There’s a million-dollar question that plagues skinny fat people everywhere. They know the type of physique they want, but how do they get there?
If you want to be able to get the most physically out of your life, add muscle, lose stubborn fat, and own a body to keep performing at its best…. then you need to pay close attention to everything I’m going to cover in this article.
Because here’s the truth:
You can follow every diet created . . .
You can run until your joints are ground to dust . . .
You can swallow a handful of supplements every day . . .
You can do every home workout program ever made . . .
And you can still be skinny fat for the rest of your life.
In part 2, I wrote about the quickest ways to become skinny fat (which you can read here), but today, let’s talk about how to prevent, and if necessary, undo the damage.
Too much fat and too little muscle is what got you into this mess and now you must flip that around to escape it.
Men tend to think they should just focus on building muscle and women are inclined to want to always lose weight.
And they’re both going to get nowhere . . . because when you’re skinny fat you need to do both.
The key here is you must both lose fat and gain muscle to put your skinny fat days behind you, and when you look at the bigger picture, gaining muscle is the priority.
That’s what will ultimately give your body the look and shape you want.
So what’s the solution?
Skinny Fat Solution #1:
As I mentioned previously, for our muscles to grow we need to be applying stress through resistance training in the form of lower repetitions using progressive overload.
There are so many ways to do this, it just ends up confusing people into either doing too much volume, too many variations or focusing on a single muscle group (we all know the big arms/big chest with skinny legs look).
Now, that isn’t to say that higher rep training and isolation exercises have no place in a weightlifting program.
They just shouldn’t be the core focus.
And if the term ‘progressive overload’ is new to you, allow me to explain:
Progessive overload is the most fundamental law when it comes to strength and muscle growth.
If you do 10 push ups today, it may be hard. Same thing next week? Maybe the same. But before long you will find those same 10 pushups easy…because your body has adapted to the imposed stimulus.
Therefore, you must increase the reps or increase the resistance each time you train to continue to create a stimulus.
As for exercise selection, personally, I like the KISS analogy (keep it simple silly) both for my own training and with my Prime40 studio programming.
The focus here should be on compound exercises like the squats, deadlifts, push and pulls – natural movements that use more muscle per lift and create a more balanced looking body.
The reasons why I don’t recommend anything else for most people is it just adds an unnecessary layer of complexity.
So, instead of chasing a huge pump or sweat every week, your primary goal is to get very strong with these movements.
Here’s a simple rule of thumb:
The more weight you can push, pull, and squat, the more muscle you’re going to have – guaranteed!
Skinny Fat Solution #2:
It’s well understood that to lose weight you need to be burning more calories than you are eating.
In other words, be in a caloric deficit.
The problem is, this only works effectively in short stints before the body begins to store any excess energy (food) as fat and begin burning muscle tissue instead.
As I stated earlier, the focus should be on building muscle.
And we do this by increasing calories – mostly through an increased protein intake.
With people who are skinny fat, I call this reverse dieting.
And I do this because consuming a diet high in protein is necessary to build muscle. This is because protein forms the basis of our muscles and is required to repair and build our muscles after we’ve applied stress to them through weight training.
Here’s a tip…
The actual training doesn’t grow the muscle, it’s the recovery after the stimulus does through nutrition/sleep where muscle is grown. Hence why recovery is as much a focus as the training in our 3x52x10 program.
That’s why ‘diets’ (such as vegan, 7 day juice detoxes, random fasting) don’t work. They never allow for the body to properly recover.
Remember, the majority of people need to lose weight. In the case of being skinny fat most mainstream diet advice will just keep you skinny…and fat.
As well, adequate protein in our diet will ensure that we not only build more muscle but preserve the muscle that we already have.
Increasing your lean muscle mass ultimately will reduce your body fat percentage and change your body shape.
Also, the leaner muscle mass you have, the more energy you expend (and fat you burn) even at rest.
Eating less will result in continued fat loss if you’re heavy set…
But, to avoid being skinny fat, you’ll want to ensure you prioritize building muscle and that requires you to eat more, not less.
Skinny Fat Solution #3:
Regardless of whether you can train once a week or six times a week, the Australian Department of Health’s physical activity guidelines recommend you need to perform at least ‘2 muscle strengthening activities each week’.
Even if all you have is one day per week to go to the gym, so long as you focus on the correct protocols – compound movements, low-rep, progressive overload- you can still see significant improvements in strength over time.
When you want to maximize muscle growth, you must emphasize heavy, compound weightlifting in your workouts.
Compound lifts are multi-joint exercises that use more muscle, are better for joint health and translate better to real life function.
Most people see the best results when they can do these kinds of workouts three to five times per week.
At Prime40, we recommend 3 times a week as it’s a realistic target, any more than that and recovery plays too big a role.
If you are someone who does struggle with basic cardiovascular fitness or is looking to achieve an improved health status, bouts of 15-30 minutes at a low intensity is ok.
You can add this 1-2 days a week, however it is important to remember that this increases your calorie needs (based on how many calories you burn) and could ultimately interfere with the muscle building process.
Remember, performing too much cardio may be the very reason you wound up skinny fat.
If you really want to, adding high-intensity cardio can be a great way to burn calories and increase cardiovascular fitness – just don’t overdo it or else the additional benefit can work against you while you’re trying to build muscle.
A short 5-minute burst added at the end of a strength session is what we do at Prime40 if you want to still reap the benefits of a HIIT without affecting the muscle building process too much.
You just need to remember that not only will cardio/HIIT increase your calorie demands (you’re most likely already struggling with this), but it will also increase fatigue and take away your body’s ability to recover and build muscle (which is the focus).
Skinny fat is often a challenging problem. It’s often more frustrating than the traditional ‘weight loss’ as the visual results are a longer process.
We can often fall into the trap of sacrificing our long-term goals for instant gratification and short-lived pleasures.
When you are faced with the decision of skipping your workout…skimping on your diet, trying another new workout etc, remember that often the number one reason people don’t see results is consistency!
If you learn to get each day right…
You’ll soon start getting the weeks right.
And then the months right.
Then the years.
You’ll continue to hit your goals, and your skinny fat to muscular physique will be staring right back at you in the mirror before you know it.
Start small. Keep going.
If you have any questions regarding skinny fat or want to know more about the 3x52x10 program that cuts away with the fads and confusion that exists, please come ask.