Tips to Fix “Skinny Fat” Syndrome

October 23, 2009

I’m sure you have all heard of the term skinny fat. This when someone is chubby but doesn’t take up much space. A person who is close to their target weight, but is soft all over. To be honest, this is a super easy thing to fix, but a lot of people go about it the wrong way. Someone who is skinny fat is just 3 months away from transforming their body, they just need to attack this problem the right way.

skinny fat

[This isn't an example of skinny fat people. I just wanted to include a Halloween themed picture, since this holiday is approaching for a lot of us. I think it looks psychotic when people wear animal heads without the rest of the costume.]

Still Skinny Fat Even After Training for Some Time?

I would say that a good portion of the people in the gyms I have belonged to are skinny fat. A lot of people train really hard and still don’t display the muscle tone that they should. All you have to do is head on over to Youtube to see examples of this. There are thousands of videos of people sweating their butt off, but still not displaying impressive physiques.

Trying to Create a Calorie Deficit Through Exercise?

The biggest mistake I see is that people are trying to create a calorie deficit through exercise. If you want to lose body fat, you want to create a calorie deficit through diet and burn additional calories with exercise. Make sure you are in calorie deficit even when taking away the calories burned with exercise. *If you take away any tip from this article, this would be the most important piece of advice*

Eating Too Much and Then Training to Make up For It?

Training hard to make up for a bad diet puts you at risk for increasing your cortisol levels. The typical mistake I see is the people hitting cardio for 60 minutes at a time 5-6 days a week. I have no problem with some cardio after HIIT, but I like to limit this to just a few times per week. Cortisol breaks down muscle and increases fat storage. If you see someone training like a mad man (or mad woman) and isn’t lean…this is probably the reason why.

Back off on Exercise to Get Rid of Fat

The first thing I would recommend for a skinny fat person? I would tell them to reduce their calories and reduce their workouts. If they weren’t doing resistance training, then that would be mandatory as well. In fact, if they were really lacking muscle tone I would have that person hit the weights hard under a calorie deficit with very little cardio. Maybe re-introduce cardio after 1-2 months.

Focus on Short Intense Workouts While Eating Well

Skinny fat people typically need to boost the intensity of their workouts, but not too often. The main thing is to avoid the release of cortisol while increasing the HGH through strategic exercise. There is a “Sweet Spot” of just the right amount of exercise and it is different for everybody. The key is to find that sweet spot. Once you figure that out, you are just 2-3 months max away from a complete transformation.

Note: I know it seems weird that working out less can actually result in a leaner body, but it is the truth. Also…you can hit it hard for short spurts like outlined in my Vacation Body Blueprint report…you just can’t push too hard for too long.

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Rusty Moore

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{ 102 comments… read them below or add one }

David August 4, 2010 at 5:58 pm

I’m skinny fat. too. Been like this for a couple of years. Tried different things. Remain the same. Crossfit 2-3x a week. Just started lifting weights. Numerous people have told me to eat more. I am eating Paleo/PB with 1500 to 1800 cals. a day. 6′ tall, 155 lbs. and in fifties.
Will lifting weights with ESE work?

Leilani August 19, 2010 at 7:27 am

How come dancers do 5 hours of cardio each day and they are in good shape (no fat) and are still strong. Does long cardio really not burn fat? Beacuse i enjoy it. I want strong lungs and heart, to start dance or cycling. I’ve only just started trying to get into shape. I want to be strong but as small as possibile, i like feeling light and fast. Does long cardio really make your muscles weaker? I don’t see how it does looking at my dancer friends. Please explain. I’m so confused. Help!

wolverine September 7, 2010 at 2:17 pm

you said it!!!! 5 hours a day!!! who has the time!!! except ofcourse if that is what you do for a living

orlando December 23, 2010 at 10:00 pm

your dancing friends probably were never skinny fat, maybe just skinny .. they probably do bodyweight exercise plus the dancing
Genetics also count like I said, they probably were never skinny fat just PURE ectomorphs .. pure ectomorphs are able to maintain muscle mass just by doing bodyweight exercises and even lose fat by doing that much cardio … the skinny fat person is different, the reason why he is skinny fat is because even though he has little muscle like the pure ectomorph, he has more fat cells around the abdomen and love handles and is a person who produces more cortisol, more stress and less testosterone than the pure ectomorph .. recovering from life itself is hard for them
thats why this article is correct .. a skinny fat person should only train 3 times a week to avoid overtraininig, a skinny fat person should train with big compound exercises such squat, a skinny fat should never do cardio and focus on diet for losing fat or gaining mass
The main reason why they are skinny fat is not because of lack of muscle or lack training or lack of a good diet, is mainly because they have many more fat cells around their midsections which makes them look fat even though they are very skinny
The problem is that fat cells can only be reduced in size but not in number, only way to get rid of fat cells permanently is to have liposuction on the problem area, fat cells will be gone forever and will never come back unless you go morbidly obese
Liposuction is the best way to get rid of the skinny fat look once and for all … even if you get lean like 10% fat you will still have same amount of fat cell and a little slip from your part will make you gain fat on those area very fast .. another is that is goign to be more difficult to gain muscle mass .. in order to gain muscle mass you have to eat more calories than maintenance and you will always gain some fat … even if you are at 10%, if you have lots of fat cells on your midsection, when you eat avober maintenance calories you will gain fat in those areas fast even if u are really carefull

eric January 1, 2011 at 9:31 pm

hello, I would like to know if i am a skinny fat person should try to gain weigh (bulking) then cutting? And while i am skinny fat can i do abs exercise?

Clarian January 20, 2011 at 12:43 pm

I have never heard of skinny fat. But now I’m analyzing people like crazy! It’s fascinating. As is that photo, by the way.

German February 15, 2011 at 9:27 am

Great article, I’m exactly this type. I will now do eat-stop-eat and I’ll update you Mr. Rusty Moore on my progress.

I’ve downloaded your Vacation-Body-Blueprint and I must say that I envy both your test subject there with amazingly low body fat levels.

Hope it works to me also, More power

keep fit February 16, 2011 at 12:38 pm

One problem is that some people reach their target weight only to find that they are still flabby. The weight loss regime that they have been on has unknowingly robbed them of some of their muscle mass. Some good muscle toning routines are all they will need.

Orlando February 27, 2011 at 1:26 pm

The best way to fix the skinny fat look is

Slight caloric Deficit
Weight training
4 months of patience

This will make the skinny fat person to lose fat slowly which will also help them to maintain the little muscle mass they have especially if they do resistance training, yes you will look skinnier because you are losing fat all over, that doesn’t mean you are losing muscle mass . Once you get down to 12%bf then and only then you can concentrate on gaining muscle mass.

Leo March 26, 2011 at 5:27 am

@orlando

are you sure about this?
I’m skinny fat and I’m afraid that with a slight caloric deficit I will become even skinnier and more emaciated.

I wonder if the solution might be cycling days or caloric deficit and days of caloric surplus.

orlando April 26, 2011 at 1:04 pm

there is no solution besides

1. getting lean first and then bulk or
2. gain muscle (you will gain fat because you already have a high bf) and the after months get lean
3. lift weights, eat at maintenance and expect after months a miracle

no such thing as cycling days, that wont do anything to change your skinny fat physique .. you will be spinning your wheels if you do that .. i have done and didnt see results

i was only when i started lifting heavy weight and eating less food, than my gut started to go away .. once you get lean then you can concentrate on eating more food to build muscle slowly hopefully with little to no fat

Jay May 29, 2011 at 10:29 pm

Ok wait. There is way too many conflicting & confusing replies on here. Some say this and some say that!!

I’d rather have admin answer my question!!

I just want to get this straight, as I fall under this category, and have been at this stage for a couple of years now.

I’m about to start a 12 week transformation from skinny-fat to one or the other. As I want to bulk up first, I need to eat a diet consisting of 40% protein, 30% carbs and 30% good fast, right? And at the same time, lift heavy and confuse my muscles to make it grow?

After that, I want to spend 3 months losing fat and trying to get lean. So I need to change my diet to a lower carbohydrate intake and high protein diet? While at the same time, continuing to lift heavy and confuse my muscles?

Tim July 2, 2011 at 12:39 am

Hi, I’m an 18 yr old boy that weighed 210 lbs at age 15. Within a year and a half I dropped 70 lbs and picked up running. Now I’m about 155 lbs at 5’11″ and am training for a marathon. I am definitely skinny fat. I look skinny but I hold a lot of excess fat on my stomach and lovehandles. I’ve tried everything I could find to help fix this, but nothing seems to work. I run 6 days a week for a total of about 45 miles per week. I also weight train about 2 times a week and do a spin class once a week. This article says to cut cardio but I really can’t do this while training for a marathon. Do you have any suggestions of what to do to help?

bsrat October 26, 2011 at 3:25 pm

hi my name is bsrat and iam 20 years old i start to become fat after i have my first child and after that i become thinner but the prplome is my son was having heart and lang prplome and he is dead after 4 month and i become so sad so i start to eat to make my self happy but i hate my look and i realy want to chang i realy need to adves to loes my weight so can u help me

spiritlessons November 28, 2011 at 12:43 am

i have read about anorexics who were very petite but when they looked in the mirror they thought they were fat. i think i might understand why now!

Dear bsrat im saddened to hear of your loss. do not lose heart, your baby is being cared for in heaven with Jesus. if we follow our good Lord’s example we can reunite with our loved ones in the next life and have everlasting joy!
take some time out to be with Jesus; just close your eyes & the Lord will wash you with His love. He will comfort you. He knows exactly how you are feeling.

may God bless your heart.

mary December 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm

What if a person has lost around 60lbs by exercising and eating better,but has about 35lbs to go and they don’t want to become skinny fat. What should they do. Me of course. I am starting to feel soft. I do a mixture of intense cardio including HIIT and shadow kicking boxing. I do weight training but am not for sure just how to do it the right way. I have worked hard to get the first 60lbs off, no pills, no fad diets, nor surgery; just eating better and working out. I want to feel a shapely body come through not a soft flabby one.

Grace January 16, 2012 at 1:12 pm

All this time I never knew there was a name for the problem I have…and now I know, ‘skinny fat’! And from what I’m reading, it makes sense to target the muscles that have been ‘dormant’ for years! For too long I seem to be going nowhere.

So, for a basic ‘skinny fat’ workout, am I right in saying this consists of say 30 min resistance training, followed by 20 min H.I.I.T. cardio 3 to 4 times a week?

What about resistance cardio, is it crazy for example to do resistance cardio after weights? Or is resistance cardio even necessary at all with that programme? I’d appreciate any advice as I really would like to kick start this new routine :)

Eman February 12, 2012 at 4:31 pm

Dear Rusty,

I’m a 22 year old guy that is 5’8″, weighs 170 lbs with 8% body fat. I feel like I’m really stuck in the skinny fat category and I’m trying to trim it down to 160 lbs (lose 10 lbs of fat) and 5 or 6% body fat. What do I exactly do? I read your Visual Impact e-book and I want to skip Phase 1, because I don’t want to get any phase 1. Also in accordance with your post, I do think I spend too much time lifting at the gym and I’m getting bigger, but not ripped like I want. Suggestions, please? I would greatly appreciate it.

joo March 3, 2012 at 12:24 am

Hi I’m skinny fat an breastfeeding I’m losing weight like crazy all fati hope. I look like a stick. I weigh 120 5’7. My legs are all fat an going to be bones pretty soon please help idk what to do I’ve been sqauting but don’t have much time going to the gym..

joo March 3, 2012 at 12:32 am

im only 21 an have never had an inshape body I look good in pants but not shorts I’m soft on my arm an legs mainly I’m tired I want to change an maake my 20ies amazing.

Zeynep June 5, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Hello and thanks for sharing this useful article. I’ve just heard this skinny fat thing which suits me at all. You know i used to go to gyms (not regularly) and ask the sports people how to loose fat, they always told me “you’re so thin, no need to make so much training”. Nowadays, I was just starting swimming for twice a week and walking 1,5 hours every morning. Do you think swimming can be okay for the muscles or shall i definetely lift weight? Age 31, 170cm and 53 kilos, female. And i keep loosing weight and having a lot of fat!

Zeynep June 5, 2012 at 12:06 pm

I forgot to ask the most important one: i heard that muscles can be build up to age 27. Will it be difficult for me (at the age of 31-32) to build muscle? Shall i give up before starting?

swizel July 5, 2012 at 3:14 am

i am 58kg and 5.”4 tall but i am thin but i have belly fat i whant help to get rid of if

Darryl July 20, 2012 at 8:44 am

I workout 5 to 6 times a week. I will warm up first with a high intensity cardio run/elliptical/bike. I switch it up so my body doesn’t get used to it.

Then I go directly into lifting weights. I usually do the heavy stuff first (legs and what ever muscle i want bigger) and rest about 30 to 40 seconds in-between. The lighter stuff is on the later half, so that I can alternate sets and NEVER stop. This keeps my heart rate between 120 to 150 bpm for 1.5 to 2 hours. In the last 7 months I have gone from 21% body fat (I was skinny fat) to 11% body fat while only loosing 10 lbs (168 to 158).

One thing I did notice was that once the fat comes off, you actually can see what muscles you need to work on. These are the heavy lifting exercises I do. I also noticed, that I look just as good as those guys who lift massive amounts of weights 3 times a week. I’ve caught them looking at me when I am lifting 30 lbs weights and got muscles bulging all over the place. My calorie deficit will ALWAYS be there because I do my cardio and weight training at the same time–kill two birds with one stone.

Matt August 12, 2012 at 1:27 am

@zeynep look into strength training. Starting strength/stronglifts 5×5 a great place to start. Don’t be scared to lift heavy weight. You will not look like a female bodybuilder unless you start eating like one and taking steroids. Women who eat whole foods 90% of the time on a paleo ish diet while focusing on strength training have the best body’s. They will be proportionate, and you will not become skinnier from training with only cardio, but look more healthy while maintaining or even building muscle. Seriously lifting weights is not only for men. There would be a lot more happy women if they weren’t scared of lifting weights.

Matt August 12, 2012 at 2:33 am

@zeynep it is never too late or early to start building muscle at any age. Remember that.

Alex August 21, 2012 at 1:31 am

To be honest whenever I read things like this it makes me think I’m doing everything wrong and it’s all to complicated! I just do something everyday and try and eat the right food each day also, This idea people get about getting toned etc in 3 months is silly because you just have to do some excersize each day forever.

Jason August 30, 2012 at 4:22 pm

Response to Orlando:

You described me to a T. I have a highly disproportionate amount of fat cells in my midsection and love handle areas. I’m 5’10″, I weight about 170 pounds (I got down to as low as 165), and my love handles were and are UNBELIEVABLY thick and dense. It’s embarrassing. I was very obese as a child; I weighed 224 pounds at age 14. I became a fitness freak and adopted a healthy lifestyle, and over the years, I have become a very fit and in “good shape” person. But the love handles/belly fat; it has never gone away!! And it’s always been hard for me to concentrate on building muscle mass, because, as you so eloquently explained, us “skinny fat” people always gain fat in our problem areas when trying to build lean muscle. And it’s almost impossible to get these “problem” areas lean enough to where we can switch over into a muscle-building mode.

I am seriously considering having laser-assisted liposuction done. This has been a problem that has gnawed at me since I was a teenager (I just turned 38 now). I Know plenty of guys who are shorter than me (guys like 5’6″, 5’7″) who can easily carry 200+ pounds on their frames and not have as much loose, jiggly subcutaneous fat as I do at 5’10″ 170-ish pounds. Sometimes it almost drives me insane!!

skinny September 30, 2012 at 5:07 am

Very good information.
Cardio for 60 minutes at a time 5-6 days a week is too much

Lizzy November 26, 2012 at 10:51 am

Please, 2 be honest how do belly fat can be get rid for life

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