Want to hear a stunning statistic? Over one-third (nearly 36.5%) of U.S. adults are obese. This may be shocking to you, but the prescription for these people is simple: better food and less of it. They’ll be shedding weight and looking better in no time.
But there is a whole other class of people out there with unsightly body fat who are similarly dissatisfied with their bodies but don’t really fall into the obese, or even overweight, categories. No, they have their own category.
This type of person is commonly referred to as “skinny fat.” If you think you’re skinny fat and don’t know what to do about it, this guide will help you configure your body.
What Exactly is Skinny Fat?
Skinny fat is a term commonly used in the fitness community to describe people in a healthy weight range for their age and height, but still look fat due to a lack of muscle mass.
For example, if you’re 5’11” and weight 170 lbs as a man, you’re in a healthy weight range. But if you’ve never done any regular weightlifting or another form of exercise in your life, you’ll likely still look fat. This is because any excess weight you have that isn’t from your skeletal structure will likely be stored as fat instead of muscle.
You may also have some unfortunate genetics at play as well. Where fat is distributed on your body is determined by your genetics. Some people hold fat primarily in their butt or arms and legs, or in their waist and chest.
Skinny fat people tend to store their body fat in their hips and chest, where it’s harder to hide. So even at low bodyweights, they tend to still look fat.
So how do you combat your skinny fat physique? Well, these 8 simple steps will help you shed that extra fat and put on a ton of muscle.
1. Take a DEXA Scan
Depending on where you live, this may be overly expensive and frivolous to do, but taking a DEXA scan can really give you a clear idea of where your body composition is at before starting your fitness journey.
A DEXA scan is an X-Ray scan of your entire body that can give you an incredibly accurate, detailed picture of your body composition. Most importantly, A DEXA scan will tell you how much muscle mass you have and what percentage of your body is comprised of fat.
This information will help you determine your plan of action for the next few steps in this process. It’ll also give a pretty sick before picture.
2. Cut Weight
With your DEXA scan information, you’ll be able to determine whether or not you should cut weight or “recomp” your body (which we’ll explain in the next step).
For example, if your DEXA scan told you that you have a body fat percentage in the mid-to-high 20s, you’ll likely want to cut weight first when you start working out.
To do this, you simply have to eat fewer calories than you burn for an extended period of time. Because your body fat percentage is on the higher side, and you’ve likely never dieted before, this weight should come right off if you’re diligent.
By doing this, you’ll have less body fat when you decide to start eating in excess to “bulk,” or put on muscle, and you’ll see more visible, motivating results sooner.
It’s generally thought in fitness communities that you can either cut fat or put on muscle, but it’s pretty inefficient to do both at the same time. This is because putting on muscle requires that you eat an excess of calories, which is not conducive to weight loss.
But if you’re a complete novice, as most skinny fat people are, you have the potential to do both in a process known as “recomposition.”
To do this, you simply have to eat your “maintenance” calories, or the amount you’d need to keep your weight the same, while you begin working out. This way, your body will grow muscle to adjust to the new stimuli and you’ll shed excess body fat.
If your body fat percentage is in the mid-high teens, this is a good option.
4. Count Calories
Regardless of your plan of attack, it’s crucial that you count your calories for a while. It’s the only way to ensure that you’ll lose weight while cutting and prevent yourself from gaining weight during a recomp.
These days, tracking calories is simple if you use a smartphone app like MyFitnessPal or something similar.
5. Eat Your Protein
It’s true when they say “you are what you eat.” If you eat pastries all day, you’ll become soft and doughy. If you eat chicken breast, you’ll become strong and firm.
To build muscle, you simply have to eat a lot of high-protein foods. The general rule is to eat .8-1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.
6. Workout Regularly
Of course, the key to any muscle-building plan is to lift weights regularly. There are many different schools of thought on workout plans, but generally, you should stick to compound lifts – squats, bench presses, deadlifts, and overhead presses – as they include the most muscle groups.
Throw in some accessory exercises like bicep curls, ab workouts, and some intense cardio. Then, once you’ve recovered, mix it up a bit in your next workout.
Check out our workout plan if you want more specific guidelines, and you’ll look strong and shredded in no time.
7. Sleep More
This is probably the easiest step of them all, and lord knows you’ll need it when you first start out. To put on muscle and recover from workouts, you need to sleep more.
When you workout, you damage your muscles, and you need them to regrow stronger to get more buff. This process is happening constantly, but it goes into overdrive when you sleep. Make sure you’re getting at least 8 hours of shut-eye every night when you go to bed.
8. Track Your Weight
Lastly, it’s important that you track your progress empirically. The eye-test will only tell you so much so you should weigh yourself once a week at the same time on the same day. This is the only way you’ll know if your cut or recomp is truly effective.
Need More Fitness Tips?
There’s a long, tough road you have to take to escape skinny fat-dom, but it’s more than doable if you’re honest with yourself and dedicated to the mission. If you’d like more help on your journey towards beefiness, check our Fitness and Exercise section for more information on how to get the most out of your workouts.