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How to Get Rid of Skinny Fat?

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What is Skinny Fat?

When people use the term “skinny fat”, they are usually referring to someone who has a small frame and appears to be thin with their shirt on, but actually holds on to quite a bit of fat. This puts them in the odd position of not knowing whether to eat more because they want to attain a larger frame and more muscle, or to eat less because they are holding on to too much fat. Even though individuals who are considered “Skinny fat” may be in the healthy body weight range, they have a higher body fat percentage. This higher body fat percentage causes them to have love handles or fat stored on their stomach or chest.

Skinny Fat Individual

What Causes You to Become Skinny Fat?

Although I mentioned that people who are skinny fat usually have lower muscle mass and a higher body fat percentage, you may be wondering what may cause this. I have come up with some common reasons as to why this may occur:

  • You may not be weight lifting: Not weight lifting would probably lead you to having low muscle mass and if you combine that with not burning enough calories relative to how much you are eating, this will lead to fat storage. Therefore, a lack of weight lifting and eating in excess could put you in the skinny fat state.
  • Became skinny fat while attempting to bulk up: You may have started eating more in hopes to bulk up and get bigger, but instead of putting on muscle, you put on fat. This is usually a sign that you did the bulk incorrectly, you may have gained weight too fast or were attempting to dirty bulk. When you bulk up, you want to try putting on more muscle while keeping your body fat percentage relatively low, you want the bigger muscles to make you look bigger, not the fat.
  • You may have started off overweight and began eating less to lose weight. You may have noticed that during your cutting phase you have decrease weight, but you still have a higher body fat percentage and you appear skinny fat. This is likely because you have lost quite a bit of muscle mass while cutting weight and still have excess body fat that gives you the skinny fat look.

In the majority of cases, skinny fat individuals have a higher body fat percentage, even though their weight may be in the ideal range. Therefore, it is essential that you get a smart weight scale like this one:

This is the scale I have been using, and it tells you your body fat percentage, weight, muscle mass, visceral fat, and much more. Using this scale will be very helpful for you because you can check your body fat percentage and tell if you are in the higher range, and that measurement can guide you in the process of losing the extra body fat. Many people think that since they are decreasing weight that they are losing fat, but this may not be the case. Many people cut and bulk incorrectly, they gain too much fat or lose too much muscle, this scale will help you on your fitness journey.

An article posted by GQ stated that men are usually considered skinny fat between 16 to 25% body fat, with low amounts of muscle. You can read the article here. However, keep in mind that if you are 18% body fat, but have quite a bit of muscle, it is unlikely that you would be considered skinny fat. It is the combination of higher body fat and lower muscle mass that causes the skinny fat appearance.

Make sure that you are measuring your body fat percentage to see if you are in the body fat percentage range mentioned above. You may also notice that when you are skinny fat, you gain love handles, you can read this article to find out more about love handles and how to get rid of them.

So the key here is, try to have a lower body fat percentage with high muscle mass. If you have a higher body fat percentage with low muscle mass, but your body weight is in the ideal range, you are likely considered skinny fat.

Higher Muscle Mass and Low Body Fat

How to Get Rid of Skinny Fat?

The best way to get rid of the skinny fat aesthetic is by increasing your muscle mass and reducing your body fat percentage.

You can lose weight by eating in a caloric deficit or by increasing your cardio, optimally you will be doing both.

You can gain muscle by working out consistently and increasing the weight each time you do the exercise. For example, if you do the bench press once a week, and you bench pressed 130 pounds last week, this week you should try to lift heavier (approx. 135 pounds). This is called progressive overload, you can read more about it on this Healthline article.

If you are someone who holds a lot of fat around your belly, this may be caused by drinking too much alcohol. Alcohol usage may give the skinny fat appearance because other regions of your body are lean except your stomach. Limiting alcohol usage can help prevent this issue.

Skinny Fat

Should You Bulk or Cut if You Are Skinny Fat?

When individuals who are skinny fat try to get rid of the skinny fat look, they are confused whether to cut (lose the fat) or bulk (gain muscle) first. I would say it depends on your body fat percentage.

  • If you are below 15% body fat, you should start by eating in a small caloric surplus (bulk). Make sure it is a clean bulk and not a dirty one. While eating in the caloric surplus, make sure you are weight lifting and using the concept of progressive overload.
    • Once you hit 15% body fat, I would say you should begin to cut, while continuing your weight training. In terms of the amount of weight to use in the gym while cutting, you should still try your best to increase the weight if you are able to do so, if that is not possible, maintain the same weight. Try not to decrease the amount of weight you are lifting, as this may cause you to lose your hard-earned muscle mass.
  • According to Bony to Beastly, muscle building is optimal in the body fat percentage range of 10-15%. You can read their article here. You can use this to your advantage and cut down to around 10% body fat and then bulk up to approximately 15% and then cut down to your preferred body fat percentage.
    • Another reason why it is important to stay in the range of 10-15% body fat instead of bulking up to a higher BF%, is because you will need to cut for much longer, which is more difficult, and you are likely to lose more muscle mass in the process. If you stay within the 10-15% body fat range, you are likely not going to look skinny fat during your bulk or cut, which is optimal as opposed to only looking in shape during a brief period of time while cutting.
    • Furthermore, insulin resistance plays an important role in why you should keep your body fat percentage in the 10-15% range while bulking and cutting. This is because, as you cut weight you are likely to increase insulin sensitivity and as your insulin sensitivity increases, your body will make use of the glucose derived from your diet more efficiently to fuel your body and support muscle growth. Therefore, it helps decrease the chances of you losing muscle mass during your diet plan.
Man with higher muscle mass

This cycle of bulking and cutting will have to keep going until you find the optimal body condition that you would like to maintain, and at that point you can eat your maintenance calories.  Some experts say that it is possible to lose fat and build muscle at the same time, however, this is usually harder and requires more precision to accomplish. The process of gaining muscle while losing fat is called body recomposition and takes a long time to achieve. Click here to read an article regarding building muscle and burning fat at the same time. Although there are many articles that will tell you about losing fat while gaining muscle, the bulking and cutting method is the most frequently used.

When you do begin to bulk, make sure it is a clean bulk. Just because you are bulking, does not mean you can eat junk food (chips, soda, McDonalds, etc) on a consistent basis. When you do a dirty bulk, you can use the weight scale I referred to earlier or click here, and you will notice that you will gain a lot of fat and not enough muscle, which will make you skinny fat or plainly just fat. Junk food is not nutritious, it is high in bad fats (saturated and trans fat), and high on carbs and does not have optimal levels of protein. In addition, when you are bulking you should be in a small surplus, if you are eating junk food consistently, it is likely that you are eating much more than a “small surplus”, which means your body is receiving too much calories than necessary to build muscle and fuel your body, and therefore will just be stored as fat.

Dirty bulk meal that causes people to become skinny fat

Make sure you eat healthy foods with optimal levels of protein, and your caloric surplus is not too high, and lift heavier weights in the gym than your previous session and when you see that you are passing the 15% body fat range, you can cut for a little bit and then resume the bulk.

When you are cutting, make sure you do not cut too fast or else you will lose too much muscle. Consistently track your muscle mass loss and fat loss and make sure the majority of the weight you are losing is due to the loss in fat as opposed to muscle.

Important Note: Most people put on more fat when bulking and burn more muscle when cutting, which is completely reversed. Make sure that when you bulk, you put on more muscle compared to fat. When you cut, make sure you lose more fat compared to muscle. With these rules you can ensure that you do not become skinny fat and if you are already skinny fat, these rules will help you lose it.

Muscular and low body fat

*This post includes affiliate links. I am not a doctor or a professional, but I try to share my opinions with you.

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