Here is an email I got from a reader regarding how to train for someone who is “skinny-fat”:
Dear John Doe, I have bought and read some parts of your book yet have I found information regarding diet and training program for skinny-fat body type. I am basically a skinny (lacking muscle) 19 y.o man but I have high body fat percentage which are shown from the excess fat in my belly area, chest, waist, and bottom area. I would really appreciate it if you spare some time to talk about this topic.
Being skinny is your genetic makeup and the fat part is lack of activity and/or poor diet. So “skinny-fat” in all reality is an ectomorph body-type and the good news is this; once you change your metabolic rate through weight training and diet, you'll turn it around relatively quick!
Muscle is a fat metabolizer.
A more muscular person will burn fat at a faster rate, even in a resting state. Your body will become a furnace and start burning through whatever you put in it! So the approach someone who is skinny-fat needs to take is to focus on building muscle. There is no reason to start dieting down when you're skinny as hell to begin with. Focus on eating healthy but eating enough to gain muscle and I promise you that your physique will start turning around.
There isn't any specific recipe I would give someone who is skinny-fat.
I would keep it at the 80/20 rule and eat 80% clean and 20% more freely.
You may be skinny-fat because you HAVE NOT eaten enough and you've eaten at the wrong times. Your body is probably storing everything it can as fat because it thinks you're starving, but your genetic structure hasn't been altered enough to appear any different than a skinny guy who is gaining body fat. Weight training can change that, and eating a few more meals/day will prove to be beneficial.
A frequent feeding plan is what I'd give someone who is skinny-fat.
I would not start them off on something like intermittent fasting or dropping their carbs. The diet would be plentiful in food and the activity level would be high in their routine. I'd probably put 20-30 min of cardio per session in there 2-3x/wk directly after weight training.
Being skinny-fat is more about activity level and packing on muscle than it is about dieting super tight 24/7.
I met with a guy a couple nights ago who is about 180 lbs and more on the thin side. He eats very clean and he is around 11-12% body fat, if I had to guess. He wants to compete in a bodybuilding contest and knows nothing about dieting. I asked him to send me over an example of a typical day of eating.
This is what he sent me:
Breakfast – 1 cup of oatmeal, 3 whole eggs, chicken thigh
Snack – cashews (and sometimes a protein shake)
Lunch – veggies, chicken, and sweet potato
Dinner – chicken/veggies
I eat a couple boiled eggs here and there if I get hungry.
Well I commend this guy for eating clean, it's simply not nearly enough food for someone who is trying to build muscle, and probably not enough food for a lot of guys trying to diet. When you break this diet down you're looking at about 1700-1800 calories a day.
Now, if you think you're skinny-fat, take a look at your diet. This is someone who is eating clean but simply not eating enough. My guess is there are a lot of “skinny-fat” guys out there eating half this amount and not eating as clean.
Therefore, their bodies are in starvation mode and this is where the “skinny-fat” look comes from.
Now this guy above has a routine that is regimented, so at least he is doing that much. He does not look bad, and he does plan to compete in a few months.
How many skinny-fat guys out there are eating in a way that is not regimented? So one day he hits 2,000 calories/day, the next day it's 1,600, the next day he eats pizza and may hit 3,000, then he only eats 1,000 calories the next day because he is full from pizza (not to mention his metabolic rate is slower than a snail).
What you think is “skinny-fat” is a need for a swift kick in the metabolic ass by changing up your eating regimen and hitting the weights harder.
The two go hand-in-hand. When both pieces of the puzzle come together then results begin to happen. When only one piece is there, results do not happen!
An increased food intake along with meal frequency will give more fuel for the gym, and more muscle gained means more fat burned at a resting rate! So they both work together.
I do not categorize someone who is skinny-fat as someone who needs to deplete and start dropping things from the diet. I would add more to the diet. Below is an example of something I would suggest for a “skinny-fat” person;
meal 1 – (upon awakening) 4 whole eggs, 1 cup oats, 1 cup skim milk
meal 2 – 6 oz chicken, steak, or fish, 1 cup rice
meal 3 – protein shake in water, piece of fruit, 2 handfuls of mixed nuts
meal 4 – 6-8 oz chicken, steak, or fish, 1 cup rice, salad with dressing of your choice
meal 5 – 1 cup of oats, 3-4 slices of pineapple, 2 handfuls mixed nuts
That diet is a good starting point for you. I'd also suggest totally ignoring the scale for a couple months. The scale could do anything the first few weeks. It may drop 10 pounds or it may go up 10 lbs.
Don't be afraid of a weight jump while you're doing this.
You are throwing a curve ball at your metabolism and it may take a few weeks to get accustomed to it. It doesn't mean it's not effective, but sometimes it takes time.
This is like when I start a diet. When I start dieting, the first thing that happens is I gain a few lbs. the first few days. I suppose it's because everything is more regimented, but I know that I'm getting leaner.
You want a look that is healthy and a total body recomp here, not make yourself more skinny-fat!
I would throw in a couple cheat meals/wk if you needed to and I wouldn't worry about it. As you get larger and more muscular, your body fat is going to change.
At the very minimum, your bf% will stay the same when the muscle:fat ratio changes, but will look different on your frame. What I mean by this is the way 12% body fat would look between someone who is 150 lbs and someone who is 200 lbs. The larger individual is going to look leaner even with the same body fat level. But chances are, your bf% is going to go down along with the increase in size of your muscles.
I hope this has helped answer some of your question on dieting for thin people who have a higher level of body fat than average. This can be confusing at times and you need to be careful on who you listen to.
A lot of inexperienced people would assume tell you to diet your ass off on nothing until your stomach goes away, but I say go the route of eating plentiful but keeping it mostly clean. The nit-picky diet for shredding up and getting that perfect 6 pack will come in due time.
But right now, I would stay away from restrictive diets or diets like intermittent fasting. Don't be fooled, you need energy for the gym.
Once those muscles start popping, watch that fat start dropping!