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Muscle for life

The 3-Step Skinny Fat Solution

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The 3-Step Skinny Fat Solution

If you’re a skinny fat victim of the glut of crappy weight loss advice out there, this article is going to show you the way out.

 

I’ve worked with thousands of people and if there’s one thing that frustrates people most about their bodies, it’s being skinny fat.

This is the type of physique that doesn’t look overweight per se but lacks muscle definition. The type that, despite having relatively low levels of body fat, looks soft and shapeless.

You know…a dad bod.

Here are a few examples:

skinny fat guy

skinny fat look

skinny fat guy 2

skinny fat girl 2

Now, I’m not saying that these people look so bad that they deserve the pillory.

What I’m saying is there are tens of thousands of people out there that work too hard to look like this.

They follow all the rules:

And they look like they don’t even lift.

Why? And what can be done about it?

Well, in this article, you’re going to find out what the problem really is, how most people get there, and how to fix it.

So let’s get started.

Why People Look Skinny Fat

skinny obese symptoms

The road to skinny fat usually begins with focusing too much on weight instead of body composition.

You see, when you use the number on the scale as the primary yardstick of your progress instead of how your body composition is changing, you’re setting yourself up to fail.

In case you’re not familiar with the term, body composition refers to the relationship between the amounts of lean (muscle) mass and fat mass in your body.

You improve your body composition by adding muscle or losing fat (without losing muscle).

You see, whether we’re talking health or vanity, how much you weigh doesn’t matter nearly as much as how much muscle and fat you’re carrying around.

And when you have too little muscle and too much fat…you wind up looking skinny fat.

Rule of thumb:

The less muscle you have, the lower your body fat levels have to be to have noticeable muscle definition.

This is why fairly muscular people can look good at higher levels of body fat than under-muscled people.

15% body fat on a guy with a good amount of muscle looks athletic whereas the same body fat percentage on a spindly frame doesn’t.

So, then, the real “skinny fat solution” involves improving body composition, and this almost always involves weight going up.

Yes, even for women. (And if that scares you, check out this article.)

For example, check out the following skinny fat transformations:

skinny fat

skinny fat solution

skinny fat epidemic

skinny fat solutions

In each case, these people ended up significantly heavier–15 to 20 pounds–than when they started their transformations.

And that’s because muscle is very dense and it requires a lot more muscle than people realize to look the way they want (even if they only want to be “toned”).

Now, before we talk about how you can transform your physique, let’s take a look at why so many people wind up skinny fat in the first place.

Use this workout and flexible dieting program to lose up to 10 pounds of fat and build muscle in just 30 days…without starving yourself or living in the gym.

How People Wind Up Skinny Fat

thin but obese

The primary reason so many people struggle with being skinny fat is the bulk of mainstream diet and exercise advice is basically a recipe for it.

Here’s what I’m talking about:

If you want to be skinny fat, there’s your prescription.

And if those instructions sound familiar, it’s because that’s the type of fat loss advice you find in many health fitness magazines (especially women’s magazines): starve yourself, do a ton of cardio, and lift light weights.

You’re probably wondering why these things make people skinny fat.

Let’s find out.

How a Severe Calorie Restriction Helps Make You Skinny Fat

skinny fat diet

Before I explain the relationship between caloric intake and skinny fat, I want to quickly review some dietary basics.

When we’re talking food, a calorie is the amount of energy required to heat up one kilogram of water one degree Celsius. It’s nothing more than stored (potential) energy.

High-calorie foods contain a lot of potential energy and low-calorie foods contain less.

Your body uses the energy in food to perform the millions of cellular activities that keep it alive and it stores a portion of the energy as body fat (a bit of an oversimplification, I know, but it serves the purpose of this article).

In order to lose body fat, you need to regularly feed your body a bit less energy than it burns.

This is known as creating a “calorie deficit” and it causes the body to slowly whittle down its fat stores to meet its daily energy demands.

Many mainstream weight loss “gurus” try to skirt around the issue of calories in versus calories out and proper meal planning.

Instead of explaining how weight loss actually works (energy balance, to start), they just restrict the types and/or amounts of food you can eat.

For example, no starchy white carbs or no carbs after 3 P.M. or maybe even no carbs whatsoever; no sugar; no fruit; no saturated fats; and so forth.

Ironically, the primary goal of food restriction is just the reduction of caloric intake. By taking away all your favorite indulgences and replacing them with lower calorie, more filling alternatives, you can’t help but eat less.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make no mistake though–the only reason people lose weight on these types of diets is because they are taking in less energy than they’re expending.

This is why Professor Mark Haub was able to lose 27 pounds on a diet of protein shakes, Twinkies, Doritos, Oreos, and Little Debbie snacks, and why you could do exactly the same if you wanted to (but no, I don’t recommend it–nutrition is important as well).

The bottom line is when it comes to weight gain or loss, what you eat is far less important than how much.

Now, when you choose to follow a diet that severely restricts the foods you can eat, two things are likely:

  1. You’re not going to be eating much protein.
  2. You’re going to eat quite a bit less energy than your body burns.

And this is where problems begin.

You see, when you’re in a large calorie deficit and eating too little protein, you lose fat, but you also lose quite a bit of muscle as well and your metabolism slows down markedly.

Many people then try to overcome this metabolic adaptation by eating even less or exercising even more, which means even more fat and muscle loss.

Take this too far or do it too many times and you know where you end up:

A much lower number on the scale but a disappointing image in the mirror.

How Doing Too Much Cardio Can Make You Skinny Fat

how to get rid of skinny fat

First, let’s dispel a myth:

Cardio isn’t your enemy if you’re trying to build muscle and stay lean.

In fact, it can even be your friend…if you know what you’re doing.

The problems with cardio begin when you start doing too much…and especially when you’re doing too much while in a calorie deficit.

There are several reasons for this:

1. Endurance training can directly interfere with strength and muscle building.

This is why cardio should generally be kept to a minimum if your primary focus is building muscle and strength.

2. The longer your cardio sessions are, the more likely they will impair strength and muscle growth.

This is why cardio sessions should generally be kept short (and why I’m a big fan of high-intensity interval training).

3. When you’re restricting your calories for fat loss, anabolic hormone levels and protein synthesis rates are suppressed.

This is why the risk for muscle loss is higher when you’re dieting for fat loss, and the more you restrict your calories, the worse things get.

Thus, when you’re in a calorie deficit and your body is primed for muscle loss, the worst thing you can do is do a lot of long cardio sessions.

How much muscle you can ultimately retain while cutting is determined by several things such as how lean you are and are looking to get, and your genetics, current fitness level, hormone profile, workout routine, and more.

But the bottom line is you should not lose a lot of strength or lean mass while losing fat, and minimizing cardio is an important part of this.

How Doing Too Much Light Weightlifting Can Make You Skinny Fat

skinny fat workout

Most people think you do cardio to lose fat and lift weights to “bulk up.”

This is a mistake.

Weightlifting helps preserve lean mass while restricting calories for fat loss.

While you may or may not be able to build muscle while losing fat, your goal while dieting for fat loss is to maintain as much lean mass and strength as possible.

Resistance training and high-protein dieting are the best ways to do this.

Weightlifting enhances the fat loss effects of cardio, and vice versa.

Research shows that weightlifting plus cardio beats just cardio for fat loss.

This isn’t surprising given how energy intensive both weightlifting and recovering from weightlifting workouts are.

Now, if you want to reap the biggest body composition benefits from your weightlifting when you’re cutting, you want to focus on heavy, compound weightlifting.

You don’t want to do what most people do, which is low-weight, high-rep workouts that involve a lot of isolation exercises.

There are two primary reasons for this:

  1. Compound exercises train more muscle groups and thus result in more energy expenditure.
  2. Heavy weightlifting helps preserve strength while in a calorie deficit, which in turn helps preserve muscle.

Now, you may have heard that you should stick to light weightlifting and to limit your training to 2 to 3 sessions per week when cutting or you’ll wind up overtrained.

I’ve worked with thousands of people and haven’t found this to be true. In my experience, it takes a lot more to reach the point of overtraining than many people believe.

Heavy training does place more stress on the body than light training, but that doesn’t mean you can’t train heavy when cutting. It just means you can’t do too much heavy training (and you can learn more about this here).

And while 2 to 3 training sessions per week is fine for maintaining muscle while cutting, there are benefits to 4 to 5 weightlifting sessions per week as well.

Namely, it increases your weekly energy expenditure, which means you can lose fat faster, and second, it can make for less grueling workouts as the more compound movements you have to do in each workout, the harder they are.

(When you train 2 to 3 days per week, you’re going to have to double up on big movements like the bench press and military press and squat and deadlift. If you train 4 to 5 days per week, though, you can spread them out so you’re doing one major compound movement per day.)

That’s why my programs recommend 3 to 5 weightlifting and 3 to 4 (short) cardio sessions per week when cutting. And they work fantastically well.

Before we move on, I’d like to touch on one other thing you’ve probably heard, and that’s the idea that high-rep weightlifting helps “bring out definition.”

It doesn’t.

If you want to “bring out definition,” you simply want to reduce your body fat percentage, and high-rep training doesn’t help you do that any better than low-rep training.

In fact, research shows that heavy weightlifting burns more energy  than lighter weightlifting, making it more effective for fat loss.

The 3-Step Skinny Fat Solution

am i skinny fat

 

Now that we’ve fully explored what the skinny fat problem is and why people wind up this way, let’s talk about overcoming it.

You’ve probably already put the pieces together but let’s just spell them out.

Learn to Diet Properly

You’ve heard this one before:

“You can do everything right in the gym but if you don’t also know your way around the kitchen, you’ll never see the types of results you’re after.”

Well, it’s true.

A bad diet will make even the best workout program impotent.

The good news, however, is that dieting isn’t nearly as complicated or grueling as most “gurus” would have you believe.

If you want the full rundown, check out my books, but here’s what you need to know for the purpose of this article:

If your calorie intake is already quite low (somewhere close to your basal metabolic rate), you do not want to further decrease it to try to lose fat.

When you restrict your calories to lose fat, your body responds in various ways to reduce its total energy expenditure.

And when you have dramatically reduced your calorie intake for weight loss and then left it there for a long period of time, afraid to raise it lest you gain weight, you’ve also left yourself with a metabolism that’s running on fumes.

If that’s you, don’t worry–the “damage” isn’t permanent. In fact, it’s pretty easy to fix. But you do have to focus on fixing it first before turning your sights to fat loss.

The solution is known as “reverse dieting” and I explain how it works here.

If your calorie intake is in a normal range, and your body fat percentage is too high, then you should focus on losing fat.

If you’re eating somewhere around your total daily energy expenditure, then your metabolism is in good shape and you can use your diet to focus on fat loss.

I recommend you focus on fat loss first if your body fat percentage is over 15% (men)/25% (women).

Get it down to the 10% range (men)/20% range (women) before increasing calories to focus on muscle growth. Here’s why.

And if you’re new to weightlifting, I have good news: you should have no trouble gaining muscle while also reducing your body fat percentage (also known as a “body recomp“).

If your calorie intake is in a normal range, and your body fat percentage isn’t too high, then you should focus on building muscle.

If your body fat percentage is closer to 10% (men)/20% (women), you can plan your nutrition around maximizing muscle growth, as explained here.

Focus on Heavy, Compound Weightlifting

skinny lose weight

As you know, the major problem with a skinny fat physique is the lack of muscle, and thus, focusing on building muscle is key.

This not only means your training emphasis needs to shift from cardio to weightlifting, but to proper weightlifting. What do I mean by that?

  • You should be focusing on increasing strength on compound lifts like the squat, deadlift, bench press, and military press.
  • To do that, you’re going to have to focus on heavy weightlifting (I recommend the 4 to 6 rep range for men and experienced female weightlifters, and the 8 to 10 rep range for inexperienced female weightlifters).

Remember that the big “secret” behind the high-rep, high-volume workouts espoused by many fitness models and bodybuilders is…drugs.

It’s really that simple.

Spending a few hours in the gym every day grinding out hundreds of reps is great if you’re chemically enhanced, but it’s a recipe for disaster if you’re natural.

If you’d like to know more about building an effective workout routine that follows these principles, check out this article.

Cut Back on the Cardio

skinny obese

If your goal is simply to be lean, muscular, and healthy, you never have to do more than 1 to 2 hours of cardio per week.

Yes, you read that correctly.

I’ve helped hundreds of skinny fat people cut back from 8, 9, even 10+ hours of cardio per week to 1 to 2 hours and dramatically improve their physiques.

Here’s what it all comes down to:

  • Limit your cardio to 1 to 3 sessions per week when bulking and 2 to 4 sessions when cutting.
  • Do high-intensity interval training unless you have a good reason to do steady-state cardio.
  • Keep your cardio sessions relatively short (30 minutes or less is best).

Follow these rules of thumb and your cardio will never get in the way of your goals.

What About Supplements?

best supplements for building muscle

I saved this for last because, quite frankly, it’s far less important than proper diet and training.

You see, supplements don’t build great physiques–dedication to proper training and nutrition does.

Unfortunately, the workout supplement industry is plagued by pseudoscience, ridiculous hype, misleading advertising and endorsements, products full of junk ingredients, underdosing key ingredients, and many other shenanigans.

Most supplement companies produce cheap, junk products and try to dazzle you with ridiculous marketing claims, high-profile (and very expensive) endorsements, pseudo-scientific babble, fancy-sounding proprietary blends, and flashy packaging.

So, while workout supplements don’t play a vital role in building muscle and losing fat, and many are a complete waste of money…the right ones can help.

The truth of the matter is there are safe, natural substances that have been scientifically proven to deliver benefits such as increased strength, muscle endurance and growth, fat loss, and more.

As a part of my work, it’s been my job to know what these substances are, and find products with them that I can use myself and recommend to others.

Finding high-quality, effective, and fairly priced products has always been a struggle, though.

That’s why I took matters into my own hands and decided to create my own supplements. And not just another line of “me too” supplements–the exact formulations I myself have always wanted and wished others would create.

I won’t go into a whole spiel here though. If you want to learn more about my supplement line, check this out.

For the purpose of this article, let’s just quickly review the supplements that are going to best help you beat the skinny fat problem.

PHOENIX Fat Burner

PHOENIX’s caffeine-free formulation is quite a bit different than FORGE’s and is actually made to be “stacked” with it (taken together).

PHOENIX helps you burn fat in three different ways:

  • It dramatically increases metabolic speed.
  • It amplifies the power of fat-burning chemicals produced by your body.
  • It increases the feeling of fullness from food.

It accomplishes this through clinically effective dosages of several ingredients, including…

Through these mechanisms, naringin also works synergistically with synephrine and hesperidin to further accelerate the basal metabolic rate.

Research has show that supplementation with forskolin accelerates fat loss and increases testosterone levels.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • And more…

The bottom line is if you want to lose fat faster without pumping yourself full of stimulants or other potentially harmful chemicals…then you want to try PHOENIX.phoenix-bottle

Creatine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Creatine is a substance found naturally in the body and in foods like red meat. It’s perhaps the most researched molecule in the world of sport supplements–the subject of hundreds of studies–and the consensus is very clear:

Supplementation with creatine helps…

You may have heard that creatine is bad for your kidneys, but these claims have been categorically and repeatedly disproven. In healthy subjects, creatine has been shown to have no harmful side effects, in both short- or long-term usage. People with kidney disease are not advised to supplement with creatine, however.

If you have healthy kidneys, I highly recommend that you supplement with creatine. It’s safe, cheap, and effective.

In terms of specific products, I use my own, of course, which is called RECHARGE.

creatine supplement


RECHARGE is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored and each serving contains:

  • 5 grams of creatine monohydrate
  • 2100 milligrams of L-carnitine L-tartrate
  • 10.8 milligrams of corosolic acid

This gives you the proven strength, size, and recovery benefits of creatine monohydrate plus the muscle repair and insulin sensitivity benefits of L-carnitine L-tartrate and corosolic acid.

Protein Powder

You don’t need protein supplements to gain muscle, but, considering how much protein you need to eat every day to maximize muscle growth, getting all your protein from whole food can be impractical.

That’s the main reason I created (and use) a whey protein supplement. (There’s also evidence that whey protein is particularly good for your post-workout nutrition.)

whey protein supplement

WHEY+ is 100% naturally sweetened and flavored whey isolate that is made from milk sourced from small dairy farms in Ireland, which are known for their exceptionally high-quality dairy.

I can confidently say that this is the creamiest, tastiest, healthiest all-natural whey protein powder you can find.

Pre-Workout Drink

There’s no question that a pre-workout supplement can get you fired up to get to work in the gym. There are downsides and potential risks, however.

Many pre-workout drinks are stuffed full of ineffective ingredients and/or minuscule dosages of otherwise good ingredients, making them little more than a few cheap stimulants with some “pixie dust” sprinkled in to make for a pretty label and convincing ad copy.

Many others don’t even have stimulants going for them and are just complete duds.

Others still are downright dangerous, like USPLabs’ popular pre-workout “Jack3d,”which contained a powerful (and now banned) stimulant known as DMAA.

Even worse was the popular pre-workout supplement “Craze,” which contained a chemical similar to methamphetamine.

The reality is it’s very hard to find a pre-workout supplement that’s light on stimulants but heavy on natural, safe, performance-enhancing ingredients like beta-alanine, betaine, and citrulline.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And that’s why I made my own pre-workout supplement. It’s called PULSE and it contains 6 of the most effective performance-enhancing ingredients available:

And what you won’t find in PULSE is equally special:

  • No artificial sweeteners or flavors..
  • No artificial food dyes.
  • No unnecessary fillers, carbohydrate powders, or junk ingredients.

The bottom line is if you want to know what a pre-workout is supposed to feel like…if you want to experience the type of energy rush and performance boost that only clinically effective dosages of scientifically validated ingredients can deliver…then you want to try PULSE.

pre-workout-supplement

The Bottom Line on Skinny Fat

secrets losing weight

You don’t have to be skinny fat.

It’s not dictated by your genes or some mysterious affliction.

It boils down to this:

The less muscle you have, the leaner you have to be to not look skinny fat.

And if you’re like most people, you don’t have very much muscle, which makes it easy to be skinny fat.

If you do what many people do–very low calorie dieting and tons of cardio–the best you can hope to achieve is looking frail and starved.

Fortunately, though, the solution to the skinny fat dilemma is equally simple.

It starts with adding muscle as priority number one and, once that has been achieved, ends with maintaining relatively low levels of body fat.

This doesn’t happen overnight, of course, but it doesn’t require anything other than basic know-how and grit and grind.

This article lays out everything you need to know. Doing it is up to you.

Remember, too, that once you’ve done it, you’re in a position to enjoy the fruits of your labor for the rest of your life.

So use the advice in this article to upgrade your skinny fat physique and build a body you can be proud of…and let me know how it goes.

 

What did you think of this skinny fat solution? Have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

OVER 500,000 PEOPLE HAVE USED MY BOOKS TO BUILD THEIR BEST BODY EVER. WILL YOU BE NEXT?

If you want a "paint-by-numbers," step-by-step blueprint for building a muscular, lean, strong body...faster than you ever thought possible...then you want to check out my bestselling books.

Here's a little sneak peek of what you'll learn inside...

  • The 7 biggest muscle building myths & mistakes that keep guys small, weak, and frustrated. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • How to build meal plans that allow you to build muscle, lose fat, and get healthy with ease…eating foods you love (yes, including those deemed “unclean” by certain “gurus”)…and never feeling starved, deprived, or like you’re “on a diet.”
  • The 5 biggest fat loss myths & mistakes that keep women overweight, disappointed, and confused. (These BS lies are pushed by all the big magazines and even by many trainers.)
  • An all-in-one training system that delivers MAXIMUM results for your efforts…spending no more than 3 to 6 hours in the gym every week…doing workouts that energize you, not wipe you out.
  • A no-BS guide to supplements that will save you hundreds if not THOUSANDS of dollars each year that you would’ve wasted on products that are nothing more than bunk science and marketing hype.
  • And a whole lot more!

The bottom line is you CAN achieve that “Hollywood body" without having your life revolve around it. No long hours in the gym, no starving yourself, and no grueling cardio that turns your stomach.

My book will show you how. Get it today and let’s build a body you can be proud of.

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I'm Mike and I'm the creator of Muscle for Life and Legion Athletics, and I believe that EVERYONE can achieve the body of their dreams.

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  • Sam L

    Great article, thanks Mike. Can relate to what you’ve said – I’ve never been “ripped” because never worked out properly and never had enough muscle to fat ratio… Of course that will change since on BLS…! Just the sort of info missing from lots of exercise guidance out there.
    Furthermore, are you able to do an article or give examples of an expected timeline of events. EG I started cutting a while ago at 150 pounds, 18% bf, to approx 130 pounds, 12% bf, then bulked up to 157 pounds at 17%bf now cutting again, taken me good 5-6 months so far… aim to be around or above 155 pounds at 10-11% (one day!)… but you knows how long? Given that you’ve been there & seen others who have done it what timelines can one expect? Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Sam! I totally know what you mean. I used to have the same issue.

      Great job on your progress so far. You’re doing it right. Generally speaking, you can expect anywhere from 15-25 pounds of muscle in year one depending on how long you spend cutting. And then 10 – 15 pounds in year two.

      Most guys are happy with their progress at year one, and VERY happy with things by the end of year two.

  • António

    Hi Mike,
    I didn’t quite understand what a person is supposed to do. At the start of the article I got the impression that you recommended bulking(at the moment I am cutting and I am in this physical situation), but now I am not too sure.

    Plus, do you know how long it took for the guy in the first picture to undergo his transformation and what kind of cycles(cutting and bulking) he went through?

    Thanks!

    • António

      Found the transformation guy. His transformation I imagine is not as spectacular as it looks like, but it is quite reassuring to see someone in the same situation get over it. I’ve concluded that you do recommend bulking,though I might be wrong. How big a caloric surplus should I have? The guy in the transformation’s stats were all basically going up like 1 kg per month on average, while his body fat decreased, which is something I would like to aim for.
      My idea would be to continue lifting 5 days a week, with 1 or 2(which is best?) consecutive days of HIIT. What do you think?
      If there is anything else you think I should do though it is more time consuming please do say it, I am willing to do it for the results.

      Thanks!

      • António

        He says he did it all in 3 months, using low carb initially, carb cycling after, only 4 days a week and simple supplements you recommend, and HIIT cardio(not sure if daily) .

        • Michael Matthews

          I suspect drugs were involved too if that was 3 months. Or muscle memory (he was in VERY good shape before).

      • Michael Matthews

        Honestly gaining 2 lbs per month with body fat going down likely involves drug use. I’ve emailed with quite a few guys that have been able to lose 20 – 25 pounds of fat and gain about 5 – 8 pounds of muscle in 6 months (DEXA scanned, so legit).

        5x lifting and 2-4x HIIT per week is good. You can supplement to help speed it up too.

    • Michael Matthews

      Sorry for the confusion! I clarified this.

      No I don’t, sorry. I just found that on the Net.

  • Jenny

    Hi Mike. Recently found your site and am LOVING it! Thanks for all the info. I lost 80 lbs 10 years ago through Weight Watchers. Since then have gotten married, had two babies in 2 years but now my youngest is almost 5 and I find myself up 25 pounds so I’m 38, 5′ 6″ and 168 lbs and hating every minute of it. Do you suggest I strength train and HIIT or just the cardio while I shed some of the top layer of chub? Thanks for any help you can give!

    • Adam Clancey

      I’m sure Mike will answer quickly enough, but if you read the above he clearly states focus on weightlifting and cut back on cardio!

      • Jenny

        Thanks, Adam. I did read the article but I just wondered if I needed to get rid of some of the body fat first – if the weight lifting would make me look even bulkier until I lost some fat first…

        • Michael Matthews

          It’s a good question. Weightlifting makes girls look bulkier IF their body fat percentage is too high. You will drop fast much faster than you will build muscle though, so it’s won’t be an issue.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Jenny!

      No worries on your stats. I would definitely recommend starting with a good lifting and cardio routine. You’ll lose fat even faster and will have muscle definition to show off once you get lean. 🙂

      • Jenny

        Thanks for the response! I just love your no BS way of presenting this info. Does “THINNER, LEANER, STRONGER” have a good routine for both lifting and cardio as well as routines to progress with? I turn 39 in July and I want my last year in my 30s to rock! Thanks again!

        • Michael Matthews

          My pleasure! Thanks!

          Yes, it has everything you need!

  • Chris Keig

    I’ve got to the point where I’ve packed in heavy weights. They just don’t work any more. When I used to train heavy I could put on a lot of strength without the muscles ever increasing in physical size. I would eventually plateau and then lose all my strength for a while and then get it back and go through this constant yoyo faze. Nothing seems to work for me any more.

    • Michael Matthews

      Strength going up without size is either improper training volume or diet or both.

      What type of programs have you done recently?

  • Hamza

    Thanks a ton for writing this article! Will implement it straight away. Keep up the good work!

    • Michael Matthews

      My pleasure! Let me know how it goes!

  • Thomas

    Hi mike just had a question I’ve been used to marathon running for a while but now really want to focus on building muscle and getting lean would it hurt gains to much to do a 6 mile run two to three times a week since I do enjoy longer distance thinning or would you recommend I just do hiit. By the way excellent website I am so glad I found it. I think you are an honest person and tell the truth about all the bad fitness advice out there.

    • Michael Matthews

      No that should be totally fine. I would just recommend some protein and carbs beforehand.

      Thanks for the kind words! I appreciate your support.

  • Sergio

    Hello Mike, great article as usual. I can get the “skinny fat” look easily, I’ve always had problems building muscle, but what I’m wondering lately is if my caloric deficit is too high. My TDEE is around 2200, but most days I consume 1500 at most (and I do keep track), but the thing is, I really can’t see how to eat more than that, I’m not starving myself with that caloric intake. Should I still try to get that number much higher?

  • Ron

    Hi Mike, great article. I’m skinny fat and weak (struggle to get 6 reps with 2 big plates on the bench press). Initially I saw some strength gains when I thought I should be bulking, but in the last month I’ve been cutting bcuz my bf is high teens and I’ve been losing strength. Is this normal?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Ron! 225 for reps isn’t too weak actually.

      You tend to lose strength when cutting, but if you do it right, not for the first few weeks, and not by much.

      Are you on my program or?

      • Ron

        Haha, no actually 2-45 plates total (90lbs plus bar) so yeah – weak! Yeah, I’m on your program. But I’m not able to make the progressive overload that you talk about but maybe I shouldn’t worry about that too much while I’m cutting as long as I’m giving it all my effort when I’m training.

        • Michael Matthews

          Oh okay, well that’s fine. All that matters is you’re hitting your rep ranges and moving up in weight over time. That said, when you’re cutting, it can be tough to build strength. Some people can but some can’t.

          That said, where are your macros currently at?

  • Cody

    “When we’re talking food, a calorie is the amount of energy required to heat up one kilogram of water one degree Celsius.” Small typo, I believe you meant gram, not kilogram.. Keep up the good work!

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s a small calorie. When we’re talking food, it’s a large calorie.

  • Billy VanCannon

    Mike, I was checking out gyms a few months ago and walked in to a Planet Fitness. You should check one out and write a post on it. They have good intentions and are big sponsors of the show “Biggest Loser” but they are totally screwing things up. They have all cardio machines, absolutely no free barbells (couple smith machines) and the free dumbbells only go to 60 lbs. They openly mock “lunks” who might want free weights and want to lift heavier weights. I know they are talking about those steroid monsters who yell at each other – I hate those guys too, but they are throwing out the baby with the bathwater and encouraging armies of skinny-fat people.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hahah yeah PF sucks. There are a bunch of funny videos on the Net of people doing ridiculous shit in them to get kicked out.

      • Lily Kennex

        Even worse than that. My PF gives away free pizza and bagels a few times a month. You can guess it’s not the leanest folks who rush towards the tables.

        • Michael Matthews

          LOL

  • thisisluke

    Hi im a 50 year old man with a stocky build im about 10lbs overweight no muscle definition at all. I bought your book but I just can’t afford a gym membership. Is it possible to transform using just dumb bells at home I could afford a set and if so up to what weight should I buy. . I don’t want to try bench presses etc alone. Is there a solution or are your solutions just for those with the kind of income for gym membership?

    • Michael Matthews

      Hi Luke!

      Yup you can definitely do that.Working out with only dumbbells is a bit tough because you can’t squat, deadlift, bench press, or military press (and these are the most important exercises in any program, really).

      My first standard recommendation is to get a proper home setup (a power cage or multi-press rack with an Olympic bar and plates), or work out in a gym instead. Here are the products I like:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/recommendations/equipment/home-gym/

      That said, if neither are possible, you can focus on the dumbbell exercises given in the “approved exercises” section of the book. For instance, a chest day would look like this:

      Incline dumbbell press: warm up and 6 sets 4-6 reps
      Flat dumbbell press: 3-6 sets of 4-6 reps

      While that might seem redundant and inefficient, it’s actually a great chest workout. I did that for nearly 6 months a couple years ago and was amazed by the gains I was able to make.

      You can also add a couple exercises to make your legs day more challenging:

      Goblet squats are decent, albeit limited.

      One-legged squats are challenging even without weight.

      For your back, I recommend doing a lot of dumbbell rows and weighted wide-grip pull-ups.

      You also have the option of working in some modified body weight exercises, as discussed here:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/the-ultimate-bodyweight-workout-routine/

      I hope this helps and let me know what you think!

  • Sarah

    Another fantastic article, i have your book thinner leaner stronger and i love it, it earns my trust because the science included is correct. I love how selfless you are, the way you keep posting and putting huge effort into these articles, and they are truly amazing, thank you, im just starting the gym again with new found knowledge, i hope i can message you some before and afters in the future. Keep up the great work mike your a real gem, thank you (from the uk 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Sarah! I really appreciate it.

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Tom

    Great article! Whats your view of HIT type training? Once or twice a week but to failure?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Do you mean HIIT cardio or super-high-volume weightlifting?

      • Tom

        Low volume and slow cadence, but to failure in 45-90 sec. No pause between exercises. A la body by science by MC Guff

        • Michael Matthews

          Ah, super-slow training has been proven to be no more effective than, or even worse than, traditional rep rhythm.

  • Chris Ong

    Hi Mike, I bought your Bigger, Leaner and Stronger book from Amazon. I have a question regarding calories count based on your recommendation when I’m bulking:
    I am 5’8″ high and weigh 165 lbs. Based on this weight I need:
    – 248g of protein per day
    – 330g of carbs per day
    – 50g of good fat per day
    This then translates to about (248×4)+(330×4)+(50×9) = 2762 calories per day.
    Does this take into account the amount of calories I will burn when I do my exercise? Assuming if I run 45min and burn 500 calories today, do I have to add on this amount (i.e. 2762 + 500) or not?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Chris!

      Yup, that takes into account calories burned while exercising. I’m a big believer in clean bulking and starting on the lower end of a surplus and working up as needed as opposed to starting way too high and gaining a large amount of unnecessary fat.

      I would also recommend that you keep your cardio to 2-3x per week, no more than 30 minutes per session (while bulking).

  • xanton

    This is by far the best article i’ve ever seen. I really felt the pain reading this since i’ve been in the situation doing nerly all steps as posted that calls for failure. Really great, should spread the word around the whole internet, there’s lots of people who is dieting too hard.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I really appreciate it.

  • Kevin

    Hey Mike, I have a bit of a problem. I really want to add some muscle. A good 12 lbs which would take approx. 3 months in my estimation. However, I’m an actor/print model. Needlesss to say I have to maintain a certain look. I went on bulking phases before and looked chunky. I actually wouldnt care if I had a normal job….

    Should I just adjust my calorie surplus little by little so the gains r really slow? Or do you think that the best method is to still bulk and cut? I, currently carb cycling and it’s really hard to put on muscle at this point because i practice martial arts and play basketball as well. Any advice would be great

    • Michael Matthews

      I totally understand what I would recommend is maintaining a slight surplus on your training days and going into a mild deficit on your off days. I will be talking more about this in my next book. You don’t have to cycle carbs.

  • Julien

    Hi Mike,

    How does lifting weights during a cut actually help preserve muscle? If you are not feeding the body enough carbs, fats and proteins to support muscle repair then what is the point of working out the muscles? (i’m new to muscle building and fitness that’s why I ask) Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      When you’re in a calorie deficit your body’s ability to synthesize proteins is IMPAIRED, not destroyed.

      By lifting weights, you’re stimulating protein synthesis, and when you eat enough protein and calories, your body is then able to maintain them even while in a deficit.

  • Dave

    150 lbs, 6 foot tall, around 18% bf. Cut or bulk first? Want to lose belly fat BUT worried I will look like a skeleton if I cut.

    • Michael Matthews
      • Gary

        I’ve got a similar concern as Dave: tall, skinny, with around 18% bf. I’m in my 40’s and now look sick trying to get my bf down. Sunken eyes, dark circles, wrinkles, etc. I don’t want to look like Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club. I think I need to focus on bulking up about 30 lbs and not worry so much about the bf number.

        • Michael Matthews

          Haha well if you’re new to heavy lifting you can build muscle while losing fat, but yes you can start by simply eating protein with every meal and eating until you’re full. If you do that with lifting, you’ll make gains.

  • Jake

    Hi Michael. Well im skinny-fat weighing in at 154 pounds, 18-20% bodyfat, 5’9″ tall & i’m a male. I want to lose fat but because i don’t have any muscle i find it extremely hard to lose any fat. I tried cutting & dropping my calories/macros but I can’t even lose a pound and my weight does not move. I store fat mainly on my chest & stomach which is very annoying. So what would be the best way for me to remove this fat once & for all? thanks! @michael_matthews:disqus

  • goldstargay

    Hi Mike, I’m a month into my cut and while I have lost about 6 lbs so far I have also noticed a consistent decrease in strength (bench press especially) and have started feeling a bit moody/tired. My TDEE is ~2500 so I have been eating 2000, however on days when I do HIIT should I eat back the cardio calories (at a conservative estimate) to maintain my “net calorie” deficit of 2000? I just don’t want to end up in a situation where, coupled with my cardio output, my energy intake is too low and I hurt my metabolism. Thanks!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Great job! It’s common to lose strength and many people lose it in their chest first.

      How much have you lost though?

      And are you doing a refeed once per week?

      Your metab is totally fine at this intake.

      • goldstargay

        Thanks for your quick reply! I was up to about 130 and over the past month have steadily declined to about 95 at yesterday’s workout. The weird thing is I’ve actually been increasing my deadlift and RDLs so it appears that my upper body seems to be taking the cut the hardest.

        As per the refeed day I have yet to incorporate that into my cut mainly due to my own confusion. I know it involves upping carbs and lowering fat but there’s also a calorie increase as well? What would a refeed while cutting at 2000 cals?

        Thanks so much for all your information! I think I recommend your book/site at least once a day!

        • Michael Matthews

          My pleasure!

          Okay on the strength loss. That’s definitely a bit more than we want to see.

          Let’s put a refeed in. One day per week you drop your fats to as low as you can get them and double your normal carb intake. It helps.

          Give it a go and let me know… And thanks for the support!

  • Jen

    HI, thank you for this article. I never took working out that seriously because i am a pretty small girl. I am 5.2 and weigh 105lb. but i am pretty weak, so I decided to start working out with a trainer in order to build some muscle. I was shocked to find out that my BF is 24%! What? I don’t look like I have any fat to lose. So if I read the article correctly will I be able to fix this problem by building muscle? I have also started doing cardio 1-2 a week. Is that enough?

    • Michael Matthews

      Cool on your plan to build some muscle. Hmm how was it measured? Sounds like a mistake.

      But yes, it sounds like you want to focus on building muscle and yes that’s enough cardio.

  • Craig

    Hi – Ok so long story and sorry for the rant – figured more details are better than none. I’m 36 years old (Male), 5’7″, 126lbs, and the same weight as I was since high-school (not even kidding, I was about 120 in HS). EXCEPT, now at 36 I’m skinny-fat, with skinny arms, fat thighs, a spare tire…I wear 29in pants and I wear a 36S suit (yup, supper small – and it sucks). I’ve read (and bought from) so many things form ‘skinny-fat ectomorph’ trainers that my head is just spinning- everyone seems to contradict another. I would love some personal advice. I also have asthma – so lots of cardio isn’t really even an option.

    I read your entire article and the referenced articles and I’m faced with decision overload (once again) with no clue where to begin or what to do, where to start, and how to plan doing this right. I want to be (within the next 10 months – because I’m getting married) gaining an extra 15-20 lbs and be shredded – i now, not an easy goal, may not even be practical or possible. Is this even possible?

    Now, when I say contradict, some say lean down, some say bulk up first….some say cut back on cals and meals, others say increase to 6 meals but keep the cals. For exercise, some say high weights with compound moves, some say specific regimens. Over the last 18 years of trying, I’ve spent was too much $$ to be worse off than I was when I started trying at the age of 18. In college everyone was envious that I ate foot-longs from Subway between meals just to try and gain some weight…Weight gain has always been a problem (and no I don’t have thyroid issues), but getting ‘fat’ has been easier as I’m getting older. I have a belly now, and spare tire, something I didn’t get until the last year…I am a hard gainer, in every sense of the word…

    Again sorry for the rant, I’m just so tired with everything out there and advice that contradicts, I’m not even sure where to start anymore or what to do. I would really love some personal advice of the right diet, exercise, plans, etc – what books to buy, supplement, etc – I have 10-12 months before I get married and I better be the person in the best shape there 🙂

    Can you possibly help? Are there other questions I need to answer for you to get started? Do I need a nutritionist? a trainer? both? neither? Can you give me a specific plan to follow that will get me to my goal or close? Again, I want to gain about 15-20lbs, get bigger arms, chest, etc and get shredded (I’m sure like everyone else) – basically I want a complete transformation and after 18 years of getting nowhere, losing faith that it’s possible…

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey man! I replied to your email!

      • Craig

        Awesome Mike! – what, from your plans, guides, etc, should I buy to get this all rolling?

        • Michael Matthews

          Start with Bigger Leaner Stronger. That’s the foundation…

  • Jim

    It says step 1. Focusing on muscle building is key.. then I get to step #3 and it says focusing on fat loss is key. What the fuck?!

    • Michael Matthews

      No…lift heavy weights and eat right are two separate things.

  • Jim

    I apologize for the last post, I’m a bit irritated.

    I’m a 5’8″, 165lbs, 30% body fat male. I am the true definition of skinny fat. Every picture I see of “skinny fat” online is a joke. I’m literally a fat ass with no muscle and it’s from all the poor eating habits and drug abuse from before. From reading your article I’m still a bit lost. Am I supposed to be bulking or cutting?

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  • Suban farrukh

    hi mike i am skinny fat and i have been working out for about 2 years.My age is 18. The problem with me is that whenever i try to gain weight my chest starts to look like man boobs.That is why i dont gain weight.Please tell me how to gain weight without getting the ugly unproportioned chest.My weight is 74 kg i have gained about 15 kg and stopped bulking for about 6 months. Please help me out.

  • Kim

    Hi Mike, I really enjoyed this article, and I hope you can help me. I’m confused about what to do. I’m 34, 5’10”, 140lbs and a mother of two. I’ve always been skinny fat, but it got a lot worse after the kids were born. I have very low muscle tone and quite a bit of jiggle, especially in the abdominal area, where I seem to have a lot of visceral fat. It really bothers me, and I don’t know the first place to begin. I run for 20 to 30 minutes twice a week in a hilly area. I lift a few dumbbells a couple of times a week, too. I eat pretty well, but could (and will) do better, especially where alcohol is concerned. I just want to learn how do do the right exercises. Where do I start? How do I start? Thank you!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      It sounds like you need to start with a proper diet:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

      And alcohol can be a problem:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/does-alcohol-consumption-affect-weight-loss-and-muscle-growth/

      What do you think?

      • Kim

        I think you are right about the food. I eat a lot of the foods that you list on your own diets, and I have really reduced the amount of processed food that I eat in the last few months. Drinking wine is usually a social thing, but that happens more than once a week and it’s usually accompanied by crappy food. I have to try to use food to my advantage. I usually just graze all day, then eat a big dinner (even though dinner is usually healthy). We rarely eat meat, with the exception of fish, and lack of protein might be an issue. Now I just need to figure out how to use food properly and get in the right exercises as well. Thanks for your help! I hope to see a difference soon.

        • Michael Matthews

          Yeah I understand. If you get on a proper meal plan you’ll do great. Just takes some getting used to, that’s all.

  • Pingback: Why “Clean Eating” Isn’t the Key to Weight Loss or Muscle Growth | Muscle For Life()

  • frametheory

    @michael_matthews:disqus Hi Mike, Im a little lost. Im skinny fat @ 24% bf. Im suppose to lose fat therefore Im suppose to be in a 10% calorie deficit right? But then I wont gain muscle and part of the skinny fat solution is to gain weight. Im a bit confused.

    • Michael Matthews
      • frametheory

        Cool thanks. Guess Im on the right track then. Ill keep my protein up at the right level too. Dont know what to expect at the scale every week though. Guess my weight will stay the same if im building muscle and burning fat at the same time.

        • Michael Matthews

          YW. Yeah make sure you’re taking a waist measurement or body fat measurement so you can keep an eye on body comp.

  • alfonso

    im 5’11” and weight 185 and im 25 years old i have a belly full of jelly and man boobs

    • Michael Matthews

      Let’s change it!

  • acirpr

    Love the article. The question posed that led to this article sounds like me. I would have thought I was/am a skinny fat; however at 5’3″, 45 years old, 96-100lbs and 9-10% body fat, I think my issue is I, too, calorie deficit too much during the week, to make it all up over the weekend with the wrong choices in food. I lift weights 4 days a week, run 2-3 days a week for an hour. I think it’s time for me to HITT a little more and be done with it. keep up the great articles and I can’t wait until your book arrives! Perhaps it will break my fair of putting on that additional 10 lbs to look more defined and filled in.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Haha yeah that’s a common mistake–undereat during the week, which means crappy workouts and little gains, and overeat on the weekends.

      It’s much better to eat more during your training days and less on your rest days if you want to go that way. Or just keep intake the same every day.

  • Cory Krigbaum

    Mike,
    My wife had knee surgery in January and she still cannot run. With proper form and restricting her movements only slightly, she squats, deadlifts, lunges and even does box jumps.

    We stay away from the elliptical because it feels weird for her, so for HIIT can she do something like a circuit with box jumps and squats/lunges?

    • Michael Matthews

      That’s great she’s doing what she can. Yes she could do that or what about biking? Recumbent biking?

  • Steven

    Great article. I’m hoping that you can help me. I’m a 22 year old male, 5’9″, 130 pounds and I am exactly what this article is describing. I look skinny and great in clothes but underneath that I have a pretty fat stomach. I became obsessed with my weight about a year and a half ago and got down to an unhealthy 100 pounds but I still had the stomach. I also have flabby arms. How exactly should I go about losing my stomach and actually making it flat for once? I have never lifted weights in my life. I have no idea what to do.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! I’d love to get you on my Bigger Leaner Stronger program. It’s really the easiest way out of the skinny fat dilemma…

  • have tried all and real like all of them. have been a sweetner person all my life and i am glad to have found something nature for skinny girl diet. thanks so much. love ya

  • Mohamed Abdihakim

    Great read. Just a quick question: can you build muscle (however slowly it may be) while on a mild caloric deficit to lose fat?

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Yes if you’re new to lifting.

  • Crystal Le

    Hi Mike,

    Your article is the most detailed information that I have ever read about skinny fat. Thank you for great post!! I have been searching for skinny fat work out program for months until I see your post. I have some questions and I’m glad to hear from your advice.

    _ I’m 22-year-old girl, 159 cm, 55kgs (around 122 lbs) ( I have gained 5kgs in few months T___T), BF 24%-26%, pearl shape. I go to gym regularly, I have toned lower body but weak upper body. I often do cardio, with core and butt work out, and push up. My problem is I have strong upper-abs with some definition but still covered by fat layer, and I have a big belly. I work out a lot, i can see my body is toned except my belly. its like I’m getting abs under fat layer and I don’t know how to throw away that fat layer. Its weird to see my body shrink but my belly getting bigger. Do you know how to get rid of it?

    _ I know from some source that for skinny fat, you should bulk then cut. In your article, 1st step is bulk and 3rd step is focusing on weight loss. Even though I read from your other article that high-protein diet in deficit helps maintain muscle, and high-protein diet in surplus helps grow muscle; but i’m still confused a little bit about step 1 and 3. So now, I bulk then cut, or cut then bulk later?

    _ I got the idea lifting VERY HEAVY weight, but just confused about the diet plan, don’t know should I eat more or less. Also, do I need supplement like fat burner? My dream is lower BF to around 19%-20%.

    These are my confusion about skinny fat solution. Thank you so much for reading my long post. I’m really glad that I found your website and your article, and I hope to hear from you soon, Mike :). I appreciate that!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Crystal!

      Cool on your stats. Let’s do this: let’s get you to 17-18% body fat as step one and see what you’re working with. You may not be as “skinny fat” as you think!

      Start here:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

      • Crystal Le

        thank you Mike 🙂

        • Michael Matthews

          YW

  • Hey Mike, great article! Thank you for sharing this. And the pictures are really inspiring.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

  • Pingback: How to Lose Body Fat and Not Muscle (Without Following a Ridiculous Diet or Grueling Exercise Routine) | Muscle For Life()

  • Luis Torres

    Hello mike,
    I am skinny fat. I have a lot of fat but have a lot of muscles too! I am 145 and bench 205. I am 5’8 and I am extremely athletic. I am so active. I run XC and track. I am guessing it’s my calorie watch. Please help!

  • Karlijn

    Hey Mike, great article, heard about skinny fat before but never really thought about it … I think it’s really gonna help me because this problem is so familiar. Just started training again and found out for myself that it’s better for me to lift some more than to do a lot of cardio.. now that I read your article I know why.

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks! Let me know how it goes!

  • Chris

    Hi, I’m sixteen and have somewhat of a skinny fat problem. I regularly lift weights(high reps), and I used to have excessive running habits, which I’ve been dropping. On top of that, I have a very low calorie intake of 1500 a day because I have a fear of gaining weight, as I was previously overweight a few years prior. Is upping my calorie intake, and lifting heavier weights going to help, or should I attempt other methods.
    Also, a very helpful article. 🙂

  • Aaron

    Hey mike,

    I have just recently been reading your articles because all of your information makes sense and it has really helped me hone in on what goals I need to set for myself.

    That being said I do have some questions. After reading this article and viewing the pictures I have determined that I am a borderline skinny fat person. I am a 22 year old 5 ft 11 160 pound male. I have compared myself to pictures in other articles and determined that I am anywhere from 14-17 percent body fat. In high school I weighed about 185 and was very strong. Since then I have lost a lot of the muscle mass and I am wondering what the best approach would be for me to get my body fat down to around 10-12? I am currently working out 3-4 times a week and doing cardio 3-4 as well. I am lifting heavy weights between 4-6 reps. My ultimate goal is to get my abs to show. Would it be best for me to just focus on losing weight and then lifting or doing it all at once?

    Thank you for all of your awesome articles! They are so helpful!

    Thank you!

    • Aaron

      Also, I have been following my macro nutrients. I currently eat about 1800 calories. I have my carbs at 90, fat at 70 and protein about 200.

      • Michael Matthews
        • Aaron

          Thank you! What would you suggest I change it too?

          • Michael Matthews

            YW. Check out the article I linked. It explains it.

          • Aaron

            Thank you! One more question. I have weight lifted before and made some gains. I havent been incredibly consistent because of life, so the gains are crazy good. I’m wondering if I should still include heavy weightlifting while I’m trying to lose body fat %? Or should I just focus on HIIT training.

          • Michael Matthews

            Yeah definitely lift as it helps you preserve or even build muscle while losing fat.

          • Aaron

            Thanks a lot man! These articles have given me so much useful information and motivation. I really appreciate it!

          • Michael Matthews

            YW! I’m glad to hear it! 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Aaron!

      Best approach will be to reduce your body fat % but you can build muscle as well if you’re new to heavy weightlifting.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • HL

    Hi Mike. In the past two and a half years I ended up going from 245 – 120 through clean eating and exercise. I am trying to get down to 115 and have been staying around 1,500 calories. I lift 8lb weights for about a half hour every other day and on days I don’t lift weights I swim freestyle for an hour or bike ride. I have noticed that instead of eating small meals throughout the day I have developed a bad habit of only eating once a day. When I do its right before I go to bed and I end up eating a lot (still 1,500 calories though). I tend to eat mostly lean meats such as turkey, chicken, and tuna. I also tend to eat a lot of carrots, squash, black beans, beets, greek yogurt, red potatoes, and eggs. (I have been told that I might have developed an eating disorder).

    With all this aside, I have noticed that I have lost muscle the past half a year because of this, and would like to gain it back. The scale says I weigh less but the ‘skinny fat’ actually makes it look like I weigh more. I would like to get a defined and toned body yet still stay in the same pant size. I’m size 5. I have been obese most of my life and so I fear that if I eat throughout the day I’ll start gaining the weight back.

    I am 5′ 2″ and my BMI is around 21.9%. Your advice is appreciated.

    • Michael Matthews

      Great job on the weight loss!

      Haha ironically that’s not a HORRIBLE way to eat but you will probably do better with at least 2-3 meals per day. I’ve seen some research that indicated that eating once per day may slow down your BMR over time.

      Let’s address your macros too:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

      • HL

        I am unsure how to calculate macros. I don’t know much about those.

        • acirpr

          Hi, HL. Yes, I would say there could be an underlying eating disorder going on (if you don’t mind my two sense). From past experience, you have become afraid to put anything in your mouth, hence suddenly are compelled to go into binge mode at night (probably behind closed doors where no one can see you, and hoping you fall asleep after). For now you have kept it clean. Rest assured, with a positive attitude, try doing the 3 meals a day, dividing up your 1,500 calories (if that’s where you’re comfortable right now). It may, indeed, feel strange and create some actual “hunger” feelings. Your body is just trying to adjust, yet again. macros are easy to calculate but Mike has a formula and others have other formulas. Have you ck’d out his articles? I am currently Mike’s book geared for woman. I do believe more authors should address the issue of eating disorders in a chapter. Perhaps Mike will in the near future. I know men as well with eating disorders.

          • HL

            Thank you for your feedback and you’re right, I do happen to eat right before going to bed because I find it as a security. And then when I’m full I end up dozing off. When I’m sleeping I guess that is when my body is recovering. The past two days, however, I’ve been able to spread out my meals. The downfall is that I’ve been staying up throughout the night so people don’t see what I eat. I guess I just have to try and change that to eating during the day instead of at night. One thing I have noticed – that you mentioned – is that when I do try and eat throughout the day, I tend to get hungrier faster than if I was suppressing my hunger. Do you know why that might be and do you think I should eat whenever I do get hungry? I’m not sure if its my stomach just realizing I’m actually eating or if I am really hungry and should eat. I am also working on cutting down the cardio by giving myself two rest days instead of one. Before, I wasn’t even giving myself a rest day.

          • acirpr

            HL are you asking me or Mike. We’d probably say similar things, but this is mike’s web page, so I’ll wait ti see if he responds to you. Coodles on cutting down cardio! Lift weights.

          • Michael Matthews

            Your replies are great!

          • Michael Matthews

            IMO the simplest solution will be a proper meal plan so we can see what type of schedule your body likes:

            https://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

          • acirpr

            http://www.calculatorpro.com/calculator/katch-mcardle-bmr-calculator/ HL Mike has the formula in the above link he has attached to the above reply. Suppression the appetite is much easier than feeding the appetite, hence the “hunger” feelings. Figure out your macros, then determine if you are comfortable with 2 meals, then 3 meals (they will be larger) or 6 smaller meals (they will be smaller) However, past experience, you’ll probably eat your, say, 1,500 TDEE calories, and still binge at night. When I was actively involved in ED, I definitely, definitely had a written meal plan and stuck to it. Sometimes, a blan diet is the best diet and easier to stick with, until you have become comfortable with this new lifestyle, less cardio. Brush your teeth, go to bed. Know that tomorrow is a new day. None of us are perfect. I still fall off the wagon. The goal is to get back up and resume. I love Mike’s book. Informative, reminds me of what I already know, just need to hear/see it again, and an exercise plan. Best wishes. (P.s. I have no medical knowledge or background. Just experience, stength and hope.)

          • Michael Matthews

            Great advice. I think starting simple is good for the same reasons. If you try to get too fancy from the start there are more ways you can fail.

          • HL

            I really appreciate the feedback from the two of you. Judging from right now, I think I might be comfortable with a large meal in the morning and then again at night. There is just something satisfying with going to bed on a full stomach. It seems like I have trained my body to want to eat throughout the night. Lately I have been able to spread out my meals, but only when I’m sitting down in front of the computer, like right now, at night. During the day if I try to spread out my meals it seems weird, and out of place. Obviously it took time for my to become like this, and I am slowly trying to make changes. Lately I have managed to test different foods, but am currently very dependent on caffeine to help give me energy and suppress my hunger. I checked out the link, and there is a lot of information on macros. Is there a simple calculator where I can figure this out?

          • Michael Matthews

            You can start there but I do think a more regular feeding schedule would help your energy levels.

            Yeah this will help you plan your macros:

            https://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

  • Jacky

    Hey, I’m 16 years old (17 in Oct) and female. I’m completely new to fitness and such, and don’t really know where to start. I weigh around 123 pounds and I’m 5’4″. I’ve always been skinny and was sort of teased about it growing up, especially by my family. That just made me avoid working out cus I was afraid I’d lose more weight. But just recently, I found out that I’m skinny fat and want to get toned. Is this right for me? How do I start off?
    Btw don’t really want to look much thinner

  • Bobbery

    Hello Mike,

    I have some quick questions for you sir; I loved this article as well as your other article on the best way to build muscle without getting fat.

    I am a skinny fat but have mixed feelings as whether or not to bulk or cut. Many, many sources say bulk, while a great amount advocate to cut. I’m around 5’6″, 155lbs, and would probably guess that I’m around 17%ish BF.

    According to the other article, since I’m (supposedly) >15% BF, I should cut. However, I’ve taken your skinny-fat article advice into account and find all three parts of the solution “hard” to follow when on a cut, other than the cardio.

    For example, during the cut, I feel slightly weaker, and not as motivated to want to lift heavy. Similarly, I took this article’s advice to take in more calories (as I felt I was at a big deficit — taking in at the low thousands in calories), also converse to the purpose of the cut.

    What should I do? Eat at or above maintenance and lift heavy to gain muscle and escape the “skinny-fat” composition, or just continue to cut seeing as how I’ve a slightly higher BF%? Is it true that, as a skinny-fat, building lean muscle alongside some fat would be a better option aesthetically as opposed to cutting to a non-muscular build?

    Thanks for reading, and keep up the work. Very glad that I stumbled across this site!

    Boby

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  • Evan Rees

    Hey Mike!
    Thank you so much for all this information.
    In regards to my body, I’m really not looking to be ripped (it may sound like a copout, but I’m an actor, and in terms of my look, being skinny kinda suits me). But with this in mind, my torso feels a little shapeless and it’s not very, well, nice, to be quite simple about it, haha.
    Thanks to all the information, I feel like I have more of an idea on how to change my body to be the best of it’s kind, so to speak.
    Thank you so much!

    Evan

    • Michael Matthews

      You’re welcome! It sounds like you can achieve your goal fairly easily. Let me know how it goes!

  • Josh

    Hi Mike,

    I am a 15 year old teen and I was quite chubby when I was 11 and 12. I lost a lot of fat the wrong way (skipping meals), and when I was 13 I became skinny fat. I was afraid to start going to the gym as only seniors trained there and I had no other external facilities to go to, so I just kept doing lots of cardio and sports, hoping that the fat around my chest and gut would go away, which it didn’t, and as a result of the excessive cardio, my forearms and wrists are pretty scrawny. Now I am older and I can start going to the gym, I was wondering whether the exercises you mentioned in this article also work for teens, and how many days in the week I should start committing to the gym.

    Many thanks,

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey Josh! Yes the approach in this article is totally fine for teens and I would say 3 x per week minimum but 5 x per week would give you the best results…

      • John p

        Hi mike, i love your posts, am reading your books at present. I do 30 mins cardio 3 times per week at 5am when I’m fasted, then weights in the evening fasted. Should I be taking bcaa, yohimbime and caffeine before cardio in the morning and before weights in the evening, and how much bcaa?

        Thank you

        John

        • Michael Matthews

          Thanks man! Yeah before both. Check this out:

          https://www.muscleforlife.com/fasted-cardio/

          • John p

            Michael this is brilliant thank you. I have been looking for years for a training shedule that really does work and this seems to be it!!! Thanks again.

          • Michael Matthews

            YW! Great man! Keep up the good work and keep me posted!

  • Daniel

    Hi there, Mike!
    I’m a 20 yo male who’s been excersising (weightlifiting) for a month or two (about 3 times a week). I’m now writing to you because all the different personal trainers say different things, and I never really feel sure they’ve got the right answer. My body fat percentage is about 15-20%, I’m 5ft 10 and weigh about 141lbs. What I’m asking is this: Should I be keeping my body in a state of calorie deficit, or should I keep it in a positive energy balance? My ultimate goal is to gain nicely toned and defined muscles. I have no desire of getting “big” and “bulky”, but rather have those nice and defined muscles without looking like the Hulk. Should I keep lifting weights (plus pushups etc.) with 4-6 reps and 3-4 sets, and keep having a positive energy balance, or should I start with losing weight (keep my body in a negative enery balance) first, then go back to building muscles?

    Regards,
    Daniel

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey Dan! Thanks for writing.

      You should cut first and here’s why:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/the-best-way-to-gain-muscle-not-fat/

      If we got you on a proper heavy weightlifting program that would help a lot too. Here’s why:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/guide-to-muscle-hypertrophy-muscle-growth/

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Daniel

        Hey, again! Thanks for such a quick reply 🙂
        So, what I should be doing is lower my body fat percentage by cutting first, THEN go on to building muscles after I’ve gotten the percentage down? Have I understood this correctly? I’m new to this whole thing, and it sure is a lot to wrap your head around!

        And when you say cutting, all you mean is really just eat about 10% less calories than you use during a day?
        Should I then keep on weightlifting three times a week, or should I stop all weightlifting until my body fat percentage is at a more “acceptable” point?
        One last thing: because of my relatively low weight (at 141lbs I’m not exactly a heavylifter), wouldn’t actually loosing weight be a problem?

        Thanks again, and wonderful articles you’ve got here!

        • Michael Matthews

          YW!

          Yes that’s basically the plan. You may be able to build muscle while losing fat though.

          Use a larger deficit:

          https://www.muscleforlife.com/rapid-weight-loss/

          Keep lifting for sure.

          Don’t worry about your weight. Body composition is everything.

          Thanks!!

  • domagoj

    hi mike, i’m 5’9″ and have about 121lbs – MALE ! (bf under 10%) i am very weak and have absolutely no energy for weight lifting. i don’t know where to start. also, i’m suffering from anorexia because i don’t have strength to get things moving and build muscle. so i “watch tv” all day long and starve myself… please, help me with advice. how should i escape this situation? thank you thousand times!

  • Just Some Dude

    Hello Mike,

    I was reading this information and it sounds very beneficial in many aspects and really sounds like you know what’s up. I’m 5’7”, and weight 125-130lbs. I am pretty much a walking stickman and wanted to get a bit toned. Barely today found out about the term “skinnyfat” and I was really considering doing this here since I guess I count as skinny fat since I’m skinny but no real toned muscles. I have a small amount of time to myself after work and I think I can pull this off, since it would benefit me in the work space, the only problem I have found is that the community of people beneath my comment seem to be extremely shallow and have impossible standards with a lot of people, heck, it isn’t just them, a good chunk of people that I’ve encountered in other sites that involve improving one’s body seem to be very arrogant and condescending with others’ life choices. I fear that I might gain a superiority complex as I slightly improve my body’s look. Is there any way for me to stay both physically and psychologically healthy? Because I don’t want to become “that guy”.

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey man!

      IMO getting in shape is like getting money or power–if you have arrogant, dickhead tendencies, it’s going to bring them out. If you’re a cool dude, though, it shouldn’t change your behavior toward others…

  • Ian Saldanha

    Hi Mike,

    First off…thanks for putting together a great website!! I love it and have already read a ton of articles. I’m still in a bit of a fix…

    I believe I’m a skinny fat victim! I’ve been training hard in the gym for the last 6 months- all weight training and absolutely no cardio. My muscle gains have been less than impressive and I retain the fat around my stomach.

    So while I definitely know I’d like to put on muscle I do also feel the need to cut my fat. I’m therefore really confused about whether I should be cutting or bulking!..Below is a pic of that might help you decide what I need to be doing.

    Also, I’ve started the BLS training program this week and I’ve ordered a diet plan and selected my goal at fat loss but I’m hoping you could advise me on that! Thanks!

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey man! I replied to your email. 🙂

      • Ian Saldanha

        got it Mike!!!…thanks a ton for the super quick response on that 🙂

        • Michael Matthews

          Great! YW!

          • Bradley Ingram

            Hey there Mike

            I have basically the exact same body as Ian here, dunno about height and weight but I’m 6’1″, 160lbs at the moment. I started going to the gym from March through to about June, where I got sick and after getting better stopped going due to being demotivated and lazy. I’ve recently changed my attitude and am back more motivated than ever.
            At the moment I’m currently doing Greyskull LP program, so lifting 3x a week, and will probably carry on with that program for several more months. I don’t do any cardio at the moment (which is bad, I’ll need incorporate HIIT cardio into my program), do you recommend I do cardio after my gym workouts or during my rest days?
            I don’t have any specific diet plan, basically just eat clean, wholesome foods. I started eating cleaner at the beginning of the year, barely any sodas, sweets, chocolates and junk food since. I hardly drink alcohol, haven’t in the past several months, and I only drink water, probably a 3/4 of a Gallon to a Gallon a day, green tea and a lemon and ginger herbal infusion, usually 3 – 5 cups a day overall. Since starting gym back up again, about 2 weeks ago, I mainly choose to eat brown rice, chicken, egg, some streaky bacon rashes thrown in every now and again for one meal, I eat a mix of 3 different cereals (sugar free, or low in sugar anyway, no added sugar, they are Weetbix, All Bran and Cornflakes to be specific) with a scoop of Whey Protein for another meal (not always breakfast), then for dinner usually what the parents cook (though I’ll add in better foods, take out or replace certain unhealthy foods, though they generally cook clean as well). The only thing I can think of to add in would be fruits and vegies, I eat 2 bananas every day, I love to steam broccoli and carrots, yet I haven’t really added them in to my new diet yet, are there any other examples you can suggest?
            That’s basically my 3 meals for a 1 day, my TDEE is approximately 2470 using IIFYM’s TDEE calculator, I’d say I maybe roughly maintain that every day with those 3 meals, maybe even slightly under sometimes. I generally know what calories, protein, carbs and fats are in the meals I create, yet it’s hard to judge what’s in my dinners, so I usually eat a lot at dinner. Generally after those meals I’m pretty full, so adding in another meal or even trying to eat more during those meals won’t work for me, so I’ve added in 2 OSM bars, or One Square Meal bars that are available in my country. Basically, 2 of these bars equal 1/3 of the daily intake for an average adult, or 694 cals, 16.7g’s of protein, 23.3 of fats (the good ones, no trans fats), and 90.2g’s of Carbs (of which 1/3 are sugars), and they also have dietary fibre, 10 types of vitamins and 6 types of minerals (again, 1/3 of your daily requirements).
            Even if my meals don’t quite make 2470 calories, which they might or might not (sometimes I struggle to finish certain meals) the bars should make up for that and put me into a caloric surplus. Added with that, I try take 3 shakes a day of Whey (which includes the 1 I have with my cereal), 1 after my workout and 1 before I go to bed. I currently take 2 fish oil tablets a day, and 1 multivitamin tablet. I try to sleep 8 hours every day, though I’m a light sleeper so I struggle to sleep sometimes.
            Using this set up I’m thinking of bulking to about 187lbs, then cutting again to a decent BF%, then a smaller bulk again, then so on and so forth.
            What do you think? Anything you’d change, anything to improve on and make better? I hope you have the time to consider my comment, if I were to go on and make no real progress, it would be very disheartening! I’d love to have abs, my top abs are showing at the moment, but I’d also not like to be skinny and small across the rest of my body, so If I have to sacrifice skinnyness for a little bit of chubbyness in the long run, that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make!

            Thanks!

          • Michael Matthews
          • Bradley Ingram

            Awesome info, definitely helped fill the gaps in my knowledge, thanks for the help! Definitely fell into a lot of the traps that you stated in your articles, when I first started weight lifting I tried “recomping” through intermittent fasting, didn’t really watch my diet as carefully as I am now. IF definitely isn’t for me, found that I was getting moody and short tempered, had a severe loss of energy in the mornings before eating (not having a good diet definitely didn’t help!) which definitely affected my motivation at the gym. All I wanted was abs abs abs! Still have a bit of a beer belly, still got slightly fat love handles, fat glutes and fat thighs, with tiny wrists, forearms and upper arms (bi’s and tri’s coming along though), a wide waist and a narrow, skinny ectomorph physique overall. Really sucks, would be awesome to have one of those dream wide shouldered, V-tapers with a narrow waist, but I got what I got so I just gotta work with what I got and make sure I look the best I can!
            Just one more question before I leave you, I believe I have mild scoliosis, used to have horrible posture which I make a conscious effort every day to fix, and my right right clavicle is slightly more shallower than the left one. I’ve noticed my squats tend to shift my hip to the right whenever I go past about a 150lbs squat (so I’m staying at a lower weight as I try sort it out) unless I make a conscious effort to keep it straight, which get’s harder as more weight is added, my right elbow tends to stick out more when going heavier on bent over rows and my left arm seems to drift forward (maybe over-compensating?) when doing Overhead Press. Any advice on how to maybe fix this, or do you recommend I visit my doctor?

          • Michael Matthews

            Ah yeah IF just doesn’t work well for some people. Some people seem to do better with fasting than others.

            Interesting on the squat issue. It sounds like we don’t want to keep adding weight but want to address the underlying issue.

            I would see a good sports doc and see what you can do…

          • Bradley Ingram

            Ok, will do! Thank you, definitely made things clearer for me! I’m glad I came across your articles because they’re much more clearer, well-written and defined than a lot of others I’ve read, and it’s clear you’re not trying to fool us into buying some magical supplement that will do all the work for us. Thanks again, and I will definitely keep my eyes out for anymore articles that you post, good luck with your future success.

          • Michael Matthews

            Thanks man! I really appreciate it. Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Guest

    lj

  • Daniel

    Great article!

    It seems that most of the people you showed up above lost fat and gained muscle. However you can only do one at a time (caloric deficit/surplus). Which one do you suggest first for someone who is skinny fat? Do you think carb-cycling would work? (I.e. no carbs on HIIT days and high carbs on weight training days) Or will I just end up looking the same if I do that?

  • Carly McGee

    I love Mike’s articles & books. His information is always true, and extremely helpful. THANK YOU Mike, for helping me on my journey to a better body & lifestyle!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks so much! I really appreciate it!

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  • Jason Mitchell

    I agree with a lot of the things stated in the article, but I feel as though when it comes to body fat percentages the whole skinny fat thing is a bit overblown. I understand that a guy at 13% body fat may not have very defined muscles, but I don’t think that should really be considered skinny fat, especially when it comes to ideal body fat charts. I mean, in the first picture that guy still has a bit of a V-taper. I realize there is still some extra fat, but that’s pretty common among anyone that doesn’t work out.

    • Michael Matthews

      I totally agree. Skinny fat really boils down to a LOOK. A guy can be quite muscular at 13% or have NO muscle and look kind of..well…skinny fat.

  • Nathan Krascuki

    Oh no i’m a skinny fat. Help me! Your tactics are mad encouraging, but I have the lazy bug and work 12 hours a day. I’m testing out this cool Weight Care Patch and it’s a very effective appetite suppressor, I’m eating cleaner than I used to and I’m not so tired after work for sure! It’s working great, but anything else I can add to it?

  • Sleep deprived shift worker

    Mike
    I’ve read a dozen articles on diet fads, cross fit, cycling, triathlon…. you name it, I’ve read about it, and maybe even tried it. I’m looking for a workout/healthy eating plan that I can stick to with a chaotic schedule I am a 31 yo female, 5’7 140 lbs… aka “skinny fat”. I’ve been a distance runner for 10 years, logging anywhere from 25-40 mi/week, and still can’t seem to look and feel fit. I’m aware of the need for weight training to increase muscle mass and burn fat, but I’ve been told that my form is terrible (especially squats). I’ve discussed this with a few local trainers, but am finding that they seem to contradict eachother. One will say to point my toes out, while the other says not to…. ect. I’m afraid that I will hurt myself using heavy weights with improper form. In addition to my lack of weight training experience, I go to school full time (online) and work nights in an ER, (12-16 hour shifts 4 days a week). I eat well most of the time, but many times have to go 6-10 hours between meals. As you can imagine, this leaves me feeling starved, exhausted, and ultimately debating on whats more important Sleep/rest, food, homework, or a workout? Any tips you could give me on resources for proper form, diet, and exercise schedules would be appreciated! I’m tired of spending more time researching than doing…

  • Candice

    Hi Mike!
    I recently purchased your book ‘Thinner Leaner Stronger’ and have been following your fat loss plan and training routine for 2 months. I am 18 yo, 5’7, 140lbs, 20.4% body fat and 21.9 BMI. Over the last 2 months, I have lost around 4 pounds, and feel a little more toned. I am starting to see some muscle definition on my outer thighs, arms and shoulders, and also have a flatter stomach. I am currently eating around 1500 calories, which consists of 140 protein, 35g fat and 150g carbs. However, I have only lost 1 pound over the last month, which is also when I started to focus on weight training 4x a week.
    My questions:
    – Is it normal to have only lost 1 pound over the last month?
    – Am I eating too much / too little if my main focus is to look leaner, improve my body composition and are my macros alright?
    – At what body fat can I start to see some muscle definition on my stomach area?
    – Are there any suggestions you can give me to improve my body composition? as in should I continue with the fat loss plan or should I increase my calories?
    Thanks so much!

  • Khalid Yassin

    Hi Mike. I am currently on a calorie deficit diet and, weight training 4-5 days a and cardio 2-3 days a week to gain muscle and lose a lot of body fat. I started 4 weeks ago with weight of 170 pounds, and roughly bf of 20%. So far my weight has gone slightly down to 167 pounds and bf decreased to 16.7%, plus my strength has definitely improved in the gym. (I’m using one of those hand-held devices to calculate bf)

    My concern is that I’m not seeing any difference looking at the mirror. My flabby parts ( triceps, abs, legs) have not shed any bf. Is that normal after 4 weeks, or should I go on a different approach?

  • Khalid Yassin

    Hi Mike. I really enjoyed reading your book. It is a clear, simple and honest approach on striving for a healthy and fit body

    I am currently on a calorie deficit diet and, weight training
    4-5 days a and cardio 2-3 days a week to gain muscle and lose a lot of
    body fat. I started 4 weeks ago with weight of 170 pounds, and roughly
    bf of 20%. So far my weight has gone slightly down to 167 pounds and bf
    decreased to 16.7%, plus my strength has definitely improved in the gym.
    (I’m using one of those hand-held devices to calculate bf)

    My concern is that I’m not seeing any difference looking at the mirror. My
    flabby parts ( triceps, abs, legs) have not shed any bf. Is that normal
    after 4 weeks, or should I go on a different approach? Your advice is greatly appreciated

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks Khalid!

      Great on what you’re doing. That rocks!

      Just keep going and you’ll see the changes. I’m sure you’ve seen SOMETHING if you’ve already lost over 3%?

      • Khalid Yassin

        I definitely feel stronger and some body parts, especially my thighs,
        have become more muscly, but any visual difference is yet to be seen.

        • Michael Matthews

          That’s great. Have you been taking pictures? That’s the best way to see changes.

  • ahmed

    hi mike, really loved the article but have some questions, hope that dont bother you 😀 (im sure it wont. you dont have a choice anyways :P).

    so what i get from this article is to stay in calorie deficit? here is the thing i was 200 pounds 5 ft 6. i lost 50 pounds and now im at 150 5 ft 8. i’m skinny everywhere except for my stomach,my six packs are not visible. my dream is to see them. cant wait :P. like i can see my rib cage. so if i cut more i will be like the guys on starvation :/ .please help me and tell me what to do.

    note : my plan is to go on bulk and build muscle for like 6 months (i will get fat) but then have a really good cut (obeying the cut rules ofc 🙂 ) what do you think?

    also i read an article of yours (yes , im a fan 😀 ) that you can build muscle while in caloric deficit but in this article u mentioned that you will lose muscle mass in a caloric deficit :/ its neglecting each other.

    i will purchase your book. if your articles are amazing then how are your books going to be :O!!

    • Michael Matthews

      Thanks!

      It depends on where your body fat percentage is. Check this out:

      https://www.muscleforlife.com/the-best-way-to-gain-muscle-not-fat/

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Muhammad Bilal

        Hey Mike! your really great i have learnt from ur website, and it turned out that i was taking bodybuilding very stressfull, one thing i want to know i am currently 160 lbs with 25% bf, i am doing weight training 5 times per week as outlined by you with 2 Hiit sessions of 25 minutes, is it okay if i take just 130 grams of protien per day ?

        • Hey!

          Cool on what you’re doing. Yeah that would be a minimum. Don’t go lower than that.

  • Tiani Gonzales

    Hi Mike,

    I need some advice. I’m a female and I’ve always been really tiny and skinny (15% body fat right now) …until recently I’ve built a lot more muscle. I have no fat on my butt, legs, arms, it’s all just muscle except the ONLY fat I have is on my stomach. I’ve been eating clean for so long now (around 8 months) and dieting in different ways and I can’t seem to get rid of that belly fat no matter how clean I eat or how much I work out (I work out about 5 times a week). I try lift heavy and have recently done about 25-35 minutes of cardio after I work out to try and get rid of that fat. What should my diet be like or what exactly should I do to get rid of this belly fat??? I’ve been confused on whether or not to eat more carbs (which I’ve gained more belly fat because of it) to gain that muscle or to change my diet up to lose that fat. My abs are there, it’s just there’s a layer of fat and I can’t seem to get rid of it. How do i do it? Because I’m toned everywhere else except for there and it’s beyond frustrating. Your direct advice would mean SO much!! Thanks!

  • Matt

    Hey Mike, I’ve lifted for over 10 years and have been on your program for over a year, but I still can’t seem to grow muscle, get stronger, or lose the skinny fat look. I’ve actually gotten a bit weaker. The only things that I can think of that may be the problem is that I have a sleep disorder and sleep 3-4 hours a night and I also have anemia. Do you think those 2 problems have such a negative impact on me achieving my fitness goals?

    • Michael Matthews

      Hmm the sleep could be an issue but it’s probably also related to diet and training.

      If you haven’t been following a proper meal plan and adjusting as needed, that can cause problems. If you haven’t been pushing yourself as hard as you can in the gym and sticking the principles in the book, that can cause problems too.

      • Matt

        I’m not sure. I go all out and train almost to failure in the 4-6 rep range. I’ve also gained some weight – about 8 lbs in 3 months. But my waist grew an inch so the weight gain is probably mostly fat. Maybe it’s my hormones? Possible high cortisol or low T?

        • Michael Matthews

          8 pounds in 12 weeks is not bad at all. Some fat is inevitable.

          What’s your body fat %?

          Probably not a hormone problem.

          • Matt

            Around 20%. I went from 160lbs with 34.5″ waist to 170lbs with a waist of almost 36″. I’m 6’2″.

          • Michael Matthews

            Great. Those are solid gains. That said, the body fat percentage might be getting in the way.

            Check this out:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-best-way-to-gain-muscle-not-fat/

          • Matt

            Thanks, Mike!

          • Michael Matthews

            YW

  • kazu

    Hello Mike,

    I’ve read your article and I think it’s pretty useful.
    I weight 130 pounds and 5.5 feet, yet my fat percentage turned out to be %29! I don’t look like an obese anyways, in fact I look quite normal.
    Does that mean I’m a skinny fat person?

  • Abeera

    hey mike ,
    great article btw , after reading this now im pretty sure i’m a skinny fat person
    my weight is 112.5 pounds and my height is 158 cm
    my BMI is 20.2 ,BF 33.1 so i’m at the obesity range :S
    i have been on a diet deficit for years with almost no cheat meals at all and when my weight won’t go down i cut out more calories and work out more and harder , i have a muscle mass of 18.5 kg that’s below the average that’s why i gain weight like crazy
    im tired of living like that forever
    now i know i have to gain muscle but i don’t want to gain weight :S
    so what what should i do first ? lose fat then build muscle or the opposite
    and if i gain muscle weight till the normal range can i go back to diet to lose the weight ?
    please help me :

  • Wednesday

    I’m definitely skinny fat, but I love running on the treadmill, does Upping the incline and doing intervals help? I’m trying to I guess I would say lift my butt and tone my core without losing muscle, which is what happens if I just stick to distance. I’ve only just started, doing 15 minutes cardiovascular and 1/2 hr weights/ strength followed by 2-3 laps in the pool for cool down. I only weigh 100lbs, I don’t want to lose weight, I’m not the healthiest Eater either I tend to undereat most days, do protein shakes after the gym help any?

    • Michael Matthews

      Adding the weights will definitely help. You can continue the cardio and still have the type of physique you want, but you’ll need to add some muscle to your frame, that’s all.

      Post-workout protein may help, yes, but more important is that your diet as a whole is set up properly:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

  • you suck

    those people are not “skinny fat”. they are normal. you like to body shame people, huh?

  • Frank Ortiz

    Hate my body figure , people say im skinny or too skinny but as I take my shirt off , my body is revealed . Now I dont know if I am skinny fat or just fat , or other .I am at a weight of 166 and Mike , I need your honest opinion .I would love to know if I shall do more cardio, start lifting , or any other method you have for me , I just want my flat stomach . I attached 3 photos , please reply , thank you

  • Ash

    None of the people in this article are skinnyfat. You have no idea what skinnyfat looks like. It seems you have a very distorted, misinformed image of the human physique- the kind of distorted image that most people obsessed with bodybuilding have.

  • Julia Caldwell Troya

    Hi Mike,

    I have 2 teen age boys one is 19 yo 5’7″ and the other one is 17yo 6’2″. They are both pretty skinny and kinda weak guys. Even though I tried to get them into sports they do not like to do any whatsoever. I am 44 years old and in pretty good health and getting healthier and fitter because I workout and I got into cycling about 2 years ago and I do it on a regular basis and combine it with a little strentgh training twice a week. I have lost about 50 pounds in the last 2 years and still have about 15 to 20 more to go to be at my ideal weight…but I am worried about my boys especially the 19 year old. they both have very low fat % the 17 year old has about 16% bodyfat and he is pretty lean but you can feel and even see a little bit of his abs but the 19 year old is 12% body fat and his body feels like jell-0. They both eat like pigs. about a week ago I decided to go ahead and have them workout with weights bought a bar with some weights and a kettlebell set. I am also in the process of getting a total gym for all of us because I preffer to workout at home vs wasting my time and gas going to the gym. I want them to built around 25pounds of muscle but they are very weak when it comes to lifting the weights especially the 19 year old, and I am affraid of injuries because of lack of propper form. I do try to teach them propper form and I know they will get it in the process. But what advice can you give me as far specific exercises and amount of weight, in order to make the workouts short and safe, but effective for them. They do not need to lose weight the need to get stronger and built some muscle. Thanks

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey Julia!

      Grat on what you’re doing. That rocks.

      I understand where you’re coming from with your kids, although some guys just aren’t into weightlifting.

      That said, if they started with something simple like Starting Strength or my Bigger Leaner Stronger program, they would make good gains and may come to enjoy it…

      • Julia Caldwell Troya

        Thanks for your reply and advice Mike. I would look into those programs for myself as well. Just another Question ….its been about 20 days since I started this regimen of muscle and weight gain for my boys. I have been keeping track of what they eat making the meals myself and avoiding junk like chips, desserts etc etc. They are eating around 6 times a day including pre and post workout meals/protein shakes. I have not check on their body fat percentage since then but been tracking on their weight. They both have gained 6 and 7 pounds each and I can see they are getting stronger by the way they are lifting now. I am ready to add some more weight to the bench press and other exercise they been doing because I started them pretty low on just to be on the safe side. I am a little concern about how fast they should gain weight?..or how much per month is acceptable or healthy?..Thanks for your help again it is very much appreciated.

        • Michael Matthews

          Great!

          It sounds like your kids are doing well.

          What rep ranges do you have them working in?

          • Julia Caldwell Troya

            yeah..they are doing better than I expected. They both showing overall progress but for some reason the 19 year old shows more progress on the chest than his brother but on the other hand his younger brother shows more progress on his arms muscles… when he curls his bicep it pops way more defined and taller and hard like a rock!..I am having them do about 40-45 minute workout Bench press 5-6 sets of 8-10 reps. Deadlifts 5 sets of 10 reps.Biceps and triceps 3 sets of 12 reps . Squats to shoulder press 3sets 10 reps. Abs 3sets of 30-35reps not it that order but bassically thats what they are doing. Sometimes I also have them hop on my indoor bike and spin for around 10-15 minutes on the hardest gear and with high resistance on the indoor trainer where they really have to push them pedals in order to make them move so they can workout ther legs muscles. They are eating around 2,600 to 3,000 calories a day. An I am making sure they get enough Protein and Carbs. The only thing they drink is Water and Milk

          • Michael Matthews

            That’s normal. We all have genetic strengths and weaknesses.

            I would have them do more heavy lifting. Check this out:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/guide-to-muscle-hypertrophy-muscle-growth/

            It sounds like their diets are good.

          • Julia Caldwell Troya

            Just wanted to share with you the progress. And I will totally increase the lifting volume next week. So after almost a month they stepped on the scale this morning before breakfast and here are the results. The 19 yo 5’7″ went from 125lbs to 135lbs and from 12% body fat to 10.9%. The 17 yo 6’1″went from 143lbs to 149.5lbs and from 16% bodyfat to 14% body fat. They are drinking a lot of water too.. way more than before. I will be taking pics of them on a monthly basis just for them to see their progress. They agreed to it because they can also see some of their progress.Thanks for your support. I really appreciate it. I will post a pic of them as soon as I figure out how. Thanks again

          • Julia Caldwell Troya

            Pics taken 2 days ago. First pic is the 19 yo (5’6″) and the second the 17yo (6’2″). BTW I have purchase the Bigger Leaner Stronger book. I am alreadyon chapter 18. 🙂

          • Michael Matthews

            Very cool! Big changes!

          • Michael Matthews

            That’s awesome! Really glad to hear it!

  • Elena

    Hey Mike! Okay, so i just need some advice/opinion from you. I could really need it.

    I’m a 15 year old girl that weights 57 kg and is 169 cm. ( 53 kg at smallest. ) When i was 13 i decided to lose weight because i was obese.
    I ate 1200 calories a day and did not train ( didn’t do any shit at all, just sat at at the couch everyday. ) Pretty much, i just ate very little, healthy stuff hoping i would go down… and i did. Probably about 20 kg. I also looked VERY often on the scale.

    Probably around 6 months ago i started eating 1800 – 2000 calories a day and training regularly, and i also started strength training recently. I must say, i cant see any change AT ALL. Ive just gotten fatter and fatter, but weigh the same. Everyone says i am skinny, but they don’t know whats under the clothes. Plus: i lost my period when i started to eat normal.

    It feels like i have totally ruined my metabolism and crushed my muscles. I now realize how dumb i was to begin my diet without any knowledge, i was just so desperate to lose weight. It was like begging to be skinny fat.

    I really have no idea what to do anymore. Since i began training and eating more, Ive just gained fat and probably no muscle at all.

    What much am i supposed to eat? Should i lose weight or gain? How much should i exercise? Should i take supplement? Is there even a way to fix this?

    I apologize for the long comment, but i really need help to figure this out before i do anything more. Thank you so much for reading 🙂

    • Michael Matthews

      Hey Elena!

      No worries. We can figure it out.

      1. How sure are you on your intake? Are you tracking/following a meal plan or winging it?

      2. How often are you going over 1800-2000? (“Cheating.”)

      3. What’s your exercise schedule like?

      • Elena

        Hi! Thanks so much for responding.

        1. Last year I strictly wrote down everything I ate, but I got out of it really quickly, mainly because I didn’t have the time and because it got quite boring.

        2. Since I don’t track everything I eat, I am indeed going over 2000. One reason is because people have told me that I needed to gain weight. I felt really pressured to eat more, so i probably ate 2500 calories everyday until I reached 57 kg.

        I also ate a lot of candy to gain faster, which of course was dumb.

        3. I usually train everyday 20 – 30 minutes. I mostly do strength training atm, but have done much cardio in the past. I also do a lot of situps, planking and squatting.

        • Michael Matthews

          My pleasure!

          1. I understand. Unfortunately this means you were probably overeating.

          2. Well, there you go. 🙂

          3. Cool.

          Fortunately, the solution here is very simple. Your metabolism is fine. All you have to do is follow a proper meal plan and I’ll bet your body responds exactly as you want.

          Check this out:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

          • Elena

            Thanks for the advice! 😀
            I will read through it and start a new plan!

          • Michael Matthews

            Great!

  • Ella

    Hello Mike,
    Hope you still read comments to this old post. Thanks a lot for your great work. I would greatly appreciate your advice, if you please.
    I’m a 33-old female, 97lb., 5.05 ft. I am apparently skinny fat, with most of fat on my lower abs, hips and buttocks. I’ve been consistently lifting for 1.5 years now, but I still see no changes in my physique. Before proceeding to weights, I was attending step aerobics classes every day for ten years, going occasionally to the gym. Then, I used to eat too little. When I started tracking my food intake, I realized it was no more than 500 kcal/day. I concentrated on lifting weights in supersets, increased my calories to 1,500kcal (I couldn’t just physically consume more), added HIIT sessions once/twice a week. I was just losing weight that way (9 months after start).Then I went to a bodybuilding forum and they recommended that I totally eliminated cardio, ate more and did full body workouts. I saw no progress that way either (6 more months). During the last two months I’ve been training legs/butt/chest two days/week and back/delts once a week for better response from my lower body, as the instructor says. Nothing helps. Everyone says my arms have become much bigger, I can also see just some definition in my delts and back. I’ve gained almost 7 lb, with no changes in measurements. I’ve recently been experiencing a surge in my working weights after starting to drink homemade gainer with ground oats an hour before the training session and immediately after it. My nutrition: about 130 g of protein (including plant one), 60-70 g of fats (mostly from diary and meats) and some 240 g of carbs, 2,000-2,100 kcal on training days, a bit lower during rest days. On training days, I consume quite a lot of simple carbs in my gainer drink (70 g of honey and 90-120 g of banana). May this hamper changes in my physique? And what about doing almost no cardio but warmup?
    I take no supplements except for multivitamins. I had a BIA test done a few months ago and it showed 15% BF and the basic metabolic rate of 1,204kcal, which is close to online calculators. Nevertheless, I look closer to 20-22% when compared with the pictures you added to one of your articles. I actually look pretty much like the first girl in this post. And my upper body also seams to transform much easier.

  • Ella

    Excuse me, I’ve forgotten to add one more question. Should I start cutting? I can see my belly (I used to have none!) loos too big by night.

  • Ella

    Hello Mike,
    Hope you still read comments to this post. Thanks a lot for your great work. I would greatly appreciate your advice, if you please.
    I’m a 33-old female, 97lb., 5.05 ft. I am apparently skinny fat, with most of fat on my lower abs, hips and buttocks. I’ve been consistently lifting for 1.5 years now, but I still see no changes in my physique. Before proceeding to weights, I was attending step aerobics classes every day for ten years, occasionally lifting light weights as well. Then, I used to eat too little. When I started tracking my food intake, I realized it was no more than 500 kcal/day. I concentrated on lifting heavier weights in supersets, increased my calories to 1,500kcal (I couldn’t just physically consume more), added HIIT sessions once/twice a week. I was just losing weight that way (9 months after start).Then I went to a bodybuilding forum and they recommended that I totally eliminated cardio, ate more and did full body compound workouts. I saw no progress that way either (6 more months). During the last two months I’ve been training legs/butt/chest two days/week and back/delts once a week for better response from my lower body, as the instructor says. Nothing helps. Everyone says my arms have become much bigger, I can also see just some definition in my delts and back. I’ve gained almost 7 lb, with no changes in measurements. I’ve recently been experiencing a surge in my working weights after starting to drink homemade gainer with ground oats an hour before the weight training and immediately after it. I do no cardio except for warmup.
    My nutrition: about 130 g of protein (including plant one), 60-70 g of fats (mostly from diary and meats) and some 240 g of carbs, 2,000-2,100 kcal on training days, a bit lower during rest days. I take no supplements except for multivitamins. On training days, I consume quite a lot of simple carbs in my gainer drink (70 g of honey and 90-120 g of banana). May this hamper changes in my physique?
    Despite all my efforts, my body is still soft and flabby. The cellulite has even worsened since I began lifting weights, and I can’t get rid of it. I look very much like the first girl in your transformation examples.
    What’s wrong with what I’m doing? What would you change? Should I start cutting? Or taking protein shakes, BCAAs or anything of that sort?

  • Ella

    I’ve forgotten to add that I had a BIA test done a few months ago and it showed thay I had 15% BF and the basic metabolic rate of 1,204 kcal. Nevertheless, I look closer to 20-22% BF when compared with the illustration in one of your articles.

    • Michael Matthews

      BIA can be very inaccurate.

  • Ella

    My comment has somehow disappeared, so let me paste it again:
    Hello Mike,
    Hope you still read comments to this post. Thanks a lot for your great work. I would greatly appreciate your advice, if you please.
    I’m a 33-old female, 97lb., 5.05 ft. I am apparently skinny fat, with most of fat on my lower abs, hips and buttocks. I’ve been consistently lifting for 1.5 years now, but I still see no changes in my physique. Before proceeding to weights, I was attending step aerobics classes every day for ten years, occasionally lifting light weights as well. Then, I used to eat too little. When I started tracking my food intake, I realized it was no more than 500 kcal/day. I concentrated on lifting heavier weights in supersets, increased my calories to 1,500kcal (I couldn’t just physically consume more), added HIIT sessions once/twice a week. I was just losing weight that way (9 months after start).Then I went to a bodybuilding forum and they recommended that I totally eliminated cardio, ate more and did full body compound workouts. I saw no progress that way either (6 more months). During the last two months I’ve been training legs/butt/chest two days/week and back/delts once a week for better response from my lower body, as the instructor says. Nothing helps. Everyone says my arms have become much bigger, I can also see just some definition in my delts and back. I’ve gained almost 7 lb, with no changes in measurements. I’ve recently been experiencing a surge in my working weights after starting to drink homemade gainer with ground oats an hour before the weight training and immediately after it. I do no cardio except for warmup.
    My nutrition: about 130 g of protein (including plant one), 60-70 g of fats (mostly from diary and meats) and some 240 g of carbs, 2,000-2,100 kcal on training days, a bit lower during rest days. I take no supplements except for multivitamins. On training days, I consume quite a lot of simple carbs in my gainer drink (70 g of honey and 90-120 g of banana). May this hamper changes in my physique?
    Despite all my efforts, my body is still soft and flabby. The cellulite has even worsened since I began lifting weights, and I can’t get rid of it. I look very much like the first girl in your transformation examples.
    What’s wrong with what I do? What would you change? Should I start cutting? Or taking protein shakes, BCAAs or anything of that sort?

  • Ella

    Hello Mike,
    Hope you still read comments to this post. Thanks a lot for your great work. I would greatly appreciate your advice, if you please.
    I’m a 33-old female, 97lb., 5.05 ft. I am apparently skinny fat, with most of fat on my lower abs, hips and buttocks. I’ve been consistently lifting for 1.5 years now, but I still see no changes in my physique. Before proceeding to weights, I was attending step aerobics classes every day for ten years, occasionally lifting light weights as well. Then, I used to eat too little. When I started tracking my food intake, I realized it was no more than 500 kcal/day. I concentrated on lifting heavier weights in supersets, increased my calories to 1,500kcal (I couldn’t just physically consume more), added HIIT sessions once/twice a week. I was just losing weight that way (9 months after start).Then I went to a bodybuilding forum and they recommended that I totally eliminated cardio, ate more and did full body compound workouts. I saw no progress that way either (6 more months). During the last two months I’ve been training legs/butt/chest two days/week and back/delts once a week for better response from my lower body, as the instructor says. Nothing helps. Everyone says my arms have become much bigger, I can also see just some definition in my delts and back. I’ve gained almost 7 lb, with no changes in measurements. I’ve recently been experiencing a surge in my working weights after starting to drink homemade gainer with ground oats an hour before the weight training and immediately after it. I do no cardio except for warmup.
    My nutrition: about 130 g of protein (including plant one), 60-70 g of fats (mostly from diary and meats) and some 240 g of carbs, 2,000-2,100 kcal on training days, a bit lower during rest days. I take no supplements except for multivitamins. On training days, I consume quite a lot of simple carbs in my gainer drink (70 g of honey and 90-120 g of banana). May this hamper changes in my physique?
    Despite all my efforts, my body is still soft and flabby. The cellulite has even worsened since I began lifting weights, and I can’t get rid of it. I look very much like the first girl in your transformation examples. A few months ago, I had a BIA test done, and it showed that I had 15% BF and the basic metabolic rate of 1,204 kcal. Nevertheless, I look closer to 20-22% BF when compared with an illustration in one of your articles.
    What’s wrong with what I do? What would you change? Should I start cutting? Or taking protein shakes, BCAAs or anything of that sort?

    • Michael Matthews

      Great on everything you’re doing. You’re doing a lot right and honestly the fact that you can maintain your weight on 2000 calories per day is impressive. You should have no trouble getting lean.

      If I were you, I would get to 16-17% ASAP and see how my body looks. You might be pleasantly surprised how much muscle tone you have.

      Thoughts?

      • Ella

        Thanks for your prompt reply. I’m trying to do all right, and this makes me frustrated. The only thing I can lay blame on is a lack of sleep and a lot stress because of no progress in my body. my working weights are growing though… In squats, for example, they surged from 15 lb to 83 lb. I know that’s not too much yet, but this is already a success for me.
        As I mentioned before, I’ve gained almost 7 pounds, with just insignificant, if any, changes in my measurements. My belly (I used to have none!) is just sticking out some days, but this seems to be due to that much food I eat.
        Do you think another problem here is that I’m overeating? If so, should I calculate the new limit based on how much I consume now, or use some other formula? I calculated my current nutrients and calories by multiplying my basal metabolic rate by 1.55 (adjustment for training 3-5 times a week) and adding a surplus of10%. As far as I remember, you recommended such a surplus for gaining muscle without gaining much fat.
        Should I incorporate cardio into my workouts? Would you do it on separate days or before/after my strength training? Some people recommend that skinny fats do upper/lower body splits in circuit sessions with short cardio in between the series. What do you think about this?
        I will also attach some pictures for you to assess my form.
        Thanks for your time, and Happy New Year!

        • Michael Matthews

          YW!

          Too little sleep and too much stress are no good but unless it’s egregious, it’s not THAT big of a problem.

          1.55 is quite high of a multiplier. Check the multipliers here:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

          Some cardio could help.

          I wouldn’t say you’re skinny fat. You have a nice shape actually. I think all you’re really having an issue with is more fat than you’d like.

          Again if I were you, I would cut to about 17-18% and reassess…

          • Ella

            I know it seems that I have no issues at all, but I can grab much of thigh when seated, so this means that there is much fat there, right? Should I retain my post-workout shake? It consists of cottage cheese, honey, oats, banana and milk. I consider excluding honey from it for fat loss.
            How long should I wait to reassess? How will I know I’m losing fat, not muscles?
            Your advice will be much appreciated.

          • Michael Matthews

            Total body fat mass is a better benchmark than how certain body parts feel in certain positions, haha:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-measure-body-fat-percentage/

            Your post-workout shake sounds great but you need to make a proper meal plan to ensure you’re not overeating:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

            If you maintain your strength in the gym, you’re not losing muscle.

          • Ella

            Mike, I must say that your assistance is very helpful. It is amazing how you find time and patience to answer all those questions many people post here. I wish I had such a trainer as you are:-).
            As to the meal planning guide, I’ve already read it through several times. The only thing that I am struggling here is to lower the amount of fats in my daily intake. As I mentioned before, it modstly comes from eggs, dairy and meats. Nevertheless, they sometimes account for up to 35-40% of my macros. Can this be the reason why BF stays the same even though protein and carb intake is high?
            Among the methods of BF calculation, the BIA and the caliper ones are available in my area. BIA has shown BF of 15% and the caliper has turned to be somewhat confusing because there are lots of formulas to estimate the measurements, and they all gave different figures. Visually, I am at about 20%.
            Anyway, I’ve already cut my intake to 1,300 kcal. Tomorrow, for example, I will have 100g of P, 53 g of F and 116 g of C. Is this ok?
            I am going to maintain this deficit for a few weeks, doing strength training three times a week and a cardio session once a week. Hope this will work, as I’m close to quitting.

          • Michael Matthews

            My pleasure Ella. I’m happy to help.

            You can definitely have a higher fat diet if you want. That’s not a problem. You just need to adjust carbs down to keep calories where they need to be, that’s all.

            If you look around 20%, that’s probably an accurate assessment.

            Yes those macros look totally fine. Let me know how it goes. You may want to bump cardio up a little if you can and do this:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/high-intensity-interval-training-and-weight-loss/

          • Ella

            Sure, I will let you know. I would LOVE to do more cardio, but I am afraid that lifting weights less than three times a week will leave me without even that little muscle I have. I can go to the gym only on weekdays. This means I have five days for training, but is it right to train every day? I used to, and this did not change my physique for the better. So, I’ve decided to have one rest day in the middle of the week and two more at the weekend. Do you think this is too much rest?

          • Michael Matthews

            5 days is plenty. Personally I would have you lift 5 x per week and do cardio afterward 3 x per week, for 20-25 minutes.

            Would that be possible?

          • Ella

            I am not sure. I train in the morning, before going to work. I go to work in a nearby city and it takes me about 1.5-2 hours to arrive there. I wake up at 5 a.m., have breakfast about half an hour later and depart at about 6.30-6.40 a.m. My training begins at 8-8.30 a.m and lasts about 90 minutes, so sometimes I don’t have time even for post-workout stretching because I have to rush to work. This is why I’ve decided to separate lifting and cardio days. Besides, everyday training leaves me exhausted for lack of sleep. I’ve been going to the gym for three days running this week and I feel very drowsy now.
            If I do manage to lift five times a week, should the workouts be full body ones or some kind of splits? Should I vary their intensity/volume? I;ve noticed lately that doing an easier workout one day and a heavier one the other improves my performance much.

          • Michael Matthews

            Oh okay. Well what I’m thinking is about 40 minutes of weightlifting and 25 minutes of cardio. No more.

            Getting enough sleep is very important.

            If you trained 5 x per week I’d have you do this:

            1: Chest & abs
            2: Back & butt
            3: Shoulders & abs
            4: Arms
            5: Legs & more butt

            Thoughts?

          • Ella

            Somehow I manage to do no more than 4-5 exercises in the 8-10 rep range and 3 sets in 40 minutes… My current routine includes 7-8 exercises, so a workout is longer… I will try to draw up a new routine based on your recommendations. For now, I am going to follow the current program though. Just do not want to mess things up.
            Thanks again for your advice! I really appreciate it.

          • Michael Matthews

            Okay cool. Do let me know how it goes!

          • Ella

            Ok 🙂

  • Ella

    Excuse me for so many comments. I saw none of them when coming back to the article:-)

  • Pingback: Hips & Butt & Thighs…..oh my. | Creating ME()

  • John

    Well this kinda sucks. I am definitely “skinny-fat” and this article confirms some of what I kinda already knew. Yet there is a conflict…

    I am a cyclist that excels at ultra distance type rides. I am sure this is due in part to my long, steady, endurance type of training over the years, and I think is also due in part to my genetic makeup(?) (extremely long bike rides come natural to me). On the flip side, I often have difficulty hanging in & keeping up on shorter, faster, more intense rides. This would coincide with what you said about endurance training interfering with strength & hypertrophy since additional strength on the bike translates into more force (power) applied to the pedals; which translates into higher speeds – something that I often have difficulty with.

    But here’s where I see conflict: A lot of the cyclists I know are also skinny-fat, but not all. A good number of them are slender, lean, and ripped. Then there are the triathletes. Nearly ALL of the triathletes I know or have even known are slender, very lean, and ripped. There aren’t really any skinny-fat triathletes out there. Period. Yet all of the triathletes I have ever seen do pretty much nothing but long sessions of steady state cardio – running, biking, & swimming. They don’t do much in the way of HIIT and few, if any rarely (if ever at all) lift weights or do any kind of resistance training. Yet they are consistently the leanest group of people I have ever seen.

    How do you explain this?

    • Michael Matthews

      How you’ve been training is a major role and genetics can be part of it as well. That doesn’t mean you can’t do well with strength training though.

      IMO most triathletes are under-muscled and weak. They’re just lean. I’ve known a few that were a) genetic freaks and b) regular weightlifters also on steroids and they looked great. The majority just look blah though.

      Remember that genetics play a big role here too. Some people have always had good muscle tone and that doesn’t go away just because you do a lot of cardio.

  • Andy

    Hi Mike, great site. I’ve been lifting a while … weight is normal at 160 pounds but with muscle but also belly fat. Do I reduce calories or do I do cardio to get rid of the tummy? I understand that for someone who is 200 pounds anything will work. But for someone who is already on the lean side which is better – reduced calories or HIIT? thanks mate.

  • Michael Matthews

    Thanks for stopping by and checking out my article! I hope you enjoyed it.

    Feel free to comment below if you have any questions. I do my best to check and reply to every comment

    left on my blog, so don’t be shy!

    Oh and if you like what I have to say, you should sign up for my free weekly newsletter! You’ll get

    awesome, science-based health and fitness tips, delicious “guilt-free” recipes, articles to keep you

    motivated, and much more!

    You can sign up here:

    http://www.muscleforlife.com/signup/

    Your information is safe with me too. I don’t share, sell, or rent my lists. Pinky swear!

  • t

    Hi , do you only sell e-books or can I get a hard copy?

    • Michael Matthews

      You can get a hard copy from Amazon and B&N.

  • Pingback: 3 Calorie Counting "Secrets" Every Dieter Should Know | Muscle For Life()

  • NJJazz

    61 years old…………….. 24% body fat – and have been lifing for a few months Not doing what this article says so time for some changes great info

  • Duane

    Hey Mike, great read. I think I am skinny fat but I’m not completely sure. Back in 2012 I used to be a mere 120lbs at a height of 6′. I am now a little under 170lbs but my bodyfat is around 14%. Lack of muscle is my biggest problem, especially in my upper body.. my legs and glutes grow fast while chest and arms are lagging big time. My metabolism is crazy high too. I eat anywhere around 4000kcal a day just gain weight. I do heavy compound lifts, 4-8 reps, 3 times a week increasing the load every workout. 185lbs (190 maybe?) at 14%, or possibly lower bodyfat, is my goal for the summer.

    Should I continue this way? Gaining fat is bad at this point while losing weight will just make me skinny again. I’m 19 years old btw.

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  • Juan Pablo

    Hi Mike!

    I’m a 30 year old male and don’t do much exercise other than walking my dogs. I’m 5’6″ and weigh 153lbs. I wanna say I’m over 20% body fat. I eat a primarily plant based diet and started this about a year ago. I want to say I easily eat over 2,000 calories a day. I don’t limit what I eat actually since most of what I eat is fruit.

    Knowing this about me, should I start lifting and not incorporate much cardio? I would like to continue to eat plant based foods as muh as possible. Any other tips for plant based eaters?

  • Jessica

    Hi Mr Mike

    First things first this article is a life saver, and it’s motivated me to make a change so thanks a ton.

    However I have an issue, I’ve tried diets, eating clean and going gym classes but I really don’t enjoy it thats why I tend to slip back in my old ways, which consists of eating fried food and working out minimally. Now although I eat fried food mostly I get little calories a day, so how is it possible that my belly and love handles are getting bigger?

    Background info:
    Female, 5″6, eats moderate meals maybe once or twice a day (macdonalds, fried rice) and doesn’t work out

  • Hiro

    Hey I really hope you answer back. So I was unclear on one thing from reading your articles. I am 5 ’11 and 157 pounds but skinny fat. I know that I don’t eat enough so my calorie intake is pretty low as a result of being vegetarian. Could you let me know how many calories I need and the macros if I want to build muscle and loose fat. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you so much.

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  • Sonja

    Great article! Really hit a spot! So unhappily skinnyfat and really struggeling with the ratio of intake of calories etc. Im eating this up!

  • Kennie

    This is so helpful!!! Thank you so much Mike, I never knew the reason why ive been skinny fat for a long time. But you answered all the questions

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  • Aaliyah

    I’m 5’6, 129 pounds and pudge. I hate my stomach! What should I do? I eat healthy and my calorie intake is low and I also ride the mike 2.5 miles everyday and walk or run 10,000 steps. I see the weight lost by my stomach won’t go away

  • GRS

    Hey Mike,

    First of all i`m from Germany, so sorry for my bad english….

    Let me tell or better show you my main problem… As you can see i have a lot of body fat, especially on the lower belly and hips!

    Im 23 y old and tried a lot of training and dietary methods, but unfortunately i had no achievements. I tried low carb and also (ketogen diet with less then
    30 g carbs per day). Besides that i also tried a few other methods but had always the same results. Right now i`m training with a
    push/pull/leg plan (3x week) and besides that i`m doing HIIT training
    and Steady state cardio a few times (2-3x per week).

    I really don’t know what to do, i almost lost my motivation because i`d spent a lot time (almost 3 years) and effort. Besides that its really frustrating to see other people who do less and achieve more.

    I reduced my daily calories from 2500 kcal to 2100
    kcal. 200 g carbs, 210 g proteins and 51 g fats .

    I know that there is no wonder pill, but do you have any advice for me? I would really appreciate you’re advice.

  • Will-B

    “When we’re talking food, a calorie is the amount of energy required to heat up one kilogram of water one degree Celsius.” Actually, that’s if you’re talking chemistry. When we’re talking about food calories (“small” calories), it’s one gram of water per one degree Celsius, not one kilogram.

    • No, when talking food, a “calorie” is synonymous with a “kilocalorie.”

      http://i.imgur.com/DaDkk5A.png

      Love how many times I’ve been “corrected” on this, lol.

      • Will-B

        WOW, I’m dumb. I have no idea how I managed to misunderstand that. Distrust everything I say from now on.

        • Hahaha I hear the calorie “correction” at least once a week.

  • Mark

    Hi Mike,

    I have found this through a search and thought it was really good. I would say I’m skinny fat and have just changed my training. Basically, I do a lot of running (5 and 10k, plus half marathons). I completed 11 races last year. My whole body shape is messed up, having neglected weight training, typical runner hey. This year, I’ve decided not to enter many races and focus on getting into shape again. I wouldn’t mind some help with a few things if you don’t mind?

    I am currently 78.6 kg and my height is 5ft 9′ age 43. According to some apps I’ve looked at, my maintainance intake should be 2530 calories per day. I have split this 40% carbs and protein and 20% fats. Firstly, should I be eating less or more? And have I got the split right?

    As you can see from the photos, I’m quite skinny with a bit of belly fat. What I’m asking is as above and also how much and what training I should do?

    Regards,
    Mark

  • Lee

    Mike, great article, here! I’ve been listening to your podcasts for a couple of months now. I’ve gotta say that I love it! Thank you for that! (I originally posted this under “Ask Me Anything” then realized this is probably a more appropriate place for it.)

    My dilemma is this: I’m skinny-fat (of course). I understand that endurance training is detrimental to muscle gains, but I am going to be working as a Wildland firefighter this summer/fall, and training accordingly requires me to “ruck” (hike/walk with a substantially weighted back pack) for some time. Is it probable for me to fix my skinny-fat issue while maintaining my firefighting fitness? They are kind of contradicting goals, I believe.

    A little background regarding my training: I started out with Beachbody programs: Ten Minute Trainer, Power 90, P90x (two rounds), and Body Beast (one and a half rounds). In addtion to this, I was rucking and/or running (usually between a 5k and 10k) three to four times a week for the last year or so. More recently, I just completed a two month long strength program, the only real cardio I did was sprints twice a week, I feel like I’ve backtracked, most of my fat going to my mid-section.

    I’ve included a pic from last week, if that helps..

    Thanks again for all that you do, Mike! And, please pardon the lengthy post. : )

    -Lee

  • Sergio Morales

    Great article filled with very good information but I notice something was left out that I’ve read before, carb cycling. I’m a male, 5’8 145 lbs but with somewhat of pot belly stomach. Should I be on any carb cycling routine or no? Thanks in advance.

  • Vaughn Burns

    This is not skinny fat. Those people just had undeveloped muscle. I’m relatively thin though I large thighs, man boobs, my upper arms jiggle, and I have a muffin top. But I look skinny fully dressed. That should be the definition of skinny fat.

    • Fair enough. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

      • Olivia Otieno

        You’re a really nice guy Michael, some people would be defensive. Good response.

  • Newbie

    Can you substitute weight training with push-ups, pull-ups and other body resistance training?

  • aditya vikram

    hey i have a problem, i do cardio before my weight training at home(5-6 times a week) . but still have fat on side, though my waist is less.(so i guess im skinny fat,though im not too skinny, i have some muscle) so now i found your article saying you should do less cardio. should i stop running and start doing hiit exercises like mountain climbers, burpees etc. for my cardio?? secondly u said that u should do cardio only 3 times a week but as everyone says u should always do some cardio before weights , so what to do ? should i decrease my weight training to 3 days too?

  • Dominic Wong

    Hey Mike, not sure if you would still reply to this post, but I am a skinny fat person trying to achieve a better body, I am currently trying to bulk up but I am not sure should i do higher rep and heavier weights or lighter weights and more reps, hope you can clear it up for me thanks

  • Thomas Wang

    Dear Mike,
    Hi I just recently purchased your book and I love it!
    Anyway, I’m currently 16 years old, 181cm, 70 kg at around 15% body fat.
    For this summer, my goal is to train for agility, speed, and strength. I don’t want to get all bulky–I want that rather lean athletic look. Do you think I should bulk or cut? (Personally, I want to get down to 12%)
    I’ve been lifting for 4 months and have seen some good definition changes.

    Also, according to the calculator i’m supposed to eat around 2200 calories per day. Is that really sufficient?

    Thanks!

  • SimonD

    Hi Mike,

    I am a skinny fat. I weigh about 165lbs and am 24% body fat. I want to bulk up LOTS however as my fat content is quite high, I know it would be better to reduce this to about 10% before bulking up, however I am finding it really hard designing the ultimate plan of training/diet. I bought all of your books however cannot find anything that caters for my physique.
    Chest – 40″, Waist – 38″, Hips – 36″
    What could you recommend me try to break this?
    Many thanks,
    Simon

    • All you need to do is set up a proper meal plan that puts you in a deficit and makes you hit your daily targets of cals and macros.

      To do that, check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

      LMK what you think!

      • SimonD

        Hi Mike,
        This is brilliant, and it clearly shows me where I have been going wrong.
        You really are a talented PT with a wealth of fitness knowledge. If you ever come across an article you don’t have access to (some are expensive!) please let me know. I am a food science lecturer and sit opposite two dietician doctors. Our University has access to a LOT of great material.
        Thanks,
        Simon

        • Glad you liked it. 🙂

          Thanks for the support and for your offer! That actually means a lot, and I will definitely take you up on it if I’m ever having trouble getting access to info!

  • Olivia Otieno

    Hi Michael,

    I’ve recently started the insanity program. What do you think of it? I don’t know what my body fat percentage is but I’m 5’5″, 53Kg and I’ve just never been able to get lean abs. I’m now trying to eat more protein and healthy fats and fewer carbs including fruits but it’s hard because I live in Kenya and I’m a vegetarian. I feel like I wasn’t getting enough protein. I do eat eggs but I wonder if I should eat the yolk or cut it out. I try omelettes with 3 eggs and 1 yolk.

    I was running a lot as I was training for a half marathon and I only after I started insanity did I realise how weak my muscles were. I’m now getting definition in my arms and thighs and to some extent my abs but there’s still a lot of fat there.

    Please help.

  • Le Blanc

    Hi Mike, thanks for the great article. A question which has been on my mind for a while. Im 41 this year. Skinny fat in the last couple of years. I always used to do endurance sports (the ectomorph comfort zone!), climbing, mountaineering, cycling etc. Still do from time to time but nowhere near as often. I do however still surf a lot. So flexibility and strength are key. Couple of years ago I got into lifting and saw some really dramatic changes. Added almost 10KG in 18 months! Looked great, felt strong but couldnt surf for more than 30 minutes (down from several hours) I also has a lot of trouble with my shoulders. So I stopped and moved to ‘functional’ programmes like p90x. Lots of flexibility, surf time increased greatly but lost muscle definition and damn it; I just enjoy lifting weights! Got bored and stopped exercising totally for too long. So I’ve started again with a 5×5 programme, started very light to promote good form and building from there.Question: Can I continue to lift and add in some yoga stretches every day to build flexibility while building muscle or should I just bite the bullet and keep with 90x-esque programmes with increased weight? This belly HAS to go!! (sorry about the long post) T

    • Thanks for all the info.

      I hear you on wanting to have more muscle but still be functional and able to do the sports you love.

      Your best bet is to keep lifting heavy to build muscle 3-5 days a week and then do cardio (I recommend HIIT) to keep you endurance up also 3-5 days week.

      You’d either do the lifting and cardio completely separate (one in the morning one at night) or you’d do the cardio after lifting.

      Totally fine to add stretching to your daily routine too. Just make sure you aren’t doing static stretching before lifting.

      Doing all this, you will have the size and muscle you want, but the endurance and flexibility to keep doing the sports you love

      What do you think?

  • Michael Sessine

    Hello MIke,

    I did a lot of distance running and high-rep weight training in the past and I was pretty skinny. However, for about a year after that I did not do much of anything (besides eat relatively healthy). Two months ago, I decided that I really wanted to put on some size and I have been at the gym ~5 days a week since then with almost no cardio (~1 mile warm up before each day). I usually separate each day by muscle group and try to include some compound exercises (bi/legs, tri, back/shoulders, chest).

    In two months of bulking and working out I have gone from 165-172 (I’m 5’11 with ~18-20% BF). I have almost doubled my bench and I definitely feel a lot stronger but as far as looks, it looks like it has been mostly stomach fat. My body type is eerily similar to the guy in the first picture with the jeans.

    All this being said, I have spent hours looking up whether I should focus on bulking or cutting and everything seems to conflict. According to your guide, I should cut but I have been told that this would just take be back to square one.

    What do you think?

    • Cool you decided to start weight training. Awesome job on the strength gains you’ve made!

      I recommend you start with a cut. It’s better for health purposes, you’ll be lean for summer and will give you more time to clean bulk since your’e starting from a leaner point. 🙂

      Plus if you’re new to this style of lifting, you’re going to gain muscle and strength while cutting, so you really can’t lose.

  • Andrea

    I’m definitely skinny fat at about 24 -25% body fat. Now I am confused about one thing. You’re saying to cut back to MAX 4 HIIT sessions. So now to figure out my TDEE becomes problematic, since now my activity level will be 2 hours of activity per week, my calorie needs are going to be lower than when I was doing 1 hour a a day/five days for cardio, so now I will be exercising less AND eating less, correct?? IF I throw in some extra 4.0 mph walks with my HIIT, will that go against my goal of getting leaner/fitter?? Since I sit on my behind all day with my job, I like to get extra movement in, but if it is going to be detrimental, I guess no more walking/leisure?? And when you do TDEE and go with activity level, does the time you do “weights” count as activity or only cardio??

    • You can do some walking in addition to the HIIT, yes. That’s fine.

      If you’re exercising 4 to 6 hours per week go with 1.3 and you should be fine.

      If it’s 2 to 4 then go with 1.2.

      • Andrea

        thanks–other people have scolded me, saying I need to drop the cardio to get rid of my “skinny fat ” me, but I like cardio. I figure if I eat enough, it’s ok, no?

        • Yeah you can do cardio. It’s the resistance training that’s key though.

  • JL

    Hi Mike, I have always had a very thin body. About a year ago (entered my 30’s), I started putting on weight around my stomach. Everything else stayed the same but now I just have rolls where my flat stomach was for 30 years. I started jogging a few times a week (I had never worked out a day in my life before) and started cutting calories about 6 months ago down to about 1000-1200 calories per day of mostly vegetable, fruits, whole grains and lean meat. Unfortunately, the fat on my stomach isn’t budging at all. I’m 5’2″, 110 lbs so overall I don’t look heavy at all but my pants don’t fit anymore because of this excess fat around my stomach. Any suggestions?

  • Matt

    Hey Mike,

    I’m definitely “Skinny Fat” and far from healthy. I need to fix it but I’m a complete amateur when it comes to anything about health and exercise. I’m terrified about going to a Gym at the moment and would like to know if there is anything I can do at home for a while to build up some courage to check out the local Gym?

    I live with others and have some time in the house alone so would like to do it then, what options do I have? Are push-ups viable?

    My legs seem fine, thighs are a little on the larger side but acceptable. The main issue is I’m developing a bit of a belly and small man boobs. I also have very thin wrists.

    Any advice to get me going would be awesome!

    • No problem on the gym. I do recommend getting there when you’re ready. You’ll make a lot more progress.

      In the meantime, you can do a bodyweight routine. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-ultimate-bodyweight-workout-routine/

      LMK what you think.

      • Matt

        I’ll get there eventually but I plan to build some confidence and basic strength myself first.

        That article seems ok but there is a lot of items you suggest buying. I want to do this in secret and cheap to start with, then once I’m serious then I’ll go with it. I’ve found some other articles suggesting I could use a backpack with some stuff as I find push ups easier and easier, is this acceptable?

        Lastly, I don’t eat the healthiest and do not want to go “cold turkey” as I just wont last that way, so I’ll try to switch eating habits around but would I still gain strength if eating bad? What would be the main foods to remove / include, like 2-3 ?

        • Sure, the backpack could work assuming you can make it heavy enough and all.

          For losing weight, there aren’t any foods in particular you have to avoid. It all comes down to calories. You can eat what ever want as long as at the end of the day, you’re in a calorie deficit.

          Check this out:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

      • carolina diaz

        hello. I’m 21 and i don’t have a flat stomach.
        I’m on my ideal weight and i don’t do so much cardio.
        I will like to know which type of excercises are good for getting a flat stomach.

  • askari

    Hi mike,

    im a skinny guy with belly fat early 30’s.

    took a massdainer for a week and my pot belly balooned , which prompted researching into getting bigger the right way.

    there is so much information on what should and shouldnt be done. So far i have garnered.

    to lose body fat, decrease carbs, increase protein, so the bosdy uses fat as energy.

    Fat is a good store of energy, but the body will go for protein in the first instance

    cardio and weights are important – however, if carbs are lower than doing cardio will make body get energy from protein.

    2 types of cardio. slow ( long distance jogging) this is good to get the body to use fat as energy? but results are not as good as doing HIIT, which has the downside of protein or muscles being used.

    i am also bringing in fasting to the mix. so what is the actual science of the body burning fat.

    does : – carbs + protein = fat burning?

  • Rose

    Hello Mike. Glad I came across this as I’m stuck at where to go right now. I’m currently counting macros on a cut, 114lbs, 5ft 2, but skinny fat. I’m lifting heavy 5 times a week and HIIT once a week but walk everyday. I’m unsure whether to increase calories to maintenance as I do want to build muscle, but also have this fat to lose. What’s best to do?

  • Toni

    The recommendations you gave for cardio both for bulking/maintaining and cutting are less than I’d thought they’d be. I was always under the false impression that one needed more cardio to either lose fat or even maintain their physique. And I can attest to ending up weighing more yet being noticeably leaner after transforming your physique. I’m the heaviest I’ve been as an adult except for when I was pregnant yet my body fat is much lower than it previously was. It took awhile to come to terms with being about 12 lbs heavier though. Good article. 🙂

  • Carol

    Hi Mike. I’m not sure what I am doing wrong. Love to exercise but my body stays soft, especially the lower body and I have a lower belly pooch. I am 51 yrs old, weigh 129-130 lbs and don’t want to lose weight, but I want a tighter body with a more toned look. I guess I am somewhat skinny fat. My body fat is 20%, trying to get to 15%. My BMR is 1392. I used the 1.5 TDEE calculation, but could never eat 2088 calories. I would throw up from so much food so I am now going to do 1500 calories and going to try a 40x40x20 macro split with P, C & F. I was sticking around my BMR for the past few months, but when I exercise and burn at least 200+ calories, it was taking me under 1200 calories which I thought was the min one should eat. I’m trying to lift heavier, but it is hard sometimes bec I do have some back issues that I have to watch out for. Do you think 1500 calories would be good for me and what about my macro split? I have been doing 2 days of HIIT for 25-30 minutes. I’m not sure if I should even do HIIT since I don’t want my weight to drop any lower. What are your thoughts on cardio for skinny people?

  • Curiousboy

    Book marking this to check if you answer lol. Hi mark i weigh about 135 and im 5,3 eer since i got a car i developed love handles. My frame is small but the love handles show. So I changed my diet to include only fish chicken breast rice and broccoli i havde done it for a week now. I noticed results right away so thought I earned a cheat day today. So I ate one full bag of hot popcorn which equates to 1050 calories and 70g of fat. I swear once i looked in the mirror again I could not see my abes as easily and the love handles looked like they were coming back?

    Am I never allowed to stry from my diet I did the crunches like 500 a day but learned diet was more important and its been working but can just eating that one bag of hot popcorn destroy everything i worked for in a day? I am just very curious if so ill stick with my new diet forever love handles are not cute or sexy and im becoming a male escort so have been working very hard on my body and want to know. Thanks in advance.

    • When it comes to weight loss, it all comes down to calories. If you’re in a deficit,you’ll lose weight. The best way to ensure you’re in a deficit is by setting up a proper cutting meal plan. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/healthy-meal-planning-tips/

      As to the cheating, you’re okay to have a cheat meal a week. What you’re seeing from the popcorn is more than likely bloat and water retention–not gained back fat. It’ll go away in a couple days.

      For the cheating once a week, check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/refeed/

      LMK what you think.

  • Xene Dionaldo Nuñez

    Hi kuya Mike, im 17 years old, and im really skinny,
    what should i do to builld muscles, I cant even stay any longer than 30 mins because I feel that my muscles cannot exert force anymor,
    im an ectomorph male, having tall height, but skinny muscles,
    what should I do to build muscles?
    thank you 🙂

  • Kal-El

    Mike, is it true that skinny fat people gain less muscle than an average person? For example, the McDonald model suggest 20-25 pounds in gains during the first year. In skinny fat people, is that figure reduced to 15 pounds? Asking coz I just read this somewhere else.

    • It could play a role, yes. Some people respond better to training than others.

  • Progress

    hey mike,

    my height is 5″7. I’ve been really overweight before. my heaviest was 190lbs. i had no knowledge of proper nutrition then, so i started crash dieting which successfully decreased my weight from 190lbs to 145 (this took 2 years). stopped crashed dieting and i watched the food that i ate, but yeah basing from my daily caloric intake should be at like 2,300++ though i believe my nutrition per day is at like 1,500++

    i’m lifting weights now, and doing cardio on non lifting days.

    well i’ve been on it for about 2months now, yet there’s no progress. no muscle gain, no fat loss.

    what’s up with me?

    though when i read this article i suspected that something’s wrong with my diet and yes, the daily caloric intake that i should be having is supposed to be at 2,300++ but i only eat 1,500++

    only because i hate it when i feel bloated. makes me feel fat until the next day. so i really don’t know what to do.

    but today i started raising my daily calorie intake to 2,100cal. and to be honest i felt like sh*t. i feel so full now. i tried spacing out my meals for 2 hours per meal so that i don’t get overwhelmed.

    so do you have any tips for me? thanks.

  • Merina

    Hi there. I never did weight training ever in my life and have been skinny all my life (female 168cm 50-55kgs) I have been lifting heavy weights (as heavy as I can do max 8-10 reps of) for maybe 3-4 months now 3-4 times a week. I have put on 2kgs and my partner is telling me that I “have developed a layer of fat over your whole body.” I definitely think I am more muscular and look better but he thinks my shape has changed and not
    For the better…I don’t know what to think and am feeling disheartened:( I am not doing cardio at present (but am walking maybe 2 X 1hr per week) as I don’t feel I have the time for
    Both plus I am in love with lifting weights. Am I doing something wrong or do you think I have maybe gained muscle and have water retention? Thank you.

  • Ben Love

    Nicely written Mike, quite informative. I wish I had read it 2 years ago when I was cutting.

    I was 211lbs two years ago and cut down to 158lbs. Due to the lack of knowledge of what i was doing, my body became horribly disproportionate, especially the gut area. I couldn’t carry on since it became extremely difficult to loose weight.

    Currently I am 165lbs after lean bulking for six months and tbh I see no change in my stomach and chest. My arms, chest musles, shoulders have gained a noticeable bit of muscle but my stomach and chest is as flabby as ever..

    Here is a picture to better elaborate http://imgur.com/a/018qf

    I am male, 5.8 and 18..

    Please tell me what you recommend as I am completly lost on whether i should cut or bulk..

    • Awesome job on all the weight you lost. You lost some serious weight!

      I recommend you start with a cut. It will just be better all around. It’s better for health purposes, and will prevent you from having to do a long, annoying cut to get into the 10% range (where most guys want to maintain).

      Plus if you’re new to this style of lifting, you’re going to gain muscle and strength while cutting, so you really can’t lose.

      Then, once you hit 10-12% BF, you can focus on building muscle.

      What do you think?

  • Kal-El

    Mike,
    In the first example you’ve shown, how long did it take the guy to make that transformation?

    • Not sure as that’s just a random example from the Net but I can tell you that can be done in 8 to 10 months naturally.

  • David

    Hey mike… I’ve been working out and I have abs but I can’t get rid of the fat on my chest . is that going to stay forever or do I have to workout my chest harder?

  • joey

    Hey mike,

    I want to ask for a little guidance, im 21 yrs old, 5’10, roughly 72kg, i did the insanity programme cardio circuit for 3 months and was eating no more than 1500 calories a day and sometimes even less (on and off crash diets), while doing upto an hour cardio 5-6 times a week and light weights more reps, i lost a significant amount of weight, almost 14kg by the end of it. Now im getting abit frustrated as i have what you perfectly described as a skinny fat body. Now i have around 16% body fat(according to body fat calculator) and really want to reduce it and be able to achieve my goal body and see abs. I do a few ab excercies daily but for the last month or so havnt seen any progress.

    I want abit of expert advice on this, what do you think is the best plan for me to get my body fat percentage lower? Should i still be doing cardio to cut fat or heavy weights and more protien intake to bulk or is there a solution where you can bulk and cut at the same time?

    Im sorry if my questions are stupid as im quite new to this and always had an issue with my weight/image.

    Thank you.

  • john

    would you recommend Intermittent fasting and should i eat more carbs or more fats if i have a 16% body fat.

  • Majd El Rifai

    Hey mike,
    Im a teenage guy that has cut from about 80 kgs to 65 by doing cardio and restricting calories. I am 169 cm and i dont know wether to keep cutting or start buffing. I was wondering if u could help

  • Emelia

    Hi Mike! Thank you for this article! Do you know that this is just what I need? Two years ago I started my weightloss goal, it was easy to shed some pounds on the scale however people think that I am not so good looking with my new body shape. I am a skinny fat. 5’1″ in height and 45 kg. I was 52 kg two years ago. I continued my cardio workout as much as I can everyday. I cut my calorie intake but I also binge during parties. I have a problem with my tummy, legs and butt. Mostly tummy because I have belly fat… My question is…ehat do you mean by drugs thay bodybuilders have? Please help me! Do you think I could be lean by just at home? Or shall I hit the gym? Help me. Thank you

    • Thanks Emelia! I’m glad you liked it!

      Cool on what you’ve done so far. I’d LOVE to get you on my Thinner Leaner Stronger program. I think you’d do really well on it.

      Have you heard of it/checked it out?

  • Tamara

    What the hell Is going on? Mike, I was maintaining a weight loss from 165 to 105 10-13% BF for three years by eating clean and being really active. The way I got there was obviously more intense (work out wise) then maintenance. I did Pilates 3x week and was really active during the day doing errands and such. I would take light walks as well. NOT TOO CRAZY. However, I had no menses and don’t believe my intake was more than 1700. Maybe still a deficit for how active I was during my days? I also didn’t measure food so intake could be off but not by much than I estimate. Now since I had no menstrual cycle and developed hormonal issues because of this weight loss, I decided to gain weight but I DONT understand what is happening. I reverse dieted with Sohee and brought caloric intake to 2100 with weights 4-5x week and 2 HIITs. My weight went up to 140. I stopped doing this. But now I am sedentary (desk job) and train with a PT 3x weights and 3x cardio 4x week and have a caloric intake of 2021 cals (216 carbs, 130 protein, and 69 fats). The thing is I am maintaining 134 at 22% BF now. It’s been about a years and half eating around this intake with MUCH MUCH LESS NEAT but now I exercise differently then before (i.e. Pilates 3x week). I still don’t have a menstrual cycle. Nothing makes sense, and I fill so confused and depressed by all this reverse dieting. Do you recommend anything?

    • Period loss is mainly related to energy balance. When you’re in a deficit, your body has to prioritize what it does with its energy and menstruation isn’t top on the list.

      How long have you been reverse dieting for? Have you seen a doc to get your hormones checked because if you’ve been at a higher intake for a bit now and still no period, hormone imbalance would be next on the list.

      Remember that the only way you can lose fat is with a calorie deficit and as you were VERY active previously, that’s not hard to do if you just focus on eating low-cal, filling foods.

      • Tamara

        Got that. However, currently with the reverse I’m at about 2050 cals, 236g carbs, 130g protein, and 69g fats. My exercise regimes is 3x weights and 2-3 low intensity cardio at 45 min. Should I do something different with my training? I set it up like this because this is what I’d usually do down the road for maintenance. However should it be different as I’m reversing?

        • Great on your food. That’s plenty. Nope your training sounds good too.

          I’d get blood work done to see what’s up with hormones.

  • Mubz

    Hi Mike, great article. Always had a problem with skinny fat.

    The only issue I have is that I do a contact sport, alot of cardio involved, I compete in the sport.

    Anything I can do to get rid of the skinny fat while still doing the sport of my choice.

    Thanks
    Mubz

  • Oussama Mahran

    boxercise workout – skinny fat solution
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RsZWZE9h6fI

  • Jacob

    Really great article, Mike! I’m 5’10” and I went from 210 to 130. I was much too thin, so I started eating more and lifting weights. Currently, I’m 145, and am trying for a 6 pack, but I still have insanely stretchy skin around my abdomen, and I’m not sure if it’s skin or fat! What would you recommend?

    • Great job on the all the weight you lost! That’s impressive.

      For the 6 pack, check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-get-six-pack-abs/

      For the skin/fat in the ab area, take a look at this:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-get-rid-of-loose-skin-after-weight-loss/

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-truth-about-stubborn-fat-and-how-to-get-rid-of-it/

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Jacob

        Thank you so much for such a hasty reply! I am currently 13% body fat and am going to add a couple of the exercises from your article into my routine (the others I already do.) I’m really hoping to hit 10% fat eventually. I have a very weak appetite and have learned the hard way that malnutrition is just as harmful as satiation, but now that I have incorporated the correct amount of protein and carbohydrates into my daily caloric intake, I am anxious to see results. Thanks again for the articles – you’re an excellent writer. Have an amazing weekend!
        Warm regards – Jacob.

        • YW!

          I like your goal. Let’s do it.

          Yep, both under and overeating can be harmful.

          Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Ben Lowen

    Hello Mike. Great article. I have an issue though, I am 20-22% bf and am really interested in bulking, infact I’ve been doing it for nearly 7 months now.

    Initially I was obese (30% bf) and became skinny fat after nearly 2 years of cardio.

    It’s too late for me to switch back to cut now and besides I have seen significant muscle improvement in every muscle of my body except the belly.

    Do you think it’s wise for me to go on with this strategy? I don’t mind the extra physical fat gain as long as I am getting the muscle.

  • Andrea

    so if I’m a female, 35 years old, with bf at 23-24%. I’m right on the line, should I cut or bulk and by what percentage????

    • You look good. If we were talking big picture I’d say cut and then go for a nice long bulk.

      Thoughts?

      • Andrea

        Thanks for getting back to me. How long would I cut for and how would I know when to stop cutting???

        • NP. You should cut until you reach about 20% BF.

          • Andrea

            any idea, on how many pounds I need to lose to get to 20% BF if right now I”m 117 pounds with the body in the pics???

          • You’re close. I’d say 5 to 6 pounds? So like 5 to 6 weeks?

  • Dillon G

    Hey Michael, ive been training for a while now, not making any kind of serious gains. I am skinny fat but i feel i have some muscle definition i just seem to carry a lot of fat in my chest area and i hate it! I want to bulk since im only 135 but after reading this article im a little confused. Should i lower my caloric intake and weight train(heavy) for 4 days and hiit cardio train for one day? What should i do please help me. By the way what would training like im bulking and having a caloric deficit do for my body.

    • I hear you man!

      Cool on the heavy weightlifting and HIIT cardio.

      For the diet, it depends. Have you been following a low calorie diet before this? LMK.

      With the proper heavy lifting and a calorie deficit, you’ll be able to maintain muscle (or even gain muscle if you’re new to this style of training) while losing fat.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

      • Dillon G

        Thanks for responding Michael. So i have been eating over my maintenace intake for a a while, while eating very clean… well i thought i was hitting the right amount of calories. I’m now taking a class where i can learn the proper forms of lifting from my teacher so that should help. I eat very healthy so what i will do is eat less calories than i usually do and not be so super clean. I just dont wanna look like a really skinny guy since i already am. . Skinny fat. But i will take the advice of a deficit. I will do the 4 days a week heavy weight lifting 6-8 rep range (feel free to tell me if anything here i should do differently haha) and hiit sprint cardio 2 days a week to burn that fat off. I want to be bigger but i dont like my chest fat. And it would be awesome for my six pack to show so i will make that hiit 2 days. Any advice would help. Thanks so much michael. Sorry for the long post. I want to be able to send you my before and after!

        • YW!

          Yeah remember though we want to be thinking long term here. Sure you’re not going to like looking skinnier but let’s be focusing on where you’re going to be in the next year, two years, etc.

  • Ryan G

    Hey Michael,

    I’ll try to keep this as short as I can, sorry. I don’t know what category I fall in. I’ve been training for about 6 months, but have only been in a surplus for only 2 months. So here’s my problem. I have very little muscle which is why I want to put on weight, but I also have a decent layer of fat around my midsection and especially my chest. I want to go on a bulk, put on as much lean mass as I can for about 7 more months, then go on a cut. I’m doing 6 days of weight training and 15-30 minutes of intense cardio. I do the cardio because I love to eat, and as long as I get the calories it doesn’t matter right? My diet is 90% clean good quality foods. I’m currently eating about 3000 calories a day. Another issue I’m having is I wont put on any weight for a week, so i’ll up the calories or lower the cardio and suddenly, im 139. Its also tough for me to get accurate weight measurements cause I eat a ton right before bed. Could you give me some advice and take a look at my pictures. I’m 19, I know I don’t look like it, and can barely grow facial hair. Is this affecting my gains? Also can you give an estimate on my body fat %? My fat caliper thing is telling me like 8% but I find that hard to believe, my chest jiggles with fat and I see no abs. Is this just because I have little to no muscle? Let me know. Thank you so much.

    • Hey man!

      I’d guess around 12% and you have room to continue bulking. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/bulking-up/

      • Ryan G

        Thanks for the response. Yeah I would like to continue bulking cause I don’t want to get any skinnier than I already am. But that excess fat with very little muscle can be so annoying.

        • NP! You just gotta make sure you’re not gaining too fast (ideally .5-1 pound a week) and be patient. When you’re done bulking, you can cut and lose the fat.

  • BigAl

    Hi Michael,

    I hope you
    can help me. I am definitely skinny fat, but more literally than in the sense
    of low body fat and a lack of muscle tone. I am 6 ft 4 but weigh only 170-175
    lbs. I am obviously, therefore, very skinny and my long term goal is to
    increase my weight and put on muscle. I think my body fat percentage must
    actually be quite high, though, as I have quite a lot covering my stomach (when
    I go to the beach I tend to tense my abs at all time so it can’t be noticed as
    easily). I have no idea of body fat percentage but someone told me it could be
    as high as 20% judging by my stomach (see photos). I’m not sure if I should
    concentrate on losing this fat first before bulking, as bulking would
    inevitably entail more fat gain. I have an overactive thyroid and so I have
    always had problems putting on weight but seemingly no problem putting on fat
    and staying light. My issue is that, if I were to try to lose the fat I would
    have to have a small calorie deficit but I’m not sure that is something someone
    at my weight and height should be doing either!

    Any advice gratefully received!

  • Danny

    Hi, I’m cutting it the moment and I’m around the 14% mark. Was going to continue to 13%. My current weight is 140 pounds. Thanks

    • Cool! I recommend cutting to 10-12% BF. It’s better for health purposes, and will prevent you from having to do a long, annoying cut to get into the 10% range in the future (where most guys want to maintain).

      Plus if you’re new to this style of lifting, you’re going to gain muscle and strength while cutting, so you really can’t lose.

  • Olga Karyna Rivera

    Michael where do I begin. I’ve been dieting since 2013 when I met my first weight loss goal. I was weighing 140lbs and was able to get down to 115 by doing Zumba and changing up my meals.
    I’ve been stuck ever since.
    I don’t want to lose more weight and I do want to build muscle especially around my arms and thighs and glutes .
    What would you recommend I do ?

  • Jonny

    Great articles! Read through so many of these and very interesting. I’m the definition of skinny fat I think. I’m 22 & weigh 158lbs at 5’11”. I wouldn’t say I’m fat at all, just have excess on my hips, small amount on bottom of my abdomen and chest could be a lot more defined. I’ve been going to the gym now for about 10 weeks doing heavy lifts and some HIIT with a physio friend and I have definitely gained muscle! Now currently been trying to cut the fat and have seen some progress within about 4 weeks, eating roughly 1700-1800 calories a day with 15-40g fat. Any suggestions on what I should do next… Eat the calories of my TDEE and just eat clean low fat foods?

  • NickoDicko

    Hi, I’ve been in a constant struggle whether I should cut or bulk for years. I’ve been working out for a couple of years now but I always get stuck in a dilemma. When I bulk, I feel too fat, when I cut I feel too skinny. I’ve made progress over the years, with losing fat and gaining some muscle but not nearly as much as I think I could’ve. I’m currently about 5’11 and 161 pounds.

    This is where I’m at now(in the image below) and I would love to here your opinion. I would really appreciate your input. Thanks !

  • Ann

    Hi!

    I’m not from English-speaking country so at first I’d like to apologize for all mistakes in this text;d

    You’ve got great articles and I’m trying to find your book in my country, but unfortunately it isn’t so easy. I hope you can help me with my problem because I’ve tried many solutions and still I’m a “skinny fat” person.

    When I started dieteting I was about 15 years old (now I’m 21) and made big mistakes during losing weight from 141,10 lbs to 119,05 lbs – I had a caloric deficit all the time and sometimes it was about 500 calories less, sometimes 1500… I had also weeks when I ate only breakfast and one apple during whole day. Moreover I was doing only cardio, 3-6 times a week.

    When I was 19 I saw that I have to stop doing like this becouse people started telling me “you look terribly” and I gained some weight (from 119,05 to 127,87 lbs). I was eating about 2000calories per day and doing cardio like before.

    Now I’m 21. From january I’m lifting weights but I still have caloric deficit (I have to eat about 2500, but I eat 1800-2300, it depends on day). I’ve tried to help myself with, for example, carb cycling and it didn’t work. I checked my hormones level and my TSH is too high (it was 5,2; I stopped to eat cruciferous vegetables and now it is 3,6; in November i’m visiting my endocrinologist and he’ll tell me if I should take hormones or not). I’m afraid of taking more calories becouse I think I’ll get fat not muscles.
    I’m 138,89 lbs (1,7m height) and my body fat is 25%…I’m surpised becouse 2 months ago it was 22-23% (the only change I made was with cruciferous vegetables). I don’t feel like I’ve got more fat, my boyfriend says the same, I was thinking I gained muscles but well numbers don’t lie. Help me please.

    I train 3 times a week with weights and 2 times cardio (intervals).

    Thanks for Your attention!

    • Hey hey!

      Thanks for the support. Check Google Play and iBooks for the books.

      How sure are you on your calorie intake? Many people are eating quite a bit more than they realize.

      Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

      And this is going to be relevant for you too:

      https://legionathletics.com/skinny-fat/

      • Ann

        Hi!
        Thanks for articles, the first one I saw but the second one is new for me and I’m gonna check it.

        I’m sure on my calorie intake becouse I counted it many times and it was always too little (expect Christmas or Birthdays of course). Now I eat as much as I have to, nothing more and nothing less to make my organism work properly. Tell me please when should I start to cut after such a long time of eating not enough?
        And another question came to my mind – what about training? Full body workout or splits are better for skinny fat person?

        Thank You so much for Your answers, it really helps me!

  • Evan

    Hi, thx for this great info, wanna just ask, my wight is 82 Kilo, and im 175 Cm tall, and i have this moving bellyfat and love handles :(< and very amount of fat on my chest, and my wrists are so thin :(, what's the solution, i know im skinnyfat, but i dont know, should i cut first. or bulk then cut?

    • You should cut first to 10-12% BF. Then you can focus on building muscle.

  • Christina

    I always thought of skinny fat as a skinny but totally out of shape person. That aside – I am a runner, someone who definitely cannot subscribe to a low cardio lifestyle, no matter what I *wish* I looked like.

    But, one only need look at an elite runner to see that your cardio rule is not 100% true. These are ripped people – women whose body fat is so low they don’t menstruate – and YES they lift (as do I) but they spend most of their time doing cardio.

    What gives? I’m 122 lbs / 5’4″ but I look “soft”. How can I get the hard body without cutting back on the running?

    • No worries and yep there absolutely are endurance athletes that have great physiques. The majority don’t though.

      That said, we’ll want to include some strength training in your routine.

      How much are you currently running?

      • Christina

        Currently run about 25 miles per week. (Have run more at times.) I would like to increase to about 30-35 max – I am injury prone and it gets iffy beyond that. My workouts include long slow distance, 1 track workout, 1 hills workout and 1 tempo workout per week. I lift one day a week during active race training, but 2-3 times per week when I am maintenance running.

        • Okay cool. Yeah, let’s get you on a 3-day BLS split. Anymore than that could lead to overtraining. Check it out:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-build-a-workout-routine/

          Thoughts?

          • Christina

            Thanks for the suggestion. I am game for something like this, meaning – I’m not afraid to push myself or make the time. I think when it comes to lifting, I just know the basics, and I lift alone. When I think of lifting to muscle exhaustion, I envision dropping a barbell on my foot. I’m doing the more endurance-style lifting I guess because I’m scared of hurting myself – or making a fool of myself. I’m thinking I need to look at the specific exercises that are a little intimidating to me, and get someone at my gym to walk me through them once or twice. Even if that means paying for a trainer, just to orient me for a few weeks. I think I’ll get more serious about it Nov 1, after my next big race. THANK YOU.

          • Okay cool.

            Yeah if you learn proper form you’ll be able to get into heavy lifting safely.

  • Duarte Canário

    Hi Matthew

    I am a quintessential skinny-fat guy (180 cm, 158 lbs, 18%BF) due to years of endurance running and lack of weightlifting.

    But as I will only start training for my next marathon in January, I decided, for the next 3 months, to focus on weightlifting, and less on cardio, following your indications.

    My question is: should I do this with a caloric deficit diet?

    Your recommendation is “lose fat first, gain muscle later”, but does it make sense to you, that I concentrate in bulking for the next 3 months, as after it, I will start my high weekly running mileage training?

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge!

  • mohamed

    Hi michael,
    I am 24 years old, 192 cm, 82 kg and 25.1% body fat. I just bought your book, what do you think i should start with, and how long will it take to start seeing good results on my body and not having this huge amount of fat. (I’m always on diet trying to starve myself and i almost never workout). Thank you

  • Rahul Jethani

    Hi Michael, GREAT POST, I saw few of your posts and they helped me a lot but my case is a little bit STRANGE,
    Im 18, 166 cm and 61 KG my body fat is 17%
    I can feel my abs if i Stretch a little bit the skin of my belly, My arms are a little bit toned and i like it but as im saying i have fat in my belly and my chest is a little bit big, (i don’t like it NOTHING,) when im with a tshirt nobody can imagine hows my body, I look like i have a complete lean body But its not like that.
    Im not sure what can I do, if CUT i will look skinny as …. , or making the mistake of BULK and have a big fat chest…

    • I get where you’re coming from.

      I recommend cutting to 10-12% BF. I know you don’t want to look thin, but it’s just part of the process. Once you reach 10-12% BF, you can focus on building muscle.

      What do you think?

  • Kal-El

    Mike, what are realistic expectations for a skinny fat guy?
    I read an article that said skinny fat people gain only about 15 pounds of muscle in the first year. And this will just make you look lean not muscular because of close to zero muscle mass when starting out. Is it true?

    Also, how much muscle mass can a skinny fat add to his frame?

  • She

    If I don’t have access to a gym, would bodyweight exercises give me the same effect as weightlifting? As in as stronger body? Not skinny-fat? Thanks for your help!

    • You can definitely get results with a good bodyweight routine, but they won’t be nearly as good as a proper weightlifting program.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Starter boy

    Hey mike!
    Need some of your advice. I have belly and side fats, however i have thin arms and flat chest. Is it ok for me to take up mass gainers? I’ve been going to the gym 3 weeks now.

    • Hey! I hear you.

      Do you read the article? Start with the steps in the article and see how it goes.

      I’m not a fan of weight gainers because they’re just full of junk calories (mainly carbs). I much prefer eating real food, and just stick to calorie-dense foods.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Raye

    Michael, could really use your help. I’m 5’8″, 30 years old, male, and I feel like my upper body has never developed much beyond a 14 year old’s physique. Add to that I have excess belly fat (and a little under the chin/face). It might sound pretty dumb, but I’ve been so insecure about this since I was a teen that I just kind of got used to walking around with my chest puffed out, just so I’d look relatively normal. So I guess I’m asking if I can build my chest/shoulders up to the same cosmetic appearance as it looks when I take a lung (or even two) full of air? I’m on an average diet for a regular person who doesn’t work out. I eat less that 2000 calories a day, but only just, and I’ve recently started eating cottage cheese, lean beef steak, spinach, kidney beans, etc. while keeping some bready carbs in there too. I’ve just started lifting these past two months, only a couple of days per week, and I’m jogging whenever I can or doing low level cardio at home twice a week. Weights I’m doing are dumbbells, on the floor, flyes and press, 3-5 sets, twice a week, using York dumbbells at 9kg each dumbbell.

    Thanks in advance – could seriously use some advice.

    Raye

  • Daniel H

    Hi, I’m 168 lbs at 20% body fat. Would you consider this skinny fat and should I cut first?

    I’m currently maintaining my weight on 2800 cals.

    Thanks

    • It depends on your height, but it seems like you’re around there.

      Yep, let’s start with a cut to 10-12% BF. Then we can focus on building muscle.

      Sound good?

      YW!

  • Chines5

    Hey Michael. I am a 22 year old female 5’4″, 120 lb, and around 20% body fat. I have recently been consistent in the gym and following a meal plan. This meal plan allows for 1 serving of carbs in the morning and 1 after a workout. Is this sufficient? Also, whey doesn’t sit well with me. Should I so BCAAs instead? Regarding your fat burner, is it refundable if it produces unpleasant feelings? I have only tried a thermogenic and it freaked me out.

    • Hey hey!

      As long as it fits within your cals and macros, you’re good! You can calculate how much you should be having here:

      https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

      I hear you on the whey. BCAAs isn’t a good replacement. Just stick to protein from whole food sources, and if you’re not getting enough from that, try casein and/or egg protein.

      Yep, you have 60 days to try it. If you don’t like it for any reason, just shoot an email to contact@legionathletics.com. You’ll be fully refunded. 🙂

  • Beju1

    Hey Michael, I am a 23 year old male around 5’10”, 141lb. I’ve always been really skinny and over the past two months i’ve put on about 6kg from massively increasing my calorie intake to over 4000cal. Alongside this i’ve been doing home strength trainer routines focusing on the chest around 4 times a week and ab workouts. Iv seen slight progress but i’ve recently noticed i have started to develop a roll of fat in the middle of my back. I’ve been eating a lot of butter and olive oil with meals. Do you think this could be the reason? Will doing back workouts help get rid of this or will I have to also incorporate cardio? Or should I cut most of the fat from my calorie intake?

    Thanks!

  • Rachel Carter

    Hey Michael! I’m female, 5’7″,120 lbs, 20%-25% body fat. I’m somewhat skinny fat, but the primary problem is body fat in the lower body and some cellulite, while my upper body is skinny-neither fat nor exceptionally toned. I know I need to lift and probably not do too much cardio. I’m not sure what to do about nutrition, because I’m on the lighter side and don’t need to lose weight, and I’m happy with the pear shape. I just want it to be toned. I don’t know if I would have to cut in order to lose the lower body fat and cellulite or if it would be possible to do a maintain diet and build muscle (but then, would the muscle be hidden under the fat?)

    • Hey Rachel!

      I totally get where you’re at. To help with the cellulite, check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-get-rid-of-cellulite-naturally-and-safely/

      For the fat in the lower body, you’re just going to have to get leaner. This will also help:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-truth-about-stubborn-fat-and-how-to-get-rid-of-it/

      Depending on where you’re at in your training experience, you can build muscle while losing fat at the same time! Check this out:

      https://legionathletics.com/body-recomposition/

      What do you think?

      • Rachel Carter

        Thanks for the info!. I think this makes sense, and I pretty much have to tweak what I’m doing. I’ve been in a caloric deficit for about a month now (not according to the calculators, because I would be eating ~1200 calories, which is about what my BMR is. Actually eat about their given TDEE: ~1500), and I’ve lost 6 lbs. As far as training, I have been about 2-5x/week (trying to find the right schedule) for 4 1/2 months, but haven’t increased weight lifted by much yet. I’ve been attempting but struggling to get the suggested protein intake. I get about .6g/lb, or .8 if I’m lucky. If i did fasted training, it’d have to be without supplements. So I’ll have to get these things in order and see how it goes.

        • Welcome!

          Good job on the weight you’ve lost! If you’re losing weight, you’re in a deficit. The calculators are good to give you a general idea of your numbers.

          Cool on the training you’ve been doing.

          To help with the protein intake, greek yogurt, cottage cheese and beef jerky are good snacks! If you can’t reach your protein intake goal with those, supplement with protein powder as needed.

          I don’t recommend fasted training unless you can get the proper supplements. You risk losing muscle. Check this out:

          https://legionathletics.com/fasted-cardio/

          LMK what you think.

          • Rachel Carter

            I think I’m already in a deficit, and I lose weight pretty easily. I’m in no intense hurry, and I don’t want to risk muscle loss, which is part of the problem as it is. I am getting more protein lately. I’m just enjoying the journey of making conscious choices more than anything.
            Thanks for the replies!

          • Makes sense! Awesome you’ve been getting more protein and enjoying the process. 🙂

            Keep it up! Happy to help.

  • Gonzalo Flores

    Hi! I’m Gonzalo, 18 years old. 5’7″ 142 lbs, around 21% body fat. And I look very skinny. What should I do? Cut or Bulk? How many calories should I take?And what percentages of fat, carbs and protein should I take? Any supplements? Thank you. I’d be glad if you answer my questions.

  • Danny Anderson

    Hey I’m Dan I’m 38 160 I’m skinny with a belly and love handles. I go to the gym to lift twice a week and run once a week for about 3 miles. I am going down hill quickly and just need a good starting point. Lose fat or cut? I just don’t know where I should keep my total calories protein amount good fats and carbs???? I’m willing to pay for any help my self esteem and life seem to be suffering badly from how I feel about my body. Thank you

  • matt

    Hey my name is Matt I’m 5’7, 142 Lb and I want to get the “Bigger leaner…” guide, since I’m also skinny fat (only have a belly, but Ill try to gothe the gym 4 times a week for the last year and a half and Im the same and Im getting tired..and broke! LOL , Itake a post work out protein shake (AMP Whey Bolic Extreme 60) and nothing happens…
    Is your guide algo aiming Skinny fat issues?? And Does the guide brings the info to know my body fat etc?

    Hope to hear soon from you!

    • Hey Matt!

      I hear you man. Thanks for all the info. It’s time to get some results!

      BLS will lay out everything you need to know about training and dieting to build muscle and lose fat effectively.

      To calculate your BF% check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/body-composition/

      LMK how it goes!

      • matt

        Thanks!!! my BF% is 22, so, weight wise im OK, I’ve ordered your guide, I will wait for the guide in order to create a new gym rutine and diet.
        Do you think I should change my protein shake after workout?

        • Welcome. Sounds good!

          Up to you on the protein shake. You just want to make sure you’re getting enough protein and carbs post-workout. Check this out:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/guide-to-post-workout-nutrition/

          LMK what you think!

          • matt

            Hey Micheal, I just got your guide today! but I’m lost here, I’m 5’7, 142 Lb, %22 BF, and Should I start my plan on cutting or bulking?? I wanna lost fat, without losing muscle since I’m skinny as it is, but at the same time I wanna bulk without incresing BF…so, im lost there…what do you recommend?

          • matt

            Nevermind 🙂 I just read it carefully, so I will starting cutting until I reach 10%BF? and THEN startbulking? I a little afriad ill look like a twig!!

          • Hey man!

            I’d guess you’re around 14%. You’re just dealing with stubborn fat.

            IMO cut to the 10% range and then reverse diet into your bulk.

            Thoughts?

          • Matt

            Yes! I did too came to %14!I also got your meal plan, so, Ill wait for that, 1500-ish calories per day iasn’t to low for me? thats the number I get too when I run my BRM, TDEE

            HAPPY 2016!

          • Great! It depends not only on your weight and BF% but your activity level too. Stick to the cals from the meal plan. The goal is to be losing 1-2 pounds a week.

            If that’s not happening, shoot an email to Services@muscleforlife.com. Sam will take care of you. 🙂

            Happy New Years to you too!

  • mishie

    hey,
    interesting read.
    could you please guide me on how to loose the saddlebags, i need 4 inches off them. Is fasted weight training or fasted cardio a better option ?

  • COMPASSGAMES

    “And for example, if I go to some restaurant or something similar and
    order one piece of chocolate cake, how can I know what I ate, how many
    calories and all that. Do you ever have cheat meal that you don’t know
    nothing about? Stupid question but I don’t know how to write it.”

    I do find the calories of that type of cake in MyFitnessPal and account for the largest possible value.

    For example, if there’s 3 different entries for a “Red velvet”, I usually count the largest value, to make sure I don’t exceed the limit.

    If it’s really big, I count 1000 cals, ie, Cheesecake-factory cake.

    If it’s a medium size, then 600 cal.

    Some restaurants you may find their menu in MyFitnessPal.

    I hit cake restaurants 2-3 times a week and count them into my macros, but to be honest, home made taste way better, sometimes it’s just for the social part of it.

  • matt

    Hey Micheal! I just got your guide today!!

    Im sorry, I must be driving u crazy! LOL it turns out my BMI is 22%!! my BF is almost %11! BUT! As told before, I have this skinny fat belly-love handle (If I look at the pictures in the chart posted by you,there is NO WAY I’m in the 10% of BF), do I stil need to be cutting?) (I’m 5’7, 143 Lb, 33 years old) Should I shed a few lbs before starting bulking?? I’ve measured my BF with online calculator,so itmay not be %100 right!I just got your guide today!!! and I want to start mi diet/gym rutine, but I don’t know which way to go regarding cutting or bulking!

    If I do cutting, I should be having an intake of 1521 calories per day (isn’t that low? according to the guide

    Here some pictures taken today

    [/url]

  • Vedant Mundra

    Hey Mike.
    Thanks for this article.
    I am 20. height 178 cm and 152 pounds heavy.
    body fat percentage 15, which I think qualifies me in the category of skinny fat.
    no muscle development
    I will need to bulk to gain muscle but living in a hostel in India is a bad environment for a complete clean bulk. Hence I have decided to first cut down my body fat percentage to 10-11 and then build muscle.
    Please suggest a distribution of macros I need to follow that will help me get rid of around 5-6 pounds of extra fat without losing muscle.
    Thanks.

  • Zerina Curic

    Hello Mike, how are you?
    I just wanted to say a big thank you for the article it was really helpful.
    I am 174 cm tall and have 145.5 pounds (19 years old)… I workout for more than three years and do everything, weights,HIIT,cardio. I also really watch what I eat and try to make it as healthy as possible..I’ve been changing my weight a lot for the past three years ,and I lost about 15 pounds for the last 6 months because I felt ‘huge’ …I actually look pretty good, I am not super lean and I have some lower belly fat but my muscles are very hard to touch,I almost don’t have cellulite,and I don’t look soft and jiggly, so I got really REALLY surprised that yesterday, I went for the first time to the body scan , I have 33% of body fat and only 28% of muscle…I didn’t expect to have 20% because I am not really defined but 33?! I really couldn’t believe since I really do not run away from weights (heavier weights) and after this last weight loss I look really thin right now and my booty got so small 🙁 ..So what’s wrong? Could I be doing too much cardio without being aware of it? Maybe not enough protein? After I read this I decided to do only two sessions of cardio per week (HIIT and bodyweight only,I am not a fan of machines at the gym), to lift a lot heavier and go for 3-5 reps on the deadlift (I think my 1RM is about 85-90 kg) ,can’t really go much heavy on squats since I have bad knees but can keep them around 6-8 reps ,and very heavy on hip thrust (like 6 reps)… and also even though I have a lot of strength for a girl I still could never do (neither have I tried to do) a chin-up or a pull-up, so I am going to work on that…and I will keep my calories around 1800 (should be enough for deficit right?) I workout 6 days a week,I thought to keep it that way..Will this work?.. I am sorry for this big message but I really got a lot disappointed cosnidering the fact how hard I work for everything… Thank you one more time!!!

  • Steph

    Hey Mike….
    I’ve never been happy with my body and have even starved myself down to 112 lbs. Of course thats not healthy so I’ve been maintaining a good diet lately, and I enjoy running. I’m now 117lbs and am 5’6” (and female – 23 years old). But I am, of course, skinny fat! My stomach hangs in an unsightly manner when I bend over. My upper arms are flabby, too!

    How long would it take if I began doing some weightlifting a few times a week as well to go from … I might estimate 26% body fat down to 20%? Just a rough estimate. Am I looking at 5 months? More? Less? What do you think? I don’t really care if I have muscle definition so much, I just don’t want my stomach jiggling and hanging everywhere, it’s really embarrassing..!
    Thanks so much. >.<

    • I hear you Steph.

      Glad you’re eating more now.

      If you’re dieting properly you should be able to do that in just 4-6 weeks.

      I totally understand. My pleasure! 🙂

  • Mustafaüç Polat

    Hello Mike, thanks for the whole information. I’ve been searching about this topic a lot lately and this is the best website!

    So what I want to say is I’m 5’10” 132lbs and 17 years old male. I’ve earned really much weight lately (looks like I did that in a wrong way since I’m skinny fat now), my body type is ectomorph so my arms or legs aren’t that big but even though I earned weight, they’re still same. I eat just enough these days because I don’t know what to do. I was gonna keep gaining weight but I realized that I was becoming skinny fat so I stopped. I should build muscle (obviously) I used to just eat and eat but this looks like a wrong way ( I don’t mean eating chocolate or chips, I mean 2 eggs every day, milk, all healthy stuff), so from now on should I also exercise while eating properly? Would it be okay if I just run or something? What’s the thing that I’m doing wrong or not doing at all? Thank you…

  • louis dacosta

    Hey Mike I’m kinda in a bad situation. I’m 13 so starting young. I’m 128 pounds and 5 foot 7. I have built up my abs doing everything i can but now I just look relatively fat even though I can only pinch around 1.5 inches of “fat”. I have built my legs, chest, arms and still I look bad at the abdominal muscle area. I am on a relatively basic diet of eating whatever apart from most fatty foods. Eating a lot of protein and carbohydrates. I am very fit and active from day to day being in school entering competitions and smashing the opponents based of things like physical skill and a muscular physice like rugby, rowing and sprinting all at a national level. Being into the opposite sex I want to be lean and fit so is there any way I can get abs “quickly” through dedication I’m about 12% body fat but increasing daily by the ab workout just pushing any fat it can find to the top

  • Daniela

    Hey! I’m 5’4″, 110lbs and 18 years old female. I’ve been following the advice in your book (TLS), I been on a caloric deficit for a while now and lost a bunch of weight, I had to adjust the numbers a few times and I’m currently eating about 1200 calories every day, I do weight lifting five days a week and cardio on saturdays. My problem is that while I did gain some muscle when I started with the program I’m still skinny fat and holding onto some stuborn belly fat, I don’t know if I should remain on a deficit or start increasing my calorie intake. What would you advise?

    • Hey!

      Great on what you’ve done so far.

      Hmm you’re in a “gray” area where you COULD cut a bit more to get leaner or you could reverse diet and focus on building some muscle.

      Silly question but what would you make you happiest?

      BTW, this is going to help you with cutting in general:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

      • Daniela

        Here’s an update and some more info: I decided to keep cutting, I’m currently eating about 1100 cals (124g protein, 104 carbs and 21g fat), I’ve been on the program for six months now, my first cut lasted four months, then I had a two week break for the holidays, I started cutting again on january and I’m currently on week 8 of that cut, I’m 5’4″ and my current weight is 95.7lbs. Do you think I’m in a good place to start reverse dieting or should I keep cutting? I’m still dealing with some stubborn belly fat but I’ve definitely seen an improvement lately, on the other hand I’m worried that my weight is already to low and I don’t wanna lose muscle. So what do you think? Also, any guess on my BF%? Here are some pics

        • Hey Daniela! Great job on the weight you’ve lost since your last comment. You definitely look leaner!

          Cool on your cals and macros.

          Yeah, let’s go ahead and RD.

          You’re about 18-20% BF I’d say.

          Again, great job! Talk soon!

          • Daniela

            Great! Also, I’ve been doing four 30 minute HIIT sessions per week, that should stay the same while I’m reverse dieting, right?

            Thanks!

          • Yep, keep it the same.

            Welcome!

  • Sam

    Hi Mike I am a 15 year old 5,8 teen. I am really athletic and skinny fat. Last time I checked my bmi was 15%. I weight 139 lbs. When ever I bend over to pick something up my stomach hangs down. But my mom says I will slim out as I grow. My brother was skinny fat in middle school and grew to 6,3. As I said I am 5,8 and hoping when I get a growth spurt my baby fat on my stomach will just stretch out as I get taller, or go away. I also work out 4 days a week and can do 40 pushups pretty easily. And I have changed my eating habits to healthier food. Thanks for your time 😀

    • Thanks for all the info.

      Don’t worry about the BMI. What’s more important is BF%. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/body-composition/

      Sounds like you’re in good shape man! Let’s just focus on staying active and eating lots of nutritious foods.

      Thoughts?

      My pleasure!

      • Sam

        I just don’t like that my stomach hangs down. Is it a puberty thing? Because my older brother was fat in middle school and by highschool he slimmed down. I think it could be a genetic thing. I don’t know xD

        • Puberty does help most guys lean out.

          As I said, just focus on eating lots of nutritious foods and staying active for now.

          If you find the BF still an issue in a few years, we can set up a proper cutting meal plan to bring it down.

          Thoughts?

  • isabella

    Hi, I just wanted to know if its possible to gain muscle without losing or gaining fat? I am happy with my fat level at the moment but i am skinny fat and have zero muscle. will gaining muscle make the fat that i do have look different? will the fat just hide the muscle completely or will it kind of become shaped with the muscle underneath? i dont know my fat percentage but guessing from photos id say its around 22% i dont want to lose anymore fat as my boobs will shrink. but i want to look less soft. will muscle show through this level of fat at all or do i have to loose fat to see anything? i am 54kgs 5.2 and 22.

    • It is possible to make slow gains while maintaining fat with calorie cycling. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/calorie-cycling/

      Building muscle will add size and just give better shape to your body. Also, the more muscle you build while maintaining the same amount of BF, the leaner you’ll be. So it’ll also give the muscle more definition.

      To get an accurate idea of your BF%, check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/body-composition/

      At 22% BF, you will definitely have muscle definition.

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Andrew

    Hi Mike, I’m 16 years old, 150 pounds, and 6,1. I am fairly athletic and very skinny fat (a lot of belly fat and wide waist) Since reading your article I have increased my calorie intake from 1800-2000 to 2400-2500 calories. My question is what kind of exercises should I do to put on muscle mass for football? Any help is appreciated.

    • Hey Andrew! Thanks for the info.

      Cool you increased cals.

      Training for football, I recommend you follow a strength program. Starting Strength or Wendler 5/3/1 would be good options. Check them out:

      https://legionathletics.com/strength-training/

      LMK what you think!

      • Andrew

        I will try both and let you know how it works out. Thanks for the advice Mike!

  • Valery

    Hello,Mike! Following your BLS program for six month now and have got good results, but I have a problem. Due to my genetics, at low BF % my eyes look very sunken, so, to look healthy I need 20+ percent of BF which is terrible, of course. What can you recommend?

    • Awesome!

      Haha my face tends to look kind of gaunt when I get really lean too. Meh.

      How “healthy” is your diet?

      • Valery

        Not really heathy at the moment. Protein is due to BLS program, but I can’t keep fats under control cause sometimes I have to eat fast food. So, I have less carbs than you recommend (cause I always try to stay at the needed calorie intake). Every day I have two cups of coffee and I’m not used to eat much veggies and fruits. As for water, I think I drink enough (more than 2 liters per day).
        I’m 179cm, 70kg, 13% BF now (not “really lean” at all), but I look quite scarying for people. You think the problem can be with my diet?

        • Oh okay well IMO let’s work on getting some more nutritious foods into your diet. It can really make a difference in terms of how “healthy” you look.

          Thoughts?

  • Chad Avalon

    Hey Mike, I’ve been reading a crap ton of all your articles and the research and everything. I’ve bought a few of your supplements, and I’m looking at Phoenix but my only concern is that EGCG is not absorbed well with food, and with protein it can appearantly all but entirely negate its absorption. Its best first thing in the morning with vitamin C and/or piperine, which is what I”m doing now. But you can have too much of it (it can be bad for the liver), which is the only reason why I havent bought Phoenix yet. I was wondering if you were aware of this, or perhaps you could save my day and show me evidence on the contrary? That way I could burn some fat faster AND get the benefits of EGCG without worrying about too much of it. Thanks for everything Mike! You rock!

  • Tommy

    Hi Mike, I have one of your books and I really love it. I am 23 years old, 5’10”, 160 Ibs, about 16% body fat. I have been working out for a couple of months now, can consider myself skinny fat. My biggest problem is that I feel like I have really large thighs and glutes, but not much upper body strength. And that’s basically how I looked before working out at all. Should I just not be lifting as heavy for my legs? Thanks!

    • Hey Tommy! Glad to hear it. 🙂

      Thanks for the info.

      Hmm. I’d continue the heavy leg work and work on getting to 10% BF. Once you’re there, let’s see how your legs and glutes are. If they still seem too big, we can lower the training volume for them.

      Thoughts?

      My pleasure! Talk soon.

      • Tommy

        Thanks Mike! Will do. One more quick question before I start cutting. Do you suggest sticking to the same diet on workout days as off days? (I have been working out 3 days a week) Thanks!

        • Welcome!

          Yep, I recommend keeping your diet consistent daily.

          NP! 🙂

  • bob

    Hey Mike, I’m a really self concious person and my body type has been bothering me for the longest time and I’m ready to take action. I’ve played sports most my life but I’m stuck being skinny fat so I’m ready to hit the gym and try to change that up, I’m 18 years old, 5 foot 9 and 160 pounds, I was wondering if you could point me in the right direction like what diet would be good and what I should be doing in the gym, its really weird though like I’m flabby but when I flex it doesn’t seem like it

  • Natty

    Hi Mike!

    I really really love your blog. Such real, no-bs information.

    So I have a past with yo-yo dieting. I had binge eating disorder for a majority of my life but got that under control completely. I transitioned into intuitive eating years ago to break out of a restrictive mindset but it wasn’t getting my body to where I wanted it. I have been back to counting calories now for the last few months and definitely seeing changes. I don’t like to weigh myself so I don’t know the loss but I’ve lost at least one pant size and I am getting many comments, so I know what I’m doing is working!

    I eat 1400 calories a day. Some days I go slightly over, but I am super active (live in NYC and walk at least 60 blocks a day), and I also do 4 hours of a very intense dance cardio class I love each week.

    I would like to know three things:

    1) Do you think I’m eating too little? Some days I feel super hungry and a little low energy, but most of the time I feel fine, and my mood/energy is great. However, a few nights a week I wake up in the middle of the night hungry. I am 5’7 and my weight is between 150-160 (like I said I don’t weigh myself). I am an 8 pant/dress size.

    2) Do you think the absence of cardio is ok until I get leaner? Like can I start lifting later on? I love cardio. I look forward to it and it takes no motivation for me. I don’t love lifting as much and frankly feel like it might slow my rate of progress when it comes to fat loss if I cut down on cardio.

    That being said- I am definitely flabby. I want to be tight and sexy at the end. When I wave hello, I prefer it not be a two part process haha.

    I would really appreciate your feedback 🙂

    • Natty

      two things. sorry haha.

    • Thanks! Glad you’re enjoying it. 🙂

      I hear you on the past yo-yo dieting and binge eating.

      Great to hear on the results you’ve seen tracking your intake.

      Cool on the cals you’re eating and all the activity! You can make sure your intake is correct here:

      https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

      1. Depends on your weight, BF% and activity level. Also, how much you’re losing a week. Check out the link above, and I recommend weighing yourself weekly to track progress.

      2. Good question! Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-much-cardio/

      Regarding lifting, I recommend it. At the very least it’ll ensure you don’t lose muscle, but even better, if you’re new to this style of training, you can build muscle while losing fat.

      Haha, I hear you! Let’s build some muscle then. 🙂

      Hope this helps! Talk soon!

  • Greg

    Hey, I got a problem. I tried to bulk up adding some muscles. but when I tried to cut down again, i look skinny fat. My legs are quite skinny and i dont got to much of a ass, but my stomach looks bloated. its so annoying. I got more fat now then i did before on the same amount of weight. Im 180 cm and weigh arround 73. Can you please help me?

    • I hear you, Greg. Hmm. First, let’s make sure you’re not losing muscle when you cut:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/how-to-lose-body-fat/

      After that, when you cut down, how lean are you getting? I recommend cutting to 10-12% BF.

      To help with the belly and possible bloating, check these out:

      https://legionathletics.com/how-to-lose-belly-fat/

      https://legionathletics.com/bloated-stomach/

      Hope these help. LMK what you think.

      • mættpålegg

        Hey, im sure i havent lose to much muscles because i look as i have gained some more muscles in some places. But i didnt add to much muscles in my ass who was my main goal behind the bulk, and I also did the bulk wrong and regret doing it. It has been some of the thoughest months of my lifes. But I still got more fat now then i did at the same amount of weight, but its so annoying when your sitting you got fat store up you dont want im not used to it. I think I have been arround 10 % all my life before i start bulking. Now I think i might be at 14% body fat(Like i can see my abs when i stand in the mirror in a good lightning) and gonna cut down to 69 kg ish before i start lean bulking, i think i will be arround 10 % then. My goal weight isnt to high, want to get up to 75-77 kg while being lean (like 9-10% in 2 year if possible) since I play football and dont need to be to big. So when I start bulking should i eat like 2700 calories for adding lean muscles 5 days a week, then 2 days i will eat 2100 calories to get rid of the fat i put on during the week? Know i need to do a reverse diet first. Currently im at 1900-2000 calories a day, but for the most part during this cut i have been between 2350-2250 calories a day. Also readed your other articles and they where good. Any good macros for losing like 2 pounds fat a week while working out one time a day?

        -Greg

  • Ben

    Hey, I’ve stumbled your blog after getting frustrated with my current plateau.

    Here’s the backstory. I’m 28 and I’ve carried a lot of weight all my life (being short doesn’t help – i’m 160 cm). After hitting 275lb I decided to change that and I’ve lost 112lbs in just over 2 years.

    I achieved this by gradually decreasing calories based on my TDEE and BMR. And exercising 4 work days a week (I fit 40-50 minutes of exercise before work a day, normally 20 minutes cardio and 20 mins strength) and running/cycling on the weekend.

    I’m now at 163lb restricted to 1780 calories a day, (supposedly at around 14% bf but that seems too low to me). I’ve been stuck at this for the last two months and can’t seem to shift anymore fat. On top of that I’m wondering If I’m limiting my calories too much – some days I’m constantly hungry, tired and motivation is low. On top of that I’ve got a lot of loose skin that looks awful – which is not helping with my motivation!

    So i’m struggling with what I do next, do I keep trying to cut until I get back on the right track? How much more do I lose?

    Or do I start trying to bulk?

    What do you think? Any help appreciated!

  • Miguel V

    Hi Mike, I need your help. I got your BLS book but I’m stuck. See my attached pic. I’m about 5’3″. weigh 122 lbs and 18% BF according to caliper. According to your book I should focus on fat loss. I lift 3 x a week and do cardio twice a week.

    My macros for cutting BMR=1352,LBM=100,TDEE=1825, total deficit cal=1460
    Protein=146g, Carbs=146g,Fat=32g

    My problem is I still look skinny and still have fat on lower abs. Should I continue cutting? Is it really hard to gain muscle but lose belly fat? Please advise.

    Thanks
    Miguel

    • Hey Miguel! Thanks for picking up my book.

      I get where you’re at. Yep, you should still cut until you reach 10-12% BF.

      However, if you’re at BMR and aren’t losing 1-2 pounds a week, you need to RD first:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/reverse-diet/

      You can gain muscle while losing fat if you’re new to this style of training. Otherwise, I recommend focusing on losing fat until you reach 10-12% BF. Then you can focus on building muscle.

      Thoughts?

      • Miguel V

        Thanks Mike. I will continue cutting and look at RD if I don’t see any improvements.

        • Welcome! Sounds good.

          Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Christina

    Hi Mike! Great article. I’m 5’3″ and by “standards” look good and trim but THIS has been my frustration. I just weighed in at 97 pounds this morning at I was shocked. (No I do not restrict and although my weight seems low, I can assure you I look normal and not “too” skinny which may seem hard to believe, I know) People and friends think I look fine but no one gets why I am frustrated. I’ve done a lot of interval training and keep losing and only seeing “some” muscle improvement even though the weight training is challenging. I do not have access to a gym but do have weights at home. I am going to try to work “harder” I suppose vs. moving and jumping around so much (which if I read this all right, is part of my problem).
    I only hope it works. I eat well and am very dedicated and have been a bit down about my results. I should look better than I do and “skinny and not defined enough” is what I’ve gotten. (Sadly)

    • Hey Christina! Thanks!

      No worries. You look great!

      I get where your at. If your focus is building muscle, you need to ensure you’re in a surplus. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/bulking-up/

      After you’ve built the muscle you want or your BF% is approaching 25%, you can cut to lose the fat. Check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-best-way-to-gain-muscle-not-fat/

      No worries on the gym, you can still get good results with a proper bodyweight routine:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-ultimate-bodyweight-workout-routine/

      Thoughts?

      • Christina

        Thank you! This makes so much sense. The instinct is not to “over eat” but at the same time I DO make sure I eat a good amount. After reading this however, am learning I may need to up my intake for the purpose of building muscle. I’ve plateaued and maintain a “soft” layer yet have muscle as well underneath it all. It has gotten very frustrating.
        There is a lot of information here (that I will be reading again and more than once, I can tell you) but I can see, I can’t do so much cardio probably, need to focus on “training” certain muscles vs. “exercising” (Which is EXACTLY what I’ve been doing!! I’ve picked some good challenging workouts, but I see the difference now), and then need to have a “smart” calorie increase.
        I do not want to be a body builder by any means but have been frustrated because I workout a lot and am healthy…WHY do I still have a soft layer at all???? I just am looking for a solution so that I can look as good as I feel. 🙂 And I do want my muscles to show, appropriate for my size. I DON’T want to feel like looking soft is inevitable. I hope I can have a good update later and can start to look more fit.
        As for the gym, I’ve usually belonged to one and had to cut back expenditures a couple years ago. Hasn’t stopped me from working out but as I’ve up’d my goals here, being at home is not ideal, but I do workout smart. I really appreciate the advice here because the LAST thing I want to feel is stuck!!! 🙂

  • ref_1q85

    Hi Mike!

    I am a 30 yo male, 1.81 cm and around 66Kg, and of course, skinny fat. Never liked my body and always feel ashamed about it. I am starting a new life (new country, new job, new everything) and bought your book in order to achieve the new body goal. However, the gym in my accommodation has no squat station. Any advice about how to proceed?

    Thanks!

    • Hey hey! Thanks for the info. Cool on the new start. Now let’s get you a new body. 🙂

      My first recommendation would be to switch to a gym that has a squat rack. If that’s not workable, does it have a leg press and hack squat?

      Welcome! LMK.

      • ref_1q85

        Hi Mike,

        Thanks for the answer. Unfortunately, it has neither of the above. I am in a developing country, with limited availability of equipment. Does the zercher squat works? I have a bench, a barbell and some cardio machines. Not ideal, but I do not see any other solution around this place.

  • Vickiiii

    So if I’m a 5’1 skinny fat female that weighs about 110, I should eat around 1400 calories do about 1 hr cardio a week and implement compound heavy weight exercises to lower my body fat percentage, only after that I should focus on muscle growth?? Not sure if I’m 100% clear.

  • Ghi

    Hi great article. I am 23 yes old around 190cm tall and about 83kg in weight with just over 20% body fat.

    I am at a decent gym and just need to get some Guidance on dietary information and what workout plan to follow

  • Massimo

    Hi thank u very much for this article , it’s really well written and actually honest on everything. I never read an article as good as this on this topic (body and muscles). I especially enjoyed the part on what is really efficient about “definition”. Many thanks and good work

    • YW! Thanks for the kind words!

      Definitely keep me posted on your progress and write anytime if you have any questions or run into any difficulties. I’m always happy to help.

  • Sarah T

    Hi. Thank you for all the great info! I am 5’1, 110lbs and 28% body fat according to accumeasure clippers. I want to reduce body fat and increase muscle significantly. I know im supposed to use a moderate calorie deficit but I think that puts me at just over 1000 calories. That seems way too low to get nutrients. Especially as I am vegetarian. I dont want to make myself ill :/ I also dont want to put myself in any starvation mode. Also in order to get the fats and proteins right at that calorie level is it right i could only eat about 95 grams carbs? Lol that would be nearly impossible as a vegetarian. I know i look ‘skinny’ but im not happy with my body fat levels. Any suggestions? Maybe my mathematics is terrible and you will tell me i have it all wrong haha. Thanks.

    • Welcome! Cool on where you’re at and what you want to do.

      Hmm. Nah, that doesn’t sound right. Calculate your intake and macros here:

      https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

      Let’s start with that. LMK how it goes.

      Talk soon!

      • Sarah T

        Hi thanks for the reply! I have plugged my numbers in and my TDEE (exercising 3 hours a week) is 1377. Doing a 20% deficit makes 1101 calories. 1.2g protein per pound bodyweight gives me 132g (528 calories). 0.2g fat per pound gives 22g fat (198 calories) which leaves 375 calories for carbs, or 93.9 grams. I am eating at maintenance right now as im finding it too difficult to stick to a deficit. I know im little (110lbs) and dont have much fat to lose (about ten lbs?). But i have that awful flabby look. Im not sure whether to try and ignore the body fat for now and concentrate on building muscle at calorie maintenance perhaps? Its confusing lol.

        Sarah

        • YW!

          Any chance you can increase your activity level? Maybe move to a 4-day or 5-day split and/or add in some cardio? It’ll increase the activity multiplier increasing your TDEE hence increase your cutting cals.

          Thoughts?

          You could eat at maintenance and focus on making slow gains, but I recommend cutting to 20% BF first and then focusing on properly bulking and building muscle. Here’s why:

          http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-best-way-to-gain-muscle-not-fat/

          I hear you on the flab. Let’s get rid of it. 😉

          • Sarah T

            Hey thanks ive put the numbers in and they seem a little more reasonable. Will have to increase my workouts!

          • NP! Happy to hear it. Let’s do it!

  • I’ trying to get rid of a little belly and back fat I have but I also want a toned body so that is why began doing some weight training.

    Is a 35 min HIIT treadmill workout good? (I found it online)
    I usually do it 3x per week right after weight training. I also bought some protein and drink it before and after working out.

  • Michael D

    I just read an article on the front page of the NYT about the Biggest Loser contestants regaining all their lost weight and I am stunned at the horrible advice and misinformation given to the masses on how to keep the weight off.

    Thank you for putting information out there that works as I’ve seen it work with my own body. It’s not magic people: it’s simple principles and putting it into action.

    • Andy

      I read this article too and was astonished at what the body will do to get these contestants back to their old weight and for how many years it will work at it.

      • Yep, it sucks. 🙁 That’s why I don’t recommend crash dieting and strongly recommend a proper RD after being in a deficit.

    • Yep, seent it. That’s what happens when you crash diet… Especially without a proper RD!

      My pleasure, Michael! Happy to help prevent people from making the same mistakes.

  • Chris

    Hey Michael , In November I decided to lose weight since I was skinny fat and lifted 4 days a week (split) with 2 sessions of HIIT. I lost around 12 kg in a space of 4-5 months. Leaving me with the weight of 63kg. Which was too low. Was lean but lower abs and nipples holded a bit more fat stil. I didn’t want to diet even lower because I’ll would of been too gaunt.

    Then I decided I to bulk up starting mid March. I’ve gained 6kg since then with muscle and abit of fat. I was wondering what weight should I stop bulking at and start cutting again. I’m 20 years old and 6’0

    Thank Micheal

  • gtbtm3

    Hey!

    I’m pretty much the definition of skinnyfat. No muscle mass at all, flabby stomach. I actually can’t do push ups. For weight lifting, I was thinking of doing bodyweight exercises. I was wondering if I should do cardio and lose weight/fat first, or try and gain muscle? Or should I do a combination, where I do cardio and bodyweight exercises?

    Sorry for all the questions, and thank you for the help!

  • Jay

    Interesting. IMO, I’m skinny fat.

    What would you tell a guy with this physique to do?:

    http://gtmfitness.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Skinny-fat-transformation-3.png

    I’ve defo got more muscle than him but my gut looks the same, which is infuriating to me.

    Best,
    Jay, UK

    • Did you read the article?

      • Jay

        Yes of course, hahahaha.

        • Hahaha. Just checking!

          He’d be better off with a) cutting cals and lifting heavy. If you’re new to this style of training, you’ll be able to build muscle while losing fat. Check this out:

          https://legionathletics.com/body-recomposition/

          Once you’re 10-12% BF, you can bulk and focus on building muscle.

          What do you think?

          • Jay

            Cool, thanks, I’ll cut kcals.

            Do you think a deficit would be a significant impediment to building muscle for a relatively untrained guy? I agree with the approach you mention but the reason I’ve been avoiding it is because I’m already small and I’m worried my gains will come at snail-pace.

          • Awesome.

            Nah. You won’t build as quickly and effectively as you would in a surplus, but again, people that are new to this style of training are able to build muscle just fine. Even in a deficit.

            Yep, you should be able to get to 10-12% BF with no loss in strength. You’d stop cutting once you reach 10-12% BF or once you’re down to BMR and still not losing 1-2 lbs a week. To track your BF%, check this out:

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/body-composition/

            You’d build muscle, but you’d end up being at a point with a high BF% and having to do a long cut.

          • Jay

            True, true. I’m not particularly experienced with consistent compound weightlifting. I won’t be hitting chest for ~1 month anyway, so I might as well get the cut over with.

            Thanks for the article link. What I meant by ‘I’m not sure how I’d know when to stop cutting’ was that I wasn’t sure which visual cues to look for. As you showed in the article, a guy at 10% can have no ab definition due to a lack of muscle so he might not know he’s that lean.

          • My pleasure!

            Ah okay. Then you should pick up a caliper! They’re cheap, easy to use and accurate within 1-2% which is more than enough.

  • Karolina Ania

    Great article! Thanks for all the information.

    I’m at the skinny-fat level right now and am hoping to get toned. I started taking boxing/kickboxing classes in January and while I enjoy the classes, I haven’t seen much of a change in my body composition.

    I’m completely new to weight training. I’m planning on starting but was wondering if you had any references on the type of exercises to do doing and when and with how much weight to start out? My boyfriend tried to explain what to do what day but all I hear is “back and bi, this and that and blah blah.” I don’t speak that language yet! Any references would be appreciated.

    Thank you!

    Karolina

  • Natalie Ennis

    I train 5-6 days a week and still look as if I’m skinny fat. My stomach looks the same. I did a bikini program w very high reps working out almost 2 hrs a day. I’m so frustrated bc I counted macros and meal prepped everyday and I actually think I look worse. I’m wondering if I need to do high carbs and low fat like u suggest. I’m 5’9 131lbs and I eat about 1600 calories a day. 169p 57f 126c but now I’m trying to carb cycle. I’m just so lost at this point. My body won’t build muscle. I’ve been lifting a year now. Can u please point me in the right direction? I train 5-6 days a week and still look as if I’m skinny fat. My stomach looks the same. I did a bikini program w very high reps working out almost 2 hrs a day. I’m so frustrated bc I counted macros and meal prepped everyday and I actually think I look worse. I’m wondering if I need to do high carbs and low fat like u suggest. I’m 5’9 131lbs and I eat about 1600 calories a day. 169p 57f 126c but now I’m trying to carb cycle. I’m just so lost at this point. My body won’t build muscle. I’ve been lifting a year now. Can u please point me in the right direction?

  • lino

    love the article! mike as you can see in this picture i’m a skinny fat person and i workout for some years but my question is: is normal to skinny fat guys to struggle on put on muscle? because everytime is up my kcals all i gain is fat not muscle. besides that, can a skinny fat person be a indicator to hormonal problems? i also retain much water in my body and i’m always bloated so it seems impossible to me to get shredded. thanks!

  • Maria A

    Hey Mike,
    I have a quick question about if I should be bulking or cutting. I am a 22 year old woman, 5’1, weighing about 113 pounds. I calculated my marcos and it came out to be:
    2045 calories: 113 g protein, 270g carbs, and 57g of fat.

    These are the results that came out because I am choosing to bulk right now.
    But, I do still have a small amount of fat that I carry on my lower belly and I was just wondering if I were to bulk with these marcos, would I be able to lose that fat or should I start cutting instead?

    Thank you.

  • SuperMOM

    Hey Mike,
    Loving the site! I just picked up TLS and am eager to jump into the book!

    I am a skinny fat mom. I’ve been working out for awhile (cardio/light weights) and can tone up my arms and abs, but just can’t get my lower body to tighten up no matter how many squats I do. I have been weighing all my food, but didn’t calculate my calories until I started reading your articles. I’m only consuming about 800 calories/day. That does not factor in my cardio and strength training. I will begin to reverse diet by adding 150 calories every 7-10 days. I am afraid I’ll gain significant weight if I don’t get my macros right. Do you recommend I stay at 1g Protein/bodyweight? Should I stay in the 20% deficit until I hit 20%BF? I’m at 27% now, weigh 121lbs, carry most weight in my lower half.
    Also, should I add any supplements? I only drink BCAA in the AM with my workout.
    Thanks Mike!

  • Christina

    Hi Mike I’m Christina and I am so frustrated.
    I have been following an 8 week program and counting macros/weighing all of my food nearly perfectly (-/+ 5 grams of my current macros). I am putting in 110% effort at the gym and could feel myself getting stronger since I can lift heavier, but the changes to my body are still missing. I lift 5 days a week with cardio for 25 to 30 mins 4 days a week consisting of sprints, stairmaster, or bike. I used your calculator to figure out these macros however they are different from what my online coach has given me. I have expressed my concern that after 6 weeks of lifting/adjusting macros the changes I am desiring and should be seeing are just not there.

    Weight= 147
    TDEE= 1988
    Calorie goal= 1491
    Protein=177g (708 cals)
    Fat= 30g (270 cals)
    Carbs=128g (512 cals)

    compared to my current macros I was instructed of
    Calorie goal=1487
    Protein=130g
    Carbs=145g
    Fat=30g

    I have been reading a ton of your articles trying to gain some insight on my problem, I am so tired of giving it my all and not seeing any noticeable changes. Any links to articles you can give me or advice would be sooooooo appreciated thanks!

    • Andrea

      Christina, just gotta say I’m as frustrated as you. I feel stronger with the workouts my online coach is giving me, but she has me at low carbs, and I don’t want to do low carb, honestly. I’m now doing 1650 calories on weight days, 186 grams of carbs/118 protein/47 fat. On cardio days only (HIIT) I do 1450 calories: 138g carb/118 protein/47g. fat. So kind of similar to you, but not exactly. but I see no changes as well. Especially in my midsection. My weight is 118 pounds. Even when they had me at 1200 calories, I was not losing an inch/nothing. And when I quit that low cal. diet, my weight went right back to 118, I got down to 116, but I didn’t feel right being that low. What link are we missing in getting to our goals. hopefully someone chimes in.

      • Christina

        You understand how frustrating it is then! I’m 5’7 and the 147 on the scale is not necessarily what I’m looking for to go down rather I’m looking to lose inches which you also said you are too. We can’t spot reduce but with giving full effort and proper diet along with coaching I just feel as though we should be seeing changes. My coach told me that it will be harder to notice changes where I’m lean when I expressed my concern with seeing no progress. Hopefully both you and I can be pointed in the right direction by Mike with advice or articles and hopefully start seeing the results we want! Good luck!!

        • With a suitable deficit and workout regimen and compliance, results are just a matter of time, but plateaus must be addressed with appropriate changes.

      • Andrea, if you could provide me the following data:
        1. body weight
        2. body fat %
        3. activity level (types and hours per week)
        I can help troubleshoot and give you a good starting point.

        In the meantime, take a look here and let me know what you think:
        http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

        • Andrea

          Thanks Roger! Nice having you on board. I weigh 118 pounds, 22-24%bf and I do full body 1hour workout with some cardio/1 minute circuits thrown in 3 times a week. Those days I also do 28 minute HIIT/with youtube videos. Then I walk 3 days a week for 45-60 minutes. Any help would be appreciated!

          • Based on the data provided, here is what I recommend:
            TDEE: 1625 (maintenance calories)
            Cut: 1300kcal/day
            Protein: 141g
            Carbs: 119g
            Fat: 29g

            I don’t know what your full body workout looks like, but take a look at this:
            http://www.muscleforlife.com/full-body-workout/

          • Andrea

            and the macros are for “cutting” right?? And is it better to stay on that every day or do higher calories on workout days/lower on non workout days/? When I go back to maintenance, how do you do it?? ANd would the ratios stay the same? How can you get enough protein with that low of fat?? Cuz eggs/meat/etc have fat. Thanks

          • Correct. Those are cutting macros for the entire week. I find it simpler and easier to manage than calorie cycling. The total weekly calories is the same whether or not you cycle.

            When going back to maintenance, follow these steps:
            1. calculate your new TDEE
            2. reverse diet:
            http://www.muscleforlife.com/reverse-diet/
            3. stay at TDEE for a week or two for weight and metabolism to stabilize.
            4. maintain, cut again, or go into your bulk.

            Sure can! Smart, lean choices. Definitely doable. Greek yogurt and cottage cheese have 0 fat options, chicken breast is plenty lean, and there are cuts of red meat that have very very little fat on them. A protein supplement also helps.

          • Andrea

            And can you mention some of the “cheaper” yet super lean cuts of red meat?? Thanks. How long should I have to stay at a deficit, do you think, to get where I want? And how can i get my TDEE higher without having to do more exercise, as time is limited and I do plenty?? but I love to eat so I would hope I can raise my maintenance TDEE higher than 1630

          • Totes. Protein can really put a dent in your wallet, so I look to see what’s the weekly special going on on my favorite supermarket(s). Selection varies, but I prefer for beef: (lean) chuck, sirloin, eye round roast and I trim the fat. For pork: tenderloin, (lean) chops, shoulder (leanest I can find).

            How long in a deficit depends on the goal, and varies person to person. Once you hit BMR and aren’t seeing change, then it’s time to go back up to TDEE.

            I hear ya. I love to eat too. Pack on muscle and increase activity. No other way unless you want to put on excess fat, unfortunately 🙁

          • Andrea

            And just wondering, with these lovely lovehandles, how many weeks do you think I”ll have to cut? And is HIIT 3 times a week sufficient, with 3 others days of 60 minute walks? Do you think my BF is 22-24%

          • It’ll take as long as it needs to take at what looks closer to 24%. HIIT 3x a week is great, and I strongly recommend that you implement a weight training routine so you can get results faster.

            http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-ultimate-fitness-plan-for-women/

            Here are some articles to further boost the fat loss!
            https://legionathletics.com/fasted-cardio/
            http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-truth-about-stubborn-fat-and-how-to-get-rid-of-it/

          • Andrea

            of those articles, which I have read many times, what supplements/things do you think would mostly help me as I don’t want to do them all?? and I’m doing a 3 times a week full body and adding in extra walking and cutting, at 1300 calories like you told me.

          • Andrea

            and eating protein at 1.2 grams for bodyweight, do you think you put yourself at risk for gout/and or kidney problems?

    • Hey Christina,
      How frustrating that must be! First, if you’re under 30% body fat, let’s up your protein:
      P: 176g
      C: 116g
      F: 33g
      If you’re lifting heavy as per TLS protocol and doing HIIT, you should be seeing changes happening. If not, then take a look here:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/not-losing-weight/

      • Christina

        I calculated the total calories that would be with those macros and it would be 1465, that’s below my calculated BMR. I was just wondering if that’s okay to do?

        • Apologies, Christina. Typo! I’ve corrected the number. At 25% deficit, this puts you at 1491kcal/day. It’s okay to cut here, but no lower and not for extended period of time.

          What did you think about the article? Assuming all your intake is accounted for, and you’ve been cutting for a long time prior to the 6 weeks of cutting at BMR, I’d reverse diet.

  • Andrea

    I had a real person trainer here, and he put me on a starvation diet. like 900 calories, and he scammed me out of lots of money. I don’t know if my issue is stress/ lack of sleep (Insomnia) but Mike says that doesn’t really affect as much. But my only thought is that I’m underestimating what I eat. Like you, I don’t care if I lose any weight. I”m 5’3 118 pounds, but just have some spare tire issues going on. HOpefully we see some changes soon.

    • That’s awful! Sorry you had to go through that. Sleep is pretty dang important! Don’t discount it.

      Underestimating intake is a very common issue and one of the first things to address. At the end of the day, it’s all about energy balance.

  • TinaMusicFairy

    Hello Mike, I am totally confused about what should I do, I’m a skinny fat person but I was never overweight I was underweight all my life I could eat all the junk food I want and only gain half a kilo of bloating (I always suffer from bloating) and my main problem is that I can’t fit more food in my stomach so I’m forced to eat very little, currently I’m eating only enough that sports my lifestyle which is sleeping up to 12 hours a day sitting infront of the computer for the rest and doing excercise 3 times a week (doing pilates) and some light Cardio but doing a shift to HIIT now, the strange thing though is that I’m gaining muscle from that workout even though with that little eating, the way my body look now is much better than it used to be, also I sometimes skip breakfast too and the reason I sleep 12 hours is that I feel too tired to wake up. I know I must increase my calorie intake but I can’t fit more food than I’m already eating. I don’t know if I should eat fat or not, I know to build muscle I need all the macros but I’m currious why doesnt my body use the fat that’s already stored in it instead of eating new fat?

    Thank you in advance Mike and I’m sorry for writting such a long comment.

  • Hayden

    Hello, I’m 156, 59, and have a bf% around 13. I wanna go down to 10% so I can bulk up but was wondering the best way to cut down to 10%

    • Hayden

      5’9 I mean

      • Hayden, what you have to do is lift heavy, do HIIT, and eat at a deficit.

        • Hayden

          Thank you for clearing that up I was confused, how long do u think it would take to cut down considering I do all the steps

  • Farhan jalil

    WOW! That’s way too much information for me to solve my skinny fat problem.I’m not against exercise or dieting but why work hard when you can work smart. Besides it’s easier to read here on how to reduce fats but a common man like me has trouble sustaining regular exercise and diet plans in routine life. Therefore I went for the third alternative to lose stubborn fat. After receiving some positive reviews, i ordered Blue Fat Freeze System (https://fatfreezekit.com).It’s a wrap that you put over the fatty part of the body which freezes the fat under the skin. Many 1 hour sessions are required for desired results but the sessions are carried out while resting. I did mine while working on the computer. After using it for 2 months, i reduced my waist by 3 inches! How cool is that!

  • Deiby

    I’m 17 had belly fat over the years i look toned every where azcept my belly my arm decent size 14″ I’m 5’6 so pecs are good enough but I still only see those two abs right under my pecs the rest is still covered with belly fat help?

  • Kelly

    I’m trying to figure out where to focus my energy! How do you find out your bf percentage? I’m a 5″4 woman, 154 pounds, who has lost 10 of the 20 pounds I gained by re-introducing swimming and running (both of which I love) into my life and trying to be more conscious of how I’m feeding my body. I’m now trying to learn to incorporate strength training with weights. I seem to have plateaued recently and am trying to figure out if I need to focus on building muscle or cutting fat.

  • Andrea

    I’ve showed pics before but I hope I have made gains. but I tried calipers and they put me at 31%. I don’t know if I”m doing it wrong, but where would you say I”m at now?

  • Leah

    Hi,

    Thank you for the great articles! I have a question. I have been cutting for the past month, (20% deficit = 1235 cals) eating clean and sticking well to my macros and doing HIIT cardio 3x a week, weight lifting 2x week. I have lost about 7-8 pounds during this time and brought my body fat to about 18-19%. However, my problem is that I barely have any muscle and I still have a little wobbly fat on my belly and butt. (when I started cutting i didnt have much muscle either) What would you advise me to do now? Should I keep cutting some more or should I start building muscle? And what should I do with my calories?

    • Leah

      Actually, I think my body fat is more like 20%..

      • YW! Glad you enjoy them. Nice job sticking to the cut. Cals look a bit low, though I don’t know your stats. You can double check your numbers here:

        https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

        I strongly recommend that you increase weight training to at least 3x a week. Ideally 4, even 5x a week:

        http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-ultimate-fitness-plan-for-women/

        Continue cutting, and increase your weight training frequency following the routine above.

        • Leah

          Thank you for your reply! I read both articles. A few more questions, tho:
          1. I thought I won’t be able to gain any muscle while I cut? So won’t I still look skinny fat in the end? (like I do already)
          2. If I do more weight lifting, should I do less cardio or stick to 3 x HIIT?
          3. In the fitness plan for women, it advises to do 3 x 10-12 reps for some exercises, but in another article you talked about doing less reps, more volume. So which should I do?

          About my stats: I am 5’4, 109 lbs and 24 years old.

          • NP!
            1. You can still gain muscle while on a cut if you’re new to this style of training.
            2. Fat loss is the goal, so you want more activity, not less. Keep the 3 HIIT sessions.
            3. Less reps but same volume for experienced female lifters who can handle the 4-6 rep intensity and do so with solid form.

          • Leah

            Thank you once again! I love it how you reply to all the questions, this is SO helpful.
            So I started doing 3 x HIIT and 3 x weights per week, are my calories ok at 1235? (I have to admit I’ve been feeling very weak on this deficit)
            Sorry, I can never figure out how exactly to use your activity multiplier :/

          • YW! Glad I could help.

            With 3 HIIT (approx 25min each) and 3 weight sessions, try a 1.25-1.3x multiplier. Ultimately, you’ll have to adjust based on results, as this is an approximation of your calories.

  • Lea

    Hey, Mike! I just finished reading your book Thinner, Leaner, Stronger. Love it! I have been working out for years, but not making muscle growth as I would like. I am so excited to start this program. Quick question. I am 5’2 110lbs, around 23-24% body fat. I have excess fat I need to lose, but I am exclusively breastfeeding and am supposed to add 500 calories to my diet to produce milk. How would I calculate my macros for that?

    • Hey Lea, when calculating your macros, take breast-feeding into consideration and add those calories into your final number. Based on your daily weight trend, and weekly body fat and waist measurements, adjust your intake and activity accordingly. Hope that helps!

      • Lea

        Thank you so much for responding! I can’t wait to finally start seeing some real results!

  • Sarah Thompson

    Blue Fat Freeze Kit is your answer if you’re looking for an easy and quick solution. It’s precisely made for skinny fat people. After using it, i managed to reduce 2 inches around my waist in 2 months. The second option is to take on a diet plan but that method is very slow and you will have to be very patient with it. I chose fat freezing method because i needed a lean body quick for a special event.

  • Melissa

    This article was exactly what I was looking for! I’m still unsure of how much I should be eating, though. I am 123 pounds at 5’6. I have 25% body fat I would like to decrease but I’m worried about my body weight dripping too low. I’m currently consuming 1400 calories (which puts me at a slight cut according to your calculator) and weightlifting every other day. Should I be eating more? Less? Thank you!

  • Natalia

    Thanks for the great article!! I still don’t know if I’m doing it right though. I’m 5’10, 18, f, with 17% body fat. I try to have a small calorie defecit in my diet because although my percentage is fairly low already, I find that the only fat I have is on my stomach/hips. I do 2 30min cardio sessions and 3 heavy weight training sessions a week. I try to also eat enough in a day so that I am able to build muscle. I eat a shit load of protein but recently have been very sick so my workouts have been interrupted. It’s hard to build muscle with my lean long body type but I find I cannot lose that pesky stomach fat!!! Could it just have been the inconsistency from my illness? Would appreciate some help greatly :))

    • Natalia

      Would also like to mention I am using fairly low weights (heavy for me) with low reps (3x 10-12) because that’s all the weight my body can handle after illness. Do I just need to continue increasing the weight and then I will lose the stomach fat? 🙂

      • Absolutely, keep adding weight if you are able to hit 12 reps. That will increase your exercise intensity.

        • Natalia

          Great, thanks so much for replying. Will definitely increase weight!

          • Awesome! When you’re fully recovered, start working heavier in the 8-10 rep range.

    • YW! What’s a fairly low deficit? That could be your problem. Try 20%, and/or increase your activity (ie. 4 days weights, 3-4x cardio/week). You can also check this out:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/the-truth-about-stubborn-fat-and-how-to-get-rid-of-it/

      Hope that helps.

      • Natalia

        It is at 20% currently 🙂 but I haven’t been consistent due to on going illness (will be consistent now though!) I’ll definitely increase activity !! Thank you for replying 🙂

  • RealFury

    Hey mate im very young & im skinny fat & would like 2 know how i can gt rid of skinny fat & reveal my abs? Also im not looking 2 lift any weights as not taking risks of stunted growth from it..Pls can i have a method/diet or workout that can help take my skinny fat away? Btw my bf% is around 11/12% but my abs show only when i tense

  • RealFury

    Thanks 4 reply mate, im skinny fat & i dont want to stay that way, im 16, 62kg, i really want to put on weight fast so i can get 6 pack abs showing without tensing..! What advice can u give 2 help me? Eg What workouts to do, wht 2 eat?.. Btw have u got Twitter so i can contact u?

  • Tim

    Hi Mike,
    Thanks for the great article, the best from far in the bunch of articles I read on websites.
    I am a skinny fat, mainly visible on pectorals and stomach, but still quite ok (1.86 meters for 80 kilos). For a long time I used to do running 3 times a week for long distances (1 to 2 hours running), which I thought was good for skinny fat people, but which I learnt wasn’t thanks to you…
    I started recently working out (3 weeks ago) 3 times a week and reduced my cardio exercices. I’m also taking weight gainer to compensate all the sport I do (I also play volleyball, badminton, an do bycicle).
    Could you give me an advice on the numbers of series and repetitions I should do when working out? You say in your article it should be short series of heavy weight, but how short? I am currently doing 10 series of 10 repetitions for all the machines I use, except abs (1 serie of 100 repetitions to try and remove the fat located here). Does it seem correct to you?

    Thanks again for your nice blog, keep it up!

  • Dhruv

    Hey mark…my name is DHRUV and I’m 16 years old..I am 5 feet 7 inch and my weight is 60 kg….I want to get ripped abs in a month…because I have a challenge with my friend…I’m skinny fat…I do cardio(skipping-1500 reps) 6 times a week…I do lift weights 5 times a week and I do abs workout everyday and pretty intense…please help me with my diet and workout so I can get abs in a month

  • Mister Soni

    I am a 39 year old female. I am 5’5 and weigh about 115lbs. I have always been very skinny. I started dancing ballet 3 times a week (classical russian method) but putting on muscle mass seems to be a problem for me. The only time I had muscle mass is when I danced ballet as a youngster. However, I looked like a skeleton. I am thinking about adding pilates to my routine…would that do? I am also trying to eat more. I have never dieted in my life, but I seem to not eat as much as I should. I am latin so I very much enjoy my rice and beans, bread, and potatoes. Any tips? Is weight lifting the way to go for my body type? Or would pilates be enough?

    • It doesn’t matter what body type you are. To build muscle, you’ll have to incorporate resistance training. That’s great if you want to do pilates, but if you want to build muscle, you have to lift weights. Since building muscle is your goal, you do have to eat more calories too:

      http://www.muscleforlife.com/bulking-up/

  • hector

    Hey Mike, I’m a big follower of your books and your trainning methods and I focused myself in losing fat before starting bulking. went down from 30% to 11% ( according to caliper).

    Currently I weight 68.5 Kgs / 1.82 m tall and I use the calliper that you suggest in a Youtube video and it reads that I am something around 11% BF. which is very good.

    I also have this nice gadget to measuring BF “SKULPT” ( https://www.skulpt.me) which claims to be +-1% accurate. The way it works is that it require you to measure 3 body parts and they read something like this for my body:

    Triceps : 11.6 % BF
    ABS: 11% BF
    Quads: 15.1 % BF ( seems to carry more fat here).

    TOTAL BF: 14.8 %

    So my question is ? should I keep pushing my body to lose fat until this equipment ( skulpt) measure 10% before starting my bulking process or should I measure only by caliper and start my bulking journey when reaching 10%

    Thank for the advice!

    Hector.

  • Victor

    I’m a 150 pounds and I’m still having this problem I’m eating a lot of protein I eat a little bit carbs and drink 3 protein a day and work out good wtf am I doing wrong been at it for 2 years nothing

  • Halt

    Hello
    Firstly Thank you for this useful text.
    I am skinny fat and Unfortunality My English is not Very Good and I didn’t understand this text. Can you write me briefly what should I do?

  • Anna

    Hi! Are crunches and squats any good for losing weight and building muscle? Combined with heavy weightlifting.
    Also I’ve been training for some time and noticed my stomach got a little bit bigger. Is that normal? I’m afraid it will stay like that.

  • Adil

    Hey Mike,

    I think I have this “skinny-fat” problem and I’ve been working out for a couple of weeks now and still haven’t seen any changes. I’ve been taking L-Carnitine and I’m not taking Creatine, could that be one of the problems? Also I am doing 15 to 20 minutes cardio everyday before working out. I think I should stop doing that. What can I do to bulk up faster?

    • Hey Adil, I suggest you cut down to 10% first before bulking. This is ideal for several reasons: it preserves insulin sensitivity and hormonal balance, it allows you to maintain a calorie surplus for many months before having to reduce body fat levels, and it saves you from long, grueling cuts.

      Set your cutting targets here, and if you’re not seeing any fat loss, increase your HIIT cardio and/or reduce your calories:

      https://legionathletics.com/diet-meal-plans/

      https://legionathletics.com/how-to-calculate-body-fat/

      Lastly, do your cardio after weights.

  • Johnny

    Hi Mike, I’m at 17% body fat and extremely skinny fat. I want to look lean and toned but not too big. I have a program made for me at the gym and it consists of 5 days working out and after lifting weights, 4 cardio sessions a week for half an hour to 40 minutes and I try to keep my heart rate at 130 for that period of time. Do you think this is good?

    Also, I want to know what my if my diet is good for losing that weight and gaining muscle? I’ll usually have a breakfast consisting of oats, apple, raspberries, lettuce and a scoop of whey (usually in smoothie form), a tuna salad with 3 boiled eggs (2 of them just egg whites), and whole grain brown pasta, pre workout would be a slice of wholegrain bread and peanut butter, post workout would be a banana and whey protein shake and dinner would consist of a chicken breast, brown rice, broccoli and salad with a a tablespoon of cottage cheese.

    I’m trying to get my body fat percentage to 10% while gaining muscle at the same time. A friend of mine is convinced it is impossible. With this diet and that routine, do you think I am going about it right or wrong? Too much to eat or too little?

    Thanks!

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  • Idelfonso Arrieta

    Hi.Dropped 4 lbs in one week. Playing basketball on mondays, working out tuesdays, wednesdays, fridays and saturdays. Soccer on thursdays. Yesterday felt heart palpitations..I was drinking plenty of water. Now at 154 lbs, 5’8″. Any word of advice?

  • Angela Torre McConnell

    H iMIke, I have always been skinny. I weighed 92 in High School, and I am 54 years old, and I weigh 96 pounds. But I feel like I have skinny fat. I have been doing a Bar Method type class for 6 years (5 or more times a week) and I have a strong core (no fat there) and strong arms, but my lower body is just skinny fat. How do I build muscle in my legs and overall, safely? I want to age gracefully and gain strength. I don’t think I eat enough protein for sure.

  • Nick

    Hi Mike, I am 22 years old and 5 feet 7 and have the skinny fat problem (mainly fats around the belly). In the article, you mentioned that to overcome the problem is to lift weights (build muscles) and lose fat and doing HIIT cardio. So my question is:

    1. Should i expect my weight on the scale to increase or decrease since it’s building muscles and losing fat at the same time?

    2. For calorie deficit, how much of a calorie deficit should I target in workout days and non-workout days to achieve this goal?
    – As I have heard that very high calorie deficit is unhealthy which causes you to lose muscles as well.

    3. Is it okay if I spend 10 mins of cardio as warm up before weight training and followed by 10 minutes of cardio?

    4. To achieve this, should I eat more protein or carbs?

    5. Do you mean to do HIIT cardio with weight training on same session of separately?

    Please advice.
    Thanks

  • Megan Lee

    Hello Mike,
    I purchased the forge supplement to burn stubborn fat mentioned in one of your other post. This is about fast training but is not really mentioned in this post. My questions are could fast training make it worse to lose belly fat for skinny fat type bodies (while using forge)? Would it be better to focus on body recomposition first?

    • Hey Megan,

      Awesome you picked up Forge for fasted training. It doesn’t matter if you’re skinny fat or not. Training fasted with Forge will help you lose that stubborn fat faster. Focus on fat loss. You will still be building muscle during this time.

      • Megan Lee

        Thanks for the reply back! I have more questions… Can eating processed foods prevent or effect belly fat loss while on a deficit? Is it better to avoid processed foods and eat clean to get results?

        • No problem! Eating clean just happens to be the most nutritious and generally lower calorie. You can lose weight eating Twinkies (seriously) since it’s all about the calorie deficit, but you’d be really unhealthy.

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