I'm sure you've heard the term "skinny-fat." Being skinny-fat is very common among women and men alike. And, you're probably wondering what skinny-fat means? While you have a thin, lean appearance and look fit in clothes, you actually have low muscle mass and a high body fat percentage. So, a normal BMI but high body fat percentage. I knew this all too well and used to fall in this category.
Often skinny fat people don't have to lose a ton of fat, but they need to gain quite a bit of muscle to compensate for their body fat percentage. This could mean gaining weight from a scale perspective. But, how do you get rid of your own skinny-fatness?
There are risks to being skinny-fat
In our culture, it's tempting to embrace simply being skinny because, based on appearances alone, you look great. But appearances are not everything. Just as being obese comes with an array of health risks, having too much body fat and too little muscle poses similar risks. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, high blood sugar are all risk factors for many diseases. While the amount of fat might not be high, it could be tucked away as visceral fat, which means it's dangerously surrounding your internal organs. Just remember that looks can be deceiving and a crappy diet composed of processed sugar may not be showing up on your waistline but instead could be wrecking your health overall.
Cut Back on Cardio
One of the causes of being skinny-fat comes from too much cardio. It may seem counter-intuitive but burning too many calories while endurance training will burn fat as well as muscle. Muscle is a highly efficient source of energy, and if you're burning too many calories, not eating sufficient calories and neglecting resistance training, you're not going to see gains in body composition. A lot of cardio is a great if you need to lose a lot of fat but not good if you want to reverse your body composition.
...And Focus On Resistance Training
Instead of focusing on endurance training, turn your energy and focus to resistance training. This includes lifting free weights, using weight machines, and classes like TRX or megaformer sessions that involve strength training and isolated muscle movements.
We, women, are afraid to lift heavy weights because of the fear of bulking up or possible injury. Rest assure that you're not going to end up looking like John Cena or the Incredible Hulk by lifting. With proper guidance, there's no reason to neglect to lift. Women will not gain bulk without extreme dedication and diet supplements (including steroids). Lifting heavy builds muscle, not just strength. Building lean muscle will amp up your metabolism, and your body will be much more efficient at burning fat. If you're interested in gaining muscle, lifting is the way to go.
Calculate and Eat Your Macros
Have you heard of the 80/20 rule? This is especially true with diet and exercise. Diet is 80% of the effort and crucial when changing your body composition. You need healthy carbs for energy, protein to keep and gain muscle, and fat for proper nutrient absorption. Don't stress too much but make sure you're getting a suitable amount of each macronutrient at meal time for your specific needs! Also, remember that calories are just as important and too little means your body will burn muscle for energy, reversing all your hard work. Not sure how to calculate your macros? Here's a great resource for this very purpose. Calculating them, you'll probably be surprised at how undernourished you are.
Measure The Inches And Not The Lbs.
We are all guilty of being slaves to the scale. Stop it! Seriously. Through that shit out the window. Why? Because what the scale says isn't the end all. And, it's not a great way to track your efforts. When you're on a fitness journey, specifically one that's focused on gaining lean muscle mass to be healthy and toned, you're going to most likely gain weight. You see, muscle weights more than fat and takes up less room to store. Instead, focus more about how your clothes fit and the changes you see in your body. You can lose 2 inches around your waist, and thighs yet weigh the same on the scale.
Focus On Different Muscle Groups
It's easy for us women to forget to tone and strengthen certain muscle groups. Particularly the arms, shoulders and back. The traps are the massive muscle group along your shoulders and upper back, which help keep you upright and effect the range of motion in your shoulders and neck. Don't neglect any muscle group as they are all important in how your body moves and performs basic functions