3 Reminders for The Skinny-Fat Ectomorph

“So what do you think, Anthony? Does he take steroids?”

Questions like these, I’ve come to expect over the years. So I sipped my beer and peered into the crowd of people tailgating at the Pittsburgh Pirates game, trying to find the person of interest.

Looking at the mass of people drinking cheap lite beer and eating overly processed meats struck something within me. A concept I intuitively knew was brought to life: everyone is so damn different.

Some people looked like Snoop Dogg. Others, like Biggie Smalls. And then, of course, there were those that were some kind of LL Cool J jacked.

This made me think about skinny-fat ectomorphs, and how people tell me that the body-type doesn’t exist. And it’s true, to a point. Somatotypes were created for psychology. Not physiology.

But everyone reacts differently to food. To exercise. To life. The mechanisms as to why don't really matter. So for those of you that balloon around the waist and lower chest and yet somehow sport tiny wrists and upper arms, this is for you. From one skinny-fat to another.

1. Create a solid base – get lean

Let’s talk about “bases.” Having a solid “base” to work from is an underrated commodity in the physique business, especially among those that don’t want to get overly fat in the muscle building process.

People are quick to recommend a full out “bulk” to those looking to gain muscle. This is what I like to call, the sculptor method — throw as much clay together as possible and carve away at the details.

But us skinny-fats have perceived ourselves as “fat” long enough. Prolonging this mental turmoil through “bulking” is a failure waiting to happen.

Instead, think “bases.” Building muscle is much easier when starting from a solid base—a physique that you’re comfortable with, allowing  nutrient autoregulation to be used more effectively.

The “lose fat, gain muscle” route is tempting to follow. While it can be done, the process is slow and inefficient when you’re at a higher body fat. Mentally, it’s more refreshing to make serious and tangible progress towards a goal. So for most everyone worried about body fat, it’s better to get lean and be done with it.

If you have skinny-fat baggage, you're probably sick of excess body fat. So get rid of it. Now. And don’t let it come back to a discomforting level ever again.

Tariq Qureshi was kind enough to let me use him as an example, as his personal situation is perfect for this reminder. Below is a before and after photo of Tariq. 

Tariq’s story starts out similar to most other’s. He wanted to get bigger so he pounded down protein and carbs, thinking that fat would somehow into muscle. After realizing he was going down the wrong path, he spent the next few months leaning down.

During the process, he lost a lot of muscle. So he tried bulking again, but with only excess body fat to show for it. Eventually, he leaned down while questing for strength using intermittent fasting.

What I like about Tariq’s journey is that it’s an echo of mine. But looking back, we share similar feelings about our failures.

It has taken me much longer than some of the others to achieve a reasonable level of leanness, but I have learned a lot about my body during that time.

– Tariq

Tariq’s story is important because he created a wonderful “base” to work from. Sure, he lost some muscle getting to the “base.” But once there, slowly building up is much easier because a lean physique affords a lot of freedom.

Now, most skinny-fats cringe when I tell them to lean down and forget about muscle mass. Don’t get me wrong, do your best to retain muscle. But don’t obsess over it. Our genes aren’t prone to the whole idea of being “jacked and strong”  in a calorically deprived state.

But the short term loss is a long term gain. Reaching an ideal “base,” makes building easier. You can err on the side of “more calories” more frequently, which means better muscle building potential.

So take two, four, six, whatever, months and lock yourself in on fat loss. Lean down to a comfortable level. Get to that solid “base,” and then slowly build from there.

2. Cheat days usually mean game over

During the week, you kill it. You’re on your way to an awesome base physique.

And then comes the weekend.

You worked hard. You deserve a little freedom, don’t you? So you have a drink or two. Maybe some french fries…and ice cream. Hot wings. Cake, too. And some of that sweet tea you were practically addicted to. And before you know it, you've gone “overboard.”

While cheat meals can be a powerful rejuvenation tool, most people that implement them on a weekly basis don’t fare too well unless a calorie counteracting strategy is used. (Like in John Romaniello's Fat Loss Forever, or something.)

I know, I know. Tim Ferriss said cheat meals were OK. And I’ve not only written about, but also employed cheat meals more than most people.

But at the beginning of your journey, you need structure. You need to learn discipline. So while I talk about sipping beer and indulging here and there, know that there was a stretch where I didn’t look at any sweets or “junk” food. Cheating is better suited for those already lean enough and disciplined enough to handle the effects.

Although I’m growing away from the concept of “cheating” (a decision made for many reasons that will be written about in the future), I still technically “cheat” every week. The foodie inside of me wins most times, especially because I enjoy food challenges. (There’s a three pound hamburger challenge that I’ve been eying up, for instance.)

But there’s a difference between a minor indulgence and gorging yourself into oblivion (which I used to do regularly). Overall, I think the concept of “cheating” is murky water that carries a lot of psychological baggage.

After a year of feasting, fasting, and everything in between, I’m of the opinion that most people aren’t prepared for “cheating,” as it’s difficult to manage and tends to cause frequent setbacks and mental lapses. So when you’re trying to lean down, don’t think about cheating. (Unless you're prepared to fast or use a calorie counteracting strategy, as referenced above.) Once you reach a comfortable body fat, however, feel free to experiment. But tread lightly. And don’t say I didn’t warn you.

3. Do isolation exercises, but don’t go overboard

An old mentor of mine, Adam Wehmann (some may know him as Chicanerous) subconsciously taught me about the concept of “important work.” Important work was the stuff you would do if you were strapped for time. In other words: you have thirty minutes to train, which lifts are you going to do? Of course, this always corresponded to the big compound lifts: squats, deadlifts, presses, and pulls.

Now, I’m known for telling skinny-fats to train their arms. And they should. Anyone that wants big arms and doesn’t directly train them showcases flawed logic.

But training your arms doesn’t mean devoting one hour to curls, or having an “arm” day. To clarify, I simply mean picking one or two direct arm exercises and spending ten or so minutes getting some work in after the “important” work for the day is done.

As for what arm exercises are best, I’m a fan of simplicity. The standing barbell curl is an underrated exercise. It raises the heart rate more than any seated exercise, bench press included. It also hits the upper back and “core” pretty well. It’s gotten some negative press for not being very anatomically friendly. But if they don’t bother you, you’re better off having included them in your program

++++++

What do you think about starting from a solid “base?” About not cheating? And about including isolation work?

I’d love to hear your opinion, especially if you feel you are a skinny-fat sufferer. Leave your comments below, and I’ll be sure to reply.

Trying to lose fat, build muscle, and build a body you’re proud of?

Maybe you’re a little lost right now.

Maybe you don’t have much motivation.

Maybe you don’t what program or diet to use.

I don’t know…

But what I do know is this:

Everything you need is inside of you.

You’re capable of more than know.

You just have to open your eyes.

My weekly column can help.

Just a small little honest note from me sent every Sunday.

Unless I’m hungover.

And then it comes Monday.

What I’m trying to say is that it’ll come Monday.

(These weekly columns don’t get posted to the site.)

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Lukas June 18, 2012, 6:53 pm

    I was a skinny fat for the majority of my life. I started lifting weights, got into much better physical shape, but still had fat around the waist. this obviously bothered me and I fell back on common bodybuilding techniques like cutting and bulking. When I cut, I would get pretty lean but also would loose a ton of the hard earned muscle I spent all winter putting on. When I bulked, these were very clean bulks btw, I would get pretty fat and loose any ab definition I had. I did this for about 3 years with little progress after the 6 inital months. I then focused on building a solid strength base so I did Starting Strength for 5 months and got pretty fat. I then learned about IF through Martin Berkhan’s Leangains. I cut down to where I feel fairly comfortable and am now able to lift and eat depending on what I am doing. Although progress is much slower compared to people with decent genes, I couldn’t agree with you more that skinny fats need to lean down first and then slowly and progressivly add muscle. Another issue with a lot of skinny fats is that they never add weight to the bar. Although I understand it’s much harder for us to get stronger, especially in pushing exercises, its important to attempt at least a 5lb a month gain on major lifts. Something that has worked wonders for me is Reverse Pyramid training. This actually allowed me to add strength on a cut, which I had never done before. Most people also need to realize that we only need to train with heavy weights about 3x a week, focus on about 3 major lifts a day, and finish with 10-15 minutes of isolation you’d like to add depending on your goals. Great article, anthony! Keep spreading the knowledge.

    • Anthony June 19, 2012, 3:35 am

      Thanks for the reply, Lukas. I agree with just about everything except training frequency. This is variable and I think, surprisingly enough, both extremes can work very effectively. I’d say three times per week is a good minimum, and can certainly be effective. But it’s not the only way to go.

      • Lukas June 19, 2012, 8:09 pm

        Yeah, you’re obviously correct about that. I use to train 5-6 days a week and make more progress with 3x but everyone is different. But I did say train with heavy weights only 3x a week. If you’d like to exercise other days you should be welcome to but not to the point you overtain or don’t allow time to rest and recover. During a muscle building phase perhaps 4 days would be more beneficial for us.

        • Anthony June 19, 2012, 8:50 pm

          Ah, good stuff. I agree. 2-3 “heavy” days are usually optimal with 3-5 total training days. Can go higher if cards are played right.

  • Gianpaolo Merello June 18, 2012, 7:19 pm

    Great read as always, I’m quite interested in further reading about your new cheat day mentality!

    • Anthony June 19, 2012, 3:36 am

      Ah, yes. I will write about it someday. Food is good. But the obsessive mentality and whatnot is such a turnoff. It’s a crossroad for sure.

  • Bennett June 18, 2012, 10:29 pm

    All good advice there. When I started working out consistently, back in ’08, a bodybuilder friend of mine gave me similar advice. She knew I’d been fat in high school, and had some mental baggage about “bulking”, so I needed to get good and lean first, or else I’d freak out and abort mission as soon as I saw the scale going up. Sure enough, it took a long period of getting strong, leaning down, and generally getting to where I had a mental shift from “scrawny, softbodied nerd” into “guy in good shape” and finally into “hardassed athlete” that I finally got over that psychology (it’s amazing how long high school can mess you up) and starting attacking without reservations.

    • Anthony June 19, 2012, 3:39 am

      High school can certainly get you out of whack, mentally. Then again, so can most social institutions. Hell, wanting to look good — period — is a consequence of society. Mind games. ‘Tis all mind games!

  • Traindom June 18, 2012, 10:59 pm

    I unintentionally started from a relatively solid base after you gave me some direction several months back. I had gone through a super “cut” where I cut down to 155 pounds and had a body fat percentage of about 11%. I started to employ nutrient autoregulation soon after I finished my cut. I always see that hard “cut” as the best thing I ever did. It felt good to be that lean, even if I had lost what little muscle I had. It’s like having a clean canvas for your masterpiece, except you’re pretty happy already with the canvas itself. I also lost a little baby fat too.

    And something that I shouldn’t stand proudly by but still do is the fact that I didn’t eat cleanly to lose as much as I did. You might cringe a little here, but my diet consisted of sandwiches, protein, milk, and ice cream. That was it. I didn’t eat that well. But I’m happy I did this because I have some firsthand evidence that it isn’t junk food or a lack of healthy food that prevents one from losing weight (although it’s not great to be healthy), but the total calories. So when someone tells me milk makes you fat, I start to cringe intensely.

    “Cheating” is very subjective. You could say I was cheating during my cut, but it didn’t negatively impact my weight loss too much so its negative connotation is thrown into a tizzy. Is it really cheating if I got to where I want to be?

    I still occasionally eat sweets every now and then, but since I stay within my predetermined caloric bounds, I’m more or less in the right direction. I don’t believe that you could bulk on twinkies, but there is some leeway. It’s interesting.

    As for how I am several months into nutrient autoregulation, I bring good news for everyone. I used to be 155 pounds at 11% body fat several months ago. I am now around 163 pounds at around the same body fat percentage. I learnt how to finally use the caliper I own, so my previous body fat might be a bit lower, but I’m still satisfied my results. If my calculations are correct, I have gained around eight pounds of muscle. When I realized this, I was so happy. I always knew progress would be slow using nutrient autoregulation, but it was okay because the good feelings of being lean satisfied me enough during these months. It was nice to have such palpable evidence after so many months.

    I highly recommend leaning down to a low body fat percentage. Being lean is such a stress reliever. You get good feelings to carry you over for your “clean bulk” in a span of several weeks if you’re disciplined enough.

    I always emphasized compound lifts over isolation work because people glorified them so much. I’m not saying compound lifts are overrated, but isolation work has its positives. I started to employ isolation days in my training and while I feel like I’ve accomplished more on my heavy days (compound lifts), the isolation work is oddly soothing. It’s a great contrast from lifting hard and heavy three times a week. I look forward to these heavy and light days. For me, isolation work is important if you want to emphasize certain areas like the arms and shoulders, but it’s also a great opportunity to soothe your body and enjoy a something on the lower end of the continuum. As for results, I’ve noticed that my shoulders and arms are bigger and better than before. Lateral raises are my absolute favorite and my shoulders have grown more quickly than they would have through compound lifts alone.

    Last paragraph I promise, haha. I see isolation work as a finisher for whatever muscle you want to bring out more.

    • Anthony June 19, 2012, 3:42 am

      No cringe necessary. In fact, I support your unclean eating as it’s one of the reasons why I’m down on cheat meals. And, not to mention, why I prefer the concept of calorie autoregulation moreso than nutrient autoregulation. (I should blog about this soon, but who knows.)

      Spot on as always, and I’m glad to see the long response. Brings back good memories, hah! And I’m also glad to hear your report on the isolation work. You’re my poster boy for “slow and steady” and just “doing the damn thing.” It works. If you can just accept the road ahead. You, sir, have. Great to see you happy and making progress.

      • Traindom June 19, 2012, 3:19 pm

        Thanks, Anthony! Your support really means a lot to me. I’ll be sure to keep on trucking and let you know how it goes. I still have some pictures of when I started my journey around one year ago. I just need to find some good lighting and take some pictures now to measure my progress so far. If it helps your blog in any way, I’d be happy to share them. Thanks again!

        • Anthony June 19, 2012, 8:47 pm

          Actually, yeah, it might. Mind giving me an e-mail? I’m going to be doing a post that might be able to use them.

          • Traindom June 19, 2012, 9:19 pm

            No problem. I’ll send them to you after I take the “after” pictures today.

  • Rocky June 18, 2012, 11:56 pm

    Yeah I am definitely the typical skinny-fat guy. I feel like we were supposed to be ectomorphs but were given a hugeeeee appetite. I know I can take down a shit ton of food and all other skinny-fats I know are the same way. We love to eat but were never blessed with the metabolism of an ecto morph. So all out Cheat days never worked for me, cheat meals alone I put down around 2000 calories and still walk away hungry. So all cheat days for me just lead to me gorging myself and Looking like a freakin puff ball for the next week and a half where I try to eat barely anything cause I feel so guilty. So cheat days, I personally believe don’t work for us. Cheat meals are good though or have been in my experience.

    As for gettin lean and staying there make lean gains.. Idk about all that. Like I do that sometimes and it works okay, but by not being afraid to lose the abs, I’ve made a lot better progress building muscle that way. Besides once you get lean once it’s honestly not that difficult to do it again. The hard part is doin it the first time. And trust me I know, losing fat is extremely difficult for the skinny-fat compared to most. We just seem to never get a break. But I like to go a little more bulk style but in mini cycles. I’ll never let myself get to big though..

    And I strongly believe in a single arm day. It’s brought my arms out better than any other type of training. I never made any real gains with doin some isolation at the end of a workout or whatever. It might not be the same with you but that’s definitely the case for me bro.

    I appreciate the article man! Seriously mad respect for you. It sucks bein a skinny-fat, small wrist, shoulders, and arms with a big waist is really shitty but I’m glad we have guys like you to support us and try to help out the best you can. Thanks bro and keep the articles coming.!

    • Anthony June 19, 2012, 3:48 am

      Rocky, I appreciate this reply. Especially because it’s different than the advice I’m throwing out. Here are my responses.

      1) Cheat days, yes. I know what you mean. It can wreak some mental havoc. Cheat meals are a great idea. One sitting, relax, enjoy what you’ve been craving, and be done with it. An entire day is usually a death sentence.

      2) In my opinion, you might not have been patient enough. But this is normal. And getting a little bigger is fine. It’s not that I’m against that method, it’s just that most former fat people aren’t ready to accept the fate of getting some fat again after losing it all.

      As for the mini-bulk and cut cycles, this is kind of what I recommended in my nutrient autoregulation article. So I think we agree here, but we’re kind of on slightly different pages.

      3) As for the arm day, it works. But I just don’t want people to make it a priority. Usually it takes focus off more important work. But if you have all of your ducks in a row and can handle the arm day mentality, then go for it.

      Thanks for the reply.

    • Doom February 12, 2013, 11:22 pm

      “Besides once you get lean once it’s honestly not that difficult to do it again.”

      Haha! You wait till you’re 36 like me. It is INCREDIBLY hard. I was doing crossfit just before my 30th birthday and was down to single digit bf%. Then life got in the way etc etc, and getting back down to anything below 12% is proving a real struggle. And I’ve been on 30gm of carbs (or less) for over a YEAR now.

      I backload on training days after workout with about 100 – 150 gms carbs. (I weight 175lb).

      To be honest, I’m a bit lost as to what to do to get properly lean. Do I need to eat more or less now? Surely there’s a limit to how much further I can drop the calories…

      • Anthony February 13, 2013, 1:21 am

        Well your lack of carbs is probably at fault. 100 grams on HIGH days?

        That’s barely enough to prevent ketosis. Cut that out my man. I recommend 100 grams of carbs on LOW days. And that’s on the low end…

        And if you’re doing CrossFit and starving yourself of carbs (the precise source of fuel for CrossFit like activity), you’re surely going to bonk out quick.

  • Doug June 19, 2012, 12:52 am

    Good article. I have to agree that cheat meals, and especially cheat days, can totally wreck a good eating (I refuse to say diet). Its like planning to kick the cocaine habit by only doing it once per week – and anybody whose done cocaine (or sugar) knows you can’t just have one!

    • Anthony June 19, 2012, 3:50 am

      Yeah, it’s murky as I said. Honestly, the once a week thing kind of turns it into exactly what a binge drinker does on weekends. Cheat day hangovers exist, too.

  • Tyler Carter June 19, 2012, 1:42 am

    I’ve some to the same conclusions on points 2 and 3, but I never thought of a strong base as ‘lean enough to bother with muscle building’ although I should have, considering the relationship between insulin sensitivity and body composition. Plus, Roman’s guidelines for “looking f*cking awesome” require that you know how lean you can be before you try to build.

    • Anthony June 19, 2012, 3:51 am

      I agree. Once you know what your body responds to in regards to leaning down, it makes the building process much “safer.”

  • Daluke June 19, 2012, 2:29 am

    Good read, Anthony. Thanks to this article and the links provided, I waded into your previous discussions of the whole fat-skinny thing. Although I may not fall directly into that particular description of body-type, I definitely have had a proclivity to pack on the fat tissues in those same areas as those of you and your fat-skinny brethren; namely waist and man-boobs.

    That said, got the Weightlifting bug (Olympic, that is) about a year ago. A few months prior to that, started an intense fitness program; one that was all running, biking… no weight lifting at all, not even body weight stuff. Went from a somewhat pudgy 210, down to a (too lean) 159. Lost a lot of fat, for sure. Unfortunately, lost an s-load of lean mass as well… it was bye bye to baby-fat (and strength).

    For the first time in my life, my face looked ‘skinny’; not good, IMO. While I was pleased to have leaned my self out, possibly to excess, the loss of muscle mass was a complete surprise. Holy #*@@8#!!!.

    While I never got into weight training previously for any extended period of time, I had lifted enough now and then to have a reasonable idea of my strength with respect to at least a few movements; the presses, curls, and the like. Needless to say, when it came time to cut down on the cardio and shift to the lifts, the strength I’d had for years had vanished! Great, while I looked lean (while not appearing emaciated or skinny as a (?)), I morphed into a relative weakling.

    Long story, not-so-short, about a year and a half ago, for the first time in my life, I began (regular or continuous) strength training with at least one of the big-three compound lifts a primary focus; squats and dead’s weren’t included because at the time, I’d still been biking, tread-milling, running, etc. and didn’t want to do both, that is, mix heavy leg and lower body work with the cardio stuff. Well, that changed, too.

    Squats (and deadlifts) are now my fav’s of the big-three while benching’s last on my list of awe inspiring lifts… kind of like you if I’m not mistaken (suck, suck… suck!). Benching’s improving, but still. I do pretty well at strict overhead pressing now which is cool as it’ll have a bit of carryover into the Oly lifts when I begin to begin to really concentrate and improve at those, now that I’ve got reasonable shoulder flexibility (can finally perform a full squat-snatch, one that resembles an actual snatch!).

    Blah, blah…blah. To tie this up with a really ugly bow, I just want to add that folks like me that are other than (true) fat-skinny’s can also park those excess calories in the exact same places as ya’ll and like ya’ll, miss out on a more preferred (fat) distribution; one that’s evenly and uniformly spread out among all body parts (faces, hands, wrists, angles, forearms, etc.).

    I do put on a fair amount of muscle fairly easily which I’m thankful for but with that said, I still wonder what my official, government issued body type classification would be.

    I believe I’m one of those odd ball types; you know, the one’s with a predominance of mesomorph features with more than a dash of ectomorph qualities as well. Quite the mix, I must say.

    Whether it’s a 5×5, a 5-3-1 or neither… here’s to sweating it out tomorrow! Keep the quality coming, Anthony!

    • Anthony June 19, 2012, 3:55 am

      Ah, such a huge reply, I love it Daluke!

      You had me laughing at the “government issue” bit. And being an oddball type is good, I think. You kind of get the best (and worst) of every world. Never hurts to build “easy.”

      I just wanted to say one thing: yes I suck at pressing. But here’s my advice to you. Don’t neglect it! Put MORE emphasis and attention to it. Do it first in your workouts. Care about it’s progress. It will correspond with the area you feel worst about. Better make sure you do what you can to pimp it while you have the chance.

  • Colt Sliva June 19, 2012, 3:00 am

    Sometimes I find myself reading fitness junk. Very rarely do I find something that directly relates to my philosophy. #2 I think is key for any athlete…its like souping up a honda civic with a trailer hitched to it. May as well get rid of the trailer and take apart the civic. Martin Berkhan wants his clients to start at a low body fat as well. Two thumbs up

    • Anthony June 19, 2012, 3:57 am

      Hah, souped up Civic. Like the analogy. Not much of a car guy but I got it that one. Must be a popular thing.

  • Dave June 19, 2012, 4:18 am

    Hey Anthony, whats the best way for me to cut down my love handles? I’ve been working out for over a year and I still have some fat around my chest and waist. Is it simply about the diet and working out? Should I do cardio? I’m around 6’0 and 165 pounds and like 14% body fat.

    • Dave June 19, 2012, 4:18 am

      Basically what I’m wondering is ‘Whats the best way to lean out?’

      • Anthony June 19, 2012, 8:35 pm

        Heavy strength training, careful control of your calorie intake while getting adequate proteins, and moving around in general be it through cleaning your house, car, doing yard work, and living an all around badass life.

        🙂

    • Anthony June 19, 2012, 8:34 pm

      Are you lifting any weights? You need to cut down, but don’t neglect your strength work. What’s your diet like?

  • Blake June 19, 2012, 4:22 am

    Anthony,
    What cardio protocol do you recommend to “Create a Solid Base-Get Lean”? Thanks.

    • Anthony June 19, 2012, 8:35 pm

      It’s less about cardio and more about…”Heavy strength training, careful control of your calorie intake while getting adequate proteins, and moving around in general be it through cleaning your house, car, doing yard work, and living an all around badass life.”

  • yannick noah June 19, 2012, 5:26 am

    hi anthony.i have a question.would u go as far as to say that a person, if necesary, he or she has to go through a proper fat loss program in order to lean down.because some people, myself included,can only lean down considerably by doing a proper, intense fat loss program. whereas some lucky people can lean down just by adding some cardio and adjusting a bit on their nutrition.and if a beginner is in the former situation would u recommend to lose fat first?since they are likely not have a decent strength base to start doing circuits, complexes,etc that are usually prescribed in fat loss programs

    about cheating, boy i would be lying if i say i dont enjoy them.the last time, i tried the fat loss forever and included cheat days and i saw results.i never dieted without having cheat meals/day.therefore i cant say much about it.but i would be awesome to give it a try.however, from a personal standpoint, i dont think i can be as consistent because after some time i will lose it haha. but who knows, people say that do it for 3 weeks and it becomes a habit, but i dont know how far does that principle apply to this situation though.

    isolation exercises have their place in training. and for some people it serves more than merely touching up the phsique.currently, im finding myself in a situation where i need curls and tricep extensions for bigger arms.upper body compound movements work for me in reaching the “decent” base in arm size.but after reaching that “decent” base i need more than compound movements.personally, training arms is fun.however, some known isolation movements for certain bodyparts are just really damn boring like front raises, leg extensions, and leg curls.therefore if i were to design my own program, i wouldnt include them (as dave tate puts it, you will always be your worse client). they may be useful, but yeah they are boring.

    Last but not least, great post anthony.i really enjoyed it.it is exactly what i need after weeks of studying evidence law, criminal procedure, and civil procedure for my final exams!

    • Anthony June 19, 2012, 8:37 pm

      Ah, thanks Yannick. As for your question: what do you define as a “proper, intense fat loss program?”

      And based upon your inclusion of cheat meals, that could be one of your hang ups right there.

      🙂

      • yannick noah June 20, 2012, 4:12 pm

        well i would define it being a program that is metabolic resistance based.may address different hormones like in the final phase fat loss.usually higher reps.may include heavy training once per week. but progression on poundage wouldnt be as fast.have a few cardio sessions like hiit(sorry anthony for mentioning this:P) and low intensity cardio for recovery.and a lot of emphasis on nutrition whether it is low carb, IF,etc and calorie counting. And some might also highlight certain foods that may burn fat faster.because when i do circuits, for example,i would really have to decrease the weight that i use, although my strength level is decent enough. for a beginner who can only go lean by using a fat loss program such as the one i defined above, wouldnt it be counterproductive because a beginner might not have a decent strength yet?and as alot of coaches have put it, if you wanna build msucle u need strength.please correct me if im wrong hahaha.

        yeah gotta admit that.guilty as charged man on cheat meals.but still not ready for the 3 lb hamburger though:p

        • Anthony June 22, 2012, 7:32 pm

          No, I don’t think that’s necessary at all. Fat loss is primarily on diet. Maintaining the muscle is primarily about maintaining a consistent lifting schedule. I don’t believe certain foods burn fat faster either.

  • lincoln jacobs June 19, 2012, 6:30 am

    Thanks for this great insight Anthony! I have hopped from program to program without much great success. It’s great to know that I have a resource to reference that is more appropriate for my body type!

    • Anthony June 19, 2012, 8:37 pm

      Awesome stuff, Lincoln. Thanks for the reply. Glad to have you along.

  • ChrisArm June 19, 2012, 11:18 am

    Great post! After 6 weeks or so of fairly steady training and nutrition I was just beginning to have a bit of a panic in regards to my progress, but reading this post certainly has set my mind right again.

    I find myself to be slightly ‘unique’ compared to what i’ve read from most other skinny-fats. One of the comments above refers to skinny-fats as having huge appetites, much like yourself. The problem is that I really do not have that big an appetite! I have been embarking on a Lean Gains style IF program and have seriously struggled with the whole post workout overeating window. I don’t find fasting a huge struggle and have be known to just accidently skip whole meals in the past. While I am committed to the cause, I believe forcing food down my throat to meet a caloric requirement to be both very unpleasant and an unrealistic lifestyle choice for myself. There’s no point in going to bed feeling sick right? I guess it’ll take some time to see where my body goes whilst ‘under-eating’, but I just wanted to put my nutritional situation out there as it seems to be contrary to the experiences of other skinny-fats.

    Even though I would ideally like more size, deep down the real journey is the lean out. I have very poor upper body lean mass, but you are absolutely bang on the money when you say that body fat has become emotional baggage.

    Keep the articles coming dude, you’re a skinny-fat hero!

    • Anthony June 19, 2012, 8:39 pm

      Well if you’re going for the leaning out, make protein your main goal. After that, skipping meals might actually be of benefit.

  • Johny June 19, 2012, 11:19 am

    I enjoyed reading your article! Its exactly what I´m thinking. The only thing I would disagree, is your strictness with cheatmeals. Discipline is important, but without allowing oneself rewards for sucess its hard to stay on course. I had at least one cheatmeal per week and the diet worked anyway.
    You know my story and its similar to Tariq. Unfortunately I´m on a training and diet depression because of finals in july. I hope I´ll get more confidence after passing again.
    PLEASE DONT STOP WRITING ARTICLES LIKE THIS!!

    • Anthony June 19, 2012, 8:40 pm

      Thanks Johny. Like I said, cheat meals are a rough slope. I will say that a cheat “meal” is different than a cheat “day.” And the degree to what that “meal” is taken will hinge a lot of things. So you might one of the people that simply know how to balance it all.

  • Mick davis June 19, 2012, 12:31 pm

    I focus on doing one main excersise each session be it bench.deadlifts etc then do 2 x7 min alternating sets swapping between 2 excersise with no rest for 7-10 mins eg squats, inverted rows or bb standing press, bb curls or 1 arm rows.
    C bb curls the list is endless it is good because after your main excersise doing timed sets with no rest your working in a state of high lactic acid . Would love to hear your thoughts

    • Anthony June 19, 2012, 8:41 pm

      Mick, it can be beneficial. You forgot to tell me your goals though. I’m not one for timed sets, really, but there are plenty of methods out there that can work.

  • Chikoo June 19, 2012, 1:48 pm

    Mr. Mychal,
    big fan of your stuff over on T-nation. Would you employ more of a “G-Flux” type training system for the skinny fat person to gain muscle mass?
    G-Flux if you don’t know (John Berardi) is doing more physical activity(weight training, cardio, High intensity stuff, bodyweight circuits, low intensity..etc) and taking in more quality food. So a person holds less bodyfat and more muscle mass eating 3500 calories a day n burning 3200 as opposed to the person eating 2500 n burning 2200.

    • Anthony June 19, 2012, 8:45 pm

      It depends. I think what you described will be mentally refreshing for most because they can eat more and psychologically they feel like they’re “doing” more. I’d prefer it that way, personally, as it reflects your lifestyle more. It becomes more apart of who you are and tends to seep within the fiber of your soul.

      But a minimalist routine suits some better, especially if eating isn’t something you enjoy doing.

      There’s a limit though. I’m not overly familiar with G-Flux, so I can’t say anything for sure. Weight-training, some side work, and then living an active life through yard work, cleaning, and other silly stuff is kind of the ticket though. Avoid idle time. And when you have it, do something mentally productive.

  • Javier Rivera June 19, 2012, 2:12 pm

    I personally don’t mind having a higher bodyfat percentage, and don’t necessarily care for this type of approach. I feel very week when I get small. As long as my waist is 32 or below I’m cool.
    I love the feeling of being carbed up. Its like being on steroids or something. Of course with a rotator cuff impingement,I may have to go this route since I can’t lift much anyway until I get it resolved.
    Another great Article Anthony. I really love your stuff!

    • Anthony June 19, 2012, 8:47 pm

      Ah! I love this post, Javier. Different opinions are good. I tried to safeguard myself from this by writing –

      “Lean down to a comfortable level.”

      Everyone’s level is going to be different. If you’re good to go at a higher body fat, I applaud you. Nothing wrong with that AT ALL.

      Thanks for the reply, and I look forward to hearing more from you.

  • Daniel Wallen June 19, 2012, 3:51 pm

    Anthony,
    Good read as usual. First, let me say that I definitely understand the “skinny-fat frustration.” I’m one of the many guys who started lifting weights, and expected to magically start growing muscle–well, at 20+% body-fat, that didn’t happen. After a year of going around in circles, I decided to get my diet in check, and forgot about muscle for roughly 6 months. Now I’m around 8.5% (I’ve had measurements as low as 7 and as high as 10, so splitting the difference), and am trying to slowly add muscle to my frame by simply adding food to my diet when progress stalls.
    I’m curious to read your cheat-day thoughts… I loved them. They were the secret weapon in my six months of cutting: if it weren’t for a cheat day to eat and drink whatever my heart desired, I’m not sure I could have made it. I know it’s not for everyone, but am certainly an advocate of a weekly cheat day, or an occasional cheat meal, and so on. I think it helps temptation–I would be hungry for french-fries, cheesecake, something forbidden, and it helped to tell myself “I can’t have it now, but I can have it Saturday.” I would simply tell myself this, and usually forget about it until Saturday.
    I have no need for cheat days now–I’m following the LeanGains style intermittent fasting, and love the freedom that allows–but I think it’s certainly a useful tool. 🙂

    • Anthony June 19, 2012, 8:49 pm

      Good stuff, Daniel. Mind if I ask — how “full” did you make yourself on cheat days? Did you ever feel bloated or like you were going to explode? Or just “overboard” in general?

      Cheating is a wide spectrum. One slice of cheesecake won’t kill you. But eating an entire pie is a different story. Both are “cheating.” But both have different baggage. Tough to encompass with one word. That’s why I tend to use the word “gorge.”

      • Daniel Wallen June 21, 2012, 3:13 pm

        Anthony,
        In general, I ate enough to be “full.” Not STUFFED–just satisfied. I can think of 3 times I over-did it and paid for it with bloating/digestional distress (“free food” events and holidays never end well for me).
        But I don’t see this being any worse than eating too much in a restaurant (or just drinking too much), which a lot of us do on occasion. I only see this being a problem if it is the norm–if someone does this to themselves due to emotional eating, lack of control, whatever–it’s a problem. If it’s a result of eating too much damn food at Thanksgiving (who doesn’t?) or getting carried away at the bar a time or two (we’ve all done it)–eh, learn from it, move on.
        Something worth noting, however–my appetite is jacked, so my normal food volume is probably “too much” for most people. This could explain why I can handle cheat days with no problem, and why I enjoy them so dang much.

        • Anthony June 22, 2012, 7:24 pm

          Well eating to “full” is different than “stuff.” A lot different, actually. A lot of people don’t have the ability to put the breaks on and eating whatever they want for one day slowly creeps into a second with perhaps leftovers. It takes some dedication.

          • Daniel June 23, 2012, 2:31 pm

            True. I think it helps to eat out on cheat days. It’s very easy to buy too many groceries, and end up with stuff to tempt you at home. I learned that very early. But if eat out and don’t get a to-go box, no chance of left-overs being at home, and no further temptation. Yeah, you can still over-do it, but you’re limited by what’s on the plate at least.

            On a lot of cheat days, I would make this super cheap by not eating until late afternoon (2 or 3ish), going to Golden Coral (buffet!), stuffing my face there, and not eating until the next morning (note–if you do this, don’t do so with your girlfriend. It totally grossed mine out).

            I think isolating the “cheat” to a single meal makes it less likely one will over-do it, and eliminate any chance of having temptation in your kitchen cabinets. If someone doesn’t have awesome discipline, they shouldn’t have cheat foods at home.

          • Anthony June 25, 2012, 2:09 pm

            Good points here, Daniel. But I wouldn’t go with the buffet, honestly. Too easy to gorge. I probably wouldn’t be able to walk out of the joint.

  • Kerr June 19, 2012, 10:31 pm

    I do martial arts and I am a skinny fat! Should I do weight training on the same day as my ma training? For sf who want to lean out is high bouts of cardio the thing that will most help along with the right diet of course?

    • Anthony June 22, 2012, 7:21 pm

      No. Strength and diet are most important. Although, cardio can certainly be worked in.

      As for your MA training, it depends on timing. I would need more details.

  • Anthony Yeung June 19, 2012, 10:59 pm

    Great reminders, buddy. I agree 100% with “getting lean” as the foundation. I remember reading a T-Nation article about getting to 10% body fat before bulking because more of the weight-gain will be muscle. Whoops. During my bulk, I gained a lot of weight. And a lot of fat — I didn’t cut first. Then I had to cut to take off the fat. Ultimately, I looked a lot better, but it left me wondering, “what if I just cut in the f*cking first place?!” Maybe I could’ve bulked longer or something. C’est la vie.

    Right now, I’m 68kg (metric system, son) and working on getting as strong as possible at this weight. Long-term, I’ll probably go to 73kg.

    But just like you recommend, I’ll lean out first, then gain. Cheers, Anthony.

    • Anthony June 22, 2012, 7:21 pm

      Thanks for the comment good sir.

  • Helder Luis June 20, 2012, 12:09 pm

    I agree that one should lean first, once i made the mistake of bulking and it was real bad decision, not only i was just fat like i never had been before, it was also bad for my health because my blood cholesterol rised a lot, and it’s not worth it, when you cut you see you diddn’t get all that muscle and that if you had gained just lean mass from the begining it would have been about the same mass, but always looking good and being healthy. Getting lean first is a very good strategy, not only you’re healthier, you also look good even with little muscle to show, you have more energy and you can create the ilusion faster because a ripped body looks bigger. About the training itself the big lifts should be your main lifts because you grow bigger and stronger fast, but always pay atention to unbalances, sometimes the big lifts can create because you always rely on the stronger muscles, with that said use isolation exercises mainly to atack those lagging body parts (let’s say posterior delts). These are my thoughts and personal experience. Very good article like always

    • Anthony June 22, 2012, 7:22 pm

      Thanks for replying, Helder.

  • Sam Fuller June 22, 2012, 6:34 am

    Anthony, in regard to “cheat day meals” I’m a big fan of LeanGains style refeeds PWO. You never get hungry and when you eat, you eat!

    • Anthony June 22, 2012, 7:26 pm

      To be fair, the Leangains PWO meal and “cheating” are different. Cheat meals are usually processed or fried foods like french fries and wings that even Martin wouldn’t recommend eating regularly. (Martin himself isn’t a fan of weekly cheat days.)

  • Rajat Desikan June 22, 2012, 3:33 pm

    Hi Anthony!
    I just read your post. I had a presentation to give this week in my phd program; it went well.
    I like your post because of two things. One, it reminded me about the basics. And I needed that reminding. Thanks.
    The second thing is that it reminded me of my personal struggles with cheat meals. i would like to share that with you.
    I have always had an insufferable sweet tooth since childhood. Growing up, I don’t remember a single day where i didn’t have any sweets. I even gobbled sugar straight out of the jar. My toasts were smothered in jam, and chapathis (sorta like pancakes) were drowned in honey. And I demolished chocolates everyday. No wonder I grew up as a borderline obese kid 🙂
    I started working out at the age of 16 after I was severely depressed with my body image. Unable to perform a single pushup, squat or crunch, I was more or less wasting time on the treadmill, stick twists and other baloney. Then I bought Mike Geary’s six pack abs for the first time. It was a revelation, a quantum leap for me. I sat down, analyzed the whole book, and went onto the strictest diet of my life. I cut out processed dairy, ALL fried foods, wheat, sugar and vegetable oils. Starched were carefully measured, calories were matched to my BMR (that was quite a task since It was all Indian foods; and managing my protein intake with vegan foods was horrendous. That period made me allergic to all kings of legumes). And it was the most successful cut of my life. From 99 kgs, I went down to 76 kgs (took about 7-8 months). Elated, I started working with compound lifts for the first time. Squats, deads, bench presses combined with noob gains helped me onto a more muscular 83 kgs (In about a year). But I was still at around 14% BF. That is when I stumbled upon Eat stop eat.
    Eat stop eat should have made dieting easier for me. It only made it harder. The starting of my slide was innocuous. Brad Pilon argued that there is no such thing as bad food, only bad doses of certain foods. The advice seemed to make sense (I only understood the full import now). So, since I was religiously working out and eating clean, I decided to add one cheat food a day. It was inevitably sweet, made of refined flour, milk chocolate and had trans fats in it (I am sure all of us know these foods). And then I read about cheat days and leptin levels from Joel Marion. So I included them too.
    Cheat days were horrible. They started out as one day a week and quickly became thrice a week affairs. They were ” all you can buffet” disasters. I stupidly thought that I could fast the next day and average out my calorie intake. But it didn’t work because I was ingesting anywhere from 4000 to 6000 calories of chips, ice cream, cakes, Indian sweets and other deep fried shit. This sort of yo yo dieting lead to inevitable fat gain and muscle loss. Since I was still vegan, I barely managed 60 g of quality protein a day. I remember the darkest day ever. There a challenge in one of the ice cream parlours. They had a container the size of a small wastepaper basket. It contained close to 4 kgs of all varieties of ice cream, and it costed around 150$ (in rupees). A team of four had to finish the whole lot in 30 min to get it for free, else they had to pay. I and 3 others polished off the whole container, but took more than 30 min. That night was a night of self introspection.
    I could not sleep. I spent the whole night on the terrace contemplating the damage I had done to my body and my wallet. I kept pinching the roll of fat around my abdomen and wished that it would go away. I think I even cried a little. Then I made a resolution that I would never ever get that fat again. I looked at my old journals, and the discipline I had displayed during the initial cut buoyed my spirits. The initial few days were filled with horrible horrible cravings. But I held fast, and then the next phase was easier.
    I managed to lose all my fat (you saw the pics:). And now, my journey towards muscle building and sculpting my body has started .It was a painful start as I had to give up veganism. I recognised that I would not be able to build muscle effectively without animal protein. I actually puked in the restaurant the first time I ate meat:). With your brilliant 242 method, I hope to make good progress. Thanks for all the advice and excellent articles Anthony. You are truly an inspiration.

    • Anthony June 22, 2012, 7:29 pm

      Wow, Rajat. Thanks for spending the time on such an intricate reply. Very personal. I’m glad you’re finally finding a better pathway. But let me ask, do you cheat now in any volume? Or are you 100% strict?

  • Rajat Desikan June 22, 2012, 7:52 pm

    I definitely cheat now, but I follow a few rules:)
    1) I follow the Anthony Mychal diet 🙂 So around 2 big meals a day
    2) Every 10th-15th meal is a cheat meal (depending on ‘Flab quotient’. I think I made that up…nutrient autoregulation)
    3) I follow a fat loss template on the cheat meal day. One meal a day.
    4) This meal is after a resistance training workout.
    5) This meal has to be a social affair. Either friends or family.
    6) The meal has to have animal protein in it.
    7) No buffets.
    8) Minimize transfatty acids

    • Anthony June 25, 2012, 2:07 pm

      Aha, flab quotient. Nice.

      Your rules are actually solid. Might have to steal some for an upcoming article 🙂

  • Rajat Desikan June 22, 2012, 7:54 pm

    I didn’t know 8 followed by a bracket gives a smiley 8)

    • Mark May 18, 2015, 9:49 pm

      It’s been almost 3 years now since this post Rajat, what are your results at this point in your training?

  • Justin June 22, 2012, 11:15 pm

    Anthony, I just got turned onto your blog by a buddy of mine. I definitely agree with what you have to say about the cheats!

    I follow an SKD pretty strictly, and in his newer stuff Lyle actually advocates taking an occasional cheat meal. However most people go absolutely nuts with it, and instead of making it a cheat meal make it into a cheat day.

    For me at least doing keto made it really hard to cheat. Once I’d gone a month or so without sugars/carbs I really didn’t have any desire to eat them anymore. Also being off of my diet for 1 day could trash my metabolism for up to a week (that’s the longest it’s ever taken me to get back into ketosis).

    I don’t think most people realize how easy it is to ruin their progress with one night of doing whatever they want. I read posts quit frequently about how people binge one night, and literally eat 3 weeks worth of their hard right away.

    • Anthony June 25, 2012, 2:08 pm

      Thanks for the reply, Justin. Yeah, I just think it’s the mindset people have AFTER the cheat too that hinders them by falling into a few days of deprivation and self-loathing which then leads to relapses.

  • pete June 25, 2012, 1:20 am

    thanks for the advice! But i’ve joined a gym a week back but it feels like im getting fatter? I’m lifting heavy which is what everyone recommends for ‘skinnyfats’. Also you said to lean out then focus on building muscle.. How would i go about leaning out though also would intermittent fasting help? And i play football(soccer) once/twice a week is this having a negative effect? Thanks 8)

    • Anthony June 25, 2012, 2:11 pm

      Pete, lifting weights doesn’t make you fatter, so I’m not sure where that feeling is coming from. As for leaning out, I have a lot of posts on this website that deal with diet and IF, even for fat loss. Check the archives. And your supplemental sports activity will only help.

      • A-team July 9, 2012, 5:32 pm

        Excuse me I like your site but one hypothetical question: Let’s say I gain weight and muscle as a skinny-fat ectomorph -> I cut and lose the fat and lose some of the muscle with it -> back to gym and muscle memory kicks in -> I have lost fat on cut and regained the lost muscle as well. Explain why this reasoning doesn’t apply.

        Thanks in advance and like I said I like your site very much!

        • Anthony July 9, 2012, 7:31 pm

          Totally valid question. But hypothetical, nonetheless.

          You can very well do it that way (I even admit to it in an upcoming article). The problem with this way is that you’re probably not going to gain a decent enough amount of muscle to satisfy yourself the first time around. So you’ll end up bulking and cutting again. And again.

          There’s nothing wrong with this, but you have to wonder if there would be any difference doing it this way vs. starting from a solid base and allowing your body to gain the muscle slowly over time and remaining lean.

          Article on Tuesday should answer this more for you though. Thanks for asking it though.

          • A-team July 10, 2012, 5:07 am

            Thanks you for your swift reply.

  • Ben July 20, 2012, 6:40 pm

    Well I’m a skinny fat and I really want to get lean and start from there but can’t really do that cause I’m only 9 stone 2 and 5ft 9″ with hardly any muscle and below average BMI so I have to bulk up because my doctor and parents won’t let me get down to a lower body fat so what do I do? I’m following a 12 week routine and was trying to bulk before stumbling upon your articles (love them by the way and I’m going to start carb cycling but not IF as I basically just eat 3 meals a day that’s it) but feel a bit lost now cause if I bulk and cut I’m going to get no where like what happend with you? Also I’m 16 and have put on about 3-4 pounds since started gym about a month ago.
    Thank you or anyone for any replies

    • Anthony July 21, 2012, 8:26 pm

      Well if you have such a low body fat, are you REALLY skinny-fat?

      E-mail me if you want to discuss this a bit more personally.

  • Deanna July 25, 2012, 2:21 am

    I found this article at just the right time, it totally explains to me why my trainer has me doing what I’m doing right now. We are sticking to strength and fat burning even though I keep whining I want bigger muscles. As a skinny fat female, can I assume what you’ve said applies equally well to me as to a dude? Any tweaks you would make? Thank you for this article.

    • Anthony July 25, 2012, 10:21 am

      Sure thing, Deanna. As for tweaks, yeah, I’d make some. I’d start by prioritizing the strength work. I’m not sure WHAT you’re doing, but I’d say you need to hang around a barbell and move your body weight through space.

  • Hannah Morrow August 13, 2012, 4:45 am

    I am very skinny fat. I’m 5’4″, 108-110 lbs, but I cannot see my abs or anything like that. I’m guessing you’ve probably answered this 102093 times already, but I still don’t know the best approach to leaning down to create the solid base for good muscle building. HIIT, steady cardio, or weight training? I’m at about 23% body fat and would like to be at about 16-18%. I also eat very cleanly on an IF/Warrior style diet. Thanks for the patience and advice!

    • Anthony August 13, 2012, 6:13 pm

      Hannah, I’m guessing you’re a female. My first response would be to give me the specifics of your training and diet. Feel free to e-mail me this information.

      • Jess January 18, 2016, 12:44 am

        Hi Anthony! Reading through this blog, so much information! 🙂 searching for you opinion on heavy lifting 3-4 days a week, then HIIT training/Crossfit with lighter weights on at least twice a week. Leaving a couple days for recovery somewhere in between. My nutrition is great, started at 105lbs, currently at 125lbs. Wanting to cut fat and add mass. I’m 5’3 by the way.

        • Anthony February 7, 2016, 1:24 pm

          HITT/CrossFit is “heavy” and “stressful.” Just remember that. I like the combination…but I wouldn’t be striving the cut fat and add mass simultaneously.

  • John August 24, 2012, 12:27 am

    For those of us wanting to lean out, do you have any thoughts on programs like P90x? I’ve recently started it because I don’t have access to a gym and can pretty much only use resistance bands and the things I have at home right now. I know you said skinnyfats have to focus on strength training, do you think bands would be sufficient to do this?

    • Anthony August 24, 2012, 2:12 pm

      Nope. Bands won’t quite cut it. Of course, P90X is better than nothing. but it isn’t “ideal” in my opinion. You can probably lean down using it, but then you’ll likely be dissatisfied with your muscle. Either way, do SOMETHING. So even though I say it’s not ideal, simply doing it will put you in a better place than not doing it.

      • John August 24, 2012, 10:20 pm

        Ah yes I meant P90X/bands for leaning out (I can’t imagine gaining muscle with bands as effectively as weights). I’ll be in a position in a few months where I can head out to a gym so I thought it best to lean out and lose that last bit of fat in the intervening time. In the process though, it seems like I’ll be missing out on some muscle without proper weights – obviously everybody’s body reacts differently but do you think the lack of gains is that significant? I ask because I don’t have much muscle to even retain in the first place but if I could stand to gain a bit while leaning out, I’d like to take that chance.

        • Anthony August 26, 2012, 8:11 pm

          Well if it’s the best you can do, then do it. Bands won’t be enough tension to provide much hypertrophy. But, again, you gotta do what you gotta do.

  • aplhamercury August 26, 2012, 4:35 pm

    Great article! After I started working out, I increased my carbs and protein up. Well, protein wasn’t that up as it should’ve been but amount of carbs was more than necessary. Not good, I know. A month later my body fat was 13.6% (I started at 10%) and I noticed for the first time that some fat accumulated on my belly..some fat, not “3 months pregnancy” belly.. 🙂 It’s not like my abs were showing or I was ripped before I started working but after a month of workout and the diet that I was following, some fat had accumulated over belly and my belly isn’t that defined as it used to be. I am looking forward to increasing my protein up to the proper amount and reducing my carbs. Also, I’ll add some good fats too. Let’s see how this works out.. Any pointers guys?

    • Anthony August 26, 2012, 8:15 pm

      Did you keep track of total calories at all?

      • alphamercury August 27, 2012, 2:06 pm

        Not exactly. but I went with a rough idea of things.. Is that amount of fat (13.6%) a base or do I need to take it down? I guess I should take it a bit down and then start bulking slowly..

        • Anthony August 27, 2012, 11:29 pm

          10-12 is usually ideal. 13 is fine though. I’m sure it won’t affect much.

  • sam September 6, 2012, 2:54 pm

    I used to weight 280 LBS and i lost weight now 180 LBS. Ever since im trying to get lean or build muscles but im not going anywhere and didn’t reach any of my goals. Something is definitely wrong here, but i just don’t know what to do. Its been 2 years now and im trying to do every single program i have known and didnt reach any of my goals. Im 180 LBS with a high BF% especially around the waist and i have skinny arms. Please advice me

    • Anthony September 6, 2012, 8:48 pm

      Sam, I don’t have quite enough information here. Any ideas why you stalled? What did you try to do differently?

  • Kenny September 12, 2012, 2:27 pm

    Hi Anthony,

    Last summer, I started working out seriously at 6″2 and 170 lbs (age 17). I hit the gym every day, ate a lot, and gained ~17 lbs in 4 weeks (with ON serious mass and 60 eggs/week), but I still had the same fat covering my belly. I lost all that muscle in about two months because of basketball season, and at the start of this summer I was 180lbs, with the same body fat on my abs (I assume I’m 12-13%). I’ve been experimenting around with my body, and now at the end of summer I’m at 6″3, 176lbs with about 9% body fat. I’ve really enjoyed reading what you’ve written instead of having to sift through bodybuilding.com. I have a few questions, as I’m heading off to college soon and need some mind-clearing advice…

    1. I want to get to 187lbs and ~8% body fat. You recommend not doing bulking and cutting cycles, and agree. How much should I be eating to simultaneously to do both then? Cutting for me makes me lose muscle very fast, and I get hungry very easily.

    2. After a cardio heavy day, I eat a “medium, average” amount of calories so I have a higher calorie deficit that will burn fat (I want clearer abs and to jump higher). Will this make me lose muscle (or not help me with muscle recovery?)

    In terms of reps and all, I am definitely trying out your 12 REP advice.

    Thanks!

    K

    • Anthony September 14, 2012, 3:56 pm

      1) I’d start with +20% on training days and -20% on off days.
      2) Extra cardio won’t be beneficial, but I understand you have a sport to prepare for. I actually recommend a deficit (see above) on off days though for people interested in recomposition, so you’re in line with that.

  • Darrel October 26, 2012, 7:03 pm

    Dude, you’re article was a beacon of light, cause I’ve been doing pretty much all that is described above (Training hard, heavy lifting, cutting down fats, eating better and healthier, cheating on weekends and so on) and yet I was still worried because I wasnt gaining any muscle and wasnt sure If getting leaner was the right way to go. Now I’m absolutely sure, one must set the foundations to your goals, the “base”. Thanks a lot men! Ill make sure to get lean before I start worrying about “big” muscle growth

    • Anthony October 27, 2012, 2:23 am

      ‘Sall about the base, my man. Keep pushing forwards. Once you get down there chip away.

  • v-dub November 6, 2012, 5:26 pm

    i’m a skinny fat dude, height 5’7 and weight 130 lbs. Been around the same weight for the past 8 years which is probably pathetic for a growing man who’s now in his early 20’s. The toughest part for me is to be consistent with weightlighting and cardio. My nutrition isn’t the best but it’s not a real issue as I eat pretty healthy. Just need to get my ass to the gym and a few cardio sessions each week!

    • Anthony November 7, 2012, 1:35 am

      You always got your body. Buy one of those chin-up bars. Lunges, chin-ups, push-ups at your disposal every day.

  • Sean November 14, 2012, 5:57 am

    I have gone from 145 lbs and a 29 inch waist to 161 lbs and a 34 inch waist. At first, I liked being able to gain weight, now I can’t get rig of the belly fat. I may need to get bigger underwear! I actually have belly fat.

    • Anthony November 14, 2012, 7:10 pm

      Did you at least gain some muscle?

      • Vic D September 4, 2014, 10:39 pm

        These stats sound like he lost muscle

        • Anthony September 11, 2014, 9:04 pm

          The world may never know because this is 2 years old and he never replied.

  • amier November 14, 2012, 4:16 pm

    do you have a leaning program? i am quite a beginner even though i have been working out about a year or so. i am 15 and skinny fat

    • Anthony November 14, 2012, 7:10 pm

      I have a program coming up that basically explains skinny-fatness from the ground up. Sounds like something you should get on. Check out my post on skinny-fatness and the 40 day program. Go to the bottom and slap your name and e-mail in the box.

  • boogi November 16, 2012, 4:08 am

    Hi Anthony…What about acid reflux?man it’s hard to be skinny fat ass and have acid reflux..PPi’s side effects on strenght are horrible i stopped them..

    when u lift heavy stuff the the stomach produces even more acid..i struggle with that for over 2 years and my fat weight got fatter and fatter..also the oxidative stress from too much acid it overwhelming..maybe u know some suplements/tecniques to overcome acid reflux..

    also the last meal of the day is painnnn..i do not know whet to eat to wake up refreshed…

    • Anthony November 16, 2012, 8:51 pm

      You don’t eat to wake up refreshed. You sleep.

      As for the acid reflux, I’ve dealt with this once in my life. It’s not fun. If it’s chronic, I’m sure there’s some medicine you can get to control it?

  • jz123 November 16, 2012, 7:13 am

    Hey anthony, I definitely needed to read this tonight. Great read, thanks for writing this.

    I started lifting in about a year and a half ago at about 5’10 ” 155 lbs @ 16-18% body fat with a really small frame. After bulking for a few months, I was probably close to 20% and 165 ish and had to cut down again. I look like garbage at high fat % because I get all bloated and so does my face etc. So I ended up bulking and cutting, rinsing and repeating with this skinny fat limbo. I finally decided last July that I would go ahead and do a cut down to a solid base of about 9-10% BF. I’ve never been below probably 12-13% ever. This is me now

    http://i.imgur.com/Xi1ve.jpg
    http://i.imgur.com/KTfUF.jpg

    It’s kinda hard to stay motivated when you don’t really know what’s the best option. I just know I want to do this the right way. I’m trying to get to 9-10% body fat but it seems like it just isn’t gonna happen so I’m not really sure if I should clean bulk, or keep cutting..cutting is getting so hard because of the restricted calories and stalling progress, and bulking from this fat% makes me feel like crap after a few months when I’m all bloated and stuff. I really want to finish cutting I guess I just want some hope. Thanks for writing this and possibly replying.

    • Anthony November 16, 2012, 8:56 pm

      JZ, I think you look pretty good. Definitively got some muscle on you. I’d drop down slowly over time — will help you retain the muscle you worked hard for. The once you get there, start increasing calories on training days.

  • Diego November 22, 2012, 5:44 pm

    This makes a lot of sense. I’m 137 lbs with around 11% body fat leaving me at a lean body mass of around 122 lbs. The thing I hate is that I’m 20 years old and “looking” scrawny is in a way a huge fear of mine. I just hate looking small and bony weak I mean I’ve been there all my life. But I guess I’m going to have to make my base at a lower body fat level since I haven’t changed for a year now. I’ve only gotten stronger. So I’m going to do what you suggested lock myself in fat burning mode. I plan on doing a strength/fat loss workout plan with Intermittent Fasting. After all pain = pleasure, right? Thanks for the post.

    • Anthony November 23, 2012, 4:14 pm

      Good luck. Keep that strength up on your quest.

  • Randy November 25, 2012, 5:29 pm

    Hi Anthony,

    I think you did a great job with this guide, thank you for writing it!

    I have been leaning down for about 5 months now. I started on my 22nd birthday I was fed up with being skinny fat at that point. I started at about 163 lbs, June 10th, now I’m down to 138 lbs trying to get as lean as I can and I think I’ve done a good job, but feel a bit tired out. I don’t mind eating healthier, I actually really enjoy it and I would consider the food I eat now as my favorites rather than having to eat the stuff to lose fat, but I’m just worried I got too comfortable eating that I’m not really at a calorie deficit enough to lose the stubborn belly and chest fat.

    I have little left, but it’s enough to get under my skin, no pun intended. lol
    I already feel like at 138 lbs I’m so skinny being 5’9, but the fat is still there. Should I get back to controlling my eating a lot better or what? I really don’t do strength training because I don’t have a way to pay for a gym membership so it’s mostly my eating.

    I feel like I might end up being 130lbs to get to my goal and from there hopefully I can work a way to build muscle… it just seems so light to me, could it be I’m malnurished??

    As you can see I’m a very complicated case, I’ve been struggling with being skinny fat ever since I can remember. I do know that my eating was very unhealthy as I would mostly eat junk high calorie processed foods without ever feeling full. I’m just learning about the best foods to keep me full and feeling good.

    So my real question is, after losing so much weight and not feeling I am lean enough even at my lightest weight-wise, should I keep going or what? I definitely have seen improvements that I’m happy with but the stubborn fat is like a constant reminder that I’m still not where I want to be leanness-wise…

    • Anthony November 26, 2012, 1:39 am

      I’d say, “you’re doing it wrong.”

      Until you address the muscle issue, you’re always going to be skinny. So I’m not quite sure why this is such a complicated issue. I mean, if you aren’t training to build muscle you’re going to be skinny. So you have two options: keep being skinny and be really lean, or keep being skinny and also be kinda fat.

      Which is it gonna be?

      If I were you, I’d start a basic body weight training routine to get some muscular adaptations flowing.

      • Randy November 26, 2012, 5:25 pm

        Right, that’s what I figured. I definitely don’t want to be fat either way… what do you mean by basic weight training routine? I don’t think I’m completely devoid of muscle it’s just my body puts on fat a lot easier. I do think even though I’ve lost 25 lbs, it has mostly been fat so I’m definitely happy about that. Also, thank you for your response, I really appreciate it.

        • Anthony November 30, 2012, 2:10 pm

          Well you’re classifying yourself as skinny so you can’t have that much muscle, now can you? I’m just saying that if you’re attacking fat loss you’re going to lose weight. Losing fat reveals what’s underneath of the fat — muscle. If you don’t have a lot of muscle, you won’t have much to reveal. Hence leaning and leaning to nothingness. This is fine, really, as long as you plan on building your muscles up. But in order to do that you have to train.

  • aspiretofitness February 12, 2013, 4:00 am

    Hi Anthony. I’ve been reading your blog for the last few days and its refreshing to find a fitness forum that appears to address the unique physiology of ectomorph body types. I’d like your advice, my situation is as follows:

    32 years old, 6’4″, 200 lbs 34″ waist 40.5″ navel measure and 16″ neck. Body fat calculators average at around 23.5%.

    I am tall and thin framed, but I have a protruding stomach which to my knowledge consists of visceral fat. I have a narrow upper frame and this makes any visceral fat protrude all the more. Further, I have lost only 1 lb over the past month, despite eating very clean, exercising with weights in the gym 2-4x a week and taking animal cuts as directed. Incidentally I don’t think I have gained an offsetting amount of muscle explaining why the lbs haven’t dropped. My diet for the past two months has been eating very healthy for 2 months now, typically consuming 25-30 grams of protein supplements or egg whites and water/coffee for breakfast, a protein and spinach based lunch, and low to no-carb protein dinner. Alcohol has been limited to 1-2 x a week, low consumption. A rough estimate of caloric intake is around 2,100-2900 cals/day. In my opinion, the diet alone should have provided more fat loss than I have experienced as measured by the extended abdomen.

    My schedule may have something to do with it. I work in a corporate job all day, and then sit in classes 4 nights a week. While I get in my 45-1hr. workouts as mentioned, that is 10 hours of seat time 4 days a week.

    While metabolisms tend to slow as we age, 32 is still young enough where I’d expect to see more fat loss based on lifestyle choices and activity level.

    At this point, you are probably wondering where the cardio fits into this. Well, in order to build muscle, and not get too lean, I pulled back on the running, particularly when it wasn’t contributing to any weight loss in my first month. I can, and used to more often, run 4.4 miles in 35 minutes, though this didn’t contribute to significant fat loss either.

    I am interested in your feedback and am willing to discuss via e-mail if necessary.

    Thanks,

    Mike

    • Anthony February 12, 2013, 2:10 pm

      You’re path is vague. You mention 2100-2900 calories / day. That range is vague. If you’re 200 pounds, I’d start you off with around 2400 calories. Just an estimate. I don’t know what your description of eating “clean” is either. Are you getting 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight? What’s “limited” alcohol consumption? Is it two days per week in the gym? Or four? And what exercises are you doing? How strong are you in said exercises?

      • aspiretofitness February 12, 2013, 3:15 pm

        Fair enough. I wrote this yesterday after a 12 hour workday so let me clarify and address you questions.

        DIET:

        By eating clean I mean no sweets, no fried foods, no rice, excess breads, or fatty meats. To drink, only water and coffee. Alcohol consumption consists of 2-5 drinks per week (for the last two months its been on the lower end of that).

        I am trying to eat as much protein as possible. 40-60 grams from supplements and 40-75 grams from chicken, fish, pork, and red meat sources. The only sides I eat with my dinners are steamed/sauteed vegetables with a side of raw spinach and olive oil. I snack on nuts, low-fat/sugar granola bars and fruits in between meals.

        Exercises:

        I have been doing a 3-4x week routine lasting about 45 minutes, inspired by a “super hero’s workout” I discovered at muscle and strength.com (http://www.muscleandstrength.com/workouts/superhero-workout-build-avengers-physique-6-weeks). A 2 day example of this consists of the following:

        Day 1:

        Incline Barbell Bench – 2×10 (warm up); 3×8 (working sets) – 190LBS
        Barbell Bench Press – 3×6 (working sets) – 150 LBS
        Bent Over Barbell Row 2×10 (warm up); 3×8 (working set) – 100 LBS
        Medium Grip Pull up – 3×4 (Working sets) – NEEDS WORK
        Smith Overhead Press 1×10(warm up); 3×8(working sets) – 190LBS
        Wide Grip Upright Row – 3×6 (working set). 80LBS
        Hanging Leg Raises
        Floor Crunch

        Day 2:

        Barbell Curl – 1 x 10-15 (warm up); 3×8 (working set) – 50LBS
        Close Grip Bench Press 3×5
        Squat 3×10 – 200 LBS
        leg press 3×8 – 240LBS
        calf raise 3×10 – 120 LBS
        incline sit up 3×30

        Let me know if you need further information.

        Thanks!

        Mike

        • Anthony February 13, 2013, 1:12 am

          So you’re low carbing, basically?

  • aspiretofitness February 13, 2013, 3:14 am

    Correct. 50-75 grams.

    • Anthony February 13, 2013, 8:40 pm

      Cut the granola junk.

      Start eating supportive carbs on your training days. You aren’t going to repair and build muscle well without them.

      You really only mention eating 150ish grams of protein. And if you’re only eating that many carbs, I fear about your overall intake. Get 200 grams of protein. Eat more carbs and less fats on training days. On off days, more fats and less carbs.

  • Andy February 26, 2013, 10:00 pm

    I’m 6ft 3, around the 174 pound mark with a body fat of 16.5%. I’ve built a solid strength base over the past 3 months while not really changing in body shape apart from an ever expanding belly while trying to bulk.

    It’s now time to get lean…I’ve been working out 3 days a week on weights doing supersets between, chest & triceps, backl and biceps and on the 3rd day shoulders and legs followed with a kettlebell all over workout on a fourth day.

    Any tips to get my body fat % down would be appreciated.

    • Anthony February 27, 2013, 1:07 am

      Well I’m not a fan of the split, but there are thousands of tips I can give you. It would help if you narrow your question down as my soothsaying capacities are lacking.

      • Andy February 27, 2013, 9:08 pm

        Ok, firstly, do you recommend supersets at all and if so, what split? I’ve been doing supersets due to limited time in the gym (around 45 mins per visit).

        My main aim at the moment is to get body fat down to around 12% and then build from there.

        • Andy February 27, 2013, 9:41 pm

          My workout at the moment is:
          Monday – Chest and Triceps

          Superset 1: 8 reps x 4
          Dumbbell bench press
          Skull crusher

          Superset 2: 8 reps x 4
          Incline Dumbbell Press
          Cable Pushdowns

          Superset 3: 8 reps x 4
          Chest Flyes
          Tricep cable extensions

          Superset 4: To Failure
          Decline Press ups
          Tricep dips

          Wednesday: Back and biceps

          Superset 1: 8 reps x 4
          Dumbbell Deadlifts
          Cable Bicep curls

          Superset 2: 8 reps x 4
          Lateral pull down machine
          Dumbbell Bicep Curls

          Superset 3: 8 reps x 4
          Dumbbell row
          Hammer curls

          Superset 4: To failure
          Close grip pull down
          Narrow Cable Bicep curls

          Friday: Shoulders and Legs

          Superset 1: 8 reps x 4
          Seated dumbbell press
          Dumbbell Squat

          Superset 2: 8 reps x 4
          Upright Row
          Dumbbell straight leg deadlift

          Superset 3: 8 reps x 4
          Lateral Raises
          Dumbbell lunges

          Superset 4: To failure
          Front raises
          Dumbbell step ups.

          I finish each workout with some abs work and then 10 mins on treadmill doing H.I.I.T. 30 seconds at maximum and rest for 30 seconds on repeat.

          • Anthony March 1, 2013, 12:27 am

            Some of your supersets are competing.

            Suffice to say, I don’t train to failure and I usually only to three of four exercises in one session, so the way you train and the way I train are way off.

  • Christina February 28, 2013, 4:18 am

    So what do you do to get to your “base”. You lean out first. By doing only cardio??

    • Anthony March 1, 2013, 12:27 am

      No. Absolutely not. Nutrition and weight training.

      See some previous posts.

      Cardio is low low low on the list. Not a priority.

  • Sid April 1, 2013, 7:42 pm

    Hey finally a page meant just for me.
    I am 6′ 4”, extremely thin hands just like girls…I actually mean just like girls. I weigh 147 lbs. And have some fat in my belly and buttocks and thighs. I have been working out since a month now and eating well, but reading this makes me wonder if I’m still going the wrong way.
    Is it that putting on muscle and then cutting the fat later to reveal the muscles is always a bad idea?
    I have 2 years left in college and don’t want to get more lean and thin because as it is I look like a freaking lanky peter crouch. I just hate it..life is really tough.
    Please tell me what to do..and if you think I should get lean then please tell me how to. I couldn’t find any posts that say.

    • Anthony April 2, 2013, 12:20 pm

      Depends on how you look now. Sometimes people don’t represent what they actually look like. I’d have to see if you’re REALLY all that fat, or if you just think you are. Perhaps my post “Should You Bulk or Cut” will help, and then some articles in the Clean Bulk series I just wrote.

  • Randy April 21, 2013, 1:38 am

    Hey Anthony, I commented on the article a few months back…

    Anyway I came across your article again and this time I sort of have a different approach to curing my skinny fat issue. I’ve actually increased my caloric intake to get to my “base” that you mentioned in the article.

    I’ve been eating usually 4 meals a day and probably close to 2k calories. Being a 5’8″ tall 145 lbs 22 year old somewhat active male, 2k calories would put me at maintenance.

    But since I started eating more I’ve actually gained weight and I feel and look better. I was at 134 lbs at my lowest. I looked and felt sickly, and I was always tired and depressed. Especially about the way I looked.

    I noticed that slowly just by eating a healthy Mediterranean diet (which includes carbs, fat and protein) I’m able to gain lean body mass and shed fat.

    I still have a long way to go and no real measure of progress other than the way I look and feel, but so far I see the improvement.

    I guess my point is to let others know that if you’re skinny fat and at a low weight already, dieting is the LAST thing you want to do… at least for me it definitely was. Of course eating healthy is important, but instead of cutting calories, a skinny fat person, especially one who has been on a low calorie diet for a while, like myself, should actually increase calories.

    The only thing is your weight is sure to go up. And that’s okay! It doesn’t mean you’re not making progress, if anything a higher weight is healthier.

    I know this might sound like common sense to some people, but I really was unaware of how unhealthy eating so little was for me, but I was so determined to lose body fat while already being very skinny and weight very little, that I didn’t realize I was doing more harm than good to my body.

    • Anthony April 22, 2013, 7:07 pm

      This depends on how thin you are. Those with a more distorted body image perspective (think they’re fatter than they are) will definitely fall under this category. And that’s what the Chaos Bulk is designed for — increasing calories and gaining muscle without much fat to accompany the ride.

  • Jordan April 28, 2013, 4:56 pm

    This article really resonates with me….when I first started training I merely weighed myself, went to some online bodybuilding forums and basically thought I was underweight for my height so did the typical ‘bulk up’ diet of weight gainers, whole grains and chicken…even though I had no muscle definition whatsoever. People noticed I looked bigger in clothes, but I was still chubby and didnt want to take my top off on the beach.

    I then started following blogs to get a lean physique, spent months trying out various ways of eating, incorporating interval training in to my weekly regime.

    As of last month, I was at 8.6% bodyfat weighing 77 KG at 6ft2. I’m now trying to put on some size, with the knowledge that I can hopefully carefully monitor my fat gains knowing that I have the tools to lean down quite easily. At the moment, gaining weight still seems very tough for me and I’ve been having major carb sundays, eating extra meals of red meat and carbs during the week.

    I’m beginning to think that once you’ve done the hard work in leaning down, perhaps you dont need to be so strict with a clean bulk? Especially if you’re of ectomorphic tendencies? Quite frankly, I’m under the impression that my metabolism is SO efficient that perhaps I NEED to be eating more simple carbs

    • Anthony April 28, 2013, 11:29 pm

      You NEED carbs, no doubt. I wouldn’t say you don’t have to be so strict with a clean bulk, but you have to know WHEN to unleash your appetite and EAT…and then when to do the opposite.

      No doubt, now that you’re learn, your body is working differently. Take advantage of it by eating what you need. But don’t abuse it and end up back like your old self. This is Chaos Nutrition in a nutshell.

  • Timothy Phillips May 27, 2013, 1:32 am

    I am new to working out but lately it has been bothering me. Being the cousin of Ian Eulian (Men’s Health June 2005) or having a body building Marine for a dad has definitely given me a lot of information. Unfortunately none of it has worked for me. I’m just curious as to how does one make a solid base to start from? At this point I’m willing to try anything to obtain the results I want.

    • Anthony May 28, 2013, 4:19 pm

      Hey there Timothy, I created The Skinny-Fat Solution, http://theskinnyfatsolution.com to address that specific problem. I guess it would depend on what DIDN’T work for you though to truly answer your question.

      • Timothy May 28, 2013, 4:39 pm

        Basically I’ve been told lift heavy and few reps and only do cardio when I play soccer. Like I said pounding protein and working myself to the point where I can barely move everyday. At this point I’d rather go back to being 165lbs at 6’2 and work myself up from there. I am one of the few who didnt mind being skinny and ripped

        • Anthony May 28, 2013, 6:00 pm

          Vague.

          “few reps” – don’t know what that means.

          “pounding protein” – again, don’t know..

          I don’t know what lifts you’re doing. How strong you are. What you’re currently at BF% wise. Etc..

          • Timothy May 28, 2013, 6:17 pm

            Sorry I mean lift heavy weight with 6-8 reps. I’ve done everything from 4 day splits to Insanity and P90X. While I was in the military I did mostly bodyweight workouts and tried crossfit. My best bicep curl was at 110 lbs, back squat 150 lbs, tricep extension was 75 lbs. Unfortunately I have been out of the gym about 4 months now mostly to just being frustrated and moving. High protein deals more in drinking almost 4 protein supplements a day to put on size.

          • Anthony May 29, 2013, 2:15 pm

            Right, well you’re simply not strong enough for big muscles. Get stronger. Protein is only useful if your muscles need repairing. And they only need repairing if you’re continually pushing the boundaries of their current adaptation limits. Being able to curl almost as much as you back squat isn’t good.

  • Nathan Kellaway June 3, 2013, 8:48 pm

    Hi, ive only just stumbled across this and its pretty much spot on to what im going through right now… ive taken up boxing twice a week but would really like to know what else to do during tje week to help me lean down without losing too much of yhe little muscle I do have please help

    • Anthony June 5, 2013, 1:47 am

      Strength train.

  • Nick June 6, 2013, 6:31 pm

    Hey anthony,
    I am a skinny fat ectomorph myself, and I went down the wrong path of bulking without starting from a solid “base”. I got pretty big by doing loads of compound exercises and eating a lot(clean bulk tho). I currently have 4 pack and want to get rid of the remaining belly fats. Should I start cutting to the point where I lose all belly fats or should I keep on bulking and then cut?

    • Anthony June 7, 2013, 1:26 am

      That depends on your own aesthetic preference man.

  • Marcus Beasley June 10, 2013, 7:37 am

    Sticking to the rule of no more than two pounds should allow one to maintain muscle mass as long as your eat your fat, carbs, and protein in the appropriate ratio. You guys have got to learn how to count your calories though. Anything else is a guessing game. That’s the key though. It’s all in your diet.

    • Anthony June 10, 2013, 3:21 pm

      It’s all a guessing game.

      • Marcus beasley June 10, 2013, 4:44 pm

        If one keeps accurate food records, then the results can be very prefictable in my opinion. I believe the challenge is remaining consistent with your calories so you can determine what your caloric intake is to lose the 2 pounds a week or whatever you want to lose. People say they don’t have time to read nutrition labels but they have time to spend months guessing and hours working out when in reality, one can lose weight while sitting on the couch all day. Just my 2 cents.

        • Anthony June 11, 2013, 12:20 pm

          I disagree on the predictable results front. Most people see predictable results easily from the get-go. As you get better, that tends to tip off.

          • Jay Hoffman June 11, 2013, 7:59 pm

            Everyone I know that has consistency with their workouts and nutrition has predictable results. That’s just basic laws of physiology. You are starting to sound like every other blogger spitting put bro science.

          • Anthony June 12, 2013, 4:26 pm

            There’s a difference between this prediction: summer is warmer than winter, and this prediction: the weather will be 75 degrees with 1.2 inches of rain next Wednesday.

            It’s funny though, as you’re telling me about broscience (it’s a compliment, actually. I love broscience, it’s better than real science most of the times in relation to training) and yet talking about “laws” of physiology and physiology being predictable. See chaos, emergence, and reductionism.

            If you wanna tell me that lifting weights gets you stronger that’s fine. If you want to tell me that doing this many sets and reps adds “x” amount of pounds to your squat in 2 weeks, then that’s a different story.

  • victor June 10, 2013, 11:24 pm

    Hi Anthony. I just have a simple question to ask. Well let me start by describing a little about my self. Im a skinny fat ecto oviously, im 6ft 2″. I have wide shoulders , and wide waist, but very thin wrists. I currently have about 1-2 inch of fat stored on my lower back mostly, and about 1 inch of fat on the lower region of the belly. I have done high intensity cardio for about 2 months, full body workout for muscle building, calorie diet is 2500 – 2000 a day. I havent seen much of any results. I eat tuna,chicken, beans and veggies as protein. Fruits, whole wheat pasta, brown rice, and oats as carbs. What is your best advice for me?. I would apreciate if would be specific thanks keep up the good work.

    • Anthony June 11, 2013, 12:25 pm

      Depends on how much of that there whole wheat pasta, brown rice, beans, and whatnot you’re eating. Yeah those things are deemed healthy, but there’s still a quantity factor that can’t be ignored.

      • victor June 11, 2013, 6:18 pm

        Can you give me like a certaing amount of how much should i eat? From your experience.

        • Marcus June 12, 2013, 3:05 am

          Dude, make an appointment with a dietician. You’re making this harder than it is and all you need is a little guidance.

          • Anthony June 12, 2013, 4:28 pm

            A little experimentation never hurts.

        • Anthony June 12, 2013, 4:11 pm

          No. Everyone is different, and everyone varies from day to day. You have to experiment with this yourself. Start with a base amount of food, and then go either up or down depending on what happens.

  • ivan June 27, 2013, 3:52 am

    well i like the read, skinny fat here, started at 121lb …. with about 15% bf so i said fuck it lets bulk… bulked a good few months and ended up weigthing 138 lb, yea i was very happy but guess what i got fatter about 18% bf maybe more. so i started a cut… because i hate how i was looking, now i am at about 127 lb i have less belly and other spots seems smaller but not a big deal, i was losing about 2 lb per month and maintaining strength at the gym, but i am thinking i did not build any muscle and will end up weigthing 121 lb with the same bf i started with… 🙁 i have worked hard and will keep trying… but come on there must be a diference!!! for example when i started my left arm was 1.5 cm smaller now both arms are the same or almost the same so i build some muscle… the problem is i feel exactly the same person who started about a year ago lifting.

    • Anthony June 28, 2013, 5:55 pm

      Yup. Common story.

    • Gabriel Cuevas June 28, 2013, 9:35 pm

      Kevin, I would cut with the expectation of gaining musles because its difficult to be in a catabolic and anabolic state the same time. Also, if you choose the right workout, you should get stronger while losing weight. Do a routine where you do 1-8 reps per set with 2-5 minute rest and this should allow you to get stronger while losing. Everybody responds differently but that may help you in the future.

      • Anthony July 1, 2013, 2:01 pm

        It’s tough to be in the same state simultaneously, but it’s possible at different times of the day if you err to the extremes. Solid advice though.

  • Anusheel July 17, 2013, 9:53 am

    Hi Anthony
    M from India. Ive been lean bulking for 2 months….at first I was preparing my own meals n thus was counting calories. Now m having food from the mess and its tgh to do so. Have gained some fat which I want to cut down to fit into my clothes (gained 2 -3 inches on waist) preserving any muscle which I have gained in these 2 months. I expect to shed somewhere 4-6 kg of fat. Is muscle loss inevitable? I am skinny fat too.

    • Anthony July 19, 2013, 12:45 am

      If you lose muscle on a cut, you’re doing it wrong. OH WAIT. That’s right, I don’t recommend bulking and cutting for this reason…

  • GeLOve July 30, 2013, 12:41 pm

    Hey Anthony!

    I’m currently 23 yrs old, 5’7 in height, 138 lbs and currently on 15% body fat.
    I consistently workout 5 days a week having 2 days off each week..
    My goal is to reach 8-10% body fat so my abs will be defined.

    I want to build some muscles and lose my belly fat at the same time but what I have notice is that I also lose some muscles along the way and it made me skinnier, a lot of my friends now notice the changes in my body which they told me that it doesnt look good on me..So suddenly I got conscious with the way I look, I always want to look good and I know everyone does.

    Now, My question is, do you think I still need to continue on achieving the 8-10% bf goal while sacrificing the way I look or I need to bulk a bit? Im really confuse at the moment,.Im also wondering if maybe its because of my diet. I eat 6 small meals a day and im not sure if im not eating the right amount I need.

    here’s how it looks like:

    breakfast: 2 eggs, half cup of rice

    morning snack after 2 hours: banana

    Lunch: chicken breast, rice

    afternoon snack/ pre workout meal: banana

    post workout meal: whey protein, banana, sometimes soy milk

    Dinner: corned century tuna/ chicken breast with rice or sometimes I dont eat dinner anymore..

    By the way, just so you know Im an Asian so we do love rice in our diet..Do you think I need to remove it?

    your reply will be greatly appreciated..!

    • Anthony August 6, 2013, 12:02 am

      It’s not about what your friends think. It’s about what you think, and what you need to do to EVENTUALLY get your goals.

      As for rice: sometimes I think low carbohydrate diets might be good for some, that all depends though.

  • tj August 9, 2013, 10:39 am

    i am 155lbs trying to get to 145lbs lean i av been eating at 1800 cals, 180 protein, 110 carbs, 60 fat, yet i have not lost a single pound what am i doing wrong.

    weights 3x a week no cardio

    breakfast
    2 egg uncooked
    40g oats in water

    Snack
    50g almond, 1 orange.

    Lunch
    Broccoli 100 g
    tin tuna
    Wholewheat Pasta 40g

    Snack pwo
    Whey Protein 50g

    Dinner

    Broccoli, 100 g
    Chicken Breast, 100 g
    Extra Virgin Olive Oil, 10 ml
    Brown Rice 40g

    evening
    50g whey protein

    • Anthony August 12, 2013, 11:19 pm

      I don’t know, as I don’t know how long you’ve been going at it. I don’t know how tall you are, which gives me no backing. I don’t know your training history, or current training. And the fact that I have to ask for this makes me upset, so perhaps spend longer asking a question.

      My immediate answer:

      1) Maybe your physiology is whacky and you aren’t mobilizing fat.

      2) If you aren’t losing anything, perhaps your energy balance simply / food calculations simply aren’t correct.

  • Jay August 27, 2013, 11:11 pm

    Another excellent read!
    I’ve been doing exactly the same for around 3 months now. My whole aim was to get down to a lean frame to start my slow bulk from. I did shed a lot of fat by following IF and weight training (went down from 140 lb 15% bf to around 128 lb 9-10% bf). I made an effort to keep my strength on the cut. Currently I am at a state where I have 9-10% bf but my weight is extremely less (128lb for 5 ft. 8 in.). The problem is I still have a tiny bit of fat around my waist area that has been bothering me. I think if I lose another few pounds, I might get to where I want, but that would mean becoming extremely underweight! Do you recommend doing this?
    Thanks a ton!

    • Anthony August 28, 2013, 5:32 pm

      I’d have to see a picture to make sure you weren’t obsessing about something you shouldn’t be obsessed with. Email me.

      • Jay August 29, 2013, 3:33 am

        Sent you an email with pics.! Thanks a lot 🙂

        • Anthony September 2, 2013, 3:59 pm

          I shall reply when I check (if I haven’t already…)

  • Yishai September 9, 2013, 10:36 am

    if i am trying to bulk , does it matter what i eat just at least if i eat more? would it be better to get fatter and also try to increase the weight i lift? would that work?

    • Anthony September 10, 2013, 3:55 pm

      Yes, it matters what you eat. No, it’s not a good idea to get fat unless you want to get fat.

      • Yishai September 11, 2013, 10:51 am

        the reason i said that is because when i eat healthy, no sugar, mostly vegetables and low fat yogurt, tuna, and all different sorts of protein… i still don’t see any muscle definition, i stay skinny, but theres only flesh and no muscle… even though i do workouts with weights – dumbells and body weight exercises, and but still stay the same as when i didn’t eat healthy… and its a real disappointment.

        • Anthony September 17, 2013, 1:09 am

          If you can’t do ten consecutive chin-ups, then you have your initial answer. If you can, then eat more. That’s not the same as getting fat though.

  • -M November 5, 2013, 3:34 pm

    I am currently 5’9, 163lbs with 23% body fat and am what you would call skinny fat. I just recently had an in-body assessment and was very disappointed. I had double hernia surgery last October and had gon down to almost 145 just from laying in bed for about 2 weeks and afterwards I wanted to bulk up. I’ve been lifting hard and eating alot ( really a whole bunch), healthy within the week and really bad on the weekends ( beer,bbq, etc.) but basically come to find out I have been adding body fat along with little muscle mass. I will try to lean down again to try and create a solid base and I think I’ve given up the idea of being “Big”.
    Sorry for jumping around with all the info but I’m just venting. I appreciate the article and it does give me a new perspective on my goal path as well as my actual goals themselves. thank you

    • Anthony November 5, 2013, 5:34 pm

      Welcome.

      1) Strength train. Now.
      2) Stop eating like a slob on the weekend.

      Do those two things before anything else.

      And…

      3) Don’t bulk up like a cow, you’ll just get fat. Gain muscle without fat. See Chaos…

  • Jules November 11, 2013, 9:30 am

    Hi anthony,
    I’m a 5’7 female , 115 lbs and around 23-24 bf . I do a lot of body weight training and pilates reformer machine training http://www.lagreefitness.com/megaformer-m2/ (6 x a week) I also use the elliptical at a steep varying hill incline for 45 min right after my weight training . I think I am eating too few calories… Yet I’m afraid of going into a surplus and getting even further away from my goal of 15% bf. so my intake is
    breakfast I have 1/4 c oats and 1/4 cup egg whites

    4oz chicken breast with 2 cups broccoli

    4 egg whites two cups mixed greens 1/4 cup quinoa

    2 oz chicken two cups mixed greens 1/4c quinoa

    1 scoop dr mercola whey strawberry (80 cal 8g carbs ) 2 cups frozen spinach 1/4 cup almond milk and 2 strawberries

    I have this pesky layer of abdominal fat and a flabby booty. It’s frustrating b/c I used to weigh 108 with a 16% bf. I ate 2 meals a day egg whites for breakfast and a big ass salad for dinner with 4 oz chicken and 1/2 cup low sugar froyo every night! I would work out for 1.5 hrs on the elliptical with a hill incline . Also I had a terrible gum addiction 2 packs of sugar free gum PER DAY! ( crazy, I know). This went on for 2 years until my moms cancer had a recurrence and I became very depressed & gave up on fitness for a good 6 months, I was still eating 2x a day but not being as diligent .

    I began to care for my needs again about 4 months ago. I cut out the gum and ice cream completely and started to work out to keep myself sane , but I don’t know if I’m on the right path. I feel like its so difficult for me to reduce my body fat , I’m so lost with all if the fitness advice and I feel like I don’t know what program to stick to. I’ll try one diet method , see no results in two weeks and then give up :(. I’d love your help in the matter. Thank you!

    • Anthony November 12, 2013, 2:27 am

      Well, everyone is different. All I can tell you is that it takes longer than two weeks to make meaningful change. You know of something that’s worked for you in the past, so maybe you should revisit that.

  • Nikky January 30, 2014, 7:54 am

    Thank you for your articles, Anthony. I cycle carbs and fat. I occasionally have cheat meals. On a cheat meal day I usually just eat egg whites, lean protein, and some veggies. I make sure that I have lean protein with my cheat meal. I never plan my cheat meals and only have them for social or fun reasons. It works.

    I do not understand why and how Iter-ten fasting works for you. I tried to work out on an empty stomach: I cannot lift as heavy, and I feel light headed. How is it possible to eat so much food at once? Does it create any digestive problems?

    I love breakfast, and the more carbs I eat prior to my work-out, the more weight I can handle during my training session.

    Can you post your sample work-outs for your shoulders and calves?

    • Anthony January 31, 2014, 8:47 pm

      My digestion is fine. I eat because I can and find it enjoyable at the moment. Your body usually adapts to the hunger.

      I don’t do specific shoulder or calf workouts. They get worked with the rest of me.

  • Nikky January 30, 2014, 8:00 am

    Leaning out is easy for me. I almost never do any cardio. If I reduce carbs, I increase fat. I never reduce total calories because it leads to muscle loss. Building muscles is very, very hard. I developed a nice upper body, but I still have not found a solution to gain muscles on my legs. Have you tried higher reps (20 to 30 for slow twitch) to add muscles to your legs?

    • Anthony January 31, 2014, 8:48 pm

      My legs have always grown with my squat. Nothing seems to be more correlated with growth beyond that.

  • Riyan Bhatia May 5, 2014, 6:10 pm

    I am thinking about giving IF a go. I am a squash player but in off season mode now so just weight lifting and trying to swim. I think im really skinny but I have a huge gut (I think its because I go crazy on the weekends and I drink on the weekends too). I’m planning on lifting 4 times a week and swimming about 4 times as well (might switch swimming for squash). My waist is about 34 and I weigh 150 pounds. Im thinking about doing 16/8 and then maybe going to 17/7 18/6 as I try to lose my gut. I think im very active, I bike around the city too. I was wondering if you could give me a ball park of what macronutrients to use and if you have written any articles on what food to eat. Also any advice is welcome, the best I’ve gotten to is a 30 waist but the no drinking no junk killed me, it was like I had borderline depression.

    • Anthony May 9, 2014, 4:55 pm

      The length and duration of a fast doesn’t dictate fat loss or ANYTHING. IF is a VEHICLE, not a DIRECTION.

  • Marc July 7, 2014, 7:12 pm

    It is a good idea to work out the arms, like you mention – directly. I have an arm day, and I probably could be described as an ectomorph, even maybe a skinny-fat ectomorph, and isolating the arms by doing specific exercises to work them out, really changed my arms and even physique, I find.

    If I didn’t train the arms, there is no way I would have the arms I have today (while not body builder proportions obviously, I’m a small guy, it definitely added definition and vascularity).

    I really think it’s stupid when people give universal advise to not train arms… maybe for some that’s good advice, but certainty not for all body types — such as me, training arms really works for me.

    • Anthony July 9, 2014, 4:26 pm

      Thanks for the reply. I agree for those on the road to aesthetics. Controlled arm work at first. Not too much. But some.

  • Milos September 10, 2014, 7:44 pm

    Hey Anthony,

    thanks for the article. I still have moobs and lovehandles thanks to my cheat days during the weekend. While I am on -500 deficit during work days, I eat around +1000 during the weekend so if I calculate weekly calories it looks like that basically I’m doing maintenance work.

    I wanted to ask you, if I’m on a -500 deficit, would it work if I eat +1000 on Saturday, then eat -1000 less on Sunday and thus keep my deficit?

    Thanks so much.

    • Anthony September 11, 2014, 8:57 pm

      I’m sorry, I don’t do numbers. The body isn’t a calculator. It changes and fights to maintain stasis. YOU ARE NOT A STATIC CREATURE WITH THE SAME METABOLIC RATE EVERY DAY.

  • Sanjay September 27, 2014, 1:48 pm

    Hey Anthony!

    Thanks for such a great article.Its really helpful for us “The skinny fat ectomorphs”.So my question is..I have heard a lot about the Insanity workouts and i have seen many great results.What is your take on it?Is it helpful for our clan? will it really help me to achieve the first stage and lean off?

    Thank you so much! 🙂

    • Anthony October 6, 2014, 6:36 pm

      If I had coffee, I’d spit it all over the screen.

      Answer your question?

      • stacey November 25, 2014, 4:26 pm

        So your saying no on insanity?
        I did focus T25 several months ago and saw some fat loss…. but I couldn’t stick with it.

        Do you recommend against doing insanity or t25?
        Right now I mix some jillian michaels with my own thing as well as using weights.

        • Anthony December 8, 2014, 9:09 pm

          You need to gut your brain. You’re using junk. But that’s OK, we all go through the phase. You need to learn how to train correctly — barbells and bodyweight stuff. I imagine you’re a girl. You can email me, I’ll recommend some people.

  • sanku October 22, 2014, 6:11 am

    Hi,
    I have reduce 24 kg ,my age is 22 now i am 66kg but still have belly fat and love handles and lost muscle what technique as this stage i should use to remove all fat??

    • Anthony October 25, 2014, 2:59 pm

      Chances are you WON’T because it seems you aren’t doing enough strength training. Just a guess. And when people DON’T do the strength training, they get to a point where you’re at and then spin wheels.

  • stacey November 25, 2014, 4:23 pm

    I’m a woman, and I’m trying to lean up, of course I know lifting won’t make me bulk up because it’s much harder for women to bulk, so I’m not worried about gaining too much muscle. But i have been dealing with my skinny – fat issues for about 3 yrs now. I have given up about 3 times, after working so hard to get results, but not seeing desired results, I would give up! Now I’m just stuck, not sure what to do. I started back to working out and eating healthy about a month ago, and I already see progress, but I’m just so worried I won’t see desired results and I’m going to give up again and gain my fat back.

    Thanks for sharing this, now I know where I’m going to start at. I’m going to lose this last 10 lbs of fat and then try to build a little muscle. It sounds more logical. Nothing else I have been doing has given me what I want. I want to be fit and strong so bad!

  • Andy March 24, 2015, 6:45 pm

    Hi Anthony, nice ideas.
    1) Do I eat till my stomach is 100% full?
    2) How long to go from 25%bf to 15%

    thanks a ton.

    • Anthony April 25, 2015, 2:22 pm

      1) Depends on what you’re trying to do.
      2) You don’t predict physiology. When you do, you get unknowned.

  • Andy April 27, 2015, 8:20 am

    What I mean is, since I am only eating two meals a day is it good to eat till my stomach is full? If we’re eating many meals a day, then we could eat till half full … but with only lunch and dinner, is it better to eat till 100% full?

    • Anthony May 19, 2015, 6:37 pm

      If you’re not hitting your nutrient intake needs, then you have to eat until you get the food down. If you can’t do it in two, then you shouldn’t only be eating two.

  • Cody April 29, 2015, 2:52 am

    Hi Anthony, I really need some help. I’m at loss and want to address this asap. I am planning to do ICF beginner’s routine and have read up about TDEE and macros.

    I’m currently 5’7, 162 lbs (bf around 18-22%) and am what you would call skinny-fat.

    I don’t know how to fix this issue and get my body back, as I have a serious body image problem.

    Here’s a picture: http://tinypic.com/view.php?pic=2n06aes&s=8#.VTbX01VVhBc

    Thoughts? Thank you!

    • Anthony May 19, 2015, 6:34 pm

      If you have a serious image problem, my thoughts are you should invest the $97 for what currently is the megaton of information I have available inside The Skinny-Fat Solution and not try to haphazardly piece something together with something this guy said and that guy said and etc…

  • BogBog May 10, 2015, 12:50 pm

    Hi!What is “Hi”? can i eat it?Just a little joke.Question, Anthony tell me for a GErd dyspepsia stomach problems(no antiacids pls) what do you recommend?

    I am a proud skinny fat ecto 31 years old who ate most chocolate in his childhood(that was verry GOOD),and for about 8 years(that’s when i start weight training) is was heavy duty(depression anxiety low calories Xenadrine nrg,tons of suplements)

    I developed soon GERD and dyspepsia and gained from 80 kg(1.87m tall) to 120 kg at the moment.Now it’s 30% body fat, but i never stopped weight training.

    Insulin is a powerfull tool that us skinny fat have and if we can manage it,wonderfull things will happen,but not for me(diet now).

    Now i am on a low calorie low carb mostly veggies meats fish oil almonds blah blah blah(i am tired of even writing about this),1500 cal per day should do the trick..

    I must say i agree with intermittent fasting it’s a great tool to manipulate,you must be verry carefull,dehydration,ketosis etc.

    Some suplements i would add:magnesium potassium zinc citruline lechithin(liver health) b complex(active forms) fish oil.

    5 years ago i was a happy skinny fat ecto i even won a regional fitness competition(wow for fat skinny) a lot of effort(creatine glutamine dextrose HIIT tribullus) but i never have done that without fasting.

    My advice for the young S.F start 3 meals a day first 6 months and let the hunger loose between meals.Do not be afraid of hunger,it a good tool! 3 meals per day with 12 hours fast low carb will do the trick even in stubbern fat!!

    Also kick the liver with some herbs.it will help you!!
    It’s a verry nice blog for old and young S.F(it’s like a brothering) wich sometimes creates a relaxing brain effect in the neverresting S.F brain knowing there other brother in arms.

    The problem i observed in S.F ecto is insulin and testosterone.On low calorie low carb test. is” female type”.There is when u need to be tough like i am now:)).
    Regards Anthony!!

    • Anthony May 19, 2015, 6:26 pm

      I’m not a doctor, so I can’t tell you anything here. Sorry.

  • Kandi July 11, 2015, 11:58 pm

    Great article! Best advice, practical and simple for skinny fats. I tried Crossfit for six months and while I did gain muscle it was very slowly…I got discouraged because I couldn’t keep up with the people that started the same time as me. I also noticed on heavy cardio type days my body stopped responding…but I felt like a million bucks on heavy weight days. I can see why I didn’t stick with it…I didn’t understand my body and that type of training method put more stress on my body and mind than I needed. I carried a lot of “fat” baggage and now I feel like I can actually start making better descisions for me. Thanks!!!!

    • Anthony July 17, 2015, 12:18 am

      Thanks for the reply.