What Is Skinny Fat and Are You in Danger? (Part 2)

Skinny Woman on yoga

In last week’s blog I introduced to you exactly what skinny fat is and the dangers behind it. Today we’re going to discuss why it is what you’re doing is causing you to be skinny fat..

Now, the first thing you need to know is that there are three main contributors to skinny fat. I call these the three sins of skinny fat:

  1. Doing minimal weightlifting – but high rep exercise focus
  2. Severely Limiting Calories
  3. Performing large (and long) amounts of slow paced cardio

And you’ll most commonly see this in individuals who are very skinny or have a ‘healthy’ body weight with no muscle definition to speak of.

There is one major reason I personally think that causes people to follow these 3 skinny fat sins…

Lack of knowledge and misleading advice.

For example, you may have heard some time in your life:

“You need to drop food intake to 1200 calories to lose weight…”

“You need to spend countless hours in the gym each day, grinding out tons of sets, smashing yourself to the point of exhaustion” (or whatever no pain, no gain myth you’ve been told…)

“Drop hundreds of dollars per year on the worthless supplements that dudes on steroids or young women with ‘perfect’ genes push in social media advertisements…’’

“Constantly change up your exercise routine to ‘confuse’ your muscles… (Last time I checked, muscles lack cognitive function) or need constant variety…’’

“You need to obsess over ‘eating clean’ to build muscle and be healthy…’’

By navigating your way through all of that, you’ve probably fallen into one of the biggest issues skinny-fat people face…

An endless rut of trying to lose that last bit of stubborn body fat, and you just get thinner, lose some more muscle and still lack definition.

On the other hand, if you try to build muscle you just gain more body fat (especially on your midsection) due to incorrect training techniques.

Simply put, you need to ignore the bulk of mainstream fitness and weight loss advice – especially for women.

So what’s the problem with the 3 sins?

Sin #1: High rep training…

The common belief is that high reps magically get rid of fat. This is not true.

Firstly, a caloric deficit gets rid of fat – not the exercise.

What exercise does is increase your energy expenditure.

Secondly, the type of exercise determines what type of muscle you build or maintain.

Simply put, there are 2 types of muscle fibers – fast twitch and slow twitch.

To achieve your goals, you need both.

Think of a long distance runner as opposed to a 100m sprinter.

Visually speaking they are the extremes of both ends.

Ideally you want to be in the middle – the often misunderstood ‘toned’ look.

To build fast twitch fibers you need to resistance train using heavy loads.

Slow twitch is built through high repetition using light weights.

With high reps being regarded as doing a singular exercise for more than 15 reps.

Most circuit style training and online workouts are centered around the high rep method as it gives you a nice sweat up and muscle burn.

This makes you ‘feel’ good while you’re doing it. But it’s only going to help you if your goal is to get better at long distance related activities e.g running or are a endorphin addict…but no good at recruiting the metabolically important fast twitch fibres responsible for muscle growth.

This is the muscle fiber skinny fat people lack.

If you want to add insult to injury (as most skinny fat people seem to) you’ll mix your high rep work while also eating in a calorie deficit. This is a perfect storm for muscle loss. Your body simply does not have the energy to recover from that kind of volume.

Remember, when you say you want to “lose weight,” what you really mean is you want to lose fat,not muscle.

Your goal when attempting to lose fat,should be to hold onto every gram of muscle you’ve worked hard for, while also working towards building some more. This is accomplished by lower reps and lower overall volume (while making consistent strength gains).

Sin #2: Limiting Calories

Why exactly does eating less actually cause you to be fatter?

It is impossible to lose weight and build muscle at the same time.


When trying to lose weight people mostly only diet with no system to maintain the muscle they have or combine dieting with cardio.

Both these scenario’s will cause you to lose both fat and muscle.

With most clients at my private studio who suffer from skinny fat, after a little investigation, it often is the case they lack any meaningful amount of protein intake and this naturally coincides with eating less.

This is exasperated if you have a history of dieting.

This also has a profound effect on females later in life which can translate into numarise hormonal issues, especially through menopause.

Recommended protein intake is 1g of protein per 1kg of bodyweight.

This is adequate for muscle maintenance.

But if you want to grow muscle, you’ll need 1.5 – 2g of protein per kg of bodyweight.

That’s a lot of protein most people are unable to get through food alone – let alone a diet.

Technically, you can survive – not thrive – with minimal amounts of Fat or Carbs.

You cannot survive with minimal protein (ever heard of a low protein diet?)

Also, often when people are finished with their diet, they tend to go back to their previous eating habits, but with less muscle tissue and ultimately a lower metabolic rate, which in turn, adds the weight back in the form of fat.

The only way to maintain muscle and lose fat is through a small caloric deficit, high protein intake and training strength with low reps.

This way the body needs to lose something (fat), but due to training Strength, the body is told it needs the hold on to the muscle as it’s being used.

Therefore it turns into fat loss, not weight loss.

Sin 3: Too much cardio

Hang on, why is cardio a sin?

Cardio has many benefits – cardiovascular and respiratory health, aerobic capacity – but when it comes to building or maintaining muscle – it’s useless.

As explained earlier, cardio promotes slow twitch muscle fibre due to it’s repetitive nature and because of slow-twitch muscles ability to create its own energy by using oxygen from the blood – which is an unlimited resource as long as you breathe – they’re always in use therefore you’ll never lose it.

Fast twitch is grown or wasted away depending on the amount you use it.

The classic ‘use it or lose it’ applies here.

And this is only grown through resistance training.

And the best and most efficient type of resistance training is strength training.

Due to strength training’s low volume, you are able to recover while still being in a caloric deficit (as long as your protein requirements are met).

Slow twitch muscle is dominant in the skinny fat, the frail and the physically obese.

And a reason why they mostly suffer from some kind of metabolic disorder later in life.

There’s good news in all this…

The good news is that it can easily be reverse and offset with 3 simple rules:

  1. Do a lot of heavy compound weightlifting
  2. Eat plenty of protein
  3. Be stingy with your cardio

Stay tuned and next week in part 3 I’ll explain why these 3 rules will result in the best outcome for those who are skinny fat.