By Richard Saad
Skinny fat: An improper balance of body fat and lean body mass (muscle) on someone who is average or underweight.
“Skinny fat” — we’ve all seen it, some of us have gone through it, and even more seem to be stuck in it. If the term doesn’t sound familiar, imagine the person who looks normal and trim in clothes, but as soon as the shirt comes off, their belly hangs out revealing a flabby, out-of-shape physique. It seems counterintuitive that someone could be both skinny and fat at the same time, and confusion of the term’s meaning, its cause and the solution often lead people in conflicting directions about what to do.
The term “skinny fat” refers to an imbalance between one’s lean body mass (muscle) and fat mass while still being in the normal or underweight BMI and weight range. This often results from an excess of cardiovascular exercise, little to no resistance training, and an unnecessary or unhealthy calorie deficit and poor dietary habits.
Many people who fall into this category feel like they’re fat and want to get more toned but don’t know where to start. There are three important factors to consider to understand exactly where the problem lies: cardiovascular exercise, resistance training and diet.
While cardiovascular exercise is vital to maintaining a healthy heart, it will not help you much in losing fat. The calories you burn walking on a treadmill, especially when undereating, are protein, or your muscle tissue, and carbohydrates, your body’s energy source. To keep cardio in your regimen while targeting fat loss, try high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or vigorous cardio sessions lasting no more than 15 to 30 minutes, two to three times a week. This will help you maintain a healthy heart without burning any muscle.
Weight training, or resistance training, is important to every fitness program, regardless of your weight, age or gender. Resistance training strengthens your muscles, increases your overall metabolism, and burns fat. As your muscles get stronger, they will require more energy throughout the day, which in turn burns calories even when you aren’t in the gym. Lifting weights, paired with a proper diet will decrease your fat mass while increasing your muscle mass, giving you a toned, shapely physique that you can rock at the beach.
For women worried about getting “bulky”, you have nothing to worry about! Women don’t produce the natural testosterone necessary to get super muscular, so the result of lifting weights in women is a toned body with defined arms, shoulders and legs and a flat stomach.
Don’t forget that abs are made in the kitchen. You cannot outrun or out-train a bad diet, and please don’t fall into the trap of thinking carbs are evil or cutting calories drastically. Your body needs fuel, just like a car, and putting premium fuel into your body will help you perform at your best each day. If you find a diet that appeals to you, stick to it. Switching diets constantly is just as bad as having no diet at all. For a simple nutrition solution, try to eat three whole meals a day with a proper mix of lean proteins, complex carbs and healthy fats. Including greens and vegetables with every meal will help get necessary vitamins and minerals, as well as fiber into your diet to meet your daily needs. The more consistently you can eat whole, non-processed foods, the better you will feel and the better you will perform.
You may be skinny-fat, but you don’t have to be stuck with it! Train and eat with a purpose, be consistent and enjoy the results. It really can be that simple.
Richard Saad is a personal trainer and can be reached at 864.904.0214.