Skinny Fat – Should We Bulk or Cut or Both?

The fitness goal of most people is to improve their physique, build more muscle & lose more fat.  While some people look thin, but feel fat.  This is so-called “Skinny Fat” type.  In fact, many people are this type.  Before we go deeper, let’s take an overview on different physique.


There are two metrics to help differentiate different physique type:

  1. Muscle Mass
  2. Fat Mass


Normal Body Type

  • When both muscle & fat mass are little, It is the “thin” type.  Thin people have not much muscle & fat.  To learn more on how to bulk up for this body type, please re-watch the previous video.
  • When the muscle mass is little while fat is medium.  Then it is “Skinny Fat” type.  The size of their body part is small & thin, but they may have an obvious layer subcutaneous fat in some of their body parts.
  • When the muscle mass is little to medium, but with more fat mass.  Then it is “Fat” type.


Majority of people starts with either one of the above.  When they got into training, their physique will be transformed as the following 3 types:


Fitness Body Type

  • Medium Muscle Mass & Fat Mass. This is a “Trained” type.
  • If the fat mass can be reduced a bit more, then it will be a “Lean” type with visible abs and muscle definitions. This physique is the most popular one.
  • On the contrary, if you remain the same muscle mass, but the fat mass has been increased significantly. Then it will be a “Bulky” type which is hard to tell whether it is huge or fat.


The above physiques are most common ones.  Of course, there will more like:  Very high muscle mass with very little body fat, like a bodybuilder.  But since it is not the topic we focus on today, so just leave it.


Causes of Skinny Fat

Okay, let’s get back on the topic of “Skinny Fat”.  The main causes of Skinny Fat is:

Not enough Muscle Mass, and also the fat is not too low. So, the physique looks nothing special, not thin nor fat.

This can be attributed to

  1. Not enough muscle mass,
  2. And probably, Low Metabolic Rate, Low Testosterone/Growth Hormone level.
  3. Some may probably do too much cardio to lose fat without sufficient weight training.  So the muscle loses along with the fat loss.  Since the muscle mass is not enough while fat is not too low, then it becomes skinny fat.


Skinny Fat Solution

To address this issue, we can do:

  • More weight training and build more muscle.  Indeed, even if no fat is loss during the process, the increase of muscle mass can drastically change your physique to a “Trained” type.
  • If you are skinny fat because of too much cardio.  Then, reduce the frequency/volume of cardio, but increase more weight training.


So how much Cardio/HIIT is needed exactly?

Actually, it completely depends on the body fat.

  • If you are obviously higher,  then 2-3 times of cardio/HIIT should be needed.
  • But if you are just a little bit higher, then cardio is optional.

Though, nutrition is more important.

  • If it is higher, then a slight deficit diet is recommended.
  • If it is just a bit higher, then a slight surplus/maintenance diet is okay.
  • No matter how much you eat,  please make sure you have sufficient protein intake for muscle growth.


Body Recomposition

Some may just wonder:  Is it a kind of building muscle and losing fat at the same?  Is it possible?

I believe, YES.

As mentioned before, Lack of muscle mass is the main cause.  Weight training is quite new to them, which means they are basically at a beginner level.  It is quite possible for a newbie with a obvious body fat to lose some fat while building muscle as long as you train well & eat right.  So Yes, I believe it is possible in this scenario.


On the other hand, if you are trained for years with a decent amount of muscle mass, but also an obvious body fat.  Then, building muscle and losing fat at the same time is more difficult to you.  Instead, focusing on one thing at a time will be more beneficial.


To sum up, if you are skinny fat type.  All you need to do is build more muscle.  May be a little bit nutrition/cardio adjustment according to your body fat.  When you train for a while, your physique will become better.  When you got more muscle mass, then review your physique to see whether you need to change your goal/training/nutrition etc.

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