Skinny Fat Syndrome: How to Get Rid of It and Transform Your Physique (for Good)

Skinny fat syndrome—it’s not a fun situation to be in.

Most people are only skinny or fat, which makes it easy to develop a game plan.

But what are you supposed to do if you’re both?

Should you try to burn fat and risk looking even skinnier?

Or should you try to add muscle with the worry of adding more fat?

This can be tough to transform, but with the right strategy, it can be done in a timely manner.

And beating the skinny fat syndrome is exactly what I’m going to be sharing with you today.

Let’s dive right in…

How Did the Skinny Fat Syndrome Come to Plague You?

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Being skinny fat doesn’t seem possible—they’re on opposite sides of the spectrum.

If you’re skinny, you don’t have a lot of muscle mass.

If you’re fat, you have high levels of body fat.

How can you be both at the same time?

Here’s how it came to be:

  • You’re naturally skinny.
  • You don’t lift weights.
  • Your only form of exercise is cardio.
  • You eat a few too many Cool Ranch Doritos at times.

Being skinny your entire life doesn’t mean you’re immune to gaining fat.

You can’t eat whatever you want in erroneous amounts and expect to be ok.

The same principles of thermodynamics apply to you as with everyone else.

“But Thomas, I do lift weights and I still look terrible- what gives?”

Likely, something is flawed with your workout routine.

Lifting weights alone doesn’t guarantee anything, especially if your routine is subpar (more on how to fix this later).

Maybe you went crazy with your diet and ate everything in sight claiming you were “bulking.”

Either way, your physique doesn’t look the way you want it to and you’re ready to transform it, but how?

Should You Bulk or Cut First if You Suffer From Skinny Fat Syndrome?

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This is the great debate when it comes to being skinny fat.

Should you try to bulk up first and risk gaining even more fat in the stomach area?

Or should you cut and have to worry about looking even smaller than you already are?

As you can see, this can be quite the dilemma.

And I know you’re not going to like my answer but—it depends.

Here’s the deal:

Before I get into your skinny fat syndrome solution, you need to understand one thing:

Chasing rabbit holes will get you nowhere.

This is where a lot of guys mess up.

They’ll start to bulk, but then get insecure about gaining too much fat and switch to cutting.

Once they start to feel too skinny, they’ll jump ship again.

This indecisiveness will keep you stuck in your situation forever.

Whatever it is you decide to do (i.e. bulk or cut)— stick with it until the job is done.

You Should Bulk First If…

Go straight for bulking if you are starting out on the leaner side.

What’s the leaner side?

Around 12-15% body fat for males and 22-25% for women.

How can you tell what your body fat % is?

Well you have some options:

Dexa scan—Gold standard for measuring body fat, however you have to go to a lab and it can be quite expensive to test.

Skin Fold Calipers—likely to be of little use because few people know how to accurately take measurements with them.

Bioelectrical Impedance—reading influenced by many factors and can give large variations in body fat %.

Mirror—you already have one in your bathroom and how you look is all that matters anyway, making this your best bet.

Here’s a chart to roughly compare your starting point:

body-fat-chart-men

body-fat-chart-women

Bulking first will allow you to add the necessary lean muscle to break free from being skinny.

Then once you’ve added enough muscle, you can start to cut.

Since you’re already fairly lean to begin with, you won’t have that much fat to burn.

Of course this is assuming you won’t add much fat during your bulk.

How do you pull that off?

By slow bulking.

Many people engage in sloppy bulking.

They eat whatever they want, whenever they want and claim it’s ok because they’re “bulking.”

You can’t do that because gaining more fat will dig a deeper hole for you to climb out of.

Here’s the step-by-step process for adding lean muscle without the fat:

Step 1: Find your resting metabolic rate

Step 2: Add 250 to that number.

Step 3: Eat that many calories daily.

Step 4: Strategically lift weights using compound movements (more on this later).

Step 5: Track your progress and adjust accordingly (i.e. eat more or less if you’re not gaining muscle or staying lean)

Your aim is to gain around .5 pound of lean muscle per week.

Anything more than that will lead to risk of fat gain.

.5 pound per week might not seem like a lot, but remember the muscle building process is slow!

You Should Cut First If…

Begin cutting right off the bat if your body fat % is above 15% for men and above 25% for females.

Trying to bulk with too much body fat causes issues:

  • It’s hard to tell if you’re adding muscle or more fat.
  • Your testosterone levels are lower making it harder to add lean muscle.
  • It’s faster to drop body fat than it is to add muscle.

As you start leaning down, you’ll be motivated by your quick progress to keep going.

This wouldn’t be the case if you tried bulking while already fat.

Here’s the kicker:

What about losing muscle mass while leaning down?

Don’t worry about it (as long as you do this):

  • Understand you don’t have much muscle to lose in the first place.
  • Understand that your body uses protein (i.e. your muscle) for energy use as a last resort.
  • Eat enough protein (1 gram per pound of bodyweight).
  • Do resistance training (this is a biggie, cardio alone will make you look flat and weak).

When should I start bulking?

Switch to bulking once you reach the 10-12% body fat range if you’re a guy and 17-20% if you’re a girl.

At this point, you’ll be lean enough and ready to start adding some lean muscle.

Be sure to follow the lean bulking protocol mentioned above to prevent any additional fat gain!

What About Building Muscle and Burning Fat AT THE SAME TIME?!?!

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Right now you might be thinking, “Thomas, building muscle or burning fat is cool and all but isn’t it possible to do both at the same time? Wouldn’t that be the most efficient way to get rid of the skinny fat syndrome?”

Yes, it certainly is doable—depending on your fitness level.

Here’s the deal:

Normally building muscle and burning fat at the same time would be a conflict of interest…

You must be in an energy deficit to burn fat.

And you must be in an energy surplus to build muscle.

Or do you?

Believe it or not, it’s possible to build muscle while in an energy deficit.

This would allow you to achieve both goals at the same time.

Now:

Is it possible for you to build muscle and burn fat simultaneously?

It is if you’re a beginner.

If you’re new to weightlifting, you still haven’t experienced those “newbie gains” yet.

On the other hand, if you already have years of lifting under your belt your best bet is to stick to burning fat or building muscle.

Here’s the step-by-step process you need to take to build muscle and burn fat at the same time:

Step #1: Determine your resting metabolic rate

Step #2: Subtract 250 from that number.

Step #3: Lift weights focusing on heavy compound movements.

Step #4: Eat at least one gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.

Step #5: Monitor your waist measurement, bodyweight, strength levels, and adjust accordingly.

Side Note: Your aim is to lose around .5 pound of fat per week. There might be times when your bodyweight stays the same because you’re undergoing a body recomposition. If your waist measurement is going down and your strength levels are going up then you’re on the right track.

Now:

I mentioned earlier your weight workouts should consist of heavy compound movements.

Any exercise you do is either going to be a compound or isolation exercise.

Here is the difference:

Compound movement: involves multiple joints and muscles.

Examples: Bench press, Shoulder press, Pull-ups, Squats, etc.

Isolation movement: involves one joint and muscle group.

Examples: Chest fly, Leg extensions, Lateral raises, Cable Crossovers, etc.

Since compound exercises use multiple muscle groups at the same time, they’ll allow you to lift heavier weights and save you time in the gym.

Compound movements are the best way to overcome the skinny fat syndrome.

Download my free 12-week beginner’s workout for a solid program filled with compound exercises.

If you’re eating in a slight caloric deficit and getting stronger with the right exercises over time, you will beat the skinny fat syndrome. It’s a matter of patience.

It won’t go away overnight.

Final Thoughts on Skinny Fat Syndrome

Being skinny fat isn’t fun.

It’s confusing and a tough situation to beat if you don’t know how.

However, you now have the tools necessary to beat the skinny fat syndrome.

As long as you’re patient and persistent, you will succeed.

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2 Comments

  1. Good article. Something I have had for years. Similar to your recommendation, I began with a bulking progrram and eating plan and was thrilled with th results (bar the added girth around the mid-section, but as you stated, that was to be expected). Currently attempting a shred program to remove this and maintain the muscle mass I put on, through the use of cardio acceleration.

    • Thomas Rohmer

      Awesome Dave I’m glad the advice is working for you!