There’s always a lot of focus on obese people, and how they’re going lose weight. Easy formula: exercise and watch the diet, and the normal scenario is you’ll lose pounds per week. But, for those who are not very overweight yet not very fit either, the formula is not quite as simple. When your muscle mass is too small to look quite buff and your body fat is a bit too high to show off the muscle, you find yourself in the skinny fat zone: too high body fat, too low muscle mass.

Skinny fat people tend to over estimate their muscle density and expect to turn out looking like a fitness model. But fitness models are dense on their “lower” weight; they are not muffin tops. Fitness models might seem petite and lean, but you’d actually find them to carry a lot of muscle. If you’re a skinny fat, you need to focus on both fat loss and muscle gain, at the same time. Doing too little cardio, you will build muscle, but also keep your belly fat for longer. That’s fine if you have no problem with waiting until you see some definition. Doing too much cardio, you’ll burn so many calories every day it’ll be too much for your body to even think about packing on mass. This is because packing on muscle mass means your calories need to go to muscle building instead of just to compensate for the cardio you do.

Skinny fat people cannot just go on a hardgainer diet to build muscle, unless they want to build more body fat as well. But going on a low-carb, high-protein diet won’t let you train hard and intense either. Remember, training requires carbohydrates. I like to say, “Train like your goal is to build the maximum amount of muscle, and diet like you’re going for ripped abs”. This is true for everyone except for hardgainers.

Skinny fat people have another thing to contend with: their bodies prefer to expend calories but not to build muscle, hence you can remain at a certain “normal” weight, but it’s tough to build muscle. You’re a hardgainer on muscle, but an easy gainer on bodyfat.

So, what to do, huh? Well, first of all, remember you don’t have enough muscle mass to sacrifice. You need to hit the weights heavy and hard. Remember you cannot do cardio for hours to burn fat because your body won’t let you burn that fat if you have more fat than muscle (not literally speaking, ok). Remember, you need to work with your genetics, but also, genetics is one part, hard work is the other. You need to be patient. You need to keep it real. Be realistic. Don’t live by the scale, live by what you look like, strength gains and how your clothing fits. It might appear nothing is happening, but your body is slowly building more muscle and the fat is slowly melting off.

Keep it up and enjoy the process!

Pauline Nordin