There’s nothing worse than being skinny fat. With clothes on, and even on the scale, you really seem to be lean, but the mirror tells a different story. Being “skinny” doesn’t stop fat from accumulating in the worst places and throwing your muscle definition out the window.
In addition, it is very common for a skinny-fat to have difficulty in both gaining muscle and losing fat. It’s like having all the disadvantages of an ectomorph and still possess the characteristics of an endomorph.
In other words a skinny fat person is characterized as:
– Having difficulty in gaining muscle mass;
– Not necessarily being overweight;
– But still accumulates fat in problem areas such as the abdomen, around the chest (men), waist and legs (women).
– And getting rid of this accumulated fat is usually a task close to impossible.
In some cases the situation is so tragic that there seems to be no fix for this problem, but believe me, it is still possible to improve your body composition.
In fact, it is not uncommon to see more results in a month than you have seen your whole life trying to solve this problem, when you are addressing the issue the right way.
Just keep reading and soon everything will make sense.
Where does skinny fat composition come from ?
As much as genetics play a big role, the problem is always caused by one or more of the following factors:
1. Sedentary lifestyle
Usually a skinny fat person spends most of their time being a physically inactive person. Physical inactivity has a direct relationship with loss of muscle mass. After all, if you don’t use your muscle mass for something, there is no reason for the body to expend precious energy to maintain it.
The longer you stay inactive, more muscle mass is being lost.
It turns out that the less muscle mass you have, the slower your metabolism gets, fat buildup becomes easier. In addition, the less muscle mass you have, the more fat you gain and the more flaccid you will appear.
That’s why a skinny fat person may have a normal weight, but still look fat when not dressed.
2. Poor eating habits
Years and years eating incorrectly has the potential to further worsen body composition (the ratio of fat to muscle mass in your body).
A common western diet is rich in simple carbohydrates, unhealthy fats and low in protein that have all the amino acids that the body needs to sustain muscle growth. If you’ve spent most of your life eating lasagna with coke and some candy for dessert, it’s not unusual for your body to lack muscle mass.
On top of everything if you were physically inactive, the problem will be much worse.
3. Following fad diets that only makes the problem worse.
Most skinny fat people, at some point in their lives, will try to solve the problem on their own. But here comes the main doubt: “Should I focus on gaining muscle or losing fat first?”
This question makes most people make daunting decisions that will only make the problem worse.
– A skinny fat person easily falls into the idea of dirty bulking, where it is allowed to eat everything to gain muscle mass quickly, but this usually ends up with more fat accumulated;
– Others will use a drastic calorie reduction in an attempt of spot fat reduction (which does not exist), and end up further damaging the metabolism that is too slow anyways;
– Doing too much cardio with the mindset that this will solve the problem, but end up losing even more muscle mass;
– A combination of all the previous examples.
Ok, so these were the causes, what is the solution to this situation ?
How to transform yourself and stop being skinny fat ?
Every time we eat some food – any kind of food – our body releases insulin. Insulin is responsible for “transporting” nutrients from our bloodstream into the cells to be used as energy or to be stored.
Certain foods have a greater ability to stimulate insulin production than others. This is the case with simple carbohydrates. If we eat these foods very often and in great quantity, the body will release a lot of insulin. This frequent release may cause your muscles to become less and less sensitive to the action of this hormone.
When a person is insulin resistant, the nutrients will have difficulty entering the muscle cells and being used by the muscles. If the body is not able to use the nutrients, there is only one thing to do: store them in the energy stores (ie in the form of body fat).
This is extremely critical for skinny fat trainees for two reasons:
– Numerous studies have shown that there is a direct link between accumulation of abdominal / lumbar fat with insulin resistance (1,2,3,4);
– All skinny fat trainees accumulate fat in one of the pointed above areas and have all the habits that facilitate the increase of insulin resistance.
Remember that you do not need to have type 2 diabetes (which is caused by insulin resistance) to have the problem. In fact, most skinny-fat people will be able to have a fasting glucose test and see that their glucose is normal.
But when you dig deeper and do a fasting insulin test you will find that your insulin will always be close to the upper and never the lower limit.
This means that your glucose is within normal range, but only because your pancreas is working overtime and producing more and more insulin so that the glucose stays normal. Out of curiosity, the baseline insulin reference ranges from 1.9 to 23.0 IU / mL.
Serious professionals like Dr. Leandro Almeida and Dudu Haluch suggest that if your insulin is above 10, you already have some degree of resistance. This does not mean that you have a health problem, but it is certainly the most indicative of you having problems.
This is why it is not uncommon for a skinny fat person to have more difficulty gaining muscle mass, but can easily accumulate fat during a bulking or small diet slips. Because most nutrients are not getting where they are needed the most – into the muscle cells. In short, you will be swimming against the current while not repairing your sensitivity.
How to improve insulin sensitivity?
2. Do a cutting phase immediately
If you are in doubt about doing a bulk phase, know that the answer to this question, when it comes to skinny-fat, is always cutting . Through cutting it will be possible to use fat as an energy source and this will have the greatest impact on insulin sensitivity:
There is a reason for the strong link between insulin resistance and fat accumulation. Fat is living tissue, capable of producing hormones and chemicals that cause a number of health problems (such as insulin resistance itself);
The simplest way to increase insulin sensitivity is to simply eat less (and generate less insulin);
During the cutting phase you will be required to improve your habits by making smarter food choices, this will be like a “character rebuild” that will be very useful at all stages of your journey;
Doing a cutting phase will improve problem areas, make you feel better, and increase your motivation.
Basically, the first thing you need to do is try to get rid of that stubborn fat accumulated before you try to do anything else.
3. Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting is one of the tools that can greatly help skinny fat people. Why ?
Because intermittent fasting combined with a calorie restriction diet has even been used by physicians to treat type 2 diabetes (caused by insulin resistance) without the use of medication. You are restricting calories and you are eating less. Eating less, you are producing less insulin and allowing your muscles to become more sensitive.
Intermittent fasting with a calorie restriction (mostly cutting carbs), is the perfect combo to improve insulin sensitivity.
The most common protocol for intermittent fasting is 16-8. This means that you will fast for 16 hours and eat during an 8 hour window.
Anyone, without health problems, should try fasting once in a while to generate results faster.
4. Intense training
Just because you are cutting and fasting does not mean that you need to stop your training. Resistance training (bodybuilding/weightlifting) is the simplest way to show your body that you need muscle mass. The more muscle mass you carry, the more your body becomes insulin sensitive and the better your metabolism gets. It’s like a virtuous cycle.
Do not fall for the premise that a skinny-fat needs to train using only cardio or circuits or a specific number of repetitions (usually high). A skinny fat trainee needs to train moderate to heavy too, aiming at muscle hypertrophy.
So when it comes to training, do not waste time figuring out which approach to use, just train weight using a solid routine.
5. Make cardio a habit
Aerobic exercise is just as important as heavy training when it comes to being skinny fat, because it can also increase your insulin sensitivity (a lot). Cardio will also improve your conditioning and make you train heavier.
Have you experienced a leg workout that makes you run out of breath, make you nauseous and willing to give up? Most of the time, this is because of lack of conditioning. In addition, moderate cardio will not impair hypertrophy.
Three sessions of 30 to 40 minutes per week are all you need to derive the benefits of cardio. Just try to not to do those sessions before your lifting workout. Also it doesn’t matter what kind of exercise you choose – whether it’s cycling, jogging, swimming – the important thing is to permanently include cardio into your routine.
This will be useful even for when you do a bulking phase. Your body will respond much better to your diet, your metabolism will be faster and you will be able to consume more carbohydrates without having to deal with unwanted accumulation of fat.
Basically (and ironically), doing some aerobic exercise (not too much though) will make you gain more muscle mass in the long run.
6. Increase your NEAT
NEAT is a term that means – Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. This basically refers to how much energy we spend doing other activities (other than training and cardio) such as walking around, climbing stairs and even standing instead of sitting.
It turns out that NEAT has an influence on the speed of metabolism and a skinny fat has to keep their NEAT high if they want good results. This is mainly because it does not help to do one hour of weightlifting or cardio per day and spend the remaining 23 hours sedentary. Increasing your NEAT as much as possible will amplify everything else you are already doing.
Some useful ways to increase NEAT:
– Instead of using your car for everything, try walking or cycling. It will increase your calorie expenditure, improve your health and do good for the environment.
– Instead of watching TV for hours, try cleaning your house, washing your driveway or doing something that will contribute to your personal development;
– Take a walk in the park, this will not count as cardio and will not hamper your progress. In fact, walking is useful for promoting recovery by increasing blood circulation and flushing by-products from your muscles.
7. Make sleep a priority in your life
The sleep period is one of the most critical times of the day for the skinny fat guy. Keep in mind that a single poor-sleep night may already impair insulin sensitivity (5,6).
All studies on the subject show that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to become obese at some point in the future (7,8).
There are studies that even show that the hormones that control appetite are “deregulated” when we sleep poorly, creating more compulsion and hunger (9,10).
Basically, sleep is a factor of utmost importance for anyone, especially skinny fats who already have issues with insulin and fat accumulation.
Each person has different sleep requirements, however, aim to sleep at least 7-8 hours a night. If you have any health problems like sleep apnea, insomnia or anything else, get medical help as soon as possible.
Sleep is so important that even by regulating your sleep patterns you could see great improvements in your health and physique.
8. Manage Stress
If there is a single hormone (besides insulin) with the power to disrupt your health and physique, that would be cortisol. Or the excess of it, to be exact.
Cortisol is released every time our body faces a stress situation, be it physical or mental. While this is vital to our survival, having too much cortisol could be a big problem, especially for the skinny fat trainee.
Every time we face a stress situation, our body releases cortisol, which in turn causes glucose to be released into the bloodstream to generate rapid energy. This energy serves as a “boost” for you to deal with the stressor agent.
While this was extremely useful long time ago when we used to live in the bush and forests, and we had to deal with “simpler” things like not being eaten by an animal, today this tends to generate many problems.
For our body, there is no difference between escaping a wild animal, and having to go to work daily and deal with work-related problems. Both situations can generate stress in the same way.
Now imagine that you, for a variety of reasons, are always stressed. Your body will always be releasing cortisol and consequently always increase the level of glucose in the blood.
What will the body do in this case? It will release insulin to lower the excess glucose. As this continues to occur and we create a cycle of excessive release of cortisol and insulin, we go back to square one by bombarding our body with insulin and generating all the problems we have seen. So keeping stress under control is extremely important.
But how control stress with so many negative factors everywhere around us
Firstly by understanding that stress can ruin your physique and your health.
Every time you worry about something predictable, such as a traffic jam, noise from the neighbors, or anything you do not have control over, you are damaging your health by generating stress for no reason. Always consider whether it really pays to stress over a situation as this can affect your health directly.
Avoid substances that naturally increase cortisol.
Cigarette, alcohol and virtually any substance that stimulates the nervous system in some way, tends to make the body release more cortisol. You do not have to live a monk’s life, but avoiding the excess of these substances can definitely help.
Learn to say no.
Although this seems to come straight from a self-help book, it’s not. Every time we do something that goes against our will, we tend to generate resentment.
Resentment tends to generate rumination of thoughts, where we are generating situations repeatedly in our mind, as if they are actually happening again or have happened as we would like. What does this cause? Release of cortisol.
The simplest way to prevent this? Say no and let it go. Be it for a bad relationship, for your bad job or for someone trying to take advantage of you.
A transformation from skinny fat involves numerous factors, however those that have been listed above will be the ones that will have the greatest impact on the speed of results
– Improve your insulin, otherwise you are swimming against the current; Regardless of your current state, if you have fat accumulation, you need to lose it first (in other words – do a cutting phase);
– Intermittent fasting is a very good tool (not a diet) as it facilitates and amplifies the cutting efforts;
– There is no reason for you to train differently. We all have to train intense with the goal of gaining muscle;
– Cardio needs to be taken as a habit and not only until the problem is solved, but as a lifestyle. Whether for aesthetics, performance or health, moderate cardio improves everything;
– Try, to increase your NEAT. Keep in mind that it is no use to do one hour of daily exercise and be sedentary during the remaining 23 hours;
– Correct your sleep because it is vital to preventing fat accumulation and speeding up the results;
– Stress management is one of the aspects most underestimated by those who want to improve the body, but it is vital, especially for a skinny fat person.
We hope this text has provided you some light and the tools to change your physique.