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Should You Bulk or Cut? (Skinny-Fat Must Read)

by 214 comments

Does your current body composition dictate whether or not you should bulk or cut?

Should you let random people on the internet shape your personal appearance?

Is there some secret path that successful people scour in the cycle of gaining muscle and losing fat?

I’m not totally sure I understand why people ask whether they should cut or bulk, but what follows will lead to your answer. (And it just may surprise you.)

“Should I bulk or cut?”

Ever since seeing this question on many forums, I can’t help but wonder why the majority of people seek answers for their own physique in others. Everyone has their own favorite ice cream flavor. Your opinion on what a “decent” physique is unique to yourself. Asking someone else what you should look like is a little…strange.

Nevertheless, random rant aside, I think the question originated from the idea that, given a certain body fat percentage, you sit in a better spot to either gain muscle or lose fat. In other words, does body fat effect the ability to lose fat or gain muscle? In other words yet, can you build muscle as effectively if you’re fat as compared to if you’re skinny? 

Yes. And no.

  • If you’re overly fat, gauging muscle building progress is difficult. Muscle is harder to “detect” under fat, and it’s easy to get discouraged from an an apparent lack of results. (Whether or not change is happening is arbitrary, as it’s all about perception for most people.) The antithesis of this example is my little cousin. He’s a soccer player with a pretty low body fat. After two weeks we could tell that my program for him was working. There was nothing to stop the muscle from showing. Fat is like wrapping yourself in a blanket. The more blankets you have around yourself, the tougher it is to get an idea of what’s underneath.
  • If you’re overly fat, your hormones (insulin, estrogen, cortisol) are supposedly “out of whack” and less capable of building muscle. Yet there are many powerlifters that aren’t necessarily skinny that seem to do just fine in the muscular department, not to mention overeating in itself is also capable of building muscle in the absence of exercise in some populations.
  • If you’re incredibly lean, your hormones are supposedly “out of whack” too, although this only seems to be an issue in females with regards to pregnancy. Not so much with gaining muscle.
  • If you’re trying to stay incredibly lean, finding an ideal balance of “enough” calories to recover from training and build muscle while also staying lean is tricky. It’s easy to run in place — eat less than needed — and fail to make tangible progress in any one direction.

While the above points are the most scientifically relevant to the question at hand, they truly don’t matter under most circumstances. The hard science behind all of this can only take you so far. The true answer lies within both your psyche and your self-perception.

Why you should get lean

If there’s one thing people remember about what I’ve written, it’s my recommendation in 3 Reminders for the Skinny-Fat Ectomorph to get lean before trying to build muscle.

This recommendation has nothing to do with hormones, muscle building potential, or any of that fancy stuff.

It has everything to do with how you percieve yourself.

Skinny-fats, among many others, have a lot of emotional issues. I know because I lived the life. I was once told I had “girl boobs.” I wished, hoped, and dreamed I lived a different life.

These mental and emotional issues take credence over everything because until they’re sorted, you’ll never make headway in the right direction.

If you’re self conscious about your body fat, the last thing you want to do is add more body fat to your frame. It’s nonsensical, no matter how much “potential” you have to build muscle.

I can’t count how many e-mails I’ve gotten about this, and how many times it spirals people down bad paths. Here’s one from just the other day:

Well, I noticed an increase of belly fat, and not much increase of anything else in the mirror…so I went back to thinking…maybe I should get rid of all the fat first and then try to bulk, because if I continue things will get worse…you know this constant cycle.

It’s running in place. And this almost always happens.

But it’s a two way street for the following reason:

But again, I am still confused about should I cut to a low BF% first at all. I can see how that’s not going to be a pretty picture either.

I can only imagine what would happen if I did a more aggressive calorie reduction. I like the idea of getting rid of all the excess body fat first, but then I’m afraid I’ll look the skinniest I’ve ever been.

Tricky situation indeed.

The benefits of getting lean

The worst thing you can do is bounce back and forth between  between bulking and cutting, failing to make respectable strides in any one direction.

You decide to bulk, you get too fat, then you cut down back to your original level. You decide to cut, you get too lean, and then you eat your way back to your original level. Congratulations. You just entered the hall of failure.

Pick a direction, and stick with it. If you’re self-conscious about body fat, that direction should be to lean down. It goes back to one of those neglected principles earlier.

  • If you’re overly fat, gauging muscle building progress is difficult. Muscle is harder to “detect” under fat, and it’s easy to get discouraged from an an apparent lack of results. (Whether or not change is happening is arbitrary, as it’s all about perception for most people.) The antithesis of this example is my little cousin. He’s a soccer player with a pretty low body fat. After two weeks we could tell that my program for him was working. There was nothing to stop the muscle from showing. Fat is like wrapping yourself in a blanket. The more blankets you have around yourself, the tougher it is to get an idea of what’s underneath.

But there is more.

  • Getting lean is a lot easier than building muscle. You can get close to as lean as you want to be within one year if you’re at or under 20% body fat. You will probably not reach your ideal level of muscularity in one year though. So losing the body fat initially gets positive feelings rolling for the road ahead.
  • In light of the bullet above, if you bulk first, you’re going to end up cutting and rebulking. Few people are willing to stay outside of their comfortable body fat level year round. I don’t see the point in  the bulk-cut-bulk-cut-bulk ordeal when you can just start from a solid lean base and then slowly build muscle from there as written about Getting Lean and Staying Muscular. (The only downside to being lean is that initially increasing calories is met with trepidation for fear of re-gaining fat. This is a small hurdle to overcome though.)
  • If you bulk first, you have a longer cut ahead of you.
  • Being lean makes bulking progress easier to gauge.
  • Being lean is better for minimizing damage potentially done during a bulk. You can sense if you’re on the right or wrong path faster. Damage is easily reversible. If you overeat for a two weeks and notice yourself extended beyond the comforts of your body fat, it’s only going to take one or two weeks to return to baseline. This is the entire idea behind Nutrient Autoregulation: The Clean Bulk That Actually Works. (A book of mine to accompany a few resources I’m working on. Explained more in Getting Lean and Staying Muscular.)

Don’t make this mistake

I’m going to go ahead and assume that if you’re asking whether or not you should cut or bulk, you have both muscle that needs gained and fat that needs lost. (Why else would you ask the question?) Although this seems like a stupid thing to mention, I know people that have 10% body fat and wondering if they’re “too fat.” (OK, you got me. That was me at one point.)

Quick mention: in the name of body fat, and to give yourself a better picture of what body fat percentages truly look like, I highly suggest checking out Nerd Fitness’s Everything You Need to Know About Body Fat Percentage.

If you want muscle, you should probably gain muscle. If you want to be leaner, you should probably lose fat. But if you want to be muscular and lean, get lean first and chip away at the muscle building process. This means you can stay lean year round without turning into a lardcase. And by “lean,” I mean around 10-15% body fat.

From my experience, it’s unrealistic to maintain a lower body fat than 10% if you’re going to build muscle. You can maintain a lower body fat if you’re not trying to build muscle though.

A final must-read on getting lean

Getting lean doesn’t mean foregoing all training outside of “cardio.” Some traditional lower intensity aerobic work can be implemented into your training, but the most important facet of getting lean is increasing or maintaining strength via strength training. It’s often common to “save” strength training until a lean state is hit, but this is a mistake. (And a topic for another day.) So don’t forget to play around with the barbell on your quest down to a comfortable body fat. And If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out my archive of skinny-fat resources.

Bulking disclaimer: I’m not a big fan of the traditional bulking and cutting designations, but I realize their use. In the sense of this article, I’m merely using them to mean either losing fat or gaining weight—be it during a low “clean” process or a hulk weight gain process.

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Your turn: What do you think? Get lean first or bulk up first? What path did you follow?

 

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206 comments… add one

  • I once made the mistake of bulking and i’ll never do it again, that fat is very hard to take off, my blood analisys were not very healthy, and i was looking really bad, well i was looking fat :) and the truth is you gain a lot of weight but most is fat not muscle. Get lean and then gain muscle you’ll look good all year and above all you’ll be much healthier

    Reply
  • A bit off-topic, but I think I recall you writing that you had a horrible experience with the Warrior Diet. I was wondering if you could expand on this and/or write an article.

    Reply
  • Thanks, I’m in the skinny-fat club, and your posts definitely help. Right now I stand at 155lbs, 5’95” and 14.2% body fat, just 0.7% less compared to last March, when I was 162lbs and 14.9%. Right now I’m in a sweet spot; I do not want to bulk, I still want to gain muscle (1st priority) and it would be ideal lowering my bodyfat, although that is not the priority. I do stantard recompoistion, eating more on lifting days, and less on no training days. No much cardio overall. Do you have any suggestion for me? Thanks a lot for your work.

    Reply
    • Well how comfortable would you be with a little bit more fat on you? If not very comfortable, get a little leaner. But I like the idea of more calories on training days, less on off days.

      Reply
  • I realized my body works well on neither a “cut” or a “bulk” but rather a slight calorie decrease/increase per week (+/- 20% for the whole week)…it does require a hell of a lot of patience though.

    That being said, getting lean first for anyone is usually ideal, both for body composition and positive perception of themselves.

    Reply
  • Simple, clean advice. Great job, man. I will be forever amazed at how digestible and simple you make these issues. Considered bro love sent.

    I did like leaning down first. Although I wasn’t exactly muscle-bound, it was intoxicating being that light. Thinking back, I feel as if I could have bounced back and forth between walls, you know, Megaman stuff. If I am ever capable of wall sliding, I’ll let you know, though. I looked on the bright side then. Since I didn’t have that much muscle before, losing some of it during the cut didn’t sadden me too much. It was like, “Eh, oh well.” I’m about ten pounds or so heavier. I still feel as lean as I was then. I’m still paranoid about whether or not I’m progressing, but the paranoia is tolerable. Had I gone with the traditional template, I would have lost my marbles a while back. Fat gain scares me, but I feel better prepared for it with the clean bulk template. It’s like you said, one can feel when they’re too bloated or too lean and can adjust accordingly. I’m still in the process of transitioning from counting calories to using the mirror. I don’t know that I’ll be able to rid myself of the former, though, as it’s driven my results so far. It’ll probably end up being a blend of the two.

    I think recommending cutting first to beginners that don’t have much muscle is sound.

    Oh and thanks for linking to that article on Nerd Fitness. Looks good!

    Reply
    • Welcomes. Thanks for your kind words, too. And the Megaman wall slide was one of the funnest aspects of any video game.

      Reply
  • By the way, what do you mean by this: “I’m going to go ahead and assume that if you’re asking whether or not you should cut or bulk, you have both muscle that needs gained and fat that needs lost. (Why else would you ask the question?) Although this seems like a stupid thing to mention, I know people that have10% body fat and wondering if they’re “too fat.” (OK, you got me. That was me at one point.)”

    (There should be a space between “have” and “10%.” I apologize for being anal here.) Is it stupid to mention because it should be common sense? Are you saying that the people with 10% body fat don’t know this but should? I don’t understand the purpose of the last sentence. I got every other sentence, though.

    Reply
  • hey anthony – thanks for another good article.
    just a headsup that your soccer anecdote/ blanket analogy comes up twice in the piece.

    Reply
  • Brilliant article, I have hovered back and forth between bulking and cutting my whole life, it typically goes like this: Sit on my backside and get lazy for a couple of months, read some stuff about fitness and muscle and get my arse off the couch, lift weights and eat like a trooper thinking I’ll build up, just get fatter and disheartened, reduce the food intake and add cardio, drop most of the weight lifting and end up back where I started and give up. I reckon I’ve done this every other year since I was 18 (I’m now 34), and I’ve been skinny fat my whole life, including childhood (I remember being conscious about my tummy when I was in Primary school, but my arms and legs were always skinny). Occasionally I’ve gotten fully into running and end up looking almost anorexic (which my wife hates) with still some tummy softness, my face ends up skeletal (however running long distances is something I can actually do with some level of personal success, unlike lifting weights).
    Anyway, I found this website after again starting a bulking type fitness phase, and its given me some firm direction from someone who understand the skinny-fat conundrum, thanks Anthony. I’ll cut down, but continue the weights and refrain from the cardio other than some walking.

    Reply
  • Agree 100%, Anthony. I stupidly tried to “bulk and cut” when I was around 20% body-fat, and it resulted in the mental baggage and poor body-image esteem issues you discussed here. This held me back for well over a year. I finally wised-up and switched my focus entirely to losing fat until I was down to 13-14% BF, and it’s MUCH easier to gauge progress. The “Yo-Yo” pattern of bulking/cutting, in my opinion, isn’t nearly as effective as focusing all of your energy in one direction at a given time. Cheers to you for breaking this down as simply as you have. Very solid post that I hope will save others the troubles I went through with unfocused training and dieting.

    Reply
  • As someone with very poor muscle mass (i’d say less than most skinny fats i’ve seen), i’m wondering how far I should lean down? I’ve got pretty lean (thanks to IF, Carb cycling, strength training etc.) but I still have that last roll of fat on my lower abdomen. It’s a big mental issue for me, so i’ll probably keep cutting until it’s gone.

    My concern is that due to my poor muscle mass, i’ll be near emaciated before it is gone……am I just being a drama queen? I’m working under the assumption that less muscle mass makes it harder to get rid of the stubborn fat areas. Am I wrong in this assumption?

    Maybe I need to just shut up and carry on leaning down!

    Good work as ever man, I always enjoy reading your stuff.

    Reply
    • Chris, my question is: why is your muscle mass so…bad? You should at least have something going for you if you’re strength training properly, even if you’re “cutting.”

      Reply
      • That’s a good question Anthony. What I think it comes down to is years of eating like crap, doing zero strength training, and doing too much cardio. I have never been that muscular, but I believe that for the aforementioned reasons I have unintentionally catabolised the crap out of my muscular system over the years (i’m 26).

        I see guys (mostly teenagers) who have almost no muscle, that isn’t me. I think my strength training routine is solid enough that i’ve maintained enough of my muscle, but obviously being on a cut, I have been in no position for hypertrophy to be a factor.

        Basically I think I just started in relatively worse position to other skinny-fats, a deeper hole if you will. It’s not something that I don’t think i’ll be able to overcome, I just don’t think my “solid base” will be as lean and cut as what I was hoping for. But then again I have no idea what i’ll look like when I reach a comfortable body-fat level, it’s new territory really.

        Reply
        • Yeah, past behavior definitely plays a part. But I think it’s wrong to say that going on a “cut” and toying around with barbells is somehow going to put you in a position that isn’t better than most others.

          Reply
  • When I first started, I cut way too low. I think most people would benefit from beginning with an overall fitness program including cardio and resistance training, and getting generally fit. You may not get shredded from a program like this, but its a good place to be. From there you can make a decision as to whether you want to bulk or cut, depending on where you’re at psychologically. If you feel to skinny,bulk. If you feel ashamed to gain any fat, cut down a little more.

    Reply
    • Javier, keep in mind I advocate that. I just think if you’re worried about your fat, your first step should be to lose it.

      Reply
  • Hey Anthony,
    Just curious if you have any opinions on yoga. Do you do it at all, and if so, how has it helped you?

    Reply
  • Really enjoyed this article. It goes along with one I had recently written about cutting and bulking. Oddly enough it was also from people asking if they should cut and bulk and the surprising amount of people who do this in cycle with no results year after year and refuse to try something different and take adivce from others. Its funny and terrible at the same time.
    Here is the Post I wrote…http://wp.me/p1xlGa-i5

    Reply
  • Hey anthony. Liking the articles. Just hoping you can give me some advice:
    Currently I strength train(Incl. Squat, Deads, Bench) and am at an ‘ok’ level of strength for my weight (85kg squat 100kg dead at 75kg) I still want to get stronger, but in my experience, whenever trying to lean down, I lose a lot of strength.
    I really want to gain muscle, and hate looking skinny, I think my body image depression would be worse if I leaned down first.
    My question is: I am at around 20% BF now (i think). I have fat on my stomach and some on my chest, but my arms and legs are still fairly skinny, with little muscle definition (from high BF). If i gain weight, to say 85-90kg (at 6’0) by bulking traditionally, and THEN try an IF approach, could I still have good musculature while dropping body fat and maintaining strength while fasting? I feel fasting is the most ‘natural’ way we should eat and am keen to try it, but just want to hear your opinion on this. Thanks a lot. (btw. I’m 16… Is fasting in teens like 16-18 detrimental in any way? Ive heard it shouldn’t be done, but feel it would give best results.)

    Reply
    • First, thanks for the comment. Second, don’t worry about fasting being bad. I think you’re associating that with having a lower caloric intake, which isn’t what fasting is about.

      You have two choices:

      1) Lean down. Try to maintain your strength, or improve it as best as possible. But the gist is that you’re understanding this is a necessary part. Train with the weights hard, don’t go cardo-centric either. Let it happen through your diet. This is the fastest way to get to where you want to be.

      2) Try a recomposition. It’s basically the same plan as above, but being more generous with your calories and carbohydrates on training days. This would hopefully stimulate some muscle growth and provide enough for recovery.

      Reply
      • Thanks for the replies. One last question. I’m stuck at a point on which truly are my ‘training days’. Should I just class them as the days I lift? I train 5x a week. 5 days on, but lift mon/we’d/fri and athletics train tues/thurs(2hrs hiit tue, 1:30 sprints thu) so I’m conscious about getting enough carbs and calories to recover, and to fuel my workouts. Or am I just over thinking it? Thanks again, Anthony.

        Reply
  • Also, i’m gonna be straight : Am I wasting time strength training? Should I be gaining weight? I am still underweight for my height, and unhappy about my body all the time and it’s stressing me out too much. I need to focus more on studies than this at the moment, so I need an easy strategy that doesn’t require too much mental stress. Theres just too many conflicting ideas on the internet, and I don’t know what to do anymore. I’d rather hear from someone with just about identical body type as me (on your older photos) on how to gain weight and muscle. Thanks man.

    Reply
    • Strength training is a must. My job is very mentally demanding as it’s a “creative” field. It doesn’t bother me. Just make sure you take care of your sleep and other stressors.

      Reply
  • hi, so i started gym with friend at work a few months back my BF% was 20% and we been bulking, iv always been skinny my whole life until a couple years ago where i began to drink alot(party) so still suffering with a bit of beer belly, i expected that during bulking i wont thin down, yet by belly has stayed same but my arms etc have seem to lose some fat, im going to begin cutting after a year of bulking. so far been happy with my results even friends/ family have noticed results.
    intresting read thanks.

    Reply
  • Jenny Smestad October 10, 2012 8:54 am

    Hi!
    Is this an overall recommandation, or do you have different bodyfat-numbers for women? I’m about 17%, is that considered lean enough to build some mass?
    Love your blog, btw!

    Reply
    • This is taken from my upcoming nutrition book ;)

      • 3% to 5% on a male is about 11% to 13% on a female.
      • 6% to 7% on a male is about 14% to 15% on a female.
      • 9% to 10% on a male is about 16% to 17% on a female.*
      • 11% to 12% on a male is about 18% to 19% on a female*
      • 14% to 15% on a male is about 20% to 22% on a female.
      • 20% to 22% on a male is about 25% to 26% on a female.

      *Solid base level

      Reply
  • I was skinny fat, more on the fact that i kept drinking and drinking after age 18. Ive been lifting since Febuary and hitting it probably consistently since March.

    I chose the “you cant chisel a pebble into a statue” saying and bulked up, My weight went up 4kg in 5months and Ive been eating like a fucking horse. Dont be disheartened to bulk and get some bodyfat. Shit its pretty much maintenace for youre weight and eat as much as you did before except throw some protein in and youre bulking for 2 years. Im for muscle not for lean otterman gaines.

    Reply
    • Thanks for your opinion. But I find you simply have to know how to eat for “clean” gains. You don’t eat at maintenance 24/7, which I think that’s what you’re saying. If you do that, it won’t end well.

      Reply
  • Hello,

    Great article. I am in a similar predicament. fairly new to lifting(34 years old) and have been skinny my whole life. I am 5-9″ 150 LBs and have belly fat. Body fat % about 12.5%. I have been working with a trainer the past 6 weeks and have put on about 2-3 pounds. My diet is healthy, I lift 3 times a week and do cardio 20-25 minutes twice once to twice a week. I would LOVE to lose the belly fat and put on about 10 LBs of muscle and am very confused about what my diet should be like. Extra calories to bulk, deficit to lose fat etc? argh. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Reply
    • I’d lose the belly first, just as the article advises. Your muscle growth will skyrocket back to normal after, even though you might shrink a bit in the process.

      Reply
  • I couldn’t agree more with this article.

    For a change, I tried getting lean for the past month. I do cardio and strength training alternately for six days a week. I have lost 1kg of fat in the process without losing more than 10% of my original lean mass.

    Reply
  • Hello Anthony, great article!

    I’m 6’2” 186 pounds skinny-fat ecto. I workout 3 days a week for about 3 months now (full body workout plus some isolation exercises). No cardio, but I keep my diet in check. My strength and weight are increasing but I decided to get lean first. Most of my bodyfat is around my stomach and it does not look good. Because of that, I decided to add cardio to my routine. What I want to ask;
    1) Is low intensity cardio for 20-30 minutes after weight lifting session will hinder my muscle gains? I read somewhere that it is possible to burn more fat that way. But I do not want to burn my muscles in the process. I want to keep my strength high as possible, but also it is difficult for me to find time for cardio except those 3 days I workout.
    2) What do you suggest for forearm and calf area? Those are the most problematic areas for me and I would appreciate any suggestion. Also, for some exercises my grip strength is starting to become a limiting factor. What can I do to increase my grip strength?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • 1) If you’re asking if the cario will do it — maybe, but probably not as long as you don’t overdo it. If you’re asking if the fact that it’s done AFTER a workout will do it — no.

      2) You don’t focus on these areas until you’re respectable elsewhere. Put most of your attention to the rest of your body for now. You can do some calf raises here and there, sure. Or forearm curls. Rice digs. Whatever. But you should do thick bar curls.

      As for the grip, depends on what you need it for. There are different kinds of grip strength. What exercises are hindered?

      Reply
  • Thanks for the reply, will try using thick bar for curls. I will probably get something like fat gripz.
    For the grip issue: for example, dumbbell step up like this:
    http://www.muscleandstrength.com/exercises/dumbbell-step-up.html
    I aim to perform 10 for left and 10 for right leg per set. But when I pick up 50 pound dumbbells for my last set, it surely stimulates my legs, but because of grip issue, I barely hit 7 reps left and right, and holding dumbbells becomes very difficult at that point. It feels like I can do more if my grip was better. Other examples for hindered exercises are DB bulgarian squat, stiff leg deadlift. I dont have any grip issue for upper body exercises for now.

    Reply
    • Well if you’re sole goal is to hit the legs then you need another exercise or you need to use straps. Don’t let grip interfere with leg training.

      Reply
  • Anthony, I know you say to lean out but what if the fat won’t budge? I’m female, 5’6 115 pounds. Still have belly fat and now as I continue to try and lean out, my arms are getting skinnier. I’m losing all my muscle. I was under the impression that if you have no muscle it’s harder to lose fat because your metabolism slows. Any tips appreciated.

    Reply
    • Well most of the metabolism slowing comes from being in a chronic caloric deficit. If I were you I’d consider having some kind of refeed day once or twice per week if you aren’t already. These should help retain muscle.

      Are you lifting weights? Squatting, pressing, pulling?

      Reply
      • I am going to start the refeeds. Should I eat at a surplus on these refeeds or eat at maintenance for my weight? Yes, I have been lifting weights for years, mostly machines, but I am now getting into free weights. I should do 3 sets of 8-12 reps to build muscle, right?

        Reply
        • You can build muscle in lots of different repetition ranges. Which one is best for you depends on a TON of factors. A true refeed will have you bounce above maintenance. I usually recommend one if you’re in full throttle fat loss to make sure your body doesn’t totally dreak.

          Reply
  • Great stuff Anthony. Just found your site tonight and my eyes are gonna fall out I’ve read so much already. I’ve been a 6’1″ skinny twig since I was in middle school. I finally gained weight (fat) when I hit my 30s’. Mostly from beer (belly). I’m an avid tennis player 3-5x a week. But never did any real weight training. After losing a ton of weight 15 months ago (yoga-tennis-fasting) I moved to Portland and put on 20lbs of fat (beer-bbq-no exercise). I finally decided I’d had enough and got serious about getting lean and healthy. I quit drinking, joined a tennis club, started working out. I got a Bod-Pod reading and had 23.7% fat. So I’m trying to focus on losing the fat first while still lifting weights to maintain muscle. The guy that did my Bod-Pod reading is also a trainer and said I should maintain my weight of 182lbs and even gain a few more pounds. How the hell do I drop all this fat and gain weight? Your article makes more sense to me. Thanks..

    Reply
    • You don’t. If I were you I’d start doing a progressive strength training routine along with everything else you got going on. That’s going to help build/keep some of your muscle around during your fat loss crush.

      Reply
      • Thanks for the quick response. I started doing Craig Ballantynes Turbulence Training work out 2 weeks ago. I just started with the 4 week beginner course to get myself fit enough to actually start doing some serious lifting.

        Reply
        • I’m slightly familiar with TT, but from what I know it’s not so much of a strength program but more so a metabolic program. Get yourself leveling up basic exercises.

          Reply
  • Hej anthony,

    I am currently back into the whole process, if been working out for some time. On-and off, and due to medical problems i have been forced to stop when i was doing well.
    Now, i can’t still go to the gym quite yet. But i was already busy working on my diet, and losing weight.
    I got a few dumbbells at home, and can implement pull-ups if necessary.
    You think it will mater that much that i will keep losing weight and still wait with the strength exercising?
    Loving all the information you provide on the wonderful site btw !

    Reply
    • I dunno how much it will matter, but I’d prefer you get some work in now. Just my opinion. You’re always better off stronger.

      Reply
  • Hej, thanks for the reply.
    Currently just doing pull-ups, dumbell-rows, push ups shoulder and arm exercises
    (dumbells) nothing tot heavy… noticed i lost ALLOT of my strength.
    Planning on going back to the gym in 1-2 weeks.
    Currently sitting at 6 ft 163 pounds.
    My diet is clean, has enough protein in it. But not really counting calories atm.
    I stil have some belly hand chest fat. I actually want to get rid of the fat direct and then start ging heavy. So that i can lift harder by eating wit a surplus in calories.
    Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    Reply
    • Don’t know what kind of thoughts you want here? I post a lot of stuff about bulking and cutting on my blog. Browse around. You need to strength train, so start there. And after that, dial your nutrition into where it needs to be to loose. But you need to strength train regardless.

      Reply
  • Hey Anthony, this is a great article. I have been trying to figure out whether to bulk or cut, and this article perfectly describes how I feel. I have always been active, but I also have always had baby fat that made me skinny fat. I look very thin, and on most parts of my body I am quite thin with some muscle. Several months ago, I was at 20.5 percent body fat, but I have taken action by dieting, doing cardio and several muscle workouts a week. I am now at either 15.5 or 16 percent body fat, but still have man boobs and (reduced) love handles. Currently, I run 5 miles five times a week, sometimes 6 miles, I swim a km a week, and workout twice for an hour. I guess I am trying to ask whether or not my man boobs will disappear by 12 percent or so? And should I tweak my diet? I try to eat something like 2000 calories per day. Thanks

    Reply
    • The big thing I see: you’re not strength training as much as you should be.

      Less other activity. More strength training.

      Reply
  • hey freat article ive just started up at the gym again after 6 months of eating nothing but junk food ive been to the gym in the past but my diet was awful and so was my sleep and i just bounced between bulk and cut failing miserably at both :( ive got my diet and my sleep pattern under control for first time in my life and im eating lean protien and carbs only from milk around work out and at breakfast and ive started doing 30-45 mins of cardio (both optimal fat burning levels and intival training) i work out 5 days a week and on weekedend cut out the milk and just have lean protien next to no carbs :) ive just just hit 10.4% bf and i am so happy cos im really insecure about my belly fat but i really want a six pack and lean arms and chest before i start a bulk because i dont want to get fat so figure best to get lean than i cann afford to put on a bit of weight with lean bulking :) but i was just curious if you had any help on how to get under the 10% so i can see my abs and how long you reacon it will take?

    Reply
    • If you’re 10% you should have a six pack.

      Perhaps your BF measurements are inacurate.

      Reply
      • Ive done a few tests im defo at ten% i know some people need to drop to between 6and 8 %tho so im not to worried i can see them slowly coming through and can feel em was just wondering if you had any tips to get that last bit of belly fat off or is just a few weeks of patience the answer

        Reply
        • Depends on what you’re using now and whatnot. The last bit is tough and I wouldn’t rush it because it usually means curtailing results elsewhere and dropping strength.

          Reply
  • Hey Anthony,

    Great article. I’m glad Juji referenced your site a while back, I don’t know if I would’ve found your blog otherwise as I’m not much of a blog reader. Thanks for all the info!

    This article reminded me of a question I’ve had for a while, which I’ve not gotten a satisfactory answer for, and would like your input. I’m currently 5’9″, 235 lbs and around 26% bf, definitely not a skinny-fat, just a regular old fat-fat haha. But my question is, if I were to eat like a lean and healthy 200 pounder, and workout well ( I’m currently doing starting strength and training capoeira almost everyday), would I eventually become a lean 200 lbs? Possible long term? I’ve adopted your cruise control IF method, with 1-2x per week 24 hour fast and I’m feeling great!

    Thanks in advance for your input.

    Reply
    • I don’t know as I don’t know what your conception of eating like a lean and healthy 200 pounder is. Chances are that lean 200 pounder can eat MORE than you can as they have improved insulin sensitivity and creates a much bigger training stress in their body.

      I think you should worry about eating in a way you need to eat for your goal.

      Training sounds decent. SS is a good program for your powerlifts, but I wouldn’t say it’s best for total physique purposes. It’s certainly a good program though, as long as it aligns with what you want.

      Reply
  • Hey Anthony, thanks for this article, it really did clear up a lot for me. I’m 5’9, 16, and around 138lbs, around 16-17% BF, the typical skinny fat. My main goal is gaining muscle (obviously) but the idea of going on a bulk, even a clean one for that matter, scares me because of the fat gain. With that being said, a cut would be best for my situation right? I’m not scared of losing muscle considering I don’t have much right now, but with the proper routine (i.e. training heavy) could I limit the muscle loss? Thanks for your help!

    Reply
  • Hi , Anthony great article never seen anything like it.I am 17 years old and i have been doing weight trainning and healthy nutrition for 3 months now.I go to the gym with a friend of mine and we pretty much do the same things ( both in weight trainning and diet )and we started the very same day.We were both kind of skinny and we took a promise.To get fit.Today i am no mach for him.He got big and strong.I didn’t.He progressed much from the day we started and i wondered why i didn’t as well?So i asked my trainner and he replyed to me : ”your bodytype sucks dude.I will be honest with you.No matter how hard you train you are never going tosee true results you are just messing arround ”. After that i quit the gym i totally lost hope until i read your article . What should i do?Ihave 6” whrists and bony calves and lower leg and skinny upper chest plus a bit of man boobs . Please reply Anthony i realy need your advise i gotta make my self fit.

    Reply
    • I don’t know what you want me to tell you outside of just read as much as you can on the blog and begin with the eight essential exercises document I have available. You can build yourself. It might take work and effort. But you can build.

      And I honestly think my wrists are smaller than 6″.

      Reply
  • Hi Anthony, your posts have been really informative and motivational. I have been working out for about 6 months and definitely made some improvements along the way. I have gained about 4kg so far. I do strength training 4 times a week but only recently starting doing HIIT on my rest days. My goal is to lose fat but also get bigger. What should the number of reps be like for my weight training regime and also how heavy should I be lifting? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Reps totally depend. I can’t answer without having control of your entire framework. You should be lifting tough. But then again, if you’re strong, sometimes you need light days. So your questions are a bit vague and more suited toward a personal consultation. All I can say is just read as much here as possible.

      Reps usually 5-8 for upper body, IMO. 8-10 for assistance. Lower, I like 3-5.

      Reply
  • I made the mistake of bulking first. Despite the fact I did gain a lot of muscle I still got much fatter (I hit 38% BF) it looked very ugly. Now I’m still cutting from that time and am on 17% BF. one thing I’m certain of is that I would never get myself above 20% again. Cutting is easy when you only have 5 to 6 kilos to lose but if you bulk at 20%+ you will gain a lot more than you can stay motivated to lose. So as a word of advice CUT FIRST!!!!!

    Reply
  • i make the big mustake after 2 years of cutting i started to gain weight and now i have 115 kg at 1.87 height.i want bback at 85 kg but now is verry hard to loose weight.WHAT SHOUD I DO??
    what shoud i eat not to feel fatigue by the diet??what suplements shoud i take?
    before bedtime is ok to take some protein powder?

    Reply
  • LAst time i starve myself a lot and took some whey protein wih coffeine.low low calorie was the “secret”
    Now i study a lot and i cannot afford to have a low calorie diet(i feel brain fog fatigue)..
    i tend to eat calories before bedtime ,i want to ask at what time do u have ur last meal??

    Reply
  • Hi Anthony! Great article, but just wanted to see if you agree with the changes I’m planning to make after reading this ?

    I’m 20, have been gyming for about 2-3 years, but never seen a massive improvement in definition… I’ve definitely increased muscle mass though, having been on protein shakes and various supplement stacks. Always been body conscious, and never had proper abs – but have been afraid of putting on weight or getting sucked into the bulk/cut cycle indefinitely and never making any improvements…

    I’m 6ft, 1 height… About 156lbs. When I measured about 2-3 weeks ago, I was about 15% bf… Decided to start a cut. Been on about a 1800 calorie diet (500-700 cal deficit) for about 2 weeks and have definitely definitely dropped body fat.

    Current plan of action is to reach a 12-10% bf over the next month or so, take 2 weeks off dieting eating at maintenance calories, then start a 500 calorie surplus clean bulk – increasing training from 3 to 5 times a week.

    Is this the right way to go ?

    Thanks !!!

    Reply
    • I think your concept of a clean bulk is wrong, as a steady singular calorie intake won’t do it. Gotta be chaotic — check out my clean bulk series and my book, The Chaos Bulk for more info on that.

      All else seems sensible as long as you truly were at 15% BF.

      Reply
  • Hello Anthony
    Could you give your view on these areas below

    1. Using HST principle during cutting
    2. Use of BCAA along with thermogenics
    3. Assuming one follows a proper diet and works out reasonably hard, how long would it take to move from 14% BF to 9%?

    Thanks so much
    Ranjith

    Reply
    • 1) What am I supposed to be giving an opinion on here? Whether or not to do it? Whether or not it will work?
      2) What does this even mean? When are you using BCAAs? What does the thermogenic part even mean? Thermogenic effect of food? Or what?
      3) Not even Jesus would be able to answer this. Expect to lose around 2 pounds per week. Make it 1 pound per week if you plan on keeping muscle around better. So you can calculate that out yourself based on an ACCURATE BF estimation and your current weight.

      I answer questions, my man, but you gotta give me something to work with.

      Reply
  • Hi Anthony
    Sorry if I was being vague. Let me mention details

    1. Yes. Do you think HST is a good routine for cutting fat or only for bulking?

    2. morning workouts, on empty stomach, I use oxyelite pro which is a thermogenic pill for fat burn. I also have 6gm BCAA 3:2:1 ratio of lucine : valine : isoluciene
    From what I read, this is good combination. Question that comes to mind is, if the bloodstream has loads of BCAA, will it ignore the fat burn and go after the BCAA for energy instead?

    3. I believe you answered my question :)

    Cheers
    Ranjith

    Reply
    • 1) I’m not a huge fan of splitting the body into more than upper/lower. So I’m not a gigantic HST fan. Not saying it can’t work, but I’d pin it more on an advanced routine for someone interested in mass.

      2) I don’t use BCAAs. But 6gm isn’t “loads.” Your success will hinge on much much more than this.

      Reply
      • Hello Anthony
        1. HST is full body workout on each session. So what do you say is more than upper/lower body split?

        2. If 6gm is way too less, what dosage would you suggest to make a usefull difference? Also, what would the success hinge on?

        Thanks again
        Ranjith

        Reply
        • Ah sorry, HST looks alright. I wouldn’t do it though. Would definitely be a mass gaining endeavor with those 20 rep squats.

          I don’t take BCAAs, so I have no dosage to give you.

          Success hinges on more than the fate of 6grams of BCAAs…like the other 99.9% of your nutrition and the 100% of your training and the 100% of your lifestyle.

          Reply
  • U ever tried Nitix from BSN?are they any good?i want to take some suplements for weightloss..

    Reply
  • Tks Anthony,but when u want to loose weight ,u take creatine and what kind do u take mono or ethyl esther?

    Reply
  • hello i’m skinny fat. I did p90x.But I have a little fat in my chest and stomach, What do you suggest me ? Please help me. I did low carb and paleo,İF

    Reply
    • The Skinny-Fat Solution :) It’s why I wrote it.

      Reply
      • yes I ‘ am skinny fat. But my english is very week. I dont understand this article. Please simple sentence to me :) . bulk or cut ? how ?

        Reply
        • Hey man, just try to translate my blog. I’ve written about this so much, including in the article above. I’ve spent countless hours dissecting it for free, so spend a few minutes to browse around for the answer.

          Reply
  • I did both. I ate a ton of calories,but all natural unprocessed food (except vegan protein powder). Ran in the morning, lifted during day (just one muscle group), and swam at night. Ate big meal of fat and protein after each workout. Ate a small meal of complex carbs hour before work out. With fruits an veg in between. Got jacked quick! 6 weeks. Key is short, but intense and often. That applies to food and exercise. My brother swears by p90x, but I crush him in anything now except for p90x.

    Reply
  • hey anthony! great article you have here. I have a skinny-fat body type as well but i have been bulking since february. i have two more months before i finish this bulking phase. should i finish the coming two months of bulking or should i just get lean now?

    Reply
    • Can you tell me what the article says again?
      ;)

      It’s ultimately your choice. I don’t know how you’re making progress, so I can’t say.

      Reply
    • SewingDiscontent January 9, 2014 6:51 pm

      Anthony, I just want to say thank you for this article. I’m a 37 yr old female who has lost 100 pounds through diet alone. This has left me at 5’9″ and 144 pounds of skinnyfat. I started Stronglifts three weeks ago, and in that time probably spent around ten hours reading and dissecting information about bulking and cutting, and still didn’t have a plan. Your article gave me instant clarity- I should lose the last ten pounds before trying to bulk. And when I do bulk, I now know how to do it. You rock. Thanks for spelling it out for me.

      Reply
  • Marcus beasley June 10, 2013 7:46 am

    I’d say cut first to preserve skin elasticity. There is nothing sexy about saggy skin and the less expansion the better.

    Reply
  • Daniel Owens June 18, 2013 2:49 pm

    Hi I have been cutting in the last six months, i have reached 70kg. (dropped from 80kg) fairly effortlessly, however recently my weight has stopped dropping, would I be able to send you a picture of myself so that you could tell me if i need to cut more or start to bulk?

    Thanks.

    Reply
  • Hey anthony, i have been reading your articles i looked everywhere before and i had almost given up as i am one extreme case of skinny fat
    i am 17, 5’2 20% body fat and weigh 113 pounds yes can you imagine being 20% body fat at 113 pounds? i started lifting weights 6 months ago and started at around 120 pounds and did weight lifting and cardio and got to 113 pounds belly shrunk a bit but can still pick handfuls of it around belly region my arms upper chest shoulders and back look a lot leaner and more defined i have gained a bit more muscle but i am confused i dont know what to do

    am i doing it right?
    i do full body workouts every other day which is 3-4 times a week
    and i eat at maintenance every day and i follow the high protein on/off days and high carb on lifting days and low/moderate on rest days and low fat on lifting days and higher fat on workout days. my maintenance is about 1800-2000 if i do this for long enough, will i see results? will i do a recomp? thanks anthony!

    Reply
    • If you’re doing my Great 8 and getting stronger, then you’re training is good enough to see progress. As for the nutrition, I don’t know. I can’t see what you’re eating. I’m not a huge fan of “high” carbs when trying to lean down for a lot of people. I like keeping them as high as possible with the eye to decrease if change isn’t going down.

      Sounds to me like you’re losing weight, which is what you should want. What makes you think you aren’t doing it right?

      Reply
      • thanks for the reply anthony, like i said i am only 5’2 at 112lbs i did try to lose weight and dropped a few kg and my arms got really small like 10 inch my shoulders, face got very skinny and i was at 105 lbs i dropped from 112 which is 7 lbs and my belly did get smaller a bit but most was still there and i did not want to go down more than 105 lbs as i am 5’2 and that would be very under weight because 112 is still underweight. since i started working out, i have made gains on upper chest shoulders and my strength has gone up and my back is looking very defined if you saw me with a muscle shirt and wernt able to see my body, you would put me at a good 12% body fat because i have cuts and definition but without the tshirt i am 20% and all of it is right there in the middle of my stomach.

        i have tried leaning out and dropped a lot of weight but didnt work so i am trying to do a recomp, eating at maintenance i started my recomp 1 month ago, and some times i even ate less than maintenance and also had cheat meals but my strength and lifts are still going up, while i am around about the same weight does this mean it is working for me?

        Reply
        • I think you’re too focused on this idea of being “underweight.” You aren’t underweight if you’re fat. I can’t tell body fat without a picture.

          Reply
          • Hey Anthony thanks for the reply! It’s great to see you are still replying and going strong keep up the good work!

            And I got my bodyfat hydrostaticaly tested and I am at 17%body fat which is lower than I expected as before I used one of those in accurate hand held calculators! But right now I am 17% body fat at 113 lbs what do you suggest I do?

  • Vincentlukito July 11, 2013 3:15 pm

    Hi anthony, i have been wondering about this article all day. I have been fat since i was a kid but i started to lose fat and muscle since last year.
    Now , i’m 15 and 132 lbs with a bf of 20.2% i wanted to ask should i bulk up or cut first. I was wondering if i cut first, i am going to look very skinny and bad . But if i bulk up first i must cut a whole lot of fat .i’m really confused i wanted to gain muscle since i don’t have much of them and than get to a bf of 15%. I always had wanted an athletic body i started weight train in the gym. i really wanted to change my life since i use to be fat and i had always wanted a good lean muscular body Please reply thxx.

    Reply
    • I’m not sure how you can be asking this given the entire article is about this issue, haha! Read it man!

      Reply
      • Vincentlukito July 12, 2013 2:25 am

        Thnxx for the reply but i mean really if i cut first i don’t have much muscle and i’m only 15 and i think my bf is not 20% i use a machine called tanita and many people said it’s not accurate

        Reply
        • Well if you’re giving me inaccurate information, how do you expect me to give an accurate response? :)

          Reply
  • This article is so wishy-washy that you come away learning nothing after you finish it. You basically just reaffirmed that skinny fats need to be patient….

    Reply
  • Hey Anthony, i’ve read your article entirely and i can say i agree with pretty much everything you said, and i also can assume that i have the same goals that you had when you we’re skinnyfat a long time ago.
    I’ve been over 20% BF and i know it doesn’t looks good. And it doesn’t feels good either too.

    The things is, while i’m at 17% BF currently (down from 22%) i started lifting just a couple of weeks ago, and i have 0 muscle. My biggest fear is that if i cut until i reach 10% (which is my goal) it’s going to take me at least 3-4 months according to my calculations (losing 1 lb per week), and this would probably mean that i won’t put any muscle mass (or minimum gains) since i’m on a calorie deficit.

    Are my fears funded? I really want to reach 10%, but i feel like i would not progress anything on the gym if i just cut during that much time (i have some issues with weight progression already..)

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • You’ll gain muscle if your new. Just go at strength work. Don’t be afraid of what may be. Attack the barbell hard. Good things will come.

      Reply
  • Hey man great work with the article, i am currently 17 years old and i’ve been asking people for my bodytype and im not sure if i am closer to an ectomorphic or a mesomorphic one.As the time goes by my whrists are getting bigger my thights as well (while working out) and im wonering if my tedency to the ectomorphic figure is because of my age.What i ‘d like you do is to help me decide what my bodytype is ???

    Reply
    • I wouldn’t be too concerned. Your growth is still going on and your body type is a nebulous thing — they first were invented for psychological profiling. The idea of being “skinny-fat” is just the reality of those that are skinny looking in clothes and whatnot, yet still have fat globs in stubborn places around the body.

      Reply
  • Exactly. I was just like that before i started working out. I had thin arms, legs, chest and big belly and i mean BIG. even now when i stop working out for a while my tedy tends to be like that. So, does that mean i’m skinny – fat? And if so what should i do?

    Reply
  • great

    Reply
  • i meant my body

    Reply
    • Yeah, you could be. As for what to do, I have many articles on the site as I told you before. Perhaps be a bit more specific with your question and I can help more.

      Reply
  • Hey Anthony,

    First off, thanks for your fantastic advice!

    I’m looking for help with my predicament. I started lifting one year ago, 5’7 at 143lbs and 15% body fat. Taking advice from the bodybuilding forum, I dirty bulked and got up to a gnarly 153lbs at 20%. I then did a bunch of mini-cuts and mini-bulks, ricocheting between my two insecurities: doughy body fat and smallness. The worst part about it all is that I lost my face. With my chubby cheeks and double chin, I look 12 years old unshaven (I’m 21). I used to have a cut diamond chin in high school!

    It’s insane how psychologically tormenting it is to be skinnyfat. Cuts are incredibly difficult, as your caloric maintenance is relatively low already. To lose weight, you have to eat even less (around 1700 cals for me). But with bulks, you gain a lot of fat with the muscle – probably even more fat than muscle. You have all those created fat cells just waiting to be fed.

    So now I am about 148 with a bodyfat between 14.5 and 17%. It’s hard to tell because my body is so awkward, and different body fat measurement tools give me different results. I want to try a moderate cut using a caloric deficit (about -300 cals per day). My training schedule will be like this:

    Mon – strength training + 20 minutes low intensity cardio
    Tues – 20 minutes HIIT + 20 minutes low intensity cardio
    Wed – strength training + 20 minutes low intensity cardio
    Thurs – 20 minutes HIIT + 20 minutes low intensity cardio
    Fri – strength training + 20 minutes low intensity cardio
    Sat – 20 minutes HIIT + 20 minutes low intensity cardio

    I’m keeping the carbs low, below 150g per day, and upping the protein/fat. I aim to lose fat until I am at good ol’ 10%, then I can focus on a clean bulk (and getting dem gurls with dat diamond chin o’ mine).

    Is this going to solve my skinnyfat curse? Based on the info in your article, it seems like it might be the solution. Please help me, I’m very desperate! I’ve been suffering from this awkward body, trying different things for so long now!

    Thanks Anthony, love your blog,
    Hayden

    Reply
    • I put more emphasis on strength training, and HIIT on off days generally isn’t going to help things. I’d do HIIT after lifting days, walking on “rest” days (or whatev low intensity cardio).

      Reply
  • Okay, so I know that this post is a bit old and all, but since you’re the only down to earth guy (seemingly) who actually has fantastic input, I have a question that I haven’t gotten a straightforward answer to yet. I’m 5’5 and I recently lost 95 pounds, and the loose skin is pretty bad. I was wondering what the most effective way to handle it would be? I’m at 18% body fat. Should I still lose a few more pounds? I want to gain a few pounds of lean muscle without getting any larger than I currently am, as I think my size is near perfect. Essentially I want to “fill” this loose skin. Any input is highly valued, thanks in advance! :)

    Reply
  • So basically if I’m self-conscious about my body fat I should cut right? Well what is your opinion on this if I am a teenager? Would it be healthy to cut? I just can’t stand having all this fat! (I guess I am around 18-20%)

    I’m currently cutting and I’ve lost a couple pounds but many people tell me it’s not best to cut as a skinny fat individual because of lack of lean body mass. What is your take on this?

    My strength has being going up that’s a good sign! (Currently on ICF: Novice Stronglifts 5×5) I’m also eating the recommended 1g of protein per pound of lbm and .45g of fat per pound of lbm a day!

    Reply
  • Hey, great article by the way. I’ve spent years trying to figure out what I should do and your article was the first thing I read that actually makes sense to me.

    To start off, I’m 5’7” 150lbs and around 22% body fat. I started going to the gym about 3 years ago and sadly, I have not gained any significant strides in bulking up. I understand that I might be not using my workouts efficiently enough but I usually go with a workout buddy and they keep getting stronger when I always have trouble. For some reason, I cannot do dips or chinups or pullups. My muscle endurance is severely lacking because on my second or third set, my max reps always fall way low. Personally, I truly understand the troubles of a skinny-fat person and I sympathize with all those have to deal with this problem. I have pseudo-gynecomastia and have been trying so hard to get rid of them. Trouble is that I cannot cut body fat easily and I cannot gain muscle easily either. I have been doing Insanity and am currently on day 35 and still no significant body fat losses. I have been 150lbs for as long as I can remember and whatever I do, I cannot lose or gain weight. I am going back to college in a week and I cannot do Insanity anymore because I live on the 4th floor of an apartment complex.

    My goal is to get leaner. Anything near 12-13% body fat would make me tremendously happy. Just looking for some guidance, should I be doing a HIIT routine or slow-intensity routine? Is there any workouts you recommend for someone in my place? Any help would be great and continue the great blog work. Thanks.

    Reply
    • See my series called “Solution to Skinny Fat Syndrome.” All the articles are free on this site — goes through life, training, and nutrition. For a refined look, take my free email learning course (use the link at the top navigation).

      Reply
  • Just wanted to say I read your article a few weeks ago and have since taken your advice with so far great results. My diet comprises of mostly fat and proteins with about 100g of carbs that I finish my day off with at my last meal. I’ve been working out four times a week and getting much stronger even on a caloric deficit probably due to the newb effect. I fluctuate how much I eat, give or take 200 calories, based on when I workout and this seems to be helping things along. There’s such mass confusion out there about bulking and cutting and I much appreciate your clarity on the whole situation you’ve shared with everyone.

    Reply
    • Thanks – really appreciate you taking the time to write out your positive experiences. Means a lot to me!

      Reply
  • Read all the articles on skinny-fats, etc. I’m 32, 6’9″, 230 lbs, and I’ve been following your advice for the past few months or so.

    I have been gaining muscle and everyone has been noticing, on the offside, I have been gaining fat as well. I’m not on a traditional “bulk”. I eat about 3300 cals a day, 184 grams of protein. I rarely if ever raise these amounts, yet I’m still gaining fat (especially around my chest and lower back.)?

    Every rmr and bmr calculator says I’m under eating by about 100-200 calories for my age/height/weight. So what’s the deal? I’m getting stronger, I’m getting bigger, I’m feeling more solid and healthier and stress free, but I keep gaining bits of fat, and it’s getting to the point my best friend said it looked like i was getting man boobs!

    Can you point me to somewhere on your website that might help me?

    Reply
    • This is why I don’t trust or count calories. Your body functions a way that calculators can’t quite grasp, and obviously you’re eating more than you need. I recommend going on a cyclical calorie / nutrient diet (see clean bulk posts / chaos bulk).

      Reply
  • This article was great and helped me alot. Everyone I seem to talk to is giving me a different answer. I am a 5’8 male weighing 210 at 20 percent bf . I am a stocky body type.and was someone with a fair amount of muscle that I ended up losing and not I find areas of mu body flabbier and no muscle – I want to gain my muscle back and look lean-should I be cutting first then add muscle or add lean muscle first then cut ? I really appreciate if u can share your thoughts
    thanks !!!

    Reply
    • My answer is within both of the articles I wrote on the topic. That’s just my own approach and opinion.

      Reply
  • PS: I’ve been weightlifting for the past five years, but not seriously to put on weight except for the past year and a half.

    I come from an athletic background, playing basketball most of my youth until a shoulder injury stopped me at age 24.

    Make my physiology is just wacky!

    Reply
  • Hey anthony! great articles! i am a 17 year old 5’3 male that is 108 lbs body fat is maybe about 16% even though i am already underweight i have a gut and i am going to cut but how should i make sure i make minimal muscle loss while cutting? i am cutting on 1500-1600 calories and taking arm and waist measurements to see if the lost weight is muscle from arms or fat from waist? am i doing it right? i just want to know how should i try to keep all the little muscle i have while i cut

    thanks! keep up the great work you have inspired loads

    Reply
    • The best way is to continue strength training like a boss and make sure all of your extra activity isn’t in the name of muscle zapping. (Stick to sprints, jump rope, and low intensity walking.)

      Reply
  • Hey Anthony!
    I love your site, and i have just applied to all of your freebies about thirty mins ago, but I am still not getting your confirmation emails ( I did add you too my contacts.)
    I love I can do squats and deads (unlike kinobody) but I won’t turn ito the hulk (like starting strength) thanks again!

    Reply
  • Great article, I’ve read it multiple times but I need your perspective.

    I made a mistake in that I cut very aggressively for 6 months (1500-1700 cal./day) and did ZERO strength training. I didn’t lift an ounce. My belly is fat but I look skeletal everywhere else. It looks weird. I’m a little worried that I’m on my way to Christian Bale in The Machinist.

    The way I see it I have 3 paths I could take:

    1. continue to cut at 1500-1700 cal./day WITH strength training

    2. attempt a calorie surplus with strength training to regain lost muscle

    3. try re-composition by eating surplus on training days and 1500-1700 cal./day on off days (not sure if this is even plausible)

    I’m not comfortable with belly fat, so based on your article I should cut until I have a lean base (path 1). However, I’ve been doing it wrong for 6 months. Does that change the plan you put forward in the article?

    *I realize these paths are very generalized, but I can figure out the details by reading the works you’ve already published & other pieces of information. I just need a direction.

    Reply
    • I’d consider eating lots of protein, trying to “break even” on energy and nutrients on training days (maybe eat a little more), and then dip below on rest days.

      Reply
  • Hey thanks for the article. Worth a lot :)

    My problem is a bit different. I am only 128-130 pounds and am 5’9″ .
    I run everyday and play soccer as well. Although the scale shows that i am underweight, i have a big abdomen.
    Note : I was kind of chubby in my early teens ( am 20 now). ( was around the same weight but was shorter than i am now )
    What would you advice me to do? I read somewhere that too much of cardio causes skinny fat ( Is that true? ). I cannot stop the running though and i do not lift weights.

    Reply
    • Read the second part of the article. My recommendations generally don’t hold any exceptions.

      Losing fat doesn’t mean going cardio crazy.

      Reply
  • currently i’m at 20% bf and i play cricket.

    so should i cut first then do lean mass gaining???confused??btw i am meso-endo
    :)
    thaxs for the great article bt please help me

    Reply
    • CONFUSEEEDDDD?

      How, when I just wrote an article about this exact question? What does the article tell you to do?

      Reply
  • So anthony, im a skinny fat 16 year old and idk my bf exactly but ik its around 15-20% im 5″10 about 148 pounds and I was just wondering if whole body exercises (squats, deadlift, chin ups, barbell) and cardio will help lose my belly fat? I read the article, but wasnt exactly sure about what to do to burn fat.

    Reply
  • Hey Anthony,
    I wrote on google bulk or cut and here i am. After reading the article i dissipate all my doubts, congratulations for the article, well written and good argumentation.
    This question is not strange to me, because my target physique is being a shredded bulked guy. Being an mesomorph i struggle to get muscle with the same difficult as losing fat. So before i read this i asked myself what should i do first if im in this middle zone and i want a big shredded body?
    You gave this perspective: get a progressive bulk with damage control, seeing the real and effective results of gaining lean muscle, instead of ‘disguised’ fat. This inspired me to think this is good way to go.
    You shared your own low body fat percentage experience, i’m gonna share mine, after getting some muscle while bulking a while ago, i got a new self conscious of appreciation by others, only cause back then i had a bulking and a minimal lean appeareance, and that ‘traumatizes’ my self view cause then i realized once that i loose weight i loose that status again. So i didn’t want to do cut unless i reached a good muscle frame getting this way quick social results, however, this way may be the fastest path to have more social attention, although after reading this article i came to the conclusion this is not the best option cause of the difficulties of having clean and real muscle and not muscle mixed with fat giving a false appearance of muscle. Additionally will be more hard to get rid of the accumulated fat instead of the progressive muscle gain process.

    Reply
    • Body fat tends to encourage fat gain. My answer holds for just about everyone that has reservations about body fat. You can bulk first, if you please, but you’ll probably add much more fat in the long run. Just my own experience and knowledge.

      Reply
  • Hi Anthony,

    So im skinny fat, and I have a bf measurement saying im around 11-12 %. Im 167 and 5’9.My shoulder blades actually stick out slightly in the back, along with my clavicle. But yet I have man boobs and love handles that won’t go away. Im not sure if it would be best for me to continue to lose weight while strength training and doing only a little bit of cardio, or should I try to slowly bulk to build muscle?

    Reply
  • I think this isn’t for everyone. I’m 5′ 10,5” 127 pounds. Despite the belly I unfortunately believe that I have no choice despite bulk and try to do some hiit cardio for fat store control

    Reply
  • I’m a 37yr. old female trying to lose 158lbs. I’m trying to get to 130lbs. What is the least calories I can intake?

    Reply
  • My bulk is muscle not fat and I need to dorp it by 15% so what should I do?

    I am 16 years old my hight is 5.5 weight is 155 pounds and I got big off of alot of bodyweight workouts so lightened all of my strength training.

    p.s should I practice both the planche pogression and handstand pogression at the same time or should I wait to do planche pogressions?

    Reply
    • If you’re over 15% body fat, your bulk is fat.

      I’d concentrate on either planche or HS, but that doesn’t mean you can’t train them both. Just that one would probably take more of a focus, and that’s usually the HS.

      Reply
  • I have been trying to cut below what I think is 14% bf for a year and I’m giving up. Partly medical conditions( hypothyroidism), partly lack of discipline when my fat mother continues to make apple pies every two days and I can’t keep myself from eating them,partly bored of stalling lifts, I’ll forget about 10% bf for now. I just hope I don’t get too fat. Any tips before the big wave ?

    Reply
  • hello anthony.
    I am 64kg light, 173cm tall, have about 15% bodyfat and follow a +10/-30% kcal “diet”.
    It’s in exclamation marks because it doesn’t feel like one.
    I am feeling great, the fatloss is really slow, but pleasingly painfree, considering I was 83kg last time I weighed myself.
    Also, very nice article here, especially the part about how much bf% affects the people.

    Reply
  • My problem is that I only have a bf% of about 12-13 and have pretty much always been in that range but I can never seem to get “cut” the way I want to look or I’ll still have somewhat flabby looking arms. I’ve never been super toned and lean looking despite having a pretty low body fat percentage so is this an issue of doing the wrong exercises? Not eating right? Both? I just want to look cut, the infamous adonis belt, and no more flab/moobs (I only have AA cup moobs but moobs are moobs)

    Reply
    • There are approximately 346264746y256756735.3 reasons you aren’t able to lose the last bit of fat, none of which I’ll be able to pick out of a hat at random. It all depends on what you’ve done and such. I suggest you search my site for a post about cookies. And then read my treatise on skinny-fat syndrome.

      Reply
  • Kieron Wilson April 27, 2014 12:45 pm

    Hi,
    Very good article but my problem is I started training from november went from 11st too 12st4 but now I am back down too 12st and look no leaner. I have packed on a lot more muscle but do I now go for a cutting guide and really tone off (my six pack is coming through) but I hate looking skinny. Or do I bulk up through the summer then cut down?

    Reply
    • Being successful requires a long term outlook. Or you can continue on with the thought of wanting everything overnight and always failing. Your choice.

      Reply
  • Does this apply to teenagers as well? I’m currently 17 years old weighing only 150lb at a height of 5’9”. I guesstimate that I’m sitting somewhere around 16-18% body fat, give or take. I want to cut BADLY seeing that I carry a lot of fat on my lower belly, chest, and quads. However, I’m not so sure being in a caloric deficit while I’m still developing is ideal. Help please.

    Reply
    • I was 18 when I initially lost weight. That’s all I can say.

      Reply
      • Not sure what you’re trying to say but I think I’ll cut; I want to be lean by the time I get to college which is 1 year from now… Thanks!

        Reply
        • You asked me if it applied to teenagers. I told you I was a teenager when I took this advice.

          Reply
  • Great advice and I agree!! I went on bodybuilding.com and although I got good advice on there, everyone told me to BULK and not cut because I was “skinny fat”. I did bulk and quit and ended up heavier…but people still told me to BULK even though I was 10 ponds heavier!! I did opposite and instead lost fat!!

    I now see good toned abs and quads and I look ready for summer. I look pretty fit but not ready for competition. If you go on bodybuilding and search chelle21689 you can see my progress. I don’t regret trying to lose fat first at all

    Reply
  • Hello!

    I’m 6’2 and 220lb. I’m roughly 16 <body fat %< 20. I was bulking and gaining weight in a slow rate. Once I got to 14% body fat, my arms, legs, even my back were lean, but my belly fat was still there. I don't know if either I bulk or cut. You think I should cut to 12% and then enter in a lean mass phase? Thanks, man! I Appreciate!

    Reply
  • Hi Anthony, great article. Just one question. When trying to answer to the “bulk or cut” for skinny fat people, a famous youtuber pair (i dont want to say their name or put a link to the video without your permition because it can be considered spam or something) say that, if you are a newbie and a skinny fat dude, to forget about bulking or cuting at the moment, just eat at maitenance, and hit the weights. That way, you are going to build muscle and lose fat at the same time, so its a win-win situation right there.

    What is your opinion about this? Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • It can work if you do it right, newbies have that potential. The tricky part is finding the “magic” maintenance calorie level. I find it impossible. It’s always easier to land on the extremes than in the middle. The extremes also give you more feedback.

      Reply
  • Hi Anthony, thanks for all the time you dedicate to writing. Your posts are great. I just went through a phase of traditional bulking and now I’m interested in leaning down and establishing that solid base that you wrote about. Just two questions: (1) would you say that the post-workout meal needs to be high in protein and consumed within 30 minutes of completing the workout session? and (2) would you say that lifting heavy and IF are the key to establishing the solid lean base? I’m just overwhelmed with the amount of information on your site and I’m trying to put it all together. Thank you!

    Reply
  • Solid article, Anthony. If you dont mind …. Can I ask whether it is better to set a solid foundation with body weight exercises before moving on to weight training? Currently, I am doing hindu squats, chair dips, diamond pushups etc. though these are body weight exercises they are tough all the same. I feel it is better to gain strength using these workouts before lifting …. Maybe six months or even a year.
    What do u think?

    Reply
    • Not necessarily but maybe. You should be able to squat down with your bodyweight on two feet before adding a bar. Etc. But I wouldn’t say you need to pistol before doing weighted squats or anything of the sorts. Your stress simply needs to be one level above the one you’re adapted to.

      Reply
  • Hello
    I was considered as a slim guy, I started workout 10 months ago at the first 3 months changes were very much noticeable, you could see the cuts of all my muscles, I’m not looking up to be bulk up or as I call balloon guy, I’m only looking forward to have more chest size and better ABS though since the first 3 months I got a defined muscles but it seems that I’m moving in the same area though I have a personal trainer who changes my program from time to time which supposed to make my body react differently! But it’s not.
    Please tell me what do you think I’m doing wrong?

    Reply
    • I think you’re worried about turning into a bodybuilder when that’s really only going to happen if you inject steroids. Train your entire body.

      Reply

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