat stores. Muscle consumes energy at rest, and if your body does not need it, then it will get rid of it to save energy. The goal in starvation mode is a lot like being on a tight financial budget, cut spending to save finances. The body cuts energy consumption to preserve fat.
Now you have the perfect condition to become skinny fat. A moderately aggressive caloric reduction combined with weight training will help minimize any muscle loss and keep your body out of starvation mode.
Research shows that a high-protein diet combined with regular weightlifting excercises with a caloric reduction of 20 to 25% from maintenance permits for rapid fat loss and muscle preservation.
There is a tipping pout to calorie reduction during dieting, where it becomes counterproductive.
Too much cardio will make you lose muscle
There is a consensus that to lose fat; you need to do excessive amounts of running. Excessive cardio exercise will indeed help you lose weight faster, but that weight will include large amounts of muscle too. As a result, you start down the road to getting that perfect skinny fat body.
This doesn’t mean that cardio doesn’t have a place in weight loss. Cardio is essential for weight loss and can help you reach your goals when done in moderation. HIIT is a better form of cardio that will not have the same negative impact as steady-state cardio.
Calories burn are not all the same. When you compare equal calories from weight training and steady-state cardio, the weight training calories will burn far more fat than the calories burned from cardio.
A combination of HIIT(high-intensity interval training) and weight training will give you the best chance at maintaining your lean body mass while shedding fat as quickly as possible.
When you combine high amounts of cardio with a starvation diet, you accelerate the loss of muscle mass and the development of your new skinny fat body.
Minimal resistance training in your workout routine
Most weight loss regimens incorporate minimal resistance training, and this a recipe for disaster. A vigorous weight training session may not burn as many calories as an insense cardio session. But it will burn calories for hours or days after you finish the work out by raising yours at rest metabolic rate.
Let’s not forget heavy weight lifting is the only way your body will preserve your muscles during your reduced-calorie diet. The constant use of your muscles will tell your body that they are needed and not consume them if you reduce your calories too far and trigger starvation mode.
While weight training will slow the weight loss process, it will speed up fat loss. Remember, fat weighs less than muscle, so the fastest way to lose weight and keep the fat is to burn off your muscle and become skinny fat.
The cure for skinny fat
The treatment is not a whole lot different from how it could have been prevented, with one exception, you eat more.
To get your body’s composition back to correct proportions, you will need to perform a “body recomposition.” Body recomposition is defined as gaining muscle and while losing fat. In reality, gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time is not possible without the use of anabolic steroids, or you are some genetic freak of nature. What is really happening is you are changing your body fat percentage by maintaining fat while you build muscle.
If you are afraid of gaining weight, ditch the scale because you will gain weight. The weight you gain will be lean muscle. Unfortunately, anyone that has lost significant weight has a fear of gaining weight again. The best way to overcome that fear is by watching the changes as they occur in your mirror, and if you are still afraid of “getting fat,” use how your clothes fit as the gage of your weight.
To make the recomposition work, you need to get a few things right. Here are the significant things you will need to get correct:
- A lot of heavy weightlifting.
- Very little cardio.
- Eat correctly
Heavy compound weightlifting is your best friend
You will see so many magazines and online articles promoting isolated workouts that only focus on one small muscle group. Why is this? There are two reasons, one if they break it down to small muscle group, it allows them to create more content and make it appear more difficult to gain muscle than it is in reality. Many of those promoting these workouts are bodybuilders looking to sculpt their bodies. To do that, you need to isolate workouts to obtain a winning physic.
When recovering from a skinny fat body, you need to gain the most muscle possible, and that needs to be done with heavy compound weightlifting exercises like squats, military presses, deadlifts, and bench pressing.
You will need to focus on low reps of 8-10 at 80% of your max for that lift. An excellent guide to see if you are going heavy enough is to use the number of reps you can do as a gage. If you can do 11 reps of any lift, you are not heavy enough. Do at least three sets. If you are lifting heavy enough, you will not be able to do as many reps each set, and they will decrease as you progress through your sets.
Reduce your cardio
The key is to reduce your cardio, not eliminate it. Rather than doing steady state cardio exercises like regular running and jogging, perform HIIT.
Keep your cardio workouts shorts. You should do no more than 30 minutes of cardio per session, 20 minutes is typically enough. Only do cardio 3-4 times per week maximum. Cardio workouts should be performed on days when you are not weight training or at a different time of day (example weight train in the morning and cardio in the evening)
I don’t care what you do in the gym because if you don’t eat correctly, it doesn’t matter. A bad diet will ruin the best efforts, and you will not see the results you are looking to achieve.
Eating a proper diet that will give you outstanding results isn’t a shard as it may appear. If you just came off of a restricted-calorie diet or are still on one, its time to increase your calorie intake. Start by using an online calorie calculator to determine your maintenance caloric intake needs.
Because you have crash dieted, your metabolism could have slowed itself to try preventing starvation. So we will want to take a slow approach to increase your calories to reduce the risk of gaining fat. So for the first month of weight training, you will want to eat a high protein diet that is targeting maintenance calories for your activity level. At the beginning and end of the month, you should weigh yourself. You should see either no gain or a slight gain in weight, and this is a good thing. If you have lost weight, you will need to increase your food intake slightly and recheck your weight in a month.
It may sound weird or make no sense that you should be gaining weight to lose fat. But the weight you will be acquiring is muscle, not fat. The fat you have will remain, but your body composition will change because your body fat percentage will decrease as you gain new muscle.
Should have avoided getting skinny fat
The easiest way to fix skinny fat is by not putting yourself in this situation in the first place. Following a good workout routine and a well-balanced diet is the correct way to lose weight. Unfortunately, there are so many fads and crash diets out there because everyone wants to lose weight overnight.