Most skinny-fat guys have the awful experience of bulking up and seemingly just gaining fat, or trying to lose weight and just winding up even skinnier… but still with a little pot belly.
What’s going on here is that when you’re bulking up, your fat cells are more insulin sensitive than your muscle cells and you’re gaining fat instead of building muscle. I mean, you’re probably building some muscle too, but you wouldn’t notice, because it’s being hidden by the fat.
The same is true when cutting, except the inverse. You’re losing both muscle and fat, so you never seem to get leaner, just smaller. Since our stomachs are the last place men store fat, this leaves you with a belly instead of biceps. Ayy.
Nutrition plays a role here, but most of the guys that we see who are struggling with this are doing cardio or p90x style programs when trying to lose fat—programs designed for your average person looking for weight loss. And weight loss is what they get. They lose some fat, they lose some muscle.
Rather than trying to lose weight, I say do absolutely everything you can with your training to build muscle—i.e. you follow a solid muscle-building program—and you combine it with a calorie deficit. This can work well. Very well. In fact, skinny-fat guys are pretty much the only people out there who can build muscle and lose fat simultaneously (study, study).
Check out what happened in a 2014 study comparing weightlifting with aerobics when in a calorie deficit:
- The aerobics group lost 7 pounds of fat while also losing 6 lbs of lean mass. (13 pounds lost overall.) If you were a 170 pound man with 20% bodyfat, this would bring you down to 157 pounds with 17% bodyfat. You’d have lost a fair bit of muscle and still wouldn’t be anywhere close to having abs.
- The heavy weightlifting group lost 22 pounds of fat and gained 4 pounds of lean mass. (18 pounds lost overall.) If you were a 170 pound man, this would bring you down to 152 pounds with 8% bodyfat. You’d have fitness model abs, a few pounds more muscle, and could begin bulking leanly from there.
(We get so many skinny-fat guys coming into the community that we have a guide for it here, and it’s included with the program.)
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