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Why Are You Skinny Fat?

Should You Bulk Or Cut?

Posted by Scott_Herman - October 6th, 2017

I have been asked this question too many times to remember, practically in the comment section of every one of my videos. So this article is for you, the men and woman who’ve self-labeled yourselves “skinny fat”.

But what exactly is “skinny-fat”? Well, if you currently are skinny fat, you’ll know. For everyone else, it’s someone who can be described as skinny and fat at the same time. It means you’re thin, but parts of your body are still jiggling a little bit more than you would like. The reality is that you’re just undertrained, and although you might be pretty thin, you still hold onto some fat, especially around the belly and chest area. But, before we get to how you’re going to fix this, let’s first understand what caused it in the first place.

The Reasons You May Be Skinny Fat

Being skinny fat can generally be attributed to one of three reasons…

  1. People who were overweight to begin with, tried to diet down, but their diet was too extreme. Then, as a result, they managed to lose a ton of fat, but they also lost a lot of muscle mass in the process.

  2. People who were skinny all along and then decided to start working out to build some muscle. However, unfortunately instead of building muscle, they started packing on fat because they didn’t know how to properly train OR plan their meal plan.

  3. People who are just naturally skinny, don’t workout, and eat like crap.

Now, all of these scenarios lead to the same result; a skinny, non-muscular look with some persistent fat reserves around your belly, chest, arms, legs and maybe a little muffin top going on too. So does this sound like you?  Well, if it does, I’m sure your next question is what can you do to fix it?

What Does Your Meal Plan Look Like?

If you’re a skinny fat person, this means you’ve got a fairly efficient metabolism, or else you would just be regular fat instead of skinny fat, and the problem with your current diet is that it is NOT GOOD ENOUGH. You’ve been making loads of crappy food choices and most likely, you don’t even know what your calories and macros for the day should be. Does this sound familiar?

In a nutshell, you’ve probably been eating in a caloric surplus but most of the foods you’re consuming are unhealthy, high in fat, high in sugar and very low in protein. You can’t expect to build muscle without an adequate supply of protein. But since you’re in a caloric surplus, all these extra calories are simply turned into fat and stored in your fat cells, leaving you wondering why you’ve been eating MORE, but not seeing any muscle gains.

So, what I want you to do is watch my Meal Plan video very carefully, even two or three times if you have to, until you understand how much and what you need to be eating to gain muscle. My meal plan video is probably the most EASY to understand meal plan video in the world. But remember, once you construct your meal plan with a specific goal for calories and macros for the day you need to actually FOLLOW it daily. It’s okay if you diverge from the plan every once in a while, but the majority of your eating should be according to your meal plan, and don’t bother asking how many CHEAT DAYS you are allowed to have, because that is YOUR problem. Do you want to reach your goals FAST, or do you want them to take 10 times as long?  That’s your answer to how many cheat meals, brownies, ice creams, frappes, chips, cookies and how much candy you can have.

And for those of you who don't have the time to watch the video, here is the entire video in article format:

What Could Be Wrong With My Training?

Most people don’t realize that it is possible to eat right in terms of quality and quantity, yet still not make gains even though they’re training hard. Well, sometimes training hard is not all that matters. What’s more important is training smart.

Just going to the gym every day is not going to cut it. Similarly to the meal plan, you have to follow a specific program geared towards progression and results and stop “winging” it.  If you don’t already have a program, I suggest you take a look at the 12 Week Programs here on the site, and pick a program that best suits your everyday life and your goals.

But, regardless of the program you choose to follow, the main problem with skinny-fat people and hardgainers is that they ARE doing the right exercises, but they don’t know how to perform them properly because they’re lacking any kind of mind-muscle connection. This means they end up training the right muscles, but they’re not able to maximize muscle engagement for proper muscle damage and regrowth. If this sounds like you, you need to take a step back and reconsider your training. Stop ego-lifting, go back to lighter weights and start developing your muscle-mind connection properly. Perform slow, controlled reps and feel each muscle activate with every repetition, and if you need more help with this concept take a look at the video and the article below.

If you do that AND stick to the meal plan mentioned earlier, I can guarantee you that your skinny fat days will be behind you sooner than you think.

Should I Cut Or Bulk First If I Am Skinny Fat Now?

In the vast majority of cases, I wouldn’t recommend cutting if you’re below 18% bodyfat.  I would recommend BULKING with a slight surplus, which you will know how to do once you watch my meal plan video or read my meal plan article. So why not cut first?  It’s simply because you’d be wasting your time. Being skinny fat doesn’t mean you’re actually fat. You just have some extra fat that WILL start to go away as soon as you start to put on more muscle. This is also called body recomposition. Even mathematically speaking, your body fat percentage will drop as you gain muscle, but the amount of fat you are losing is minimal or you might even gain a few pounds.

Let’s say you weigh 150lbs and you’re at 15% body fat. That means that 22.5lbs of your bodyweight is stored fat. Now, let’s say you’ve trained for a year, stayed on a slight caloric surplus and gained 20lbs of muscle, which is very reasonable as a NATURAL ATHLETE, especially if it’s your first year of training. Now after a year, you’re at 170lbs, but you haven’t gained much fat, if any at all.

If you do the math, you’ll find that you’re “magically” at 13% body fat now because you still have around 22.5lbs of bodyfat on you, but because you gained 20 pounds of muscle the ratio of fat to muscle is much smaller. So if you really think about it, the whole “skinny-fat” problem simply comes down to a bad muscle to fat ratio. The only reason why the fat you currently have SEEMS like a lot is because you have practically ZERO muscle mass to support it. Therefore, it’s not really a lot, it’s just an optical illusion of fat.

To sum things up, personally, I don’t see a point in trying to cut down before you start gaining muscle. It’s a waste of time. You’ll just end up burning more muscle mass and becoming even “skinnier fat”. Unless you’re way above 18% body fat, you need to start lean bulking and that means adhering to your meal plan and gaining muscle slowly without putting on much or any fat.

Have you guys ever seen me get fat? You haven’t. That’s because I never dirty bulk. I follow my meal plan and crush my workouts 3 - 4 times a week. This way I can keep on gaining muscle without gaining too much fat, which I would then have to cut off anyway to show off my gains!


One last thing, if you fall under the general category of “skinny fat”, then you’re most likely a beginner in the fitness world.Actually, you’re definitely a beginner. In my book, it doesn’t matter how many years you’ve been lifting. Your results are what matters. So, you might have been lifting for a few years, but because you never learned how to maximize your time in the gym and your meal plan, or the BASICS, you’re still technically a beginner. In this case, it’s probably safe to say that you’ll be able to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time if you stay in a slight caloric surplus, which is around 250 – 500 calories over your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE).

Related Videos:

3 Chest Exercises For Skinny Guys / HARDGAINERS!

12 Tips To Eat More For Massive Muscle Growth! | HARDGAINERS & SKINNY GUYS NEED THIS!

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Hey Scott, thanks for everything you do. You're a real inspiration because you get right down to it and you have this big-brotherly warm vibe of guiding people! I had a question, not sure you have time for it but here goes. I was overdoing som exercise (6days a week, too much focus on accessories, etc) and pulled something on my back. I"m trying to lift three days a week. Stretching, yoga, core, cardio on the other two. I'm skinny fat but I don't know how much I should bulk. Here is me in 2015 and then in 2019. I've gained muscle but also fat (134 lbs to 146 lbs) with intermittent exercise, now very consistent. I'm vegetarian and using your calculator, I come to about 140g protein which I am trying hard to reach. Any tips?

Scott_Herman  Edit  Delete  Close

@sidsan183 hey man! First of all, you're better off to post this in the @forums and ideally the PLATINUM+ @forums. That's more of a private area where you'll get a lot more in-depth help from me! So if you could please post in there with a little more info, that would be great. For example - What are your overall macros and calories that you're getting daily? What is your training split like? What stretching exactly are you doing for your lower back?


I don't know if i'm skinny fat but i think i really need to relearn mind muscle connection. Beacause with the past five years of not exscersisisng because i was told i'm only allowed to swim or cycle i've lost that somewhere. Great articke will definitely check al the vids

Scott_Herman  Edit  Delete  Close

@mildentdoc that's a long time to be out of action. Glad you're ready to hit it hard again though, and definitely check out the mind-muscle connection article / video! Super important!


Very Informative Article