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Solutions for the Skinny Fat Ectomorph Part IV – Nutrition, Intermittent Fasting, Carb Cycling, and Hormones

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For a long time, people ate six meals per day and the enjoyed every second of doing so. Lunking around Tupperware containers was a badge of honor, symbolizing a dedication to health. Then came intermittent fasting. Tupperware?Obsessive eating habits? So not cool.

When I first got into the game I devoutly counted every calorie I ate. It’s an obsessive lifestyle that I don’t wish upon anyone. But the past is important. The only reason I am nutritionally sound now is because I slaved over every calorie years ago. And overall, I think everyone that is locked in on their body composition has, at some point, gone through the same obsessive-calorie-counting-food-weighing phase.

So instead of blabbling that I don’t count calories or weigh food, the truth is that I used to, and it contributed to who I am. I know eggs have 70 – 90 kcalories and 1/4 cup of oatmeal is 150 kcalories. And if you’re ignorant of these nuances, maybe you need more obsession. It’s the four stages of learning, and you can’t jump from conscious incompetence to unconscious competence.

No, because after years of doing it slavishly and trying all sorts of eating styles, I’ve got a really, really good idea of how my body reacts to foods.  I’m really tuned into what’s going on so I don’t need to do that anymore.  But I couldn’t have gotten this way without keeping records and doing the experiments.

-          Jon Call (Jujimufu) in response to weighing food

The clean bulk

A few years ago, the consensus was that the clean bulk—gaining muscle without fat—was impossible. But since, the consensus changed. An idea still proliferates, however, that pancakes, maple syrup, and total disregard for body composition are keys to solid mass gain. But muscle creation isn’t expedited by an over ingestion of nutrients. If eating 3000 kcalories builds muscle, 6000 kcalories isn’t going to build twice as much muscle.

There’s an old adage about muscle growth being akin to laying bricks. Assuming a fixed number of workers, more bricks yield more building to a point. Once the workers have enough bricks to keep busy all day, sending more won’t lead to more output. So if we can only build ten pounds of muscle per year (plus or minus five to ten pounds for beginning and advanced trainees), trying to jam all ten pounds into a three month “bulk” window is silly. Even worse, fat cells (usually created during a “bulk”) are permanent. They shrink, but never really “dissolve.”

One reason for the popularity of the clean bulk comes from Martin Berkhan of Leangains.com, who regularly posts client updates showcasing the ability to get big and strong without getting fat and ugly. Martin is a pioneer of intermittent fasting, which refutes the superiority of a higher meal frequency. As I mentioned in Solutions for the Skinny Fat Ectomorph Part II, I’ve settled into intermittent fasting and carb cycling (a bastardization of Leangains) and it’s the basis of the strategy explained below, even though I’ve seen gains with both frequent and infrequent feedings.

Personally, I think most fitness professionals cling to the intermittent fasting boat out of necessity. Planning and pre-cooking six meals every day, seven days of the week becomes mentally taxing. The encouraging aspect of intermittent fasting and carbohydrate cycling, however, is that it better manipulates hormones. Hormones control both building muscle and losing fat. The specifics are complex, but the premise is simple: build muscle when you’re best suited for muscle growth and combat fat accumulation with you’re not suited for muscle growth.

The ins and outs

Partitioning describes how well the body handles excess calories. The guys mentioned in Solutions for the Skinny Fat Ectomorph Part I are good partitioners. Good partitioners have a hard time gaining fat, and gaining muscle is all about sacking up and eating.

For a skinny fat ectomorph, sacking up and eating leads to sacking up around the waist. We are on the low end of the partitioning totem pole for two reasons. First, genetics and hormones. Second, we have a judgmental eye when it comes to self body composition evaluation. We obsess over the slightest subjective imperfections, as mentioned in Part I. This can negatively affect hormone levels. How well partitioning goes depends — in general — on how hormones are working.

Carbohydrate cycling manipulates insulin — a storage hormone usually released in response to eating carbohydrates. A generalization is that when insulin levels are high, the body is prone to “build” and “store” things. So when insulin spikes, fat intake should be low to avoid its storage.

Again, that’s a generalization. Carbohydrate cycling can get complex, turning people away from its use. But by sticking to a few basic rules, it’s not complicating. The jist is this: more carbs, less fats, and enough protein on training days; less carbs, more fats, and more protein on rest days. And to get a little more specific:

Training Days

  • High protein intake
  • Mid-High carbohydrate intake
  • Trace fat intake
  • At least one gram of protein per pound of body weight
  • Leaner cuts of meat
  • Carbohydrate intake around one to three grams per pound of body weight

Off Days

  • High(er) protein intake
  • Mid-High fat intake
  • Trace carbohydrate intake
  • Carbohydrate intake comes from cruciferous vegetables
  • Fattier cuts of meat allowed
  • One to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight
  • Less than 100 grams of carbohydrates

For the specifics, and how to structure the intermittent fasting philosophy around your training schedule and daily life, check out the Leangains Guide. There’s no need to plagiarise Martin’s fantastic body of work. Below, however, is my personal adaptation and overall structure on how I use intermittent fasting.

Wave your way to gains

Building muscle is a long term process. You don’t suddenly add one pound of muscle to your frame after eating turkey legs, corralling wenches, and downing some mead. It’s not an “either-or” process. You’re not “either” building muscle “or” losing fat.

The goal of bulking is to linearly gain weight and then linearly lose the fat that accompanied the journey. The rationale is that during the “bulking” period you’re optimizing the ability to gain muscle. And truly, you are. You’re in a caloric surplus and you’re telling the body it will be fed plentifully. But the body isn’t a linear creature.

When gaining muscle while minimizing fat, there are no straight lines or steep climbs. Instead, there are small waves that gradually increase in gradient over time. So every day is an experiment. Every day can vary. Everyday you can signal your body to do different things. You can bulk one day and cut the next. It works like this: If you wake up feeling super lean and ripped, eat more. If you wake up feeling puffy for a few consecutive days, eat less. Daily caloric intake depends on how you feel. Consider this nutrient autoregulation.

A generally accepted caloric increase for building muscle is 500 kcalories above maintenance. Now, “maintenance” level will vary as not one equation can predict everyone’s metabolic rate. But a gross formula is multiplying your body weight by anything from thirteen to sixteen. Here’s an example:

Body Weight = 200 pounds, 90.7 kilos

x 13

Maintenance Intake =  2600 kcalories

Note: I’m guessing this equation assumes a relatively lean body fat. When comparing two people of the same weight, the person with more muscle and less fat will have a higher metabolic need. This little nugget is precisely why relying on calculators is difficult and why I prefer coming to a “maintenance” level by eating a set amount of food for a week or two and seeing how the body reacts. I’d set a baseline with thirteen first and move up from there.

Instead of sticking the maintenance level day in and day out, the idea is to fluctuate the intake depending on both training status and subjective feel. Think of it as daily, yet controlled, mini bulking and cutting cycles.

If you’re already at a comfortable body fat level…

  • Eat an extra 500 kcalories on your training days. If, after one week, you are still lean and mean, slowly add more kcalories on your training days.
  • Keep your rest day calorie level constant. But if you ever feel puffier over a four or five day span, keep your training day calories to 500 above maintenance (at most), and drop your rest day intake to 500 kcalories below maintenance.
  • If this doesn’t get you leaner in a few days, drop your training day calories to maintenance and keep the 500 deficit on rest days. But always try lowering the rest day 500 kcalories before lowering training day kcalories.
  • Training frequency can vary, but have no more than three to four “heavy” sessions for high carbohydrate feedings. In general, you want to save these for the lifts and body parts that are lagging to ensure they will be fed accordingly. So if you want bigger shoulders, follow an intensive pressing session with a high carbohydrate day.
  • Just because you train doesn’t mean you need to carb you face off. Just understand the training days that occur outside of the three or four high carbohydrate days will be best suited for strength development, not size.

 If you’re leaning out…

  • Keep the 500 kcalorie deficit on rest days.
  • Stay at maintenance on training days.
  • If you’re struggling to lose one pound per week, then — and only then — drop your training day calories down 500. Never further.
  • Keep two to three heavy training sessions per week and use these days as your high carbohydrate days. (Similar to the strategy mentioned above.)

The more precise version of the above advice…

  • Body weight x 13-16 = maintenance.
  • On training days, intake maintenance x 1.1 or 1.2.
  • Rest days, if feeling puffy, go for maintenance x 0.8 or 0.9.

A note on food types:

There are a lot of philosophies that dismisses gluten, dairy, and other foods. These kind of debates are outside of the scope of this article. My advice: experiment. Some people feel awesome after eliminating gluten. Some notice no difference. I’m a fan of the old school bodybuilding staples. Meats. Fish. Eggs. Vegetables. Fruits. Potatoes. Oats. Rice. Beans. Nuts. Dairy (if tolerable).

Carbohydrates peri-workout

The age of superultratectonicperi-workout nutrition is over. You don’t need to gorge on liquid sugar pre-workout to refuel your glycogen (it’s filled long before the immediate pre-workout hours). Likewise, you don’t need a Super Mass Gainer Pro Z X Grade post-workout shake.

Following Leangains, I’m a fan of working out in a fasted state after the ingestion of BCAAs. (Although for a few months now I haven’t used them and I’ve yet to notice much.) Post workout, no shakes are required. Just a wholesome carbohydrate dense meal. Precision Nutrition, another damn good nutrition resource, also recommends secluding most carbs to the post-workout window (especially when trying to lose fat).

 Hormones and fasting

Warning: If you don’t have a solid grasp on the above nutritional concepts, below will only confuse you. But discussing this is in the best interest of everyone reading, and I feel it will be popping up in the future. Just another issue to think and tinker with. For the most part, however, the following section is broscience. Proceed with caution.

Fasting can boost growth hormone and may do the same with testosterone. When both of these hormones are churning, lipolysis (breakdown of fat) is primarily rocking to fuel the body. The moment insulin surges, however, both testosterone and growth hormone levels fall. Theoretically, ingesting a monsoon of carbohydrates post-workout kills the workout enduced surge of growth hormone and testosterone . So there’s compelling evidence for saving the carbohydrates until hours after the workout. After all, feasting later in the day may be better for fat loss. And about the immediate post-workout refuel — there might not be a need. Have you ever noticed that, after a workout — for the most part – you’re not overly hungry?

The problem with making this an absolute is that there are many factors to consider. By carbohydrate cycling and fasting, you’re already benefiting from elevated growth hormone and testosterone levels through out the day. And because you’re limiting carbohydrate intake on rest days, your body might better utilize post-workout carbohydrates.

So if you don’t carb cycle or fast, avoiding carbohydrates in an eight hour window (-+ 4 hours before and after workout) may be your only shot to bask in elevated growth hormone and testosterone levels. In this case, a good post-workout meal would be eggs and meats with trace carbohydrates from vegetables or something similar.

Odds and ends

There are a lot of nutrition programs and protocols out there. Truthfully, most of them probably work to certain degrees. For the skinny fat ectomorph looking to lose weight with no regard for retaining muscle mass, detailed nutrition isn’t necessary. It’s more about reducing overall caloric intake and jacking physical activity through the roof. Understand, however, that this method tends to take  muscle mass with it (as it does for most people without the use of steroids). But if that’s the goal, that’s the goal. Skinny fat ectomorphs don’t have good muscle retention genes when nutrient deprived. It’s a tradeoff you have to be willing to take.

The better way to go about both losing fat and gaining muscle is the long term training approach mixed with mini periods of bulking and cutting – otherwise known as nutrient autoregulation – by fluctuating hormones through dietary manipulation that concide with your training days.

I need your help

Skinny fat brethren, I need your help. This article is all over the place. I know there are loose ends that remain loose. But after working on this article for over twelve hours, I simply don’t have “it” in me anymore. Whether it be in the comments, Facebook, Twitter, or whatever else, I need your feedback. Tell me what I’m missing and what needs more detail.

To give you an idea of what’s to come, specific topics like GOMAD and other popular principles are in the wing. If you have any others, request them. Also, I plan on writing a post about my specific nutritional strategy (eating only twice per day) and a “storytellers” version of the information above (I’m going to tell a story of a guy or gal using these principles so you can see what a typical day would look like). Lastly, I’m thinking of giving away one or two free coaching spots for my readers. So show your face and give me some feedback. I’d appreciate it.

 

 

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 Other articles in the series:

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Accompanying resource: The Skinny-Fat Solution

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158 comments… add one

  • Anthony, I cannot begin to describe how much I love your articles. I have been an avid follower of the leangains approach, and have benefited a lot from it. However, there are still some aspects that aren’t very well explained. For instance, how fasting affects training volume and (non-exercise) physical activity that occurs during the fasting window, and what sort of measures (if any) does one need to take in order to avoid excessive CNS burnout on this approach, that’ll be awesome!

    Reply
    • I’ll see what I can do. By training volume, what exactly do you mean?

      Reply
      • Anthony, by training volume, I mean to ask what effect (if any) does fasting have on the training volume, as compared to training with the conventional 3-6 meals a day approach (assuming one is ingesting the same amount of calories). A lot of people seem to suggest cutting down on volume (while cutting, for example) if one is following the fasting diet. So, what are your thoughts on that?

        Reply
        • No, I don’t think you have to cut down the volume. I think it’s just moreso an artifact of Martin enjoying a lowe(er) volume training strategy, not necessarily because of any nutrient timing issues.

          Reply
  • It seems as if you’re advocating counting calories in the first part, which I have no trouble with, but I think a little detail here would be awesome for people. Let me explain first how I started counting calories.

    I started with a normal scale and counted grams of food and constantly checked what the calories of different foods everyday. I still do it to this day, but I noticed I’m not as anal and compulsive about food as I used to be. I ate more or less the same amount of foods, and even if I’m met with some food I am not too familiar with, I estimate the calories from just looking and weight; and that’s enough for me. I dare eat my mother’s cooking again despite the fact I can’t measure it. So yes, I do agree with the first section of the article. I estimate more and more on just weight and looks. For example, whereas before I would go nuts if I ate pizza at some random place but couldn’t find the calories, I would spend the better part of my afternoon finding some abstract estimate that was both reasonable and appealing.

    Anyway, that’s the story so far. And I can say from personal experience that some details about how easy calorie counting can be for some of the more anxious readers would do wonders. For example, everyone in my family thought I wasn’t living and was crazy for counting every single calorie. It was obsessive behavior, so fair enough. But what I would notice is that my family members would damn calorie counting as too obsessive but they would demonstrate that same fixation by trying to find shortcuts to their goals, usually through more radical and unstable methods. What I’m trying to get at here is that the calorie counting put off my family, and I feel that can be happen with some readers. If you could paint it as paying off in the long run and only a temporary throttle into success, they could appreciate it more. So if you could outline a way to introduce calorie counting into someone’s life as smoothly as possible, then that would be fantastic. It could be something like:
    Weeks One and Two
    Begin introducing and experimenting with meats, vegetables, etc. and see what you like and don’t. There’s no need to be perfect from day one or even day ten. What matters is that some action is being taken and that action in turn will motivate you to take another one and another one. Even the smallest of actions can have a grand effect on your inspiration, and thus your motivation (“Do Something” Principle).
    Weeks Three and Four
    Begin to determine the caloric contents of the most common foods you eat. These are the foods you never go two weeks at the most without. It could be milk, chicken, etc. No tables are needed. You need only worry about staying within range of your caloric intake (I say range as there no need to abolish wiggle room entirely; this is about introducing calorie counting smoothly). You may use online resources to determine calories from just a scale. The most you will ever need is an electronic scale to estimate calories based on grams or ounces. This combined with the internet and nutritional labels will cover enough bases to ensure you’re on track. This phase can and most likely will take effect after two weeks. It’ll become less and less conscious as time goes on. You’ll be able to estimate weight just by looking and estimate calories in a pinch.

    You may be feel chained to calorie counting, but it doesn’t have to be a sentence. There’s a deeper purpose behind it. You’re learning what and how much you’re putting into your body. People more or less do this to some extent, but in a world of processed foods and an abundance of food as a whole, this sense naturally fades away. What you’re doing is regaining a sense for what you put into your body at an accelerated rate through the use of technology. Remember, you’re not using technology to count calories to learn just that. You’re doing it to eventually kick away the crutch and be able to eat anywhere at any time, without your fitness goals dragging your ass back to the homeland for fear of muscle loss. Remember during the process that this is only temporary. You’ll be free to reach your fitness goals without losing out on a little called life.

    So yes, something like that would be nice to the people who would take one look at the phrase “calorie counting” and go, “Arrgh.”

    Reply
    • Hah, awesome. Yeah, mine started out by measuring moreso than weighing. But you get the general idea of it. Counting calories sucks. Truly, it does. But like I said, you’ll be hardpressed to find anyone locked in on their body comp that had no regard for total caloric intake. This is a good post, and I hope people check it out. I may reference it in a future article.

      Reply
  • Perfect article.I would advocate cycling calories on weekly base rather on daily base.Or may be 3-4 day on calorie deficit and 2-3 days on calorie surplus.But I disagree with so much protein intake.Protein is not related so much to building muscles and it is not the general building block.50-60 grams of protein is well enough for a 170-180 pound guy.

    Reply
  • Anthony, thank you for another great article?
    I have a question to all people here – when and how much fruit do you eat?

    Reply
    • I don’t eat much fruit simply because I don’t have much around. I eat it occasionally and I have no bias against it. It’s good to have a few pieces on high carb days. I usually throw something in my oats if it will go well (banana, for instance).

      Reply
  • Hi Anthony,

    Nice article, we can see you did put your time into it. Maybe you could do an article about gluten, milk, etc… I don’t know if that was the kinda suggestions you meant, maybe you wanted more general diet related stuff. Anyways I ask, because I consider myself quite knowledgeable about nutrition. But, there is so much opinion on, say gluten for example, I have read it has cocaine like effects on the brain??, same for milk, they say heat denatures everything, or its pumped full of hormones and steroids, but surely digestion breaks all that down? Also, you say to have little fat post workout, Alan Aragon, in this article http://www.bodyrecomposition.com/muscle-gain/an-objective-comparison-of-chocolate-milk-and-surge-recovery.html showed that some fat increased protein synthesis, though it is only one study, so no major conclusion can really be drawn.

    Thanks,

    Jay

    Reply
    • Thanks for the response, Jay. Both gluten and dairy are tricky subjects. While purely anecdotal, I don’t eat much gluten. Dairy, I stick with cheeses. But I’ve noticed the only dairy I can get away with is cottage cheese (or goat’s dairy). Even regular cheese, and especially milk, causes excessive bloating. Gluten does the same.

      I think people are so used to farting, being bloated, and such that they pay no attention to it. I try to eat the foods specific to my body that do not cause it. But everyone is different in their tolerance.

      Reply
  • I work out in the evening, usually after 8 pm. It seems that most articles I’ve seen written on intermittent fasting or carb cycling assume you’ll be working out some time other than late evening, which leaves me a little bit lost as to how I should time things. I think maybe coming up with a couple scenarios or daily timetables could be a good idea. I think it would help me out. How specific you want to get with this is obviously up to you.

    Reply
    • If you train at 9PM, you can break the fast at 12-1 ish. Have a light meal. 3-5 have another light meal. And then post workout, have your biggest meal. If you’re doing this, I’d backload all of your carbs to directly post workout. Personally, I’d have one meal at 12PM — eggs, meats, veggies. And a second huge meal PWO. But that’s only because I’m used to eating two meals per day.

      Reply
  • Anthony,if you ingest 180 g of protein,only 30 % is used for building the body.The rest is used for energy.

    Reply
  • Who says you need 1.5 g per pound protein?Have you got any research?We are not arguing.We are just looking for the truth.In fact body doesn’t need protein,it needs amino acids.And it only needs 10 of them,the other are sinthesised by itself.

    Reply
  • Hi anthony, great job on this very detailed post. I find this article is already detailed enough and if there is anything to add on is maybe on the part of body composition and the solution to it and how to avoid growing it. Because skinny fat people usually have fat targeted at their love handles, and personally i have that problem as well and i find that merely by adjusting my calorie intake does little to fix that problem. So maybe that is an area where you can discuss. You might want to discuss the training, foods to avoid, hormone manipulation, supplementation,etc. I hope my feedback will help!

    Reply
  • What do you recommend for the fish oil/omega-3 intake on high carbs days?
    I usually take 8g of liquid fish oil daily on 15% body fat.

    Reply
  • I think one element of organization that might help you is categorizing things according to whether someone is a beginner, intermediate, advanced, or total couch potato who has yet to lift a weight. They’ve all got different needs, goals, and so on. As it is, you’re sorta talking to everyone who shares a certain metabolism, regardless of where they are on the overall ladder, which may mean talking over some folks’ heads, while others already know much of it, and just need the Pro Tips.

    Reply
    • Well, Bennett, this is difficult. And why I gave a beginner and advanced program earlier. Of course everyone is going to have different needs, which is why I hinted at different scenarios though out each article (for instance, losing fat vs. gaining muscle in this article). I dare say any more individual would have to come from a mentorship hah. But I get what you mean. I think I will consider a “bare basics” article. So how should someone with 0 experience get started.

      Reply
      • Yeah, it’s very difficult, for sure. I think (and I could be wrong) that the two core audiences for stuff on the internet are going to be the most advanced guys who need that edge, and folks who are just getting off the couch. A lot of the folks in the middle get shaken out along the way. Granted, the best advice for a total noob is ‘find the money for a good trainer’, but that’s really hard. Not only is money and time hard to come by these days, how is someone with no knowledge at all even going to know the diff between good training and bad? (Actually, that itself might be a worthwhile article–a lot of the meatheads at Gold’s Gym have no idea how to help an ectomorph, and give you something designed for Ronnie Coleman, only with a lot less on the bar)

        Reply
  • Anthony,
    Great article. I saw you outlined what you would do on a training day if training at 9pm, what would you do on your off day? Could you outline your off day routine philosophy?

    The basics I’m getting from you are to start eating 6-8 hours before you train where you will have either one good sized meal or two smaller meals with meats and veggies, then load up on carbs and lean protein post workout, then you fast until the next time you are 6-8 hours away from training. The only think I am missing is what you do on off days. Would it be this?

    Workout day-

    start eating 6-8 hours before training say at 9pm, either one medium or two small meals before training only protein and veggies. Then huge meal carb emphasis lean protein and few veggies post workout.

    Off day

    Follow similar plan, start eating at noon, but have 2-3 meals of veggies and protein only.

    Is this correct>?

    Reply
  • I’m doing LeanGains right now and loving it. I used to obsess over eating small, frequent meals because it’s been pushed for so long; but I seem to be getting better results with fasting. I work out at 6 a.m. before work, so I use the BCAA powder as suggested, and eat 1 huge meal around 1-2p and a smaller meal around 7-8. That’s it. My energy is higher, I’m less gassy, and it’s way convenient. I also enjoy how fascinated everyone at work gets while they watch my lunch hour feast.

    Reply
    • 6AM is a tough time to get the work in. Have you found it challenging? What time do you wake up?

      Reply
      • I’m used to it, man. Had to do it for years. I work an 8-5 job and act/direct in local theatre, which means I have rehearsal in the evening frequently. Pretty much, I have to workout first thing in the morning or very late at night–and the latter would be much worse since I’m a morning person anyhow. It was challenging at first, but now it’s just what I do. In fact, I feel like complete shit all day on the rare occasion I oversleep on a workout day–so this doesn’t happen much. I usually get up around 5:45-6, immediately pee and sip on water/BCAA powder, take the dog for a walk, and I’m at the gym around 6:15-20. It used to be harder until I got my sleep schedule under control. I’ve also discovered throwing ice cold water in my face immediately upon waking is a nice “pick me up.” It’s not for everyone, but I love the fact that I’m busting my balls while 90% of the world is still in bed. Makes me feel good!

        Reply
  • Have enjoyed your writing so far. I’m definitely of the group that feels the mirror image keenly and probably overestimates pudge but I’ve also got the genetic probability of compartment overflow and consequent visceral fat deposition so sometimes the paranoia seems warranted. Anyhow, since i’ve low-carbed and IF’d (and high-grained/low-fat, ad libitum everything, Paleo, etc. etc.) I’ve found the utility of these restrictive diets to be nil. The energy you get from switching from one extreme to the other seems to be a honeymoon period of adrenal activity which ends, usually a month to a year later, in shitty workouts and no progress in leaning out. In the debate on counting calories I just have to claim the agnostic position. I can, however, say that Ray Peat does have a point where the thyroid, parasympathetic nervous system, stress hormones and anti-stress foods are concerned. Drinking as much orange juice, milk and ice cream every day, ad libitum coconut oil/butter, in addition to a few eggs and maybe 100g of white fish, resulted in no weight gain, puffiness, etc with no extra exercise of any kind (probably less.) I think feeling better, with the thyroid system backing you up, is of immense importance to people who stress out about the food they eat and it’s impact on their waistines. I used to be a ‘earn your carbs’ and pound protein person (140-160g a day at 165lb bw) but I think it might actually be the other way around.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the reply Nandalal.

      We have to remember that everything in fitness and health is cyclical. And also that using the term “restrictive” is largely a subjective measure. What’s restrictive to some can be hugely enjoyable to others. And bouncing around from diet to diet isn’t something I advocate or enjoy.

      I don’t discount the importance of hormone regulation in weight control, which is why I brought it up so much in the above article. But I can tell you that, regardless of feeling, I wouldn’t the dietary pattern you posted. Different strokes for everyone. That’s why I mentioned that there are a lot of philosophies out there, and it’s important to find your own. One that WORKS and one that you personally feel ISN’T restrictive.

      Reply
  • There is no question that IF is working and is best for health in long therm.But what kind of food should we eat is more concerned.People always understand the food as protein/carbs/fat and are always looking for the best ratio.That is the main problem.It doesn’t metter if we are eating low carb,high carb,high fat,high protein.As long as we eat only natural and unprocessed food, protein/carbs/fat ratio is unusefull.We should divide the food on MICRONUTRIENTS and MACRONUTRIENTS and not on pro/carbs/fats.That is the nostrum.

    Reply
    • Quality of food is important, yes. But it isn’t everything. Again, I think you’re confusing the pursuit of health for the pursuit of vanity. Vanity isn’t healthy from any standpoint. There’s no practical application for having a six pack, just as there’s no practical application for owning a Ferrari. But people enjoy doing it, and that’s how the world continues to turn. And considering you somehow stumbled across my blog, some part of you falls into the useless vanity category, especially because you want to change your body composition. Sometimes its better to just accept this and play to it.

      Reply
  • Anthony, very well put.

    Reply
  • Dude, thank you. You honestly just like saved my life. I’ve been training hard for 2-3 years now and have seen very little progress. I’m a pure skinny-fat guy and it has to be the worst thing ever. Over the last couple days I stopped counting Cals, now I eat very clean, but I swear one cal over maintenance and I gain fat. It’s just extrely discouraging especially when you give your friends advice about fitness and the such and they make as much progress in a month as it taks you a year.

    But this series of skinny-fat articles literally just lighted a whole new fire under my ass and I can’t thank you enough. I finally understand what to do and what to realistically expect.

    Sir, you are thee man! =) thank you

    Reply
    • Rocky, my man, I really appreciate this comment. I’m glad it has helped you. If you ever need anything or have any questions, you know where to find me. You have put a smile on the rest of my day.

      Reply
  • What if one is on Dan John’s 40 day workout? Given that one works out every day, how should macros be approached?

    Reply
    • I think that program is “ideal” for people cutting weight. In which case, I would be on a low(er) calorie low(er) carb diet most days.

      Reply
  • Question on estimating bodyfat for skinny-fat ectomorphs who happen to be really tall. And older.

    Stats: 39, 6’4″, 217.4 lbs., 33.75″ waist (belly button), 32.75″ (1″ above BB), 15.75″ neck.

    The online calculators vary a lot as I’ve always just used a tape measure.

    http://www.freeweightloss.com/calculator1.html – 10.95%

    http://home.fuse.net/clymer/bmi/#willoughby – 9%

    http://www.linear-software.com/online.html – 12.99%

    Various Army/Navy bodyfat sites – ~13%

    At the time I guessed I was around 12-13% but when I posted pics for feedback on another site I was told I was around 17-18%. Are the online calcs THAT far off for someone my height? I ended up losing about 10 more pounds and a couple inches over the next few months and rather than saying I looked good, my wife and friends all said I just looked “gaunt.” Not quite what I was hoping for.

    Reply
    • Well Brom, I appreciate the lengthy and detailed question. But my first impression is this: why the hell do you care about body fat measures?

      Reply
  • Hi Anthony, Thanks for these great posts. I’m following the routine you’ve set out and just have a couple of questions for you. For nutrition you mention things like:

    One to 1.5 grams of protein per pound of body weight
    Less than 100 grams of carbohydrates

    Im just wondering could you give an estimate for fat like you give for carbohydrates and protein. You say trace fat and mid-high fat, how much would that be approximately?

    Also I’m trying to lose weight on my chest, while also building muscle. This is probably a stupid question but should I be following the comfortable body fat level or the leaning out level. At the moment I’m more concerned about losing the weight off my chest rather than building too much muscle so I’m guessing I should be following the leaning out guidelines?

    Thanks again, hoping to turn my life around with this and you’ve given me the encouragement to do so!

    Reply
    • You won’t lose weight on your chest easily, and will likely take you deep down into low body fat and low muscle mass.

      “Higher” fat intake would be around 0.5 grams per pound.

      Reply
      • So would you suggest I concentrate on building muscle instead rather than losing weight on my chest? At the moment my eating plan is 2200 calories, at least 140 grams of protein and 140-420 carbs on training days. On rest days it is 1700 calories, about 170-180 grams of protein and less than 150 carbs. My maintenance is about 2,200 and I’m currently following the leaning out programme. If I am to concentrate on building muscle how should I change these nutrition values? Thanks for all your help so far!

        Reply
  • You may have already mentioned this in one of your post but I couldnt find it. How many meals do you actually eat everyday and do you just break down however many calories you are supposed to have into those 3 or 4 meals?

    Reply
    • This is a complicated matter, hah! I think my next post is going to dive into this. Basically, my diet has been ever changing through fasting modalities. I don’t count calories or macronutrients. I just kind of go and see how my body responds. My diet is nothing more than meats, eggs, vegetables, fruits, and oats though. And I carb cycle.

      Reply
  • Kyle Butler July 9, 2012 1:21 am

    Hi, Anthony. After reading your blog and leangains, I finally got my motivation back to give it another try before sucumb to steroids.
    But some topics remain unclear. Lets say, for instance, I adopt an intermittent fasting approach to gain muscle ( not worring to much about fat right know). Is there a way to establish how many carbs and fats I should eat ( just like the protein, for instance?) My previous diet was 3500 cal and high carbs every day. I was trying to organize a routine with High carbs and low carbs. But on the low carbs, my total amout of calories plummet.

    To sum up: how should I handle my macros throughout the day, once I’m only eating 3 times a day?

    Reply
  • if you are skinny fat, trying to gain muscle but also the MAIN GOAL of mine is too lose belly fat. i am going to do the 16 fasting 8 hours eating approach

    I calculated my BMR and I am planning to eat 1.1 times that on training days
    and .9 of that on non training days

    My question is:
    What would you suggest for the macros to look like?
    I was thinking a 50protein/20carbs/30fats on both training and non training days.
    What do you think?

    Reply
  • Anthony,
    Love this series. Too few people address the challenges of ectomorph. Please continue to write more from your personal experience. Very helpful. I (we) don’t expect you to have all the science nailed down. I’m most interested in what has worked for you. To that end: when you suggest working out everyday (with only occasional life-gets-in-the-way days off aka Dan Johns style), do you eat high protein-low fat virtually everyday? I already do IF and love it. Any thoughts on Kiefer’s (Dangerously Hardcore) suggestion that protein and fat consumption should be about equal? Appreciate your thoughts? Keep writing. Have changed much of my protocol based on your experience and advice. Excellent.
    Jim

    Reply
    • It depends on what kind of daily scheme I’m on. Right now I train every day but I have four days where I really get after it. In this instance, four days are high carb and protein. But if I’m going more “40 Day Program” or “Even Easier Strength” route, I’ll likely combine those with fat loss which, for me, is high protein/low carb/medium fat.

      I’m just getting through some of Kiefer’s work, so I have no opinion as of now.

      Reply
  • First off, really enjoying this series and your other writings (The Myth of HIIT). Your process of explanation makes its really easy to process what can sometimes be trick subjects so great work! Also this series on Skinny-fat ectomorphs has opened my eyes to a lot of misconceptions about general body type workouts and gaging myself against others.

    My question pertains to the fasting (and i might be taking the word too literally) aspect of intermittent fasting. I don’t count calories, but I do eat a similar diet to what you’ve described (Meats, fish, veggies, fruits, nuts, oils, dairy) recently have added oats to post weight workout sessions. So I tend to eat high volume of low calorie foods and just try to include lean proteins in every meal. But, I find i’m just always hungry through out the day, and so am constantly snacking on vegetables, fruits or cottage cheese. Also I’ve read and heard a lot about keeping your metabolism in an active state by eating every 2 – 4 hours to stop it from entering “starvation mode”. That said, by intermittent fasting are you saying there are benefits to periods of not eating at all or does that refer to simply fasting certain macro/micro nuritients as long as your calorie intake is with the levels you described based on rest/workout days, essentially allowing one to eat as many times a day as they like? and what are your thoughts on metabolic activity in regards to timed intervals between eating?

    Reply
    • Thanks for reaching out, Yoni.

      1) You’re probably hungry because you don’t eat enough. Simple as that. Do you ever eat until satiety?

      2) Your body won’t enter starvation mode. It’s a myth.

      3) There are benefits to not eating. –> http://anthonymychal.com/2012/05/the-diet-to-end-all-diets-muscle-building-fat-loss-and-easy-living-without-the-calculator-or-scale/

      4) Ultimately, what you eat — as a whole — will matter most.

      Reply
      • I try to eat to eat till i’m about 80% full. My diet is pretty consistent. For breakfast (between 12:30pm – 3pm) I have 3 eggs with yokes and spinich, yogurt with banana and strawberries and honey, Soy milk and a hand full of almonds, and on training days (4 days a week) a 1/3 cut of oats. Then I snack on carrots, edemame beans, or more nuts for the next 3 – 4 hours. Then a salad with nuts, cottage cheese and fruit (5pm-6pm). More snacks be it fruit or vegetables then 2 – 4 hours later either a salmon steak, chicken breast or Kangaroo steak with salad (With walnuts) or a head of broccoli and fruit for dinner (8pm-10pm) with a glass of low fat milk, followed by more veggy snacks. I’ll have a can of tuna (or protein shake) with fruit and a glass of low fat milk 4 hours after (12am-2am) that and then just snack on vegetables till bed time (5:30am).

        I don’t eat any refined wheat or sugars.

        I was reading Leangains and he mentions shift work being a factor. I work 7pm-5am which means i eat breakfast around 2pm and my last meal is at about 1am. could that affect my metabolism?

        I would like to put on lean mass should so should I add more carbs to my training days? at this point its only a post workout bowl of oats, on top of the fruit and vegetables.

        Reply
        • I would say you need more carbs on your training day for sure. That’s just my opinion though.

          As for your meal times, nope, shouldn’t.

          Reply
  • Hi Anthony.

    First off, Just to echo most people around here, I absolutely love these posts! I’ve been IF’ing for all of 2012 and love it. Your posts on the matter allow me to have a greater understanding of so much, and have driven a new love for nutrition, one I hope I continue to grow on!

    I do have one (possibly very silly) question. I have just started carb cycling, following your advice in this post. I’m aiming for high fats (0.5 per pound, as per your comment above) on non training days when my carbs are low, but I do not fully understand why the fats should be high! Is it to stop muscle degradation and to insure that they have sufficient energy to survive in the absence of carbs?

    I have read the “Eat stop eat” book you talk about, and in that, Brad says that Muscle growth is related to progressive overload. It’s because of this that I am getting confused. Surely if I’m training hard in the gym, and eating enough cal’s and carbs on training days, the muscle won’t need high fats to not degrade?

    If you could clear up the confusion I have, it would make my day!
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Muscles need calories and a supply of nutrients. Your body needs fats to create/sustain all of the wonderful hormones associated with muscle building.

      Both of these come into play.

      So you need both progressive overload and the right signaling from your body. Signaling comes from hormones. Hormones are effected by caloric intake and certain macronutrient intake.

      If you go too low on calories your off days, you could be hindering yourself. Not to mention, you’re going to have difficulty recovering from training.

      Fats are very important to overall health and function.

      Reply
  • FINALLY!!!
    A source of info geared towards the skinny fat problem!!!

    The endless cycle of cutting and bulking ( i’m just waking up to its inefficiency / lack of results for my body type ) can finally come to an end.

    I feel I am finally being geared towards the right direction here, the hairs on the back of my neck have been going up the more I read. Definitely feel acknowledged and less alone with all the information you’re providing.

    Thank you sooo soooo much Anthony.

    Reply
  • Hey Anthony!

    It took me a while to grasp this, and I’m not great a math lol

    so if I weigh 170
    how many grams of carbs should I have on my training and off days, and how many grams of protein should I have on my training and off days.

    Cheers.

    Reply
    • Carbs on off days, 100 grams. Carbs on training days, depends. Grams of protein on training, 170. Grams on off, 200-220.

      Reply
  • Hi Anthony!

    Been reading your articles for the past weeks and wanted to Thank you for putting in time and helping us out. But I’m still in the limbo here, I don’t get what your point is as in to bulk up first or cut down or it is to build muscle while loosing fat at the same time..which is what I’m confused with myself i don’t know if to bulk up or cut down first. If you can help me understand better. Im at 132lb height 5ft’5in bf 20% – 22% (not sure) . Thank You

    Reply
  • Hi Anthony, thanks a ton for your resourceful posts man. As I mentioned on my comment in part III, am planning to start your beginner workout program from tomorrow. So I need to clean up my diet and need some help from your part.

    Height : 5’4″
    Weight : 117lbs
    Goal : Get rid of belly fat and attain a solid base to build muscle. I don’t care about losing muscle as I’ve not packed up much.

    1)I’m planning to keep my carb intake on lifting days at maintenance and a deficit of 500 kcal. Its good for current fat loss goal right?

    2)I workout 4:30-5:30 PM. Planning to follow a diet something like this
    Breakfast @ 8:30AM (Oats, eggs, bread & nutella)
    Lunch @ 12:30PM (Brown rice, fish, vegetables, curd and olive oil)
    Pre workout @ 4:15PM (Is it necessary? Please suggest)
    Post workout @ 6PM (Shake with 2 eggs, chocolate flavour & 400ml milk. I’m not using any whey protein now).
    Supper @ 9PM (Again I need suggestions, as I’m planning to cut belly fat, taking a rice/potato rich meal before bed won’t be good right?)

    Any further suggestions on the meal plan? Thanks in advance buddy.

    Reply
    • Ehh, I think you’re not taking in enough protein and too many carbs. Starting your breakfast with 80% carbs never ends well.

      If you go with breakfast, go with eggs, meats, cheese, and veggies. Save all of the starchy carbohydrate for your meal post workout.

      For lunch, eat lean protein, veggies, and maybe a piece of fruit.

      Pre-workout isn’t necessary.

      Post workout, go for the brown rice and more protein.

      You need them as it’s post workout.

      Reply
  • I just realized I am skinny-fat, and I am not sure what to do to fix it! I weigh 122lbs, am 5’5″ and a size 2. But my body fat % is 27.5% (pod-test results). I do cardio 5-6 days/week for a total of about 5 hours a week. Plus I walk alot. I eat relatively healthfully, and even when it’s not the best choices, I stay within 1800 calories a day. What am I doing wrong?

    Reply
  • Hey Anthony,

    Awesome site, lots of really cool information. I just was wondering if you had any favorite types of recipes that you have found/created during your years playing around with these types of foods that you enjoy.

    Thanks,

    Mark

    Reply
    • Hey Mark.

      Not really. I mean, it’s all pretty basic to me. I’ve been debating putting up some of the things I eat soon enough.

      Reply
  • Hi anthony. Great work mate. I have been doing IF for 4 months now and have dropped down bodyfat from 23%-10% but in your aticle said you need not to go Lower than 500kcal on non training days but atm I go 40% lower than maintenance level and just keep the calories maintained on training days. current stats – Maintenance calories-2627
    Trainindays-2627
    Non trainindays- 1576
    Is it gonna affect me in the long run ? and the other thing is that i feel hungry Even after breaking my fast on non training days(P230/C39/F59) . Advice will be much appreciated . Cheers

    Reply
    • My opinion on this has dropped quite a bit since writing this. If you’re aiming to lose weight, I think that deficit is fine if you can handle it.

      Reply
  • Can’t even begin to describe how happy I am to have found your website (thanks to Nate Miyaki). Couple of questions though:
    1. When you say 100 g of carbs do you count carbs from veggies or just fruit and starches?
    2. On weekdays I only have time for 1 PW shake around 8 pm which is pretty much fat free, and then regular meal an hour later. Do you have any issues with splitting 300 g of carbs equally between those 2 meals.
    3. How much fat would you allow with my second meal?
    I am the one who has to count everything.

    Reply
  • Hey Anthony, could you write an example meal plan that I can use if I’m 154lbs ?
    Both gym and rest days :)

    Greetings From Poland
    Casper

    Reply
    • Actually Casper, I can’t do that my man. My time is limited and I don’t do one on one consultations without compensations. Otherwise I’d live on the street and eat cardboard. Hope you understand. I’ll gladly tackle smaller issues. I reply to everyone as you probably know. But this is just too much to handle. Make it more manageable broseph, plz.

      Reply
  • If I may make a suggestion, when you post links, to enable the option that says “Open link in a new window” so that after looking at your link, the person can just close the window and be right back to your page. Otherwise, you have to hit the back button and then find your place on the page again.

    Reply
    • I do that sometimes. But then I get complaints either way. Some people complain that they don’t like many windows popping up and open.

      Win some lose some.

      Reply
  • Hey I love your site by the way, I was just wondering if I could pick your brain about Eat stop eat? I have been using it recently to loose over 5kg, I still have more to loose to get to a good “base line” (thanks for that btw its a brilliant article). How could I use Eat stop eat to build mucle slowly as you suggest? Could I fast on my rest days and eat matinence +500kcal on my workout days?

    Reply
    • You can go on a surplus on training days. Keep ESE days the same. Keep titrating up calories on training days until good things happen.

      Reply
  • wouldnt muscle be burn by not taking enough calories ?

    Reply
    • The body can survive with short term caloric deprivation as long as minimum protein intake and liver glycogen are kept at bay.

      Reply
  • Hey Anthony. So glad to have found this site and in particular this series of skinny-fat articles. Really appreciate the thought that goes into it and it’s nice to know that you’ve ‘been there’ too. Been a skinny fat all my life and have trained on and off, giving up as I’ve never managed to shift this belly and chest fat. As I’m now 27 I’ve just had enough so it is time for me to get serious and I know how important the diet is. I’ve just started intermittent fasting after coming across Leangains and I commented on your diet post the other day about my carb intake. Basically I’m intrigued by your section about ingestion of carbs around the workout. I’m 160lbs with maintenance cals of 1800. Currently trying +10/-35%. Based on leangains this gives me about 140g of carbs pre and 200g carbs post workout.

    I workout at 5pm so try and have 2 meals of 70g carbs at 12:30 and 3:00 and then 100g carbs immediately PWO and for dinner. As I said in my other comment, I just can’t take the amount of carbs in 2 meals. But your comment about insulin lowering IGH and testosterone worries me a bit about eating carbs immediately PWO.

    My definite goal is to lean down at the moment so I’m just wondering if I should maybe lower my carb intake/go down to maintenance cals so that I can fit it into 1 meal PWO or just stick with what I’m doing and just worry about the numbers rather than the meal frequency and timing?

    I realise it’s a pretty long comment, so sorry about that. Is it maybe best to email you about coaching? It’s kinda overwhelming!

    Reply
    • I don’t recommend taking carbohydrates pre-workout. And I think most people are better off served waiting around a half hour post workout before eating much of anything. It gives the body a chance to settle down.

      Some people say to wait longer, but anything you eat is going to release insulin. Insulin isn’t really bad either. From my experience, the 30 minute rule is a good one.

      Reply
      • Hi Anthony. I’m so happy to have found you and this site!

        I’m 5’8′ and 143 lbs.
        Skinny fat, with moobs and belly fat, fat around 22%.

        You said on training days, carbohydrate intake should be around one to three grams per pound of body weight.

        So, in my case, the MINIMUM would be 143 grams.

        I almost fast in the morning (no breakfast, just a shake with 10 grams whey protein with some coffee and some grams MCT oil) and my first meal is around 1.00 pm.

        As I don’t eat in the morning I’m struggling to eat all those protein and carbs I should.

        Rice is 80% carbs, so 200 grams of rice post-workout could do the trick.

        But 200 grams of rice for dinner is really really too much for me.

        Reply
        • I’ve since changed my mind here. I think carb intake needs to fit your body, so some can get away with more. Some need less. 150g is likely a good starting point. If you can’t eat this, then I don’t know what to tell you save for eat what you can.

          Reply
          • Thanks Anthony for your reply.
            I am 48 and I’ve been on a low-carb diet for so many years for health reason.
            I’ve believed this diet to be superior at all points, health, longevity…
            It basically cured my heartburn (GE reflux) problems in some days so I sticked with it for so many years, thinking it was The Way to go.
            At that time I used to eat very very big plates of spaghetti, I’m italian after all.
            And now I know large quantities of pasta (gluten), at least in my case, mean reflux and burping after some hours.
            White rice, quinoa and gluten-free pasta are perfectly ok.

            Then I read about Cynthia Kenyon’s research.
            Yes, even though we’re not so similar to worms she essentially says sugar may shorten your lifespan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cynthia_Kenyon).
            I’ve read that “sugar feeds cancer” and that cancer relies on glucose, so I became a little scared about sugar.

            Recently I’ve read on a Jeff Volek’s book (“The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living”) that brain needs 150 gr. of carbs (glucose) each day.
            Oh my God…. 150 grams?
            Yes, 150 grams if you don’t do any heavy work.
            If you do a heavy workout 3 times a week your needing for carbs would be much higher.
            My carbs intake was almost 40 or 50 grams.
            If my glycogen stocks were empty, where did my brain take all this glucose?
            Uhm… muscles hardly gained with my workouts?

            I’ve thought that maybe a low-carb diet AND weight-lifting activities are two not so compatible things.
            And that maybe there’s a reason behind my incurable exaggerated skinny arms and super-skinny shoulders.
            Even though I diligently do strength training three/four times a week.

            Well, that has been my story. Until now.

            Yes, 150 gr. of glucose is very doable, especially if I sip a shake with 120 grams of glucose + 60 grams of whey proteins DURING my workout.

            As suggested by these ex-skinny-fat guys….
            (http://bonytobeastly.com/ectomorph-muscle-building-supplement-protocol/)

            A question: could I drink a whey protein shake (without dextrose) to up my protein intake IN THE OFF DAYS?

            Thank you.

          • Dude, dextrose is sugary crap. Get out of that low carb mindset and just think of pure foods. Get your carbs from root veggies. Eat potatoes if you can handle night shades. Eat sweet taters. Other roots. That can get you there. There ARE carbs without gluten to fuel training needs.

  • Appreciate the reply! Sorry to be a pain but by no carbs pre workout do you mean fasted training or no carbs too soon before?

    Reply
  • Ok i am IFing right now i fast from 9pm-1pm and i train at 11:30am so my first meal is at 1 it should consist of meats and not too high of carbs to ensure growth hormone increase and my second meal should have more carbs?

    Reply
    • Depends on what you believe. Some people say such. These days, I think shuttling the big meal to the PM is better for matters of convenience. Plenty of people do alright with a big meal PWO.

      Reply
  • Hi Anthony,

    I’m following you’r blog for a while and I’m getting more clever about my training with every post I read.

    In the basic rules you did not write how much fat grams per pound of body weight are recommended, can you give me these numbers?

    Reply
    • You know the calories, you know the protein, you know the carbs. You can figure out the fats. They are “incalculable” insofar as my personal strategy of chaos, as I fluctuate the amount daily.

      Reply
      • Okay, one more thing on off days, I don’t like cruciferous vegetables, can fruits be a substitute?

        Reply
  • Dear Anthony, I’m not sure how much advice you can give me since your not a female, but I’ve struggled to find ANY answers to my dillema. I’m ‘skinny fat’ with very slim arms/legs. My stomach has just accumulate the effects of puberty so I’ve ended up looking waif-like with a fat stomach. I gain weight easily and lose it relatively quickly too. Being 17, it’s hard trying to find advice to relate to. I was wondering what you would suggest, since to be honest it’s my stomach that’s bugging me! I lift (heavy) 3 times a week and do cardio (steady-state) other 4 days of the week. Should I ditch the cardio and pick up more weights? Or is cardio a MUST for losing fat off the waist? Some have said that weights are good, but that cardio is superior. It’s a struggle trying to work it out. I’m not a guy either, which is where 99% of the ‘skinny fat’ / ‘hardgainer’ stuff comes from. But, maybe you can offer some advice. Thankyou for your time!

    Reply
    • Cardio isn’t necessary. I’m not sure what’s going on though, as you mentioned you lose weight relatively quickly. How can this be the case if you’re struggling?

      And you didn’t mention nutrition, so that’s a huge gap.

      Reply
    • Hey Anthony,

      I think I can answer that question. Some skinnyfat people cannot lose that last bit of fat before they start losing muscle. Their body hangs onto their stubborn fat. Lyle McDonald talks about this in his book Stubborn Fat Solution. This is why not everybody can get down to that lean base that you talk about. The fat won’t budge, but their arms and legs will get smaller, and no one wants that.

      Reply
      • Yes. More often than not, SBF is caused by people dropping calories too low in an attempt to lose weight, but their body isn’t metabolizing fat.

        Reply
  • Body isn’t metabolizing fat because calories are too low? So at that point you would raise your calories? How do you make the body metabolize fat?

    Reply
    • Normalizing calories a few days per week is a start, but it all depends on how you want to play your cards.

      Reply
  • Wow. Really great articles to educate skinny fatso like me. Appreciate them. :D rock on dude!

    Reply
  • Hi Anthony
    Your articles on Skinny fat have been really helpful, but I am confused about this article. I couldn’t infer what you are trying to convey. So what I infer from the is have protein rich food immediately after the workout and have some carbs later after a workout. And on rest days should I take higher protein, medium fat and lower carb foods. Is that right? And should I maintain my consumption at the caloric need?

    Thank You

    Reply
    • This is all refined within The Skinny-Fat Solution. Your analysis is correct, save for the calorie consumption. Eat for your goals, be it loss or gain.

      Reply
  • On the e “Off- days nutrition”, you said less than 100 g of carbs. Do you mean less than 100g of carbs/meal or less than 100g of carbs total/day?

    And I wonder if its okay to eat 6 meals/day and still add up to ideal calories.

    Reply
    • Total, less than 100g starchy carbs. Non-starchy veggies are a go. Meal frequency – I’m not a six mealer. Try it and see for yourself.

      Reply
  • As much as I like ur website, is there a LITE version of all the information posted? Like a summary of sorts.. because that’s a whole lot to read I just want to main content

    Reply
  • I can’t understand the concept of intermittent fasting.
    I am an ectomorph (lean with a liitele fat on my lower abdomen).
    I am trying to gain lean muscle.
    Right now i am not using any supplements not even whey protein.
    I am eating 6 meals a day.
    I train 5 days a week for about for about 1.45 hours on every training day. (since 3 months)
    How much fats protein and carbs should i intake daily.
    How this intermittent fasting can help me.
    I am indian mail 22 years old. (65 kg) (6 feet 1 inch )
    some of my measurement are
    waist (30.5 inches)
    chest (39 Inches)
    biceps 12.5 inches
    I WANT AN X SHAPED ATHLETIC PHYSIQUE.
    CAN U BREIF SOME STRATEGY FOR ME.

    Reply
    • No, I can’t brief a strategy for you. You have to just read the posts I have here – “Diet to End All Diets” being a good place to start.

      Reply
  • And what about for teenagers? (16, yr old) what should we do?

    Reply
    • Learn how to eat quality foods like meats, veggies, and stuff from the ground. And then do that.

      Reply
      • I’ve led a very healthy diet for the past year, I never eat badly. I’m just wondering what to do, how should I lean out (only need to do it a little bit), and then how should I bulk? I’m currently doing carb cycling but I don’t know if teenagers should be doing it?

        Reply
  • How many calories should a 16 year-old be consuming to drop body fat? And how many to clean bulk?

    Reply
    • See my most recent post – I don’t count calories. You won’t find a magic clean bulking intake – that’s why I do Chaos Bulking.

      Reply
  • Hi Anthony – Really enjoy your articles and your way of thinking. Here’s a question for you however – I’ve been trying to get to my solid base now for some 3 months, and whilst I’ve lost weight all over (to the point where I now feel underweight and don’t feel comfortable in myself) I still have the lower belly fat which does not seem to have gone at all ? I Strength Train, do Intermittent Fasting (8/16) and also Carb Cycle my diet to suit my training requirements – what else can I do as I don’t want to spend another 3 months in the same situation ? Dropping calories further I don’t feel is the answer….help. Look forward to your reply

    Reply
  • Hi Anthony,

    I´m in the beginer program, leaning down. I know i should be in 500 kcal deficit when not training but…
    If I play tennis or soccer on rest days, should i add carbs to balance the calorie deficit or just need to balance calories with protein and fats? I suppose i have to eat more calories to reach the 500 kcal deficit needed, if not i would starve.
    The same question if I play on training days.
    Thank you!!

    Reply
    • Depends on your goal. If your goal is ultimate performance, then maybe you should wait on the fat loss bit. Same can be said if it’s the other way around.

      Reply
  • Hi Anthony,

    Can you tell me the Cons to substituting some carbs for fats on Training / High Carb days? Or the Pros to not eating fats on Training / High Carb days?

    Sorry if you’ve written about it before. I’d be happy with a internal or external link to information on the subject. I all ready understand low carb days, how / why it works and have used it to go from 24%bf to 16%bf to great effect so now that I want to grow big and strong, learning the how / why to eating only trace amount of fats on Training / High Carb days would be very beneficial to me.

    Reply
    • Because, the theory goes –

      More carbs = more insulin = more storage. If you have more fat floating around, you’d then store more fat.

      Just how this all works out when the dust clears is a story for another day, and is why I’m changing my stance on this a bit. I still think cycling is useful, but tend to use a different rationale than pretending to understand the vast complexity of the body with such a crude equation.

      Reply
      • I did some digging so I thought I’d share my own hypothesis why say replacing some carbs for fats might result in different results. The biggest being all fats (besides coconut) takes a lot longer to digest than both protein & especially high glycemic foods like white rice thus creating a much shorter time period where you are in a fasted catabolic state until you eat your first meal (noon for you?).

        On top of this, but less of a concern, calorie counters will try matching calorie for calorie fat for carb with out considering carbs, fats, & protein produce different levels of wasted energy and even comparing carb to carb protein to protein fat to fat can produce different levels of wasted energy. For example eating 1000 calories of protein vs 1000 calories of fat, your body could use 980 from the fat, but only 700 from the protein.

        Throw in the fact that your body will adapt how much energy it used each day based on the total calories your eating over an extended span of time and how your body becomes less efficient from switching in out of ketosis from fasting & cycling carbs, and how each person is different, everything I was thinking might be moot. You won’t know how much switching fat for carbs will affect you until you try it.

        Reply
        • Well, the thing is: is a fasted catabolic state always a negative thing? (For the record, I don’t eat until 5PM, roundabout).

          Reply
  • no I wasn’t saying it was bad. Being in a fasted catabolic state is an excellent place to be because you’re burning fat. The point I was trying to make was that switching some fats for carbs will make your fasted window smaller (less fat burning mode throughout the day).

    Reply
    • Well, I wouldn’t necessarily go that far because fats don’t really jack insulin levels, and insulin levels are what tank immediate fat burning. Even then, it’s not enough to say tha secreting insulin blunts fat burning totally, because there’s also the duration an amount of insulin secretion.

      Reply
      • Yeah insulin will tank immediate fat burning although it’s interesting to note that raising insulin sends the signal to store, if you raise it even higher it sends the signal to release. Pigging out on white rice accomplishes this. I prefer a mix of Lucien, milk (high insulin index even though it’s lower on the glycemic index), and fruity pebbles / rice chex / rice krispies :P after a really intense workout (and everyone knows your muscles want to refuel after a workout). Essentially muscles get priority on refueling over fat cells for storing.

        Now although fat doesn’t raise insulin and tank fat burning, it does take a lot longer to digest than carbs. A very steady state of energy. I’d rather my body not have that available and be forced to start releasing fat stores after my insulin subsides, but I’m only fasting for 12 hours each day. An extra long fasting window might be undesirable for someone who’s first meal starts in the afternoon / evening.

        Reply
        • I think you’re being a bit too ambitious here, but that’s just me. It’s not really such a “flip the switch” production.

          Reply
          • Maybe I am being to ambitious. For me it’s just fun to research and try to max the right signals in hope of achieving the maximum amount of weight loss & muscle gain. After you find something that works it’s just fun to try new things to see what can work even better, but that’s just part of my personality.

            Switching from a catabolic state to an anabolic state and then back to a catabolic state can be achieved over the evening, throughout the night, and morning. So no I don’t think it’s like flipping a switch, but that’s still pretty fast. You can verify it by using blood ketone meter. I haven’t used one of those devices, but other people who are following a similar diet as I have done so.

            Originally I was wondering could substituting fats for carbs make a difference in my weight gain/loss on the 3 nights I eat carbs, my hypothesis is yes, but I wont know until after I’ve alternated between them multiple times and have tracked my results.

          • Experimentation is good, don’t get me wrong. I applaud you for having the cojones to think this way.

  • Hey Anthony,

    Your posts are great. I appreciate them greatly. I’ll get right into it.

    I understand your ideas to limit carbohydrates to later in the day to maxmize growth hormone and testosterone. Post workout meal being protein. But you also get an insulin spike from protein. Growth hormone lowers in higher insulin states. Protein or carbohydrates will spark insulin. Amino acids do it more than anything else.

    Thanks so much man,
    Nick

    Reply
    • protein has play with insulin – certain KINDS – yeah, but not as much as starch.

      plus –

      this article is old.

      Reply
  • Hi Anthony! First of all, I would like to thank you for your articles. What you do here must take quite some of your personal time, and I think its really cool that you dedicate it to help out others who were in your situation sooo… Cheers mate!

    Anyway, what I wanted to ask is: can I make it (with me being a 73Kg skinny fat ectomorph) based off a 2xWeek program? Mainly because I have another (mandatory) sport (Tai Qi) that works really hard on leg strenght and resistance but not much else, and I have quite a bit of time spent on studies. If you have any ideas I would be immnsly grateful. Thank you in for your time and patience.

    Reply
    • You have two choices:

      1) Don’t try, give up.

      2) Go twice per week and see what you can do.

      Don’t let me tell you what can and can’t be done. Let your body handle that.

      Reply
  • Hi Anthony,
    Grrt work man, putting up this article..Kudos.

    A small query:
    For people who workout in the morning, do you recommend working out without breakfast?? (Wouldnt it lead to muscle loss)
    If not than what to eat and how much time before workout in the morning??
    Thnks..

    Reply
  • Can you specify by daily intake times when you should be taking in carbs?
    As I understand it you avoid carbs when insulin is naturally higher?

    The general gist of it seems to be that you fast for breakfast, light lunch and then high intake of carbs/proteins post work out and before bed? Correct me if I’m wrong.

    And do you mix both simple and complex carbs depending on the time of day or just stick to complex carbs?

    Any links/info would be much appreciated, thanks in advance!

    Reply
  • Anthony, I noticed you wrote about eating twice daily. How’s that working for you, if you still do that (I understand the post is a couple of years old).

    I’ve read most people eat around 3 meals, but I’m pretty stuffed with just 2 and I was pleasantly surprised to realize you are too.

    I do things a little different than the norm though.

    On training days (x3 per week) I have breakfast, then workout, then lunch, and dinner. Breakfast is 1L of whole milk with cacao.

    On rest days I have lunch and dinner (14-10 window works better for me).

    Reply
    • I eat once now. Not because I’m “stuffed” though. I have a very deep stomach. I eat less frequently because of this. If I felt stuffed with few meals, I’d probably add MORE if I wasn’t getting enough.

      Reply
  • Hi Anthony,

    Love this website, it seems it has everything someone like me needs. I’m currently at 6’2″ and 166 pounds. However this comes with roughly 17% body fat. I am trying to find the best way of leaning down to my solid base without losing all of my muscles. I have been lifting for a month at maintenance and made solid strength gains, however, there has been little composition changes, seeing as it’s only been a month. Anyways, should I just suck it up for a while and implement intermittent fasting at 3-500 calories below maintenance to reach my base? What do you think the safes way (muscle conservation wise) is to drop my body fat percentage to the 10-15% range?

    Thanks very much!

    Reply
    • Delayed gratification. Suck it up and do it now. Just think: if you’re worried about losing your muscle now, why would you bulk up and then lose it all again when you cut then?

      Continue to strength train. Drop weight slowly. If you do this, you shouldn’t lose muscle. You CAN lose muscle. Most do, but that’s just because they expect results too fast.

      Reply
  • Hi Anthony,
    just stumbled across this website and I’m not sure if this is what I’m looking for. I hope you can help.

    I’d consider myself skinny fat but I’m neither at a comfortable body fat level nor am I trying to lean out and lose weight. I really don’t think I can lose any more since I only weigh 64kg at 173cm. I’m very skinny, except for my belly. I think nearly all of my body fat is concentrated there – I measured about 17% body fat level with most of it coming from the belly area. But if I lose any more weight I’ll be skin and bones, won’t I?

    Any advice?
    Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • If you’re an honest 17%, then you aren’t skinny. You’re skinny-fat.

      Depends on where that number came from. If bioelectric, then ditch it. If GOOD caliper person, BodPod, or underwater weigh, then that’s good.

      Reply
      • Thanks for the answer.
        Of course I know that I’m skinny-fat, that’s how I found your blog. ;)
        I measured the body fat level myself with a caliper but I’m kind of inexperienced, so I’m getting results from 15,5% to 18,5%, so I guessed 17% as a good estimate.

        The thing I’m worried about is that if I follow the plan to lose fat first – won’t I weigh like 55kg after losing the fat and look like I’m starving? I see most skinny-fat people starting with 70kg+, so I’m not sure if this is the right way for me personally.

        Reply

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