Skinny fat. What does it mean? Whether you are man or woman, if you look slim and fit dressed but dreadful naked then you are probably skinny fat. Exposing any part of your extremities (e.g. head, neck, forearms and lower legs) poses no problem. Unfortunately, depending on your body shape, your upper arms, upper legs or tummy area is as flabby as Jell-O.
WHAT IS SKINNY FAT?
The body build most susceptible and naturally inclined to the skinny fat phenomenon are small boned, slender individuals, also known as ectomorphs. Women tend to suffer more with the skinny fat syndrome than men, as women naturally carry more fat and less muscle than men. This brings us to what causes skinny fat: too much fat and too little muscle. This is also why skinny fat women almost always suffer with cellulite. The incidence of skinny fat tends to increase with age, just as muscle mass decreases and body fat increases as you get older. Those who have lost weight through dieting, but haven’t exercised are also prone to skinny fat syndrome.
CAUSES OF SKINNY FAT
Skinny fat is not uncommon and you will see it in the close-up paparazzi photographs taken of the various super skinny celebrities on their vacations. Still, many of us are surprised when we see our skinny friends on the beach for the first time. Who’d have thought they were anything less than perfect? Well, size isn’t everything. Take Scarlett Johansson or Halle Berry. Neither superstar has succumbed to the super skinny size zero craze, yet when in shape you’d be hard pressed to find any cellulite on these women and you certainly would never call them flabby. Then, consider the many starving, skinny and saggy starlets in Hollywood (or wealthy aging women desperate to keep slim). Men just need to think of pretty much any type of Rock Star, esp. the aging kind. Mick Jagger, Iggy Pop and Ringo Starr are perfect examples of skinny fat men, who appear to eschew lifting serious weights.
Too many people unhappy with their body focus on size. However, smaller size and less weight does not equal a better body. Whether you are male or female, you want a tight, toned body. What matters is body composition.
The cause of skinny fat is body composition; that is the ratio of fat to muscle. Sufferers of skinny fat lack muscle mass. You could technically have the tiniest, weeniest legs, but if those legs have no muscle the only thing covering your bones is fat. That is one poor muscle to fat ratio. A good example is the picture above. To combat skinny fat you may or may not have to decrease your body fat percentage. However, you definitely must work to increase your muscle mass. Women often think they want skinny legs, but actually want toned, firm, slim thighs and legs. For that you need muscle.
Unfortunately, many skinny fat women unknowingly resort to cutting back on calories to get rid of skinny fat. They are focusing on how to get skinny – or skinnier. Alas, dieting will do little to solve this problem. The only solution is exercise. Dieting will decrease weight, will decrease body fat percentage. Dieting WILL NOT increase muscle mass, in fact dieting tends to decrease muscle mass. Therefore, dieting without exercise can make the situation worse. Understandably, this can leave anyone frustrated.
SKINNY FAT & HEALTH
Skinny does not equal healthy. Skinny fat certainly does not equal healthy. Yes, if you are overweight you are more likely to suffer premature death. However, the effects of body weight and exercise on longevity and premature death are separate and additive. In other words, being skinny does not cancel out the increased mortality associated with inactivity. You can be skinny fat, have a completely deranged blood lipid profile and have all the risk factors for heart disease, except obesity. Being skinny isn’t going to save you. Therefore, you must exercise not just for appearance sake, but also to the benefit of your health.
In fact, research shows that if you have a low BMI (body mass index) you are at increased risk of osteoporosis. Although it is more common in women, men can also suffer with osteoporosis. You need to tackle this risk before it becomes a problem. Once you have osteoporosis (brittle bone disease) there is little you can do about. However, weight-bearing exercise will significantly decrease your risk of osteoporosis by increasing muscle mass and increasing bone density.
Follow the guidelines below and you are sure to rid yourself your skinny fat trouble and improve your health.
SOLVING THE PROBLEM OF SKINNY FAT
By virtue of being skinny fat, you are skinny first, fat second. Therefore, do not focus on losing fat, but on gaining muscle.
If you can, before you do anything, get body composition analysis. You should be able to get this done with skinfold calipers or by other methods at any gym and fitness club. Also, try your local college campus, which should also be cheaper. Alternatively, you can buy body fat analysis scales or use this body fat calculator, though they are less precise.
Weight training should be the heart of your program to eliminate skinny fat. Men should find this relatively easy, though women tend to shun weights. Skinny fat women should look at the Original Supermodels (Claudia Schiffer, Cindy Crawford, Linda Evangelista, Naomi Campbell and Christy Turlington). Most of these Amazonian supermodels would have been skinny fat, had they not exercised. Instead they did resistance training to get that fantastic muscle definition. Cardio and dieting are great to decrease your size, but only resistance training can give you shape and rid you of cellulite. Skinny fat people, both men and women, tend to lack shape. Focus your resistance training efforts on the places you are suffering with skinny fat, to increase your muscle mass in these problem areas.
Use cardio to burn calories, while helping you gain muscle by exercising at high resistance or incline. For example, if you are running outdoors or on treadmill run at a higher incline (compensate by going slower) to build muscle or even better try incline sprint training. Endurance training on the flat is unlikely to increase muscle mass and may counteract the muscle building effects of weight training. If you are using the cross-trainer or elliptical trainer set it at a higher resistance and go slower than you would normally. You can still burn the same amount of calories at high resistance/ incline as you would with low resistance. However, importantly you are exerting a different effect on muscle. If you have had your body composition analyzed and to your shock found that you have unhealthy levels of body fat (common amongst skinny people), cardio is particularly important.
SKINNY FAT TIPS
- Body composition analysis.
- Resistance training 3x per week.
- High resistance cardio workouts 3x or more per week.
- Avoid endurance exercise and go for interval and sprint training instead, to boost muscle mass.
- Try weight training followed by a shorter cardio session for muscle building and fat burning.
- Correct poor dietary habits.
- Keep to your daily calorie requirements. Lower your calorie intake a little if necessary.
- Eat protein with every meal. Protein is the building block of muscle and is vital for tissue repair.
- Eat a small protein and carbohydrate rich snack 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after your workouts.
- Try supplementing with Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA) to increase fat loss, while maintaining muscle mass. You will need to take it for at least three months before you start seeing the effects.
- Starve yourself on a very low calorie diet
- Refuse to lift weights