I was Skinny Fat most of my life (before that I was Skinny, obviously).
See the picture below:
On the left side is me when I had just started weightlifting, with a light pair of green dumbbells in my room. I was somewhere close to 135 lbs. On the right side is a picture after 9 years of regular weight lifting. I was around 175 lbs @ 20% body fat. Yes, I did gain decent muscle mass but was Skinny Fat at the same time. My waist was around 36 inches when measured from the navel.
Throughout these nine years, I was bitten by the low fat craze of the late nineties. My mom was not happy that I used to eat cornflakes with skimmed milk (tetra-pack pasteurized). However, I was convinced that this was the healthiest breakfast there was! How wrong was I:(
Up until my late teens, I have never touched non-veg until I forced myself to try the chicken curry at National Dhaba in Connaught Place, New Delhi. This is because I and my friends used to split the food bill, and even though I was a vegetarian (my bill was the lowest) I was forced to pay an equal amount as my carnivores friends.
So I thought what the heck: Let me start with chicken. And boy it tasted like rubber:( Not a good experience. Anyways will continue this story some other day, my point here being that I was a vegetarian for first 20 years of my life.
Being a vegetarian, my diet was high carbs based (as most my Indian vegetarian brother/sisters would agree). More than 70% of calories used to come from whole wheat flour, rice, daal, rajma/chole (beans/pulses), milk and of course fruits.
But unfortunately, due to western influence, for me and for millions of people (especially Indians) the calories from whole wheat flour (the flour that we used was unprocessed which used to come from our village, unlike the refined ones you find in the market) was started to be replaced by bread, pasta and cereals. And that’s where all the problem started.
All you amazing parents would be smiling right now and would completely agree with me on this. Forward this post to your sons/daughters who are still having their sugar-laden cereals with skim milk!
Curing Skinny Fat starts with your diet especially by getting smart with the amount and type of carbs that you eat.
SkinnyFat Cure No #1
Replace all your carbs with the following carbs sources.
These carbs sources are very low on glycemic index and do not raise your insulin level as much as bread, pasta or cereals do.
The above-listed carb sources are also loaded with nutrients including fibre.
Note: This does not mean as Skinny Fat you are not allowed to go near bread or pasta. You can, in limited quantity, choose to have these food items. Just be smart when it comes to selecting the right brand and the right type.
Whole wheat variation of bread/pasta has more nutrients and have a low glycemic load when compared with the refined variety. When it comes to cereals I highly urge you to stick with oats. And not just any oats, but steel-cut oats, as they are the best out there!
SkinnyFat Cure No #2
Reduce your carb calories from 60-70% to 40-50%
Let’s say you eat 2000 calories. 60-70% of carbohydrates would come around [300-350] grams of carbs per day. No matter what you do, you will end up eating a lot of refined carbs this way!
The best solution for Skinny Fat people is to reduce their carb content to somewhere around 40-50% of total calories which in this case will come around [200-250] grams. A reduction of 100g or 400 calories.
Obviously, if you are eating fewer calories than 2000, your total carb intake will be <200g. In my LEAN program, I recommend a range of between 100g to 200g per day from the sources I have listed above. You can be in the higher range (closer to 200g if you do heavy weight lifting) and can be towards the lower end of the range if you focus on moderate weights or simply bodyweight training or play a sport.
SkinnyFat Cure No #3
Increase calories from proteins
Naturally, if you reduce a macronutrient, you need to simultaneously increase another macronutrient. And it starts by having protein with every meal. No doubt, protein is THE word nowadays, especially in the weightlifting fraternity. Honestly speaking, too much of something also might not be a good thing as well, especially when it comes from acid-processed whey protein powders.
I highly urge you to get most of your protein from healthy protein sources like chicken (whole roasted chicken is fine too), fish, eggs, milk. For my vegetarian friends, your main protein source would be dairy (milk+yogurt), lentils and beans (daal/rajma/chole etc).
I also recommend your protein intake to be < 2g/kg of BW. Ideally between 1.2—1.6g/kg of BW. Which is somewhat less than what most experts suggest. The general recommendation is 2-2.5g/kg of BW or if you calculate in pounds, it comes to 1-1.2g/lbs of BW which I feel is very high and not required. Save your money! Protein is expensive.
Protein 101: Calculating How Much Protein You Need
SkinnyFat Cure No #4
Don’t fear healthy fats, embrace them.
Healthy fats are your friends, embrace them. This can be a tricky thing to do for Skinny Fat people as they fear eating fat will further increase their belly fat. I get daily emails from Skinny Fat people around the world to have a look at their diets, and what I can see is that the calories from fats sources are severely deficient.
Until about 2008-2009 (almost 10 years of my weight lifting period) I am ashamed to admit that the calories I used to eat from fat sources were no more than 10-15% of my total caloric intake. As mentioned earlier, that I was smitten by the low-fat craze too! But NO MORE!
NO MORE- Cereals with skim milk. Fu#k it! Ok, I am pissed. I have been eating sugar, disguised in a ‘so’ called health food. Yeah, that’s what most of your expensive cereals are, sugar. They will raise your insulin levels, make you insulin resistant and ultimately turn you into a type-2 diabetic.
Here are some of the facts: 77 million Indians are pre-diabetic and they don’t even know it. 40 million are already type-2 diabetic. Skinny Fat people are at a higher risk of having this deadly diseases than their normal folks.
Throw your cereals into the bin because that’s where they belong and start eating eggs for breakfast. Whole eggs. You’ll thank me later on this one!
Ok enough of dietary guidelines, now let’s focus on training and lifestyle change for Skinny Fat people.
SkinnyFat Cure No #5
Ditch the cardio!
Before you marathon runners start cursing me, let me say this: Cardio is not bad, only when combined with strength training. And obviously, it needs to be limited. This is a great strategy for people have a different body type than skinny fat people. But if you are an ectomorph—tall, lanky, narrow shoulders, long neck, and so forth I want to look you into the eye and say: Brother ditch the cardio.
I have undergone many transformations (fat to fit) and everything constant, I have seen MUCH better results when I have done HIIT+heavy weight lifting when compared with cardio and weight lifting.
What about doing only cardio? Haha…Good Luck with that one:)
Numerous studies have shown that you can easily get all the benefits of cardio like with HIIT if that’s what you wondering.
SkinnyFat Cure No #6
Weight Lifting combined with HIIT—Your ultimate weapon
This is a potent combination for ANY Skinny Fat person. And has the potential to transform you into a shredded LEAN AND MEAN BELLY FAT BURNING MACHINE. You will burn fat all day long, your workout time will drastically reduce (ideally for people who are extremely busy)
It will optimize your hormonal profile. For example, it will significantly boost your testosterone, human growth hormone naturally. HIIT and weight lifting have shown to increase your insulin sensitivity so that most of the calories you eat are partitioned towards muscle building and not fat storage.
Your metabolism will be revved up, you will burn fat by simply sitting on your ass most of your days (like I do, working in front of the computer 10 hours a day..)
SkinnyFat Cure No #7
Heal your gut
Bloating, inflammation, gas has become a common problem nowadays. So have food intolerances and allergies especially gluten and lactose. If you remain bloated, gassy most of the time get yourself check for any food allergies or intolerances. There might be even a serious issue like celiac or dysbiosis.
You also need to optimize your gut bacteria. You see trillions of bacteria species can be found in your gut, some are good some are bad. Naturally, you need more of good and less of bad.
Start including foods like buttermilk (lassi), yoghurt, miso, tempeh, chutney and other fermented food items in your diet are great to increase the good bacteria in your gut. Obviously, when you eat less processed foods, sodas, reduce intake of vegetable oils it helps to cure inflammation and ensure your gut is functioning at good capacity.
SkinnyFat Cure No #8
Sleep a lot. Include nap if needed
How much should you sleep? More than 6 hours for sure. That’s how much an average person sleeps.
How much do I sleep? 8 hours. I tried 6 hours for a short time, but I always felt low on energy. My work suffered and so did my workouts. I average between 7-8 hours per night (including naps). That should be good enough for you. Most people are worried more about how many grams of protein their whey powder has rather than how many hours of sleep they are getting!
Don’t be that person, and do things that matter and sleep matters a lot. Nap whenever you can if you cannot get more than 6 hours a night due to whatever reason.
SkinnyFat Cure No #9
Yeah, our genetics suck. It takes us longer to build muscle than other folks. We store most of the fat on our bellies, which then puts us at a greater risk of developing chronic ailments like type-2 diabetes.
This does not mean you’ll give up your dream of building your dream physique.
I have gone from Skinny to Skinny Fat to LEAN. It has taken me more than a decade to achieve this physique and I am still not where I want to be.
Progression, not perfection is the key here. Never ever give up, even if it’s taking you longer than you think.
Check out more of these Skinny Fat Articles:
If you have any doubts let me know in the comments below!