In this guide I will give you everything you need on how to fix skinny fat.
You have seen transformations of people who you want to look like, so you know it is possible, but how?
Where do you even begin? Should you focus on losing fat or building muscle?
Should you do hiit workouts or strength training?
Only clean eating or keto?
Don’t worry because I am going to lay everything out here for you in this guide on how to fix skinny fat.
I want you to leave this article being confident in what you should do moving forward so be sure to read it in it’s entirety.
Without further ado, let’s dive in.
How To Fix Skinny Fat (Body Recomposition)
What Is Skinny Fat?
If you want to know how to fix skinny fat lets first talk about what skinny fat is.
Skinny fat is that body type where you aren’t necessarily obese or overweight. You aren’t stepping on the scale and thinking it is by any means an issue.
Yet you also don’t look the way you want to look.
You don’t have the defined muscles or a lean appearance to your body. Your body fat may be higher because you don’t have much lean muscle mass. You may have a gut or even man boobs.
This is what skinny fat is. You look thin and don’t weigh much on the scale but when you take your shirt off you don’t like what you see in the mirror.
What Causes Skinny Fat?
There are usually three scenarios that end up producing this skinny fat result but they both come back to this one common theme.
That is you have high body fat and low lean muscle mass. When you have a shirt on you may appear quite fit yet as soon as the shirt comes off the truth is revealed.
The three most common scenarios to produce this skinny fat result are
- You have never really been overweight your entire life but you also have never followed a structured strength training program.
- You recently have lost a lot of weight through the parameters of over restricting calories and foods as well as doing hours upon hours of cardio.
- You are not eating enough protein.
Let’s talk about the first scenario briefly.
If you have never struggled with weight issues during your lifetime but you also have never put yourself into a structured strength training program this could be a culprit of skinny fat.
Why? Simply going to what makes up skinny fat, low amounts of lean muscle mass.
Even though you aren’t “overweight” necessarily, you aren’t fit either because you have never taken the time to build up lean muscle mass on your frame.
This leads you to have the skinny fat look you currently do.
Now, the second scenario.
If you have recently lost a good amount of weight via the avenue of severely over restricting calories and doing hours of cardio, this is a perfect culprit for the skinny fat look.
Why? When you cut calories super low and do endless hours of cardio without any strength training what happens?
You lose all of your lean muscle mass that you had starting off or you simply never build any lean muscle mass along the way.
This again comes back to what skinny fat is. Not being overweight but not having any significant amounts of lean muscle mass on your body.
The third scenario is if you are not eating enough protein.
I talk in depth about protein is by far the most important macro nutrient you consume in this YouTube video here .
Yet for the purpose of this article protein is important because it is the only macro nutrient that allows you to build and retain lean muscle mass.
Therefore even if you are strength training, you will not be able to build any muscle because you need adequate protein levels.
We will talk more in depth about adequate protein levels a bit later in this guide of how to fix skinny fat.
The Problem With Typical Weight Loss Routines
We just got done talking about what produces skinny fat and you may be a bit puzzled as to what I just said.
Cardio and eating super low calories is the cause of skinny fat, but isn’t that the best way to lose weight?!
First off I have to remind you weight and fat are not one in the same. They are two different things.
You can lose weight without losing fat. You can lose fat without losing weight.
I explain this more in depth in my YouTube video HERE , but the long and short of it is one doesn’t equal the other.
When you over restrict your calories and do tons of cardio you are creating basically the fort knox against muscle building. There is no way you will succeed.
This is why taking a more moderate approach to dieting and weight loss is always going to be the better answer.
In this case the slower the better. If you are losing anywhere from .5-1.5 lb per week on average you are doing amazing.
Now when you first start off you may lose more than that due to water weight being lost, but after a few weeks if you are consistently losing say 3, 4, 5lbs per week, you are bound to be setting yourself up for failure.
The faster you lose weight means the more likely you are to lose muscle and or not build muscle. The more you lose muscle, the more this skinny fat looks becomes apparent which is what you are trying to fight against.
If you are dealing with this skinny fat appearance, the main way of losing weight has led you wrong.
You hear this all the time but the scale is not the best indicator of fitness progress . In this circumstance that couldn’t tell more of the truth. The scale is the last thing you should be looking at.
In fact at this point of your journey you need to get out of the “losing weight” mindset. You don’t look the way you want to look in the mirror so your immediate reaction is you need to lose weight on the scale.
In this case that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
If you truly want to know how to fix skinny fat the answer is going to be focus less on losing weight and more on building muscle.
We will get into more of that now.
Skinny Fat Mindset Shift
If you are dealing with being skinny fat your focus should be directed towards building muscle, not losing weight.
Why? Because you can lose all of the weight you want, hell you may have lost weight already, but until you build lean muscle mass you are never going to look the way you want.
It simply is not possible.
You won’t be able to build muscle doing hours of cardio and you won’t be able to build muscle eating 1200 calories.
Basically I am telling you you have to do less cardio and eat more food. Did you ever think in a million years this would be your solution to skinny fat?
Well you better believe it sister (or brother) because that is what the reality is.
There are a few different scenarios of individuals I want to cover who may be dealing with skinny fat so lets cover them one by one.
First, let’s start with a total beginner.
**Disclaimer, these will be general guidelines as everyone is an individual and unless I work with you directly it will be hard to tell you exactly what you need **
Complete Beginner Guide How To Fix Skinny Fat
This is you if you have never done any kind of serious or structured strength training.
This is also you if you never have been overweight and never lost weight. You are just an average Joe looking to better your physique (don’t worry I am too).
In this instance here is what I would do for both your diet and workouts.
Since you are a beginner you will be able to lose fat and build muscle at the same time.
With this being the case I recommend you starting off in a very moderate calorie deficit and or even calorie maintenance.
A calorie deficit means you are eating less calories than your body burns and a calorie maintenance means you are eating the same amount of calories as your body burns.
Eating in a calorie deficit will allow you to lose body fat while eating in a calorie maintenance will allow you to maintain your current weight.
In some instances for a beginner, if you eat around your maintenance calories you will be able to lose fat and build muscle at the same time. This is where individuality comes into play.
Yet for the point of this article I would first recommend if you are beginner going into a slight calorie deficit.
If you want to know how many calories to eat in your calorie deficit, head to my free calorie calculator here .
If you choose to eat at maintenance calories, the calorie calculator above will calculate that for you as well!
You also want to be consuming around 1g of protein per lb of body weight.
This means if you are weighing 150lbs, try to get 150g of protein per day within the calories you are eating.
This beginner stage is the best stage of your life so live it up.
As we said earlier you are going to want to get into a structured strength training routine.
If you do this time right you will see the most progress in your entire exercise career. This is because when you are new to strength training you are putting a stress on your body great enough that your body has to adapt to it.
It has never experienced strength training because so it will soak up the new adaptations.
Your body adapts by growing stronger, more defined muscles.
Yet this phase only lasts for so long because over time your body will get used to the stress and slow down its adaptation process.
This is why I tell anyone who is a beginner to please get on a properly designed strength training program from day one as opposed to just guessing and going into this without a true plan.
You will squeeze all of the juice out of the orange so to speak.
This is the best time to create change and optimize results so take advantage of it.
I am going to link here a video I did on how to create a structured strength training program, as well as link an article I wrote explaining exactly how to set up your routine.
I would strongly suggest looking over these two pieces of content in order to help you create your own program for free.
There is an entire separate section of this guide dedicated to more information on workouts, so read that below when you get there.
Lost Weight Previously Guide How To Fix Skinny Fat
If you have lost weight previously via the route of endless cardio and over restricting calories, here is how to fix skinny fat for you.
We talked earlier about how a beginner will be able to go into a calorie deficit to lose fat and build muscle at the same time.
If you have already lost a good amount of weight, I would step away from the calorie deficit and step into a calorie maintenance or even a calorie surplus.
This is because if you have been in a calorie deficit your issue likely is not losing fat or weight, it is simply building muscle.
If you continue on in your calorie deficit you will not be able to build any muscle, or build very little muscle mass.
Therefore if you bring your calories up to maintenance or a slight calorie surplus you will be giving your body the fuel it needs to add lean muscle mass to your frame thus changing your physique appearance.
I would go about doing this one of two ways.
The first way could be jumping straight to what your perceived calorie maintenance is,
Again, you can use this calorie calculator HERE to figure out your maintenance calories.
Or, you can choose to reverse diet your way back up to your calorie maintenance.
Reverse dieting basically means slowly but surely working your calories back up to find out what your true maintenance calorie are.
If you want more in depth on reverse dieting, I will link another article on reverse dieting HERE .
Now that you have your calories taken care of, it is onto protein.
Your protein goal will remain the same, aiming to eat around 1g of protein per lb of body weight.
Since up to this point you have done tons of cardio to get to where you are, you are probably still considered a “beginner” to strength training.
Even if you aren’t a total beginner, if you have taken anywhere from 5-9 months off of following a real structured strength training program, you can be thrown under the beginner label for a few months.
In which case I would do the same thing I talked about above in watching my YouTube video or reading my article on how to set up your own strength training program.
Workout Guide How To Fix Skinny Fat
When it comes to workouts I wanted to make a separate section all together because without proper workouts you will not build muscle.
You can’t build muscle through diet alone. You have to be following a proper program with proper principles to it.
There are two main principles I want to cover with workouts.
- Progressive Overload
- Lifting With Proper Effort & Intensity
Beyond just having a plan for your workouts you need to be sure you are also focusing on something called progressive overload.
Remember the only way your body builds lean muscle mass is by adapting to a stress great enough to adapt to.
If you aren’t applying that stress then your body won’t change. The principle of continuously applying this stress is where progressive overload comes into play.
I talk more about progressive overload in this article , but the main concept is you should be doing more over a period of time.
If you are lifting 10lbs on shoulder press for 10 reps, next week you should try and get 11 reps.
Or you should try and do 12.5 for 10 lbs.
If you are lifting 100lbs on deadlifts, next week you should try to go to 105 or 110.
Simply trying to do more than you did previously. Even if it is just ONE rep on ONE set, that is more than you did last time, and that will be enough to cause a stress on your body your body has to adapt to.
The second principle is lifting with intensity and close to proximity of failure for your sets, reps, and weights you lift.
There is this misconception that in order to lose weight and get “toned” or defined you need to be lifting low weight of reps.
That could not be any bigger of a pile of horse poop ( I really wanted to cuss there but I didn’t! Proud of myself!).
In order to grow muscle you need to be lifting with intensity.
Intensity is not defined as how much you are sweating or how out of breath you are when you are doing ground humpers aka burpees.
Intensity is defined as how heavy you are lifting and how close to failure you are lifting.
If you want to build muscle then you need to be lifting close to failure.
If you have a set of 10 reps, that 8th, 9th, and 10th rep better be challenging you. They shouldn’t be a cake walk. You should not be able to talk on the phone with your friend about your late night hookup last night.
You need to push yourself and lift with proper intensity if you want to see your body change. This is by far the #1 mistake I see people making when they complete their workouts.
You can’t just check the box off you have to be pushing yourself with your weights and effort.
How To Fix Skinny Fat Guide To Measuring Progress
We touched earlier on the scale and how the scale is not going to be anywhere near your best indicator of progress when it comes to how to fix skinny fat.
It could go up, down, or stay the same. It truly doesn’t matter.
If you gain two lbs of muscle and lose two lbs of fat, the scale is going to stay the exact same number.
Yet your body is going to look completely different.
Remember, if you are dealing with skinny fat this is not just about a number on the scale anymore. I know it is a hard concept to get over when everyone is so focused on the scale but trust me this is for your own good.
This is not to say you shouldn’t weigh yourself because my online coaching clients weigh themselves every single day.
Yet you should weigh yourself simply to collect data, not to have an emotional response to it or have it be your end all be all.
We will talk about this more coming up.
You should be taking measurements of your glutes, quads, and waist every 2 weeks.
You can also take measurements of any other area on your body you are looking to improve!
Take them around the same time of the same increments at the same spot. Consistency is key here.
Pick a certain freckle, or right below the belly button, or some sort of way of knowing where you measured last time.
Remember muscle takes up less space than fat, so if you are losing fat and gaining muscle, your measurements will go down but not the scale.
You should also be taking progress pics every 4 weeks.
This is by far the best way to track your skinny fat progress because you can see for yourself the changes being made.
Take one of the front, rear, and both sides.
I talked earlier about weighing yourself everyday, here is why.
You could weigh yourself everyday for the next 90 days and in that time you could gain 6 lbs of muscle and lose 7lbs of fat.
In 90 days the scale would only go down 1lb, but your progress pictures and measurements will be two completely different people.
This will cement in your head even more that the scale truly is not the end all be all and it is simply just one form of data.
How To Fix Skinny Fat : Final Word
I truly hope this article allowed you some insight on what to do in order to fix skinny fat.
Like I mentioned above these are general guidelines and everyone is an individual, but I promise you if you follow what I say here for your given scenario, you will be seeing some great progress in your physique.
If you have any other questions or concerns don’t hesitate to drop a comment below or shoot me an email at email@example.com with the subject title “HOW TO FIX SKINNY FAT ARTICLE”.
If you are interested in getting some help along your journey, feel free to check out my Clubhouse HERE where I hold all of my training programs as well as diet protocols!
We actually have en entire manual inside on how to fix skinny fat that goes even MORE in depth than this. Can you believe it?!
Other than that, just know I am always here to help.