What to do When You're Skinny-fat

What to do When You’re Tired of Being Skinny-Fat

Written by Shane Duquette on March 16, 2015

Skinny-fat is when you’ve got over 20% bodyfat but look skinny in a t-shirt. When instead of your shirt hanging off your pecs, it’s puffed out by your gut. This is is a frustrating situation to be in because the advice the typical skinny-guy hears is to avoid cardio, lift and eat more; whereas the typical chubby-guy is told to do plenty of cardio, lift and eat less.

…But it feels like whenever you eat more you just get chubbier, and whenever you eat less you just get skinnier. In the past I’ve “bulked” myself into having a love-handly gut, and I’ve lost all the muscle I gained from the bulk when trying to get rid of that gut. Not a good cycle to get caught in.  As far as my physique went, I don’t think I’ve ever struggled with anything quite so confusing and frustrating. To make things even more infuriating, if you’ve tried to lose fat while building muscle… then you know all too well that that’s the least effective advice of all.

At that point, feeling let down by classic advice, most of us desperately turn to novelty advice: eating like a caveman, avoiding carbs (or even going ketogenic), doing some sort of extreme sport routine (like CrossFit), or eating 100% “clean” (whatever clean means), etc. I’ve been down that road as well, because it seems like somebody finally, finally has the solution. But after a few months of having sky-high energy levels (because your body is pumping you full of energizing stress hormones), you realize that you’re exactly where you started except now you have a bunch of food phobias, your grocery bill is twice as high, and you can’t eat at a normal restaurant anymore.

We’re going to cover why you’re skinny-fat, and then how to become strong and lean. This approach isn’t novel—there’s nothing revolutionary in this article, and your doctor would likely agree with all of it. However, because it’s thorough and evidence-based it’ll actually work.


Are you actually skinny-fat?

First we should figure out if you’re even skinny-fat. We’re a site that specializes in various types of skinny guys, and we’ve noticed that it’s fairly common for skinny guys to assume they’ve got a higher bodyfat percentage than they do. This is because even a very lean bodyfat percentage, say 10%, looks very different on a skinny guy than on a strong guy:

How lean you look depends on how muscular you are (bodyfat vs muscularity)

Us skinny guys don’t naturally have a lot of muscle rounding out our physique, so it’s just our bone structure and our fat that shapes us. As we grow more muscular our bones become less prominent, our fat is spread thinner, and we begin to be shaped by our muscles. Everyone says abs are built in the kitchen, but as skinny guys we often need to develop them in the gym to make them large enough to show through the fat on even a fairly lean stomach.

For a real life example, GK was a softer skinny, he leanly added a ton of muscle mass, and he transitioned smoothly into the lean and strong category. His bodyfat percentage is similar in both photos, but he appears far leaner with all the new muscle mass:

Bony to Beastly Ectomorph Transformation—Not Skinny-Fat, just "Soft" Skinny

It’s also common for skinny guys to mistake having bad posture for having a gut. If your abs aren’t large enough to show through, and your pelvis is tilted forward pushing your stomach out, it can create the illusion of having a little belly—what we affectionately call an ecto-belly. This could be caused by a number of things: sitting a lot, having weak abs/glutes, not having proper hip mobility, and other more complex reasons. If this sounds like it might describe you, try squeezing your glutes and flexing your abs to rotate your pelvis back into position. Does your belly still stick out?

In my case, my stomach was flat but soft, and if I got tired my posture would collapse and a little gut would pop out. If that’s what’s happening with you, it’s just due to poor posture and slender musculature. There isn’t a problem of our calories going towards fat instead of muscle. You’d just want to buff yourself into some muscles. It’s far from easy, but your path is fairly straightforward:

How to tell if you're skinny-fat or not

Of course, you might actually be skinny-fat, and that’s who this article is for. If you’ve got a higher body fat percentage and skinny muscles, let’s address how to shed the fat and burly up your muscles. But first, let’s talk about what’s going on here.

You’re skinny-fat, but that’s not your body type

You aren’t skinny-fat because of a genetic limitation. Skinny-fat is just where you are right now. A couple years ago I was the skinniest guy I’d ever met.

I’ve also been skinny-fat. I was taking weight gainers, training like a doofus, and so excited to see my weight moving up on the scale that I gained a good twenty pounds of fat before realizing I was just getting fatter. My genetics hadn’t changed, my lifestyle was just pretty atrocious.

Over the course of a couple of years I trimmed off the fat I had gained and then built around fifty pounds of muscle. I learned a lot about lifting and nutrition, and all of a sudden my body became eager to add lean mass instead of fat mass—my nutrient partitioning had done a complete 180. Now being muscular feels easy and natural.

Does this mean that I started off as a skinny ectomorph, became a skinny-fat endomorph, and then became a muscular mesomorph? I highly doubt it. Training, nutrition and lifestyle all play a far larger role than we often think.

Most of our skinny-fat members have variations of the following stories:

  1. Where’d my metabolism go? They were skinny guys growing up. For a while their metabolisms and lifestyles were able to keep the fat away, but fast forward a few years—maybe even a decade—and their lifestyles have finally caught up with them.
  2. I’m skinny-fat, so I do skinny-fat-person things. We gravitate towards things that we’re naturally good at, and activities where we feel like we belong. Jogging, yoga, martial arts, etc. Activities where strength and leanness aren’t a deciding factor and where you won’t be judged on the size of your muscles. These activities won’t stress your muscles, they’ll stress your cardiovascular system. Calories that aren’t burned off will tend to be stored as fat instead of as muscle.
  3. Dream Bulker. They were skinny guys desperate to build muscle, so they turned to the most effective way to build muscle—lifting weights. They ate hard, but weren’t quite as studious as they could have been (perhaps because they needed a nap after every meal). They bulked themselves into a bulging belly instead of bulging biceps. This was me.
  4. My body is just to carry my head around. They’ve never been that happy or confident with their body, so they’ve never been in the habit of consistently feeding it fairly well and doing muscle-buildy physical activity. Instead, they focused on more cerebral things. Eventually they realize that having a fit body will increase their energy levels, improve their mood, get rid of aches and pains that are developing, improve productivity, etc… and they realize they’re skinny-fat. (This was me as well, but my genetics were such that it made me super skinny.)

Most mesomorph “naturally athletic” guys have a story like this:

  • Young athlete. They were one of the bigger/quicker/stronger ones in the first grade, thus they excelled at sports and physical activities.  They signed up for all the sports teams, became very physically confident, and trained their way into a very athletic build. Being physically capable became part of their identity.

Malcolm Gladwell, a New York Times Best Selling author, found that even something as trivial as how early you were born in the calendar year can impact your athletic career. Most elite hockey players here in Canada are born in the first half of the year, because the age cutoff is January 1st. If you’re born on January 2nd and your buddy was born on December 31st, you’d be a year older than him and playing in the same age bracket. If you’re 7 and he’s 6, you’re going to be way bigger, way stronger, way more mature, way more practiced. As a result, you get all the coaching, you get all the encouragement, all the extra practice—your chances of becoming as someone who identifies as a very natural athlete skyrockets.

It has nothing to do with genetics, it’s just that the guys who develop that confidence (and those preferences) earlier on in life get more practice and thus have far more success.

I’m not saying that body types don’t exist. They do. In fact, once you get to an elite hockey league like the NHL, genetics actually are quite a strong predictor. These guys are the genetic outliers who could excel regardless of where they fall in the age bracket. The same is true of sports like bodybuilding and powerlifting, where being a genetic superfreak is the norm. These guys actually are naturally built like monsters. Greg Nuckols, for example, deadlifted over 400 pounds in a totally untrained state.

You can probably see genetic variance among your friends too, even if they have similar lifestyles as you. You probably have friends who are chubby, some who are skinny-fat, some who are skinny. Their bodies look a little different in an untrained state because of different stomach sizes, appetites, hormonal responses to food, habits, etc.

What I’m saying is that most naturally muscular “mesomorphs” are guys who did a ton of physical activity growing up while their parents fed them relatively healthy meals in the right portion sizes to grow leanly. Maybe they’re naturally skinnier guys who built muscle as they grew up. Maybe they’re naturally chubbier guys who burned off their baby fat as they grew up. Maybe they’re average guys who did both. Almost all of them would look fairly unfit if you took their fit lifestyles away from them though.

Furthermore, virtually every guy who looks very strong, fit or athletic leads a lifestyle that strongly supports that type of physique. Genetics can only carry you so far, after all.

Even reaching your full genetic potential of your height is influenced up to 40% by the quality of your nutrition growing up (article).

Casey Butts, author of Your Muscular Potential, the most thorough book on natural muscular potential, found that genetically gifted guys can build about 5% more muscle than the average guy. Guys with poor genetics, on the other hand, can build about 5% less muscle than the average guy. For example, he found that the average 5’10 guy could get to a lean 200 pounds, the genetically gifted guy could get to about 210, and the guy with poor muscle-building genetics could get to 190 pounds. If you’ve seen 5’10 guys at a lean 190 and 210 pounds, you know that they both look like they could be in the Olympics.

Here’s me at 6’2 and 180 pounds. Even if I had the poorest muscle-building genetics, I’m still a good couple dozen pounds away from my genetic muscular potential (although Casey Butts informed me that my too-tiny wrist sizes broke his formula).

Ectomorph or Mesomorph? (What to Do When You're Skinny-Fat)

Genetics also play a role when it comes to fat gain. People have varying levels of insulin sensitivity, differing quantities of fat cells, and even our metabolisms respond differently to overfeeding. A lean skinny guy might be able to bulk with quite a large calorie surplus, as his body naturally burns off the excess calories via fidgeting, extra body heat production, and even holding peculiar postures. (Our full article on that here.) Some guys need to be more mindful of their calorie intake when bulking, meaning it’ll take them a little bit longer to become incredibly muscular.

So you might not be able to become a hulking mammoth of a man who looks like he must be on steroids (perhaps a blessing), and you might not be able to diet down to 7% bodyfat. Or maybe you can. Unless you’ve been lifting well and eating right for a few years, your current condition is probably not the best predictor of how far your genetics can take you.

Let’s assume you’ve got atrocious genetics though. You won’t win a national bodybuilding competition, no matter how hard and how smart you work for it… but you could probably still get buffer than Bradley Cooper, Michael Jordan, Bruce Willis, Usain Bolt, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, etc. They all work out but none of them have a body outside the natural muscular potential of guys with awful genetics.

If you think your genetics are holding you back much more than that, it’s probably because you aren’t lifting right (or you aren’t lifting), you aren’t eating right, you haven’t been doing it consistently for long enough, or there’s another aspect of your lifestyle holding you back.

Becoming “Naturally” Lean & Muscular

How to become naturally muscular. The strongest predictor of “natural muscularity” is the number of nuclei in our muscle cells.  When you have a lot of them and stimulate them properly, they use the food you’re eating to build muscle mass incredibly quickly.

These nuclei are sort of like little muscle-building construction workers. Imagine getting a giant calorie paycheque. If you don’t have any expenses, you can put your calories in the energy bank, i.e., you’ll store fat. If you have a lot of construction workers permanently on staff, you need to give them each their calorie salaries. In return they’ll get to work building muscle. This means more muscle and less fat. (In the fitness industry this is called favourable nutrient partitioning.)

Naturally muscular guys have a tremendous amount of these nuclei in their muscle cells by default, but as we skinny-muscled guys grow bigger and stronger (best done by weightlifting) we add more nuclei in our muscle cells. We take on the muscle-building advantages of guys who are naturally muscular. And these nuclei stick around forever. Your muscles may shrink and grow, but each time you build muscle, you pull nuclei into your cells, and it becomes a little easier to get and stay more muscular.

The advantages of building muscle when skinny-fat

How to become naturally lean. Fat cells can inflate and deflate with stored energy, but the number of fat cells we have tends to stay fairly constant. We can increase the number of fat cells we have (hyperplasia) by gaining a tremendous amount of fat. This is one of the bigger problems of morbid obesity. If we gained a bunch of new fat cells, getting lean again could become incredibly difficult. But unless we become morbidly obese we don’t need to stress too much about this.

Some guys naturally have a lot of fat cells, some guys eat their way into having a lot of fat cells. This makes being lean much more challenging for them. Luckily, skinny-fat or not, we don’t tend to be those people—at least not in an extreme way.

Being morbidly obese would change the game, but being skinny-fat won’t really reduce your long-term ability to get leaner. However, it will reduce your short-term ability to gain muscle leanly. When your bodyfat percentage is higher you will gain more fat when you bulk. This is probably due to the higher levels of estrogen and lower levels of testosterone that often goes along with having a higher body fat percentage.

On the other hand, when you get leaner your hormone profile becomes more masculine and muscle-buildy, and your nutrient partitioning improves. Your body will be more inclined to store surplus calories as muscle rather than fat.

The advantages of losing fat when skinny-fat

Changing your body type. You can see that once you build an appreciable amount of muscle mass and get to a fairly low body fat percentage (10-15%), things start getting pretty easy. Combine that with a healthy lifestyle that involves some exercise and some quality food, and you’ll be maintaining a lean and muscular body fairly easily. (Becoming more muscular will still be challenging, and becoming even leaner will also still be challenging, but maintaining a lean and muscular physique will be fairly easy.)

You’ll discover what it feels like to be a naturally muscular mesomorph, since you will have become one.

So that means you now have two straightforward goals: 1) build muscle, and 2) get lean. The problem is that building appreciable amounts of muscle requires a calorie surplus, and losing fat at a halfway decent pace requires a calorie deficit. You also need to make sure that you aren’t getting fat when in a calorie surplus, and that you aren’t losing muscle while in a calorie deficit.

Too many skinny-fat guys get stuck in the dreaded skinny-fat cycle—where cutting makes you skinnier and bulking makes you fatter.

Skinny-fat Hell—where bulking makes you fatter and cutting makes you skinnier

This leaves you with a big decision to make—whether to bulk leanly or cut while maintaining muscle mass.

… or does it?

What happens if you stay the same weight?

We get a ton of questions about this. Yes, you can build muscle and lose fat without bulking or cutting. You can keep your weight about the same and make progress, but it takes forever.

Your body will only burn fat when it needs the energy—when it needs the calories. If you aren’t losing weight (i.e. in calorie deficit) you won’t be losing fat. Similarly, beyond the very very early stages of training, your body will only build muscle when you’re gaining weight (i.e. in a calorie surplus).

What happens though is that you inevitably go in and out of surpluses and deficits even if your weight is staying the same overall. Maybe you have a big dinner, driving you into a calorie surplus, and you gain a bit of muscle and fat. Then you go to bed for eight hours, falling into a calorie deficit, and you lose a bit of fat and muscle.

The idea of body recomposition is that when in those brief surpluses you build more muscle than fat, and when in those brief deficits you lose more fat than muscle. So over time you build muscle and you lose fat. Relying on these tiny little surpluses and deficits is a very slow way to make progress though. It also hinges entirely on the fact that you’re able to get damn-near-perfect nutrient partitioning… which is currently your biggest weakness.

We see a lot of guys doing this, thinking that intermittent fasting or whatnot will fix their nutrient partitioning issues and lead to simultaneous fat loss and muscle gain. It might help a little, but you probably want to be fit and lean for the beach this summer. You probably won’t even be ready for the swimming pool at your retirement home… so I vote that we stick to more rapid and effective body recomposition methods.

What happens if you try to build muscle and lose fat at the same time (when skinny-fat)

Very, very slowly progressing your weight is an effective strategy for lifters who are already very lean and muscular. After a decade of lifting, you’re only going to be able to gain a fraction of a pound of muscle each month, making your gains on the scale nearly imperceptible. However this is not an appropriate strategy for you at this point.

What happens if you bulk first?

If you bulk properly you can build muscle fairly quickly, but it’s going to be challenging to keep your gains lean, and to come out looking not fat. If you have a belly and build up bigger abs under that belly, your belly is going to look bigger. Still, having a bunch of fat and muscle on you will make you look bigger, and what skinny-muscled guy doesn’t dream of being bigger? While you might not be quite as lean as you’d like, your friends will finally start trying to lure you into helping them move heavy furniture with pizza and beer.

Building muscle first is a great option for guys who are more on the skinny side of skinny-fat. For example, DoctorB came in without abs but still fairly lean. His goal was building muscle as quickly as possible. This made bulking the perfect choice and he did a perfect job of it. In 5 months he went from being thin to being a true beast of a dude 🙂

What happens if you bulk when you're skinny-fat?

Advantages of bulking first:

  • You don’t need to stress about getting even littler—every skinny-fat guy’s worst fear.
  • Having more muscle mass will make cutting a little quicker, since muscle mass increases your metabolism.

Disadvantages of bulking first:

  • Depending on how high your body fat percentage is, you might have more estrogen and less testosterone. This isn’t ideal for bulking, as it can make it harder to keep your gains lean. (This was probably not the case for DoctorB, since he’s fairly lean.)
  • Building muscle takes time. You’re going to be bulking for at least a couple months in order to see great progress. During that time you’re going to need to be okay with your current body fat percentage.

What happens if you cut first?

If you’re fairly new to either weightlifting or proper muscle-building nutrition, you can expect some pretty good results. Most studies show that relatively untrained guys who lift weights while cutting will not only lose fat very rapidly, they’ll also build muscle as they lose weight overall. This is the skinny-fat holy grail.

For example, a study published last February found that guys who did cardio while eating in a calorie deficit lost 7 pounds of fat and 6 pounds of muscle—they got smaller. However the group of guys who lifted weights while eating in a calorie deficit lost 22 pounds of fat and gained 4 pounds of muscle—they got leaner and more muscular. Similar results have been found in many studies.

This is a great option for guys who are more on the fat side of skinny-fat. For example, Eric, who already had a decent amount of muscle mass, lost 4 pounds while gaining 2″ on his biceps and 1.75″ on his chest in 5 weeks. Quite the jaw-dropping transformation (literally), as you can see 😉Skinny-fat Cutting Transformation

Advantages of cutting first:

  • If you’re new to lifting well and eating for muscle, you can expect to build a few pounds of muscle even as you cut. You won’t come out smaller, you’ll come out leaner, stronger and more muscular.
  • Losing fat is quick. You can realistically lose two pounds of fat per week. If you don’t have that much to lose, you can be done with your cut fairly quickly. (You might lose something like 1.5 pounds per week—2 pounds of fat down, 0.5 pounds of muscle up.)
  • Reducing your body fat percentage will allow you to bulk more leanly afterwards.

Disadvantages of cutting first:

  • If you’re already self-conscious about how skinny you are, this can be stressful. It’s scary to get lighter when you want to command more space, not less.
  • If you aren’t currently eating a lot of calories, you might need to drop your calories quite low. This makes cutting very unpleasant, and if you spend a long time cutting, it isn’t very healthy either. It seems to be more common with the skinny-fat guys who have been yo-yo dieting and doing tons of not-particularly-muscle-buildy exercise for years in an attempt to get rid of their gut: Runners, P90Xers and CrossFitters who are very familiar with calorie restriction. Their metabolisms adapt to lots of cardio and lots of dieting by growing ever smaller. Dr. Layne Norton coined the term metabolic damage to describe this, and it’s rare that we run into this issue, but it happens.

Conclusion. You can cut first or bulk first, but you do need to pick one or the other. If you’re like most skinny-fat guys and you aren’t as lean as DoctorB or as muscular as Eric (we’ve got a more typical example still to come), the decision can be tricky. You need to start seeing what approach fits your situation best. Keep in mind that both paths will get you out of skinny-fat in a relatively short timeframe: a few months of bulking + a couple months of cutting. Hell, you’ll probably look markedly better within just weeks of starting.

Now onto the how-to.

What to do when you’re skinny-fat

1. Forget about being hardcore. You may be really unhappy with where your body is, but that doesn’t mean that you need to punish it. You don’t need to do the most brutal CrossFit or Insanity routine every day in order to fix your body. You just need some good training, some good food and some good rest. You can have 2-5 meals per day depending on your schedule and preference, those meals can contain carbs, and you can fit all the lifting you need into about three hour-long workouts per week. You can do cardio or play sports if you like that kind of thing, but you don’t have to.

The more stressful your routine, the harder it will be to get yourself to the gym. The harder it will be to tell what’s working for you and what’s just useless filler. The harder it will be to stick with this long enough to solidify a healthy lifestyle that will last.

You can make rapid progress at first, sure, but if you want to go from being skinny-fat to feeling like “a naturally muscular mesomorph”, you need to build a lifestyle that you can actually live.

2. Focus on what matters—lifting and nutrition. I know this one is hard. There’s a ton of pseudoscience and bro-science out there telling you that carbs are bad, or meat is bad, or dairy is bad, or maybe gluten is bad, or maybe you’re consuming too many meals per day, or too few meals per day… which they say is also bad. This just makes things really confusing.

What matters nutritionally is the quantity of the calories you eat, the quality of the calories you eat, and what your macro breakdown is—especially how much protein you consume.

What matters as far as exercise goes is that you lift, and that you lift well. Lifting well means choosing the right lifts for your skill level, using good technique, lifting with the right intensity, and doing enough volume (sets/reps) per muscle group without fatiguing yourself. (Here’s our article comparing different types of lifting and how effective they are for building muscle.)

Lifting well is what will tell your body to use surplus calories to build muscle instead of storing fat. Lifting well is what will tell your body to keep your muscle around when in a calorie deficit, instead of keeping your fat around. Lifting well will make you leaner and more muscular.

There are many benefits to cardio, but the main body composition benefit is that it burns calories. It won’t tell your body to build muscle or get rid of fat, it mostly just burns calories. You can do it if you want, but don’t use up all your willpower on it. It’s not one of the more important factors.

In fact, sleep is probably far more important. You need to learn to turn yourself on so that you can lift well. And you need to learn to turn yourself off so that you can rest well. When you rest is when you build muscle, and sleeping is the pinnacle of resting—you’ll build muscle far more quickly, you’ll build muscle more leanly, you’ll lose more fat, and you’ll have more willpower. (Members, optimal sleep guide here.)

3. Adjust your calorie intake as you zig-zag towards your goal. 15+% is the cutting zone, where you focus on getting stronger and losing fat. You’ll need to be in a calorie deficit to do this, i.e., consistently losing weight (maybe 1-2 pounds per week). Keep going until you’re fairly lean—preferably under 15%—but you can switch goals if the diet is becoming very unmanageable. As we discussed above, if you’re new to lifting well and eating for muscle, you’ll probably gain a few pounds of muscle while cutting.

10-15% body fat is the bulking zone, where you focus on building muscle and strength as leanly as possible. You’ll need to be in a calorie surplus to do this, i.e., consistently gaining weight (maybe 0.5-1 pound per week). The goal is to gain weight leanly so that you can just slowly bulk without ever having to cut again. But when does life ever go perfectly according to plan? Keep going until you get to around 16% body fat—until you entirely lose sight of your abs (or the vein running down your bicep), and then trim off a little fat.

Your progress should look like this:

Should you bulk or cut when skinny-fat? Lose fat first

If you want to bulk first, that’s cool too. I was a skinny guy, and personally I didn’t care if I got a little chubby on my way to getting bigger and stronger—I just didn’t want to be the skinny guy anymore! If you bulk first, your path will look more like this:

Should you bulk or cut when skinny-fat? Build muscle first.

At all times make sure that you’re progressing in your lifts. You want to be building a lot of strength when bulking, and at the very least maintaining your strength when cutting. If you’re consistently getting stronger, even as your body weight fluctuates, you can be confident that you’re on the path to becoming lean and strong.

Keep going until you’re a beast. Good luck!

Skinny-Fat Transformation (Before & After) with Bony to Beastly

The Muscle-building Program for Skinny Guys

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So, what'd you think? 161 responses below.


Hey, great article as always guys 😀 I think I’m kind of stuck in the path to Florida Strong haha. I keep making strength gains in my workout not as fast as I used to but still I see improvement, yet my weight and body fat seems to remain the same. I’m trying to stimulate muscle growth with a caloric surplus, but an extra protein shake wont cut it right? So I don’t really know what I’m asking you right now I’d just like some advice to push me in the right direction I guess. Thx guys 😀

Shane Duquette

Thanks, Jan! If you’re still making strength gains you can be confident that you’re moving in the right direction, except you’re right—if your weight is staying the same and your strength is only very slowly increasing you’ll be heading there very very slowly (and at some point you’ll need to gain weight). A protein shake might cut it! Depends how close to a surplus you are, and how large that protein shake is. If it causes your weight to move up on the scale each week, perfect, but if not you’ll need more calories. Maybe that means mixing a couple scoops of whey with milk instead of water, blending up a fruit smoothie instead, having a handful of nuts, etc.

Sounds like you’re close 🙂


Not the right article to ask this but still, should I experiment with different rep ranges and see if that helps? I currently start with 12 increase the weight 10 and increase and then 8 reps and move on to another exercise still focusing the same body part. And yeah I always mix the powder with milk because chocolate tasting water seems weird to me haha but I’ll throw in some berries in there to see if that helps out 😀 thank you

Shane Duquette

Varying rep ranges and exercises is great, yeah. You can do it by changing the rep range per set, you can do it by changing the rep range per phase, changing the rep range per exercise, etc. For example, you could do a few sets of 5 rep bench press, then a couple sets of 10 rep (weighted) push-ups, then 15 rep pec flys or something. Maybe one after another, even better split up over the course of a week. Then maybe a couple months later you switch the rep ranges and exercises up a little.

Berries aren’t very high calorie. If you’re blending it and it’s chocolate flavour, maybe toss in a banana and some cocoa?


Hi guys, thanks for this tremendous job you do, it’s all very interesting!
I’m thinking about following your program, as I’m an ectomorph and as you say, most of the programs out there are for fat people, so I always have to make adjustments and/or I don’t get all the answers I need. I’m in a good shape, I do an hypertrophy-based workout 3 times per week, but I’m 41 years old, and I’m not sure if your program is mainly focused to teens. Do you have any special section or modifications to older people like me? Thanks a lot and keep this awesome work up !

Shane Duquette

Hey Peter, thanks for the kind words, man!

We’re in our twenties ourselves, and most of our members are in their twenties and thirties. Some are single, some are boyfriends, some husbands, some dads. At 41 I think you’d fit in just fine.

As far as physiological changes go, the largest muscle-building genetics study to date found that guys actually build muscle very similarly between the ages of 18 and 40 (the youngest and oldest tested), but the researchers suspect that the similarities carry on until 60 (which is when relevant hormones start to change). The only advantages young guys have is they have more time to build muscle, and they get to enjoy it for longer!

We also have two streams of workouts included with the program, so right from the beginning you get to pick the one that fits you best. The default one would be a good fit for someone your age if you were just starting out, and the “revamped” one will be a good fit for someone your age with your lifting experience. Being in good shape and already comfortable lifting you should be able to handle our more advanced workouts 🙂

(I can help you further customize things personally, too.)

I hope you decide to join us!


Thanks Shane, I appreciate the effort and time you spend replying all the comments, because it means you really care about people. This is important, and reading your answer to my question, seems that soon you’ll have a new member! See you soon!

Shane Duquette

My pleasure, and that’s awesome, man—I hope to see you on the other side soon! 🙂


Hi Guys, once again very intuitive & informative. I use to be in the same boat weighing at only 158 pounds, 6 feet tall all my life.Skinny fat all my life. All your research you guys did, I also went down the same track, only to properly train & diet the last 2 years the ” right way” At 36 years of age, now sitting @ 189 pounds, 10% body fat – I realize everything you guys wrote down is so true! keep up the good work, I look forward to your next article.

Shane Duquette

Thanks, Peter. Really glad you dug it 🙂

Congrats on your transformation! A super lean 189? That’s amazing 😀


Hi! What do you think about doing HIIT to lose fat and without losing muscle?

Shane Duquette

HIIT in addition to weightlifting? That’d be fine, yep! So long as you’ve got your lifting in there, you can combine it with cardio of your choosing—either HIIT or steady state (or a combo of both). Cardio isn’t necessarily needed, but if you dig, it can speed up the process while allowing you to be a little looser with your calories 🙂


Hello. Quick question: how can you measure your lean body mass percentage?

Shane Duquette

Hey Jacob,

There are a few ways. Most guys use a BIA scale, since they’re cheap and accessible, but those are notoriously finicky. A better, cheaper, but more time consuming way is to use callipers. Those only measure the amount of fat between your skin and muscle (not in-between organs and whatnot), so it will always underestimate the amount of fat you have… but they’re fairly accurate and amazing for tracking progress.

My favourite way to track body fat percentage is to look in the mirror though, since that much precision isn’t really required for this stuff anyway. Crisp abs come at around 10%. If you have a flat stomach and the hint of abs (when flexed in favourable lighting) you’re usually around 15%. So the “bulking zone” is whenever you have abs, pretty much 🙂

(If you’re asking about how to calculate your lean body mass percentage based on your body fat percentage, you just subtract your body fat from your total weight. So if you were 200 pounds and 10% body fat, 10% of 200 pounds is 20 pounds of fat, so 180 lean pounds.)

I hope that helps!


Another great article.

I really want to get involved, and don’t want to wait until I start my new job, but cash flow is a beetch! I’ve read on some other posts about a payment plan, can you please shed some light on this?

Many thanks,

Shane Duquette

Just sent you an email with the details 🙂


Excellent read again shane. Thanks again for putting me on the right track in the program. For everyone that is still on the fence yet…i can so find myself in this article..before i signed up to b2b i got stuck no matter what i did. Now after just some weeks of training b2b style i saw progress for the first time!! If your still on the fence…save yourself the time and stress and sign up. These guys are Awesome and really helpful.

Shane Duquette

Thanks so much for the cred, Dutchdude. You’re a perfect example of someone going for a cut, losing weight overall, and successfully coming out with muscle gains while doing it 🙂

I’m stoked to see your next progress update. Keep killing it!


awesome article sane i’ve always been a fun of your work .most ectos like me would have been lost without you

Shane Duquette

Thanks for the kind words, Kidus—really glad you dug it 🙂


Finally I found someone who understand me! Thank You. But I’m still on the fence. I always stop doing workout after a while after seeing no progress or small (probably I don’t progress because after doing 30-45 minutes I don’t have energy left) And I don’t really eat well. I do my workout at home on my bowflex and curved bar. My concern is I’m not sure if your workout program will be a good fit for me since I’m not planning to go in a gym (time & money) From what I read and viewed on your website seems to be a great team to work with who wants to help us out. Thanks

Shane Duquette

Hey Jeff,

Our pleasure! Glad you liked it.

30-45 minutes can be enough if you do efficient compound exercises, especially at first. By the time it stops being enough, you’ll be fit enough to do more anyway 🙂

However you’re right—you do need to be consistent, you do need to have at least a little patience, and you do need to combine training with nutrition.

A bowflex machine isn’t as good as free weights, but it’s more than enough to make a good transformation! So long as you can lift heavy with the right volume and hit all your muscle groups you’ll be okay, and I think most Bowflex machines are designed to do that.

(We could help you figure out how to sub in Bowflex alternatives into our workout plan, however to take full advantage of our program you’d want to buy some free weights, as explained here.)

I hope that helps!


Really interesting read. I’d like to know if the B2B program integrates home gym workouts with only dumbbells & barbells with weight discs. What’s your view on bodyweight workouts/calisthenics for ‘ectomorphs’ trying to put on weight and/or muscle mass?

Shane Duquette

Hey Muskee, thank you—glad you liked it!

Dumbbells and barbells are perfect! Even better if you’ve got a bench too. (More on that here.)

Callisthenics are great for fitness, a great sport, a great hobby, a great way to enjoy what a strong body can do. They aren’t an optimally effective way to load your muscles, so they aren’t the optimal way to build muscle or maintain muscle mass while losing fat. Can do they build a bit of muscle? Sure! Are they better than nothing? Absolutely. I think you’d be frustrated by your results if you relied on just callisthenics though. It’s designed for fun / minimal equipment, not results.

I would stick to your dumbbells and barbells. Those will build muscle absolutely perfectly 🙂

(And I hope you decide to join us!)


Hey Shane,

Unfortunately i’m limited to just dumbbells & barbells without a bench. I would love to jump on board, but I’m somewhat restricted in terms of budget so the prospect of purchasing the program is out of the window.

Shane Duquette

I like having a bench to increase exercise variety, but that’ll still do the trick—no worries 🙂

Patrick Kevin Govan

“Absolutely. I think you’d be frustrated by your results if you relied on just callisthenics though. It’s designed for fun / minimal equipment, not results.”

I really love your articles and your writing style, but what you say here is very ignorant.
I highly encourage you to try some moves like Full Planche, V-Sit, Manna, Pike Press Handstand, Front-Lever and you’ll suddenly realise that, even at your level, you’re not nearly as strong as you thought. You might even realise that you’re infact a total noob when it comes to strength and you still have a long way to go before considering yourself “strong”.

Weight lifting is just the start of a good strength foundation.
Calisthenics is literally the next level.

Try those moves and report back 😉

Shane Duquette

Hey Patrick,

I didn’t mean to say that callisthenics aren’t challenging. Some callisthenics moves are CRAZY hard and require a TON of strength.

What I meant to say wasn’t that callisthenics are easy or worthless, just that callisthenics moves aren’t designed to build muscle, nor are they very good at it—at least not compared to weights. While a planche might be very advanced, it’s not like progressing to a full planche is a very good way to build up your chest or arms or anything. The moves you’re talking about are more of a sporty / impressive thing.

Just because a move requires a ton of strength or is very difficult does not mean that it’s ideal, or even good, for building muscle.

Shane Duquette

Callisthenics can work, it’s just not very efficient. Most people would prefer to gain twenty pounds in three months by lifting dumbbells in their bedroom than spending three years gaining twenty pounds by training with callisthenics, especially since your weightlifting workouts would be far shorter, easier and less painful. The only downside would be the upfront cost of the dumbbells or gym membership.

(I’m not sure if it would be the difference between three months and three years. I’m totally guessing here.)

Shane Duquette

I’m openminded about callisthenics exercises. I would really love for them to be great for this. It would be so easy to get skinny guys building muscle cheaply and in the comfort of their own homes if they could do it well with just their own bodyweight.

Do you have any evidence or reason to vouch for the muscle-building capabilities of callisthenics, not just the challenge / strength requirements of it?


Hey Shane, great article again! Would like to read more articles, you guys are quite quiet nowadays. 😀
Anyway, I have some questions pretty big problems and i’d need your help.
1. I’m 170 cm and about 60-61 kg and fairly lean. I can see my lower abs and i have veins popping out on my lower abs too, not just my arms. Should i cut or should i start to bulk? I think i’m near the fit category, but i want to reach the strong one and i think that weight would be somewhere around 70-72 kg for my height. I haven’t used any supplements yet, so i’m wondering if i could make a 2 kgs/month progress leanly safely with e.g creatine?
2. Also, i figured out that i might be fast twitch dominant (you might know the 80% 1rm test, and i got 3 reps at squats e.g), so i focus on heavy lifts in the next months. Is it possible to be an ectomorph and very fast twitch dominant? In the last 2 weeks since i started the heavy lifts, i went from my 60 kg squat to 110 kg squat, so i started to lift almost 2x bodyweight in just 2 weeks. 😀 My problem is i’m not sure about the volume. How many sets should i use per week per bodypart, if i would use 3-4 reps per sets?
3. My biggest problem is: i have almost no shoulder developement. I mean, i have a 70 cm waist and a 110 cm shoulder circumference. My chest and lats are pretty nice, but my shoulders simply wont grow. Especially my lateral delts, they have no size at all. I wonder is you have any tips at this? I think now i’ll start this heavy lifting thing and they might grow, but how many sets and reps could i do, if i wanted to grow this musclegroup the most? Really, it’s the only bodypart that looks really bad, i’m satisfied with the others. So how could i modify a training program to make my shoulders grow much faster than the other parts? (even at the expense of the others).

4. This isnt really bodybuilding, but might be something related. 😀 So I’m 20 years old and i play the guitar since the age of 6. In recent years i had problems with my wrists and my arms. My wrists hurt well because i had something high in my blood tests.(i dont know what it’s called in english, sorry). I got medicines and they took it back to normal levels so i was fine for a while. Now it started to come back so i started taking omega 3 and 6 supplements and in a week my pain was gone. So now i have no problem with this. However, my other limiting factor, my cold hands are still there. If it’s under 20 celsius, my hands become numb and i think you know how difficult it is to play instruments with hands like these. I noticed recently that sometimes when i eat a lot of carbs, my veins pop out and my arms are filling with blood and become warm again. But well, i dont think it might be a permanent solution so i wondered if you had any problems like this and how you managed to deal with it.

Thanks for your answers, Ben.

Shane Duquette

Hey Bence, glad you like them!

We’ve always published articles just one every couple/few months. The research and illustrations can take quite a while, and we like to take our time with them. We work on b2B a few hours per day 7 days per week… there’s just a whole helluva lot on the member side of things as well. With that said, we just finished up a major project on the member side of things, so I think our blog/newsletter might get a little more active over the next couple of months 🙂

1. You sound pretty lean! Definitely under 15%. If you’re interested in building muscle, I’d definitely recommend aiming for lean muscle-building right now. How quickly you can gain weight depends on a number of things: training experience, how far away you are from your genetic potential, genetics, the quality of your training, the quality of your nutrition. We have a lot of members who can gain 2kg per month leanly—sometimes as much as 4kg/month when starting out—and I think that would likely be true for you as well if your plan is a good one and you’re good at following it.

2. Sounds like you’re a strong guy! That’s awesome. For optimal gains you’ll still want to use a variety of rep ranges and exercises—check this article out—but doing lots of heavy stuff is definitely great.

3. Add in lateral raises! 2-3 sets of 10-15 reps at the end of a training day a couple times per week for a couple months usually works very well.

4. Unfortunately, this is totally outside of my area of expertise. I would ask your doctor about that.

I hope that helps! Good luck!


Hi Shane.
I’ve noticed that strength training (low reps) does NOT build muscles IN MY CASE.
I seem to respond well to high frequency, high reps (even as high as 25 or 30) training.
I workout 3 days a week, full-body workouts.
I choose ONE exercise each bodypart and do 4 sets of 25 (30 for legs).
Something like 4x training but with very high reps.
When I do the last set in perfect form, I up the weight next time that I do that exercise.
I was very thin when I was a child.
And maybe my prevalence of Type 1 fibers (slow twitch) has some consequences and I need to overcome the resistance of my muscle fibers by doing high reps.


…. I was almost forgetting… no more than 30 seconds rest between the sets.

Shane Duquette

Hey Fabrizio,

There’s a lot of research showing that higher reps (up to 30) performed with the right intensity (in this case going to failure) and with minimal rest (under 30 seconds) can build muscle fairly well. In your case, it built muscle more than well enough 🙂

There’s a lot of research (outlined in our article here) showing that the optimal way to build muscle would be to combine lower rep strength training with moderate rep “hypertrophy” training, and then add in even higher rep training sometimes as well. (When doing the heavier stuff the need for short rest times disappears, too.) This way you stimulate all fibres optimally 🙂

(There’s a lot of individual variation of course, but for the vast majority of people a variety is best.)

Shane Duquette

Dr. Schoenfeld just juts got a study accepted comparing moderate rep ranges (10) against high rep ranges (30). Both taken to failure. Check out his summary: “The first study to investigate the effects of light-load (~30 RM) vs. high-load (~10 RM) training on muscular adaptations in experienced lifters. Summing up, muscle growth was similar between the two loading conditions; On the other hand, strength gains were much greater in the heavy load condition while local muscular endurance was markedly greater in the light-load condition. Lots more to say on this once it is officially published.”

Joel Waters

This is a great article. I, too, am always trying to figure out “what to do.” I eat a lot, then start feeling and looking fat, so I chicken out and don’t eat as much. I’m 38, 5’10”, and about 160 lbs. I WANT TO GROW! I do a ton of squats, deadlifts, and presses. My testosterone levels are low, but I’m on TESTIM which gets me back in to the “low” range (total=275). I guess I’m worried about getting fat and not being able to reverse it! How can I mentally overcome my barriers? I think I need a good pep talk! Thanks, again, for all of the wonderful info on this site!

Shane Duquette

Hey Joel,

I know what you mean. It can be hard to bulk when you’re stressed about getting fat. As a naturally super tiny guy I feel it the other way around. When I lose weight, even if I’m just losing fat, I get stressed because I don’t like the idea of getting lighter. Add in the fact that you’re worried that you’re actually just going to gain fat, and this gets psychologically tricky—the true skinny-fat hell we talk about.

My favourite pep-talk post is one that Jared wrote a couple months ago: Why Skinny Guys Fail to Build Muscle. I think it might give you the strategy and attitude you’re looking for?

Let me know if that helps!

Joel Waters

Thanks for the reply and the link to the article. As always – GREAT advice!

Shane Duquette

My pleasure, Joel—good luck!


This article is a real gem. Starting out at rather fat, losing about 50lbs and crossing strong-fat territory while doing so, I’m currently “skinny-fit”, approaching 10% bf and visible lower ab/unflexed upper ab territory, but I’m also really small now, wearing size 30 pants with belts and buying S and XS shirts. Next, after reaching that marker of 9-10% bf, having exhausted most of my “noob gains”, I will be completely primed to bulk properly and you guys are one of the guides I trust will lead me there.
I’m also perma referring skinny friends to this site here as it is just that informative and one of the very, very few where I basically never see something “wrong” or something I disagree with. Hats off guys and keep up the great work!

Shane Duquette

Congrats on losing all that fat, Daniel! Getting to 10% bodyfat is wicked impressive, especially when you were 50 pounds away from it. That’s awesome 🙂

Thank you for the all the kind words, and for sending skinny guys our way. We really appreciate it! Hopefully we see you on other side soon too!

Good luck, man!


Hi Shane
Do you think I’m skinny-fat? (photo)

In these pictures I’m squeezing my glutes and tilting my pelvis as you suggested
Also I’m normal weight 5’9 and 165 lbs
I’m not sure if I should become skinny-fit before attempting a bulk or I need muscles and the fat is not as much as I think.

What diet and training do you think works best for skinny-fat people?
Push/pull 4x times a week or full-body 3x a week or push/pull/legs 1x a week?
Would something like: incline bench, OHP and squat on push day and deadlifts, pull ups and barbell rows on pull day work or is it not enough exercises?

Does low-carb or low-fat works better for skinny-fat people ?
What’s the best way to figure out our TDEE? I think I might be burning 2500 calorie only on workout day, but I’m not sure and always feel like I’m either eating too much or not enough, never the “right” amount. So I’m yo-yoing a lot with my weight.

Thanks again for your great articles and your help!

Shane Duquette

Naw I wouldn’t say you’re skinny-fat at all. First of all, you’re looking pretty strong. Second, you aren’t looking that fat! It looks like your gut is hanging loose, but that looks like it’s more because your abs are totally relaxed. Abs should be “on” always, at least to some extent. If you held them a little more flexed it seems like your stomach would flatten out. Then it’d just be a matter of losing a few pounds of fat to get them clearer, if you even care about that. You aren’t unhealthfully or unattractively fat or anything, so it’d just be a matter of personal preference 🙂

That is a good option though. You could definitely cut while maintaining your muscle and come out looking pretty good, since you’ve already built up a fair bit of muscle!

I prefer doing full body workouts 3x per week. I think that’s the perfect blend of optimal results and optimal efficiency. However there’s no single right answer. There are other similarly effective ways of splitting up your training volume. A triple split (push/pull/legs) would likely have suboptimal training frequency per muscle group (since it’s just once per week per muscle group) so I’d do something that gives you 2-3 workouts per muscle group per week, whether that’s three full body workouts per week or four workouts per week alternating between push/pull.

Your lifts sound like a fairly minimalist routine, and that’s probably okay. If it were me I’d include more isolation lifts as well. Check this article out—especially the last couple sections—for more on that.

Everyone is different when it comes to their diet. Higher carb intakes tend to work better for guys looking to build muscle and skinny guys though. As a naturally skinny guy who’s trying to build muscle… chances are lots of carbs will work well for you 🙂

Best way to figure out if you’re eating enough is to weight yourself regularly and see if you’re getting heavier!

I hope that helps. Good luck!


Shane…how much of a calorie surplus is required to gain a pound a week?

Shane Duquette

We have a somewhat fancy algorithm we use with our members, but to give you a rough guesstimate based on little information, probably something like 18-22x your bodyweight (in pounds). The easiest way to find out for sure would be to weigh yourself, increasing your intake to x20 or so, and then weigh yourself again after a week. You can then adjust your intake based on your weight change, and keep narrowing in on the ever-changing calorie intake that would have you gaining at that pace.

For some interesting research on why figuring out calorie intake for weight gain is so elusive, check this post out: The Skinny on “Just Eat More”


Hi, awesome blog by the way! I have one quick question and I’ll be happy if you can give me a little bit of advice. I have noticed as ectomorph that the first thing that I lose is muscle if I am trying to lose fat, I am bulking right now, I am 62kg and 1 72 cm tall my bf is %10 but I can’t see my abs very well. Anyway my question is how to lose fat without losing muscle? I noticed that if I cut a lot of carbs I’ll lose muscle for sure really fast even though I’m eating enough protein.

Shane Duquette

Thanks, Juan! Glad you dig it 🙂

10% bodyfat is sweet! Props.

If you cut while eating a lot of protein, you don’t really need to cut carbs, per se, but rather cut calories. Those calories can come from carbs or fat, or ideally a fairly even mix of both!

The reason why your muscles shrink in size so quickly when you drop your carb/calorie intake may be due to glycogen storage, since when in a calorie deficit or eating fewer carbohydrates your muscles will hold onto less glycogen. This loss of fluid/sugar in your muscles will make them look smaller. It’s not really a big deal, since they’ll re-inflate by that same amount as soon as you start eating more again 🙂

Or it could be that you’re actually losing muscle because your cut isn’t all that ideal—your calorie deficit is too extreme, your training program isn’t good enough, you aren’t sleeping/resting well enough, etc.

If you’ve got 10% bodyfat and you can’t see your abs though, you may just want to train your abs more! It could be that they’re small and are in need of some burl in order to show through even a small amount of belly fat. Genetics play a role here as well. Some people have very prominent abs, some don’t. Some people store a lot of fat over their abs, some don’t. So you may need to cut a little leaner, or spend a little more time/effort bulking up your abs. (Could also be postural!)

I’d recommend using a mixture of dead bugs, front/side planks and, if you’re able, ab-wheel rollouts to isolate your abs. Done after your compound lifts—deadlifts, squats, chin-ups, etc—that should give you the focused ab work that you need to build up some sweet abs 🙂


I am lean and thin how to get weight?

Shane Duquette

Every other post on this site 😉

I’d recommend this one about nutrition, and this one about exercise.

And there’s The Bony to Beastly Program too, which is a full muscle-building guide for skinny guys, a recipe book, coaching, community, etc.


Hey Shane, what would you recommend I do to escape skinny-fat territory? Stats are: 5’7, 162 lbs. Minimal training experience. Found a 5×5 program that I want to try out, but not sure whether to bulk up say 10 lbs and re-evaluate or cut down to 10-12% bf (with the little muscle I have).


Shane Duquette

Hey Cody,

Looking at your pictures I wouldn’t say you’re too muscular to be skinny, too lean to be fat. So you’re not in such bad shape. You look like a pretty healthy dude, you just aren’t super beefy or ripped. You could bulk or cut. Either would be fine in your case—just a matter of personal preference. If you really can’t decide though, I’d go for a cut. That’s your best chance of making a little progress towards both goals when first starting into this. If you cut ten pounds while following a good lifting and nutrition program, you might lose a dozen pounds of fat while gaining a couple pounds of muscle.

Have you read this article? The last couple sections cover different styles of strength training and bodybuilding. 5×5 programs are okay, but they aren’t all that ideal for building muscle size or cutting (or, surprisingly, even for gaining strength). 5×5 isn’t awful—they’re very simple and very easy—it’s just if you’re going to put in all this effort, might as well do something a little better 🙂


Hey shane, great article! Life saver. But I have a question can I do calisthenics in the morning (45 min) and then weight training at night while bulking? Calisthenics make me sweat a lot so I hope that wont be a problem. Also can I do the bulking and cutting cycle without supplements? Because I cant seem to digest them. Also how much cardio can I do in a week while bulking and how many minutes?

Shane Duquette

Hey Manuj,

You can do all of this without supplements for sure. Supplements really aren’t that important at all.

As for combining the lifting with the callisthenics… probably? I don’t know how intense your callisthenics are, or even what you’re doing. Callisthenics can involve anything from muscle-ups with your girlfriend on your back to doing 100 rep push-up sets. There’s usually a way to combine weightlifting with other activities though, since it’s so flexible 🙂

Same goes for cardio. So many different types, people of varying degrees of fitness, differing goals, etc. Not to mention so many different ways to lift! Doing 20-120 minutes or so of cardio per week is probably pretty good when bulking, not counting the lifting (which more or less counts as cardio too).

I hope that helps!

Michael Anthony

Great article. I’ve been working on figuring this stuff all out.

I’ve been a skinny guy for most of my life, but within the past 4/5 years I’ve started putting on weight. I’m 5’9 and weigh 172. I’m skinny fat, but I think 175/180 would be the perfect weight for me if it was muscle instead of fat (I’m at 24% body fat). So I’m trying to only gain like eight pounds, not 20+ like some of the other guys whose picture’s you share (amazing gains though!). So I’m wondering if there’s anything different for me to do since I’m not looking to lose weight, just fat, but still only gain like 5 lbs?

Shane Duquette

Hey Michael,

I think you’re right. A lean 175-180 at 5’9 would look quite strong and athletic for sure.

Your path just has an extra step. If a guy comes into the program at 5’9, 150, 10% bodyfat, he’d have a similar amount of muscle to you. To get up to a lean 175, he’d need to gain a good 25 pounds. If he does that fairly leanly, maybe he arrives there at 12% body fat—still rocking his abs.

You don’t need to gain 5 pounds per se. That would bring you up to 177, but you’d be chubbier and less muscular than you’d like. You need to gain a good 25 pounds, then cut off 20. Or cut off 20, then gain 25. (We could help you do both.) If you do a really great job of cutting, perhaps you gain a bit of muscle while you’re doing it, but you’d still need a hearty lean bulking phase.

Does that help / make sense?


Hi Shane. Thanks much for the article and the incredible resources you guys have put together at BTB. One question from the article above…in it you said “If you’re like most skinny-fat guys and you aren’t as lean as DoctorB or as muscular as Eric (we’ve got a more typical example still to come), the decision can be tricky.”, and I was just wondering where I would find that more typical example you referenced? I’m pretty sure that’s me, as I’m not quite as rail thin as DoctorB but not as big as Eric. My problem sounds quite typical…not enough muscle mass and too much belly fat to look good in a t-shirt. I’m 43, so the belly fat didn’t come around until my mid thirties. Everything aside from the belly is the same as it’s been basically all my life. Looking forward to seeing results from the wisdom ya’ll are dispensing here…

Shane Duquette

Ah I meant “Dead Bear” at the end. He came in not all that muscular, not all that lean. His transformation shows both a cutting and a bulking cycle, with a total net gain of 11 pounds. That’s what a skinny-fat guy would normally do—both a cut and a bulk.

Does that help at all?

The accumulating fat likely isn’t age related, per se, but rather time related. Old guys are often sedentary for a very long time, and the muscle loss and fat gain gradually accumulates over that time period. Lean and muscular guys go on to turn into lean and muscular old guys (check this image out), so long as they keep up with the lifestyle that keeps them that way (e.g. lifting weights and eating well).

Just a matter of getting back into a lifestyle that encourages lean muscle growth 🙂


First of all, AWESOME blog! I always had this problem of getting a big belly when bulking up, while still with really weak arms and legs. My problem is that I have REALLY huge arms and legs and a short torso. My body structure is pretty identical to Jon Jones. With that in mind I found this picture of him.

This is pretty much how I look like now, except that my belly is not that big, and my arms are much smaller. It just seems that all my bf is concentrated in the mid-section. With that in mind, what do you think I should do? Bulk or cut first?
I really thinking about joining your program!


Shane Duquette

Hey Sam,

Glad you like it, man!

I can definitely relate to the struggle of having very long arms. My legs are pretty short, but my arms go on for miles. Marco, on the other hand, has exactly that build. He has the arm and leg length of someone who’s like 7’0 feet tall. Seems to be pretty common with us ectomorphs. Doesn’t make it easier to deal with, just saying you aren’t alone in this, and there are some good solutions for it 🙂

Having your fat concentrated in your belly, while it may make it hard to have abs, is actually not so bad. That’s a very classically masculine place to store fat. If your fat was stored more in your love hands, more in your thighs, more in your lower back, or chest… you might look a little more feminine.

Basically, there’s no fun place to store fat.

As for how you deal with this, I’d recommend cutting first. If you haven’t built much muscle yet, you might be able to gain a little while cutting, and you’ll feel much better about your gut when you’re lean. At that point your insulin sensitivity will be good and you’ll be able to make leaner gains.

Then comes the interesting part. When bulking you might want to emphasize the parts that lag behind. If your arms fall behind your torso, you might want to be adding in extra bicep curls, tricep extensions and such. If your belly sticks our further than your chest… maybe hit your chest a little harder to build some size there. Over time you can reshape your body a little so that even if you gain a little bit of fat you still look pretty good 🙂

Does that make sense / help?

As for joining the program, you should! We can help you with all this stuff on an individual level, and we’d love to have you, man!

Daniel Krsiak

“Good old days”, my body is just to carry my head around, are gone. From ecto belly to ripped skinny 🙂 I am really happy I found this programme.

Shane Duquette

And we’re really glad to have you, man 😀


An ecto can gain muscle by eating more and working out. A skinny fat,otoh, can’t. If he eats too much, he will gain fat. If he doesn’t he wont gain muscle. So it is catch 22. The only solution is years and years of training, after which the body may adapt and change for the better.

Shane Duquette

I disagree. A skinny-fat guy will often even be able to build a little muscle even while losing fat (and losing weight overall). They’re often able to build a ton of muscle when gaining weight too, and often decently leanly. They can make very rapid progress whichever way they go.

Of course, the way to get the raddest physique (in terms of health, aesthetics, etc) is often years and years of training for every body type.


Hi Shane, what ur doing is remarkable, you’re helping a lot of people with very good info. But on this point alone, I have to disagree. A skinnyfat is not like an ecto – he has the traits of ecto in that he can’t gain muscle, but he also has a tendency to store fat despite eating little.

Also most of the people who call themselves ecto (and who later on make phenomenal progress) are actually mesomorph who don’t eat much during their teens. That is why once their teens are over and their metabolism slows down a little – and they start eating a lot and training – their muscles grow fast. So most likely you’re a mesomorph.

But anyway, my point applies to skinny fats, basically, because they have the worst of both worlds – they gain fat easily but not muscle.

Shane Duquette

Thanks so much man, I really appreciate it 🙂

Ectomorphs can gain muscle just fine once we learn how to do it properly—lifting well, eating enough, etc. Most studies seem to show that the guys who are starting off skinnier gain more muscle mass. And even the guy with the worst fat storing traits wouldn’t store fat in a calorie deficit.

An ectomorph is a loose term, but generally it applies to people with slenderer bone structures who start off with less muscle mass. Even after gaining 50+ pounds of muscle I’m still an ectomorph. I don’t have stubby limbs, a barrel shaped rib cage, a thick neck, thick wrists.

You’re right that with skinny-fat guys it’s a nutrient partitioning dilemma… but once they get their diet and training in order their nutrient partitioning improves 🙂


Greetings from Asean (and from fellow ectomorph :p ), Shane. I’m 23, 5’7″, and 144lb (65.5kg) with 75cm waist right now. I have been doing solely 5×5 for 3 weeks (this is my 4th week) with starting weight of 141lb and 77cm waist. I’m planning to add a few isolations like arms+shoulders in Monday, Lat machines in Wednesday, and chest+core in Friday, all isolations done in 3×6-10 reps fashion.
Do you think this routine will build strength and mass properly? Big thanks for your answer 🙂

P.s. my body image look much alike Doctor B right now, with a bit of belly


P.p.s I have nearly no training experience when I started 5×5

Shane Duquette

Hey Adhika, greetings from Canada!

Props for gaining 3 pounds in 3 weeks. That’s a great pace to be gaining at.

Your idea to add in isolation lifts is probably a wise one. The big compound strength lifts offer a lot of bang for your buck, are extremely versatile, and are great for building up muscle mass… but they’re also difficult to recover from and hard on your body. Building a program around them is great, but it also helps to add in some isolation lifts, which are a safe, fun and easy way to increase growth in your target areas without adding much stress to your body.

Is your exact routine perfect? That’s pretty impossible to say. But I dig the idea of adding lighter isolation lifts to your heavier compound ones 🙂



So, I have run into the problem of being fit, suffering a lower back injury, then developing love handles and becoming skinny at the same time. What would you recommend for that? I have read through the article, and it seems like it is geared towards skinny without the flat tire.


Shane Duquette

Hey Joe,

I’m so sorry to hear about the back injury, man. Nothing can derail a transformation like hurting your back. All of a sudden life becomes so painful and you feel so fragile. They can take quite a while to recover from too, and many people make the mistake of stopping physical activity entirely, which leads to muscle atrophy everywhere (including in the injured area) and can delay recovery even more.

For back injuries I’d recommend seeing a local sports doctor or physiotherapist. (With a program like ours, once that’s done we can help work around the limitations and advice they give.)

As for what to do about the spare tire, then the article still applies. You could bulk yourself into some muscle and then cut the tire off after. Better still, you could start by cutting the tire off (while trying to build some muscle) and then bulk once you’ve gotten to a nice lean body fat percentage.

So muscle-building oriented weightlifting + a high protein diet + a calorie deficit. Adjust calories as needed to be losing 1-2 pounds per week. When you get lean enough, you can go into a calorie surplus and aim to gain 0.5-1 pounds per week.

I hope that helps, and good luck!


Hey Shane, I’m a classic skinny fat type who has developed good arms and ok chest after a few years of casual gymming BUT have never been able kick the fat stored on my torso.That’s all I care about rn. I plan to cut for this summer (that’s January in my country) in an attempt to finally sort it.

Would you recommend creatine for me or do you just recommend it for typical skinny skinny guys?

Shane Duquette

Congrats on the new guns and pecs, Josh!

Creatine will cause your muscles to swell up a little bit, improving muscle size and definition. It will also improve your ability to build muscle, which means fewer calories sent towards fat, more towards muscle. So it won’t hurt any body type… except perhaps the genetically gifted athletic woman who aspires to look more like a model and thinks that she’s too lean and muscular looking already. And given the mental and physical health benefits it’s something even someone who cares nothing about body composition could benefit from.

It’s far from necessary, but if you’re already on the fence I think there are a lot of compelling reasons to use it. Very few reasons not to. (If you’re balding perhaps, since it could maybe potentially possibly theoretically speed up the rate that you lose the hair you’re already losing a little bit.)

Good luck with the cut!


Hi Shane and everyone
After reading this article I have started a cut in order to improve my skinny-fat body.
Everyone told me I should bulk but I was afraid I would gain too much fat.
At the same time I was afraid to cut because I thought I would lose muscles and become even flabbier and shapeless.
But I decreased calories anyway and started to lose weight, even if I wasn’t overweight to begin with.

I’d like your opinion on whether the cut is working and improving my skinny-fat body or if I’m losing muscles and should increase calories or start a bulk.



Shane Duquette

Looks to me like it’s working quite well!

Also, you definitely weren’t skinny-fat, dude! You were pretty damn strong looking even in your before photo. Beefy, not skinny-fat. And now you’re looking even stronger, since you’ve seemingly lost some fat and perhaps even gained some muscle. Good work 🙂


Diet or eating habits are key to proper nutrition and growth. are you a nutritionist?

Shane Duquette

Yeah, one cannot physically grow without a calorie surplus. And it’s definitely important to eat a nutritious diet for general health (and to a certain extent body composition). We are not nutritionists. Nor a doctors. Nor physiotherapists. When it comes to medical concerns and injuries experts should definitely be consulted. Our primary goal here is helping guys get way bigger, way leaner, way stronger and way more athletic. We are experts at that. And we’re even pretty good with general health stuff!


Hi Shane,

Great article – I just discovered your site the other day by chance and will be going over it in more details over the next coming days.

I’ve been trying to ‘fix my self’ since May 2015 and have made slow but good progress. I have tracked all my weekly measurements on my website and have monthly progress pictures on there too.

I am currently 182 cm, 69.9KG and according to those impedence tests you get in modern weighing scales, I am 14.6% bodyfat.

(Side question: How reliable are those tests/devices?)

My aim is to get to 12% bodyfat before bulking, as you can see from my pictures I don’t really have a belly anymore (compared to my June 2014 pic) but I do have horrible love handles and struggling to get rid of it.

I’m currently on 1600 calories now (since this month) made up of 36%, 33%, 31% for Protein/Carb/Fat using Intermittent Fasting and 4 day a week at the gym using PULL/PUSH method (60-90 minutes) in hopes to lose the handles.

My question is should I stick to this to try cut (my fear is that I have gained some good muscle definition on my shoulder, chest and back and worried I may lose a lot of this) or should I just focus on bulking now by increasing to 2900 cals (same nutrition split), same program and hope the extra muscle mass will burn off the remaining fat that I have or will I just put on a big belly again by doing this?

Just as an example my shoulders grew from 112cm to 116cm from October to December

On my website I have tracked:

* Weekly measurements (hips, waist, weight, shoulders, arms, chest)
* Monthly pictures
* Workout routine
* Diet

Thanks in advance

Ps. The link to your forum does not allow me to create an account as it says page not found and takes me back to your main site.

Shane Duquette

Hey SFT, great work, man! You’re looking way, way leaner, and your shoulder measurement going up throughout is a pretty sure sign that you’ve been gaining muscle while losing fat. Amazing 🙂

Those BIA scales aren’t very accurate. I prefer just looking in the mirror and guesstimating that way. If you want to get to 12% before bulking, cut until you can see your abs in the bathroom mirror.

If you’re feeling okay-ish eating 1600 calories per day, your strength isn’t going down in the gym, and you’re losing around a pound on the scale each week… I’d keep going.

If things aren’t going so smoothly, maybe take a break from cutting. You could take a break by bulking, or just by increasing your daily calorie intake by 500 for a couple weeks until you feel fresh and motivated to cut again.

If you do decide to bulk, I would switch to 3-6 meals spaced out relatively evenly over the course of the day. Intermittent fasting can work well when cutting, but it’s far from ideal for bulking.

If you want to join the member/coaching community you can sign up here 🙂


Hey there, really helpful article.

I currently am 151 lbs, 6 ft and a bf between 11-12%. Would you advise bulking up or cutting? If so, now long would you suggest for either.


Shane Duquette

11-12% with a BMI of 20.5? Definitely bulking!

How long? Until you reach your desired size or you can’t see your abs anymore (i.e, you get over 15% body fat). But personal preference is a factor here too 🙂


Hi there,
I really enjoy your website, and seriously thinking about the program. At 40-something with no experience in training (or sport in general) or food considerations, I joined the skinny-fat group 1 or 2 years ago. At 5’9 and 167lb (76kg, all in the belly), I think the cutting road is probably best.
So my question is: how do I go in “deficit”? I read your posts about how to eat and supplements, but I have no clue what to do with all that. What should I eat (or not)?
I would like to get started a little on food and doing a bit of exercise (fix my posture) first, and from there build the confidence that I can commit to the program, join in, and one day feature on your homepage 🙂
So can you make a few suggestions?
Thanks, and keep it up!

Shane Duquette

Hey jjf,

First of all, you can join our program at any experience level and with any body. The program begins simple and grows far, far more advanced as you continue reading. This means that as you begin things are simple and easy to get into, and as you progress to a more advanced level you can even get into what a fitness model would be doing (if you so choose). We can also help you customize things to suit your situation and goals in the community.

To answer your question though, being in a deficit simply means eating few enough calories that your body is forced to burn its body fat stores for energy, resulting in weight loss. You can tell if you’re a deficit by weighing yourself each week to see if you’re losing weight. (Reducing your intake by about 500 calories per day, or by about 20% of what you eat, will probably get you into a good fat burning deficit.)

What should you eat? Mostly whole foods (i.e. foods with minimal processing). Maybe some protein powder too, if you don’t tend to eat a lot of protein. When cutting you’ll need a lot of protein in order to maintain your muscle mass (around 1 gram per pound bodyweight per day). We have some people who eat a lot of lean meat, dairy, beans, grains, etc who hit that number easily without supplements. Many guys find it easier/cheaper to have a couple scoops of whey protein or rice/pea protein each day to boost their protein intake up to the optimal range.

Perhaps the most important thing of all is that you lift weights. If you do a good job of lifting then you may even gain some muscle while you lose fat, especially if your body fat percentage is a little high and you’re totally new to exercise! 🙂

Lifting weights is also fantastic for improving your posture.

Does that help / answer your questions?


Hi Shane,
Yes, this helps a bit. That’s a lot to learn for someone who has no idea about how to count calories or protein (I have no clue how much I eat!!). You mention “rice protein”: how does it compare to simply eating (white steamed) rice? I normally eat rice 2 or 3 times a day, with meat and veggies. eggs too. I dont have access to supplements where I live right now. So… lean meat, right?
Good to know that the program also consider total newbies. I dont even know what are “bench press” or “curls” and that kind of stuff; let alone who to do them “properly”. I do have some questions about lifting (at home), but I’ll ask them in the other post!

Shane Duquette

Hey JJ,

Rice protein is the protein found in small amounts in brown rice that has been isolated into pure protein powder. So nutritionally rice protein is more similar to eating a chicken a breast than to eating rice. (Rice is a starch—a carbohydrate.) So lean meat, yeah.

Ahaha we can teach you how to bench and curl, squat and deadlift, row and chin-up 🙂

We have an article about lifting at home here, if you’re interested.


Hi again!
So, It’s been like 2 weeks I’m trying to “cut” while doing some lifting, to get in the mood before starting the program (I’m travelling right now). I tried being mindful about the food, have more protein (eggs and meat) and less calorie (no sweets, less bread & rice, not too many fruits). I also take 5g creatine and drink a lot of water.
Thing is: I dont see any kind of improvement (beside feeling stronger from the lifting, and maybe bulking a bit). I’m a steady 75-76kg and it feels I have the same amount of belly fat. Any insights?

Shane Duquette

If you aren’t losing weight then you aren’t in a calorie deficit. Think less about whether something is sweet and more about how many calories you’re consuming. I see in your other post that you’ve started tracking your calorie intake, and unfortunately, your calorie intake is already quite low. If 1,900 isn’t enough for you to lose weight, you’ll either need to burn more calories with walking or cardio (more calories out), or consume fewer calories (fewer calories in). Both will help get you into a deficit.

Getting your protein intake up a little bit will help too, if you can manage it. (More of the energy within protein is burned off as body heat than with the other macronutrients.)

Also, be sure to lift weights while cutting. This will not only force your body to spend some calories building muscle (if you’re a beginning), but it will also burn some calories. If while travelling you’re unable to lift or unable to eat enough protein it may make more sense to begin your cut later, when you can.

I hope that helps!


Oh, and I did something today. Found an app to collect what I eat and tell me how much calories and protein (and other stuff) I had during the day. Well….
Turns out I am around 1900calories for the day, but I also realize it is almost impossible to get as much protein as I should at that rate, ie without a supplement. I barely made it to 97g by adding two duck eggs after diner, where I should get about 167g (@1g/pound).
So… the cutting line _really_ requires taking a supplement like Whey! Maybe you should write it up high and clear.
And so… if protein supplement is not an option (almost impossible to find here), am i doomed to loose the muscle I’m trying to build while lifting and cutting at the same time? (this is also not a place where you can eat steak or chicken breast 4 times a day!)

thank again!

Shane Duquette

Using duck eggs in an attempt to reach your daily protein target, eh? After years of doing this I’ve never heard that before. Ahaha I love it.

You don’t have to take whey. It can definitely help—especially when following a plant-based diet—but lots of guys reach it just with food like greek yoghurt, cottage cheese, chicken breast, fish, lean red meat, pepitas, milk, etc.

If you’re from a place where it’s difficult to get sources of protein though… yes, unfortunately it will be more difficult to get enough protein to keep your muscle mass around when in a calorie deficit.

Cutting more slowly (with a smaller calorie deficit) should help a lot though. You’ll have more calories to eat, allowing you to get more protein in, but more importantly the degree of the calorie deficit is the biggest influencer of whether your losses are lean or not. Maybe aim for 0.5 pounds lost per week instead of 1–2 🙂


Dammit! How did I forget about that good old equation… burning more calories, of course!
Just a clarification question (and a treat for you): would you think of walking or cadio OVER lifting more often (e.g. every day instead of every second day)?
Here’s the treat: they where not even simply duck eggs, they were balut..! (google at your own risk).
Again, thanks a lot Shane, you guys are really great. I think i need to find a way to estimate my body fat now because I feel I might have but on enough muscular mass to hide the fat loss on the scale. (I’m eating lean meat like I never did before!)

Shane Duquette

Oh wow! I’ve heard of those. I think on Fear Factor? 😛

Lifting every second day instead of every day? Yes, that’s probably better. You build muscle ideally with just three full body workouts per week, or four upper/lower split workouts. I wouldn’t recommend lifting every day.

Walking works well to burn calories, yep! Lower intensity cardio can work well too. Something like 20–60 minutes on a stationary bike with your heart rate between 120–150.


Hey man,

Sorry if this has been asked before but assuming I start increasing my intake to say 4000 calories to reach my goal, will I still have to eat 4000 calories after that in order to not lose the weight put on or will the maintaining diet be much lesser?

Shane Duquette

No, no, not at all. That’s just the amount of food it takes to rapidly gain weight. When you want to maintain your weight you’ll be eating more similar to how you eat normally, as how you eat normally is the amount that keeps your weighing about the same each week.

You will need to eat slightly more though. Each pound of muscle burns an extra 6 calories per day. So if you gain 50 pounds of muscle (like I eventually did) that will increase your daily calorie needs by 300. For an example, that’s a pint of milk per day in addition to what you’d normally eat.


Ah thanks man, good to know. I’ll probably be signing up soon If I see no weight gain eating that much.

Shane Duquette

Well I hope you do succeed in gaining weight without us, but I’m also hoping to see you in the community soon 🙂


Hi shane,
Cool website i must say. 1 question,my bf is 23%,i want getting lean until 12-13% around that. Let say i losing 2lb per week,until what bf is safe to lose 2lb per week?i heard somewhere at certain bf,we need to lose 1lb per week.
Thanks in advance.

Shane Duquette

That really depends! I’m 10.9% body fat (according to a DEXA scan) and I could probably lose a couple pounds per week for several weeks no problem, just because my calorie intake right now is really high, I have no problem eating fewer calories, and it would be a very brief sprint. But that’s just me in my situation. You could assume that since your body fat percentage is higher that it would be easier, and there’s some logic there, but there are many other factors to consider as well.

If you’re a seasoned lifter you could track your strength in the gym as a way of seeing if you’re losing muscle mass. That’s a good way to know if you should slow the pace. (This only works if you’ve been lifting well for a while though.)

You could also slow the pace when your calorie intake needs to become very small in order to keep cutting at a rapid pace. If you need to eat like 1,000 calories per day in order to zoom forward… maybe you slow down a little.

Then there’s also stress levels and your mood to consider. And your sex drive, and immune system. Some of these things depend on what foods you’re dieting on, but some of it is also based on the severity of the caloric deficit.

I hope that helps a little!


Well said Shane, to sum it all,if you feel bad losing 2lbs per week,slow it down. And if you feel good doing it, keep doing that until at certain point,you feel terrible and can increas
e strength in weight tr
aining. Well said shane,those kind of answers i want to hear. Right now im skinny fat 23% bf.

Shane Duquette

That’s a good way of putting it, yeah 🙂

(If you’re new to lifting you should make strength gains. If you’re an experienced lifter just make sure you aren’t getting weaker.)


Hey there, great article. I’ve been bulking for two weeks and my belly feels wierd. I don’t know if i’ts because of all the food I’m eating or my posture or if I’m actually putting on a loot of fat (hope not)

check it out: http://imgur.com/a/B0FsS

First two images is me trying to hold my posture and the second I’m just standing letting my belly go where it wants to go…

You think I’m becomin skinny-fat?

Shane Duquette

Nah, that’s normal. When you let your belly hang loose it… hangs loose. This would be true at 6% or 60% body fat. With better posture and stronger abs your abs will naturally gravitate to those first two positions though. Just need to work on your posture a little to get your abs turning on more naturally 🙂


Great, thanks for your repply.


I’ve been skinny fat all my life. I currently do weight-lifting (on my own, so I’ hope I have good form and enough weight. I do it three times a week. I do cardio intervals for 30 minutes on those days and 60 minute walks 3 days a week. I only want to lose like 4 pounds and maybe earn a pound of muscle, but I want to do it slowly. but right now, my maintenance calories is 1632, so if I drop it more than 10%, I won’t get to eat much. What do you recommend for me, both nutrition wise and exercise?

Shane Duquette

Hey Andrea,

If you’re doing all that exercise and really maintaining your weight on just 1,600 calories per day… yeah, you’re going to need to eat less than you’d like in order to lose a few pounds. You’ll probably need to spend a few weeks eating more like 1,300 calories per day. Or maybe a few weeks walking a little more every day.

Alternatively, you could try to gain a pound or two of muscle first by adding in a couple hundred calories to your diet, rev your metabolism up a little and then cut from there.

(If you’re hitting your daily protein targets it will make it easier to burn fat also.)


What would you recommend? Bulk a couple pounds or cut?? And how do I make sure that the pounds I gain would be muscle? and if I were to add in more walking (although everyone tells me that doing more cardio would burn more muscle, which I don’t want to do)

Shane Duquette

Making sure that what you gain is muscle is a tough question. You need a good weightlifting program, enough protein, a good diet, enough sleep. Whether you should bulk or cut is a tough question also. We’d need to know more about where you’re at and what your goals are. If you’d like a good lifting and nutrition plan, as well as coaching from us along the way we could do that for you with the Bony to Bombshell Program.

As for walking burning muscle, don’t worry—it won’t. It will burn calories, not muscle. We have more about how cardio affects lifting here though 🙂


Hey, I am a skinny fat guy and im 22! Last year i tried to bulk first but I failed, because i am so weak to lift! (I tried whey supplement and the result was so good and it made me stronger but i can t afford it for every month because in my country good supplemnts are expensive) So i became frustrate and left excersing. Now I make a decision to start again but this time i wanna try cut first! My height is 190 cm and weight is 90 kg and i have lean legs, shoulders, arms and fatty belly, hips, chest also my testestrone level is 530! Do you have any tips to help me!?

Shane Duquette

Hey Alireza, I’d recommend following the basics that we outlined in this article: consuming at least one gram of protein per pound bodyweight, following a good weightlifting program and getting plenty of good rest. If you can do that, I suspect you’ll even be able to gain a little muscle as you cut 🙂

Good luck!


Brilliant article and a great read.

I’m just approaching my 30th birthday and all my life I was pretty athletic, would run, do karate and keep fit. Until 4 years ago was struck down with a virus and ended up bed bound for nearly 3 years with chronic fatigue. I’ve never been a big guy, my weights always stayed around 60-65kg and I’m 6 ft 1 (186cm).

Last year I started cycling just 5 minutes a day to try and get my life back (I wasn’t going to give in to fatigue) and managed to get up to 40 minutes a day, then started weight training. I did start doing power lifting last year in October, but all that’s happened is my guts got really soft and weak. Plus my knee now is badly bruised (from a long standing injury) meaning no running, squats or deadlifts for 6 months to a year after an MRI scan showed heavy bruising of the bone.

All the running and weights I do is having no effect and I’m constantly tired. Not feeling great about myself at all. I’m proud I’ve beaten the fatigue and got back to a normal working life, but I tire quickly and suffer with panic attacks if I push. My PT would push me to the point I’d throw up, and I saw zero results. Thing is I have to exercise to keep the fatigue at bay, but also I just look super skinny and soft now.

Unfortunately the ‘normal way’ where someone can push themselves into high intensity, I just can’t achieve right now and I can’t tell if I’m just stressing my body out. I don’t know if it’s diet, don’t know if it’s because I just can’t do enough. Any help would be massively appreciated.


Hi Shane! I`m so glad I`ve found your blog! Amazing articles and tips. I’ve bookmarked it and will recommend to all my friends 🙂
I’d like to hear you opinion in my case too. I`m 37 year-old woman, 1,67 cm height and weighting 54,5Kg (I think in cm and kg). I lift 4 days per week in the morning (I try to do for 40 min with heavy weights and in a max of 30 sec of rest pause between sets). I also do hiit workout for 20 min twice a week.

I eat clean and prepare all my meals and snacks, trying to keep a radio of 150 g of protein, 100 g fat and 120 g carbs (about 70-80 % of the carbs around my pre and post workout), eating a total of about 2000 calories. However, I`ve still got 19% BF but look very skinny with a small pouch of fat at the front of my lower abs.My posture plays a role here as well (I can send you a picture) but it’s clearly that my fat is concentrate there.

My objective is to build more muscles and burn this fat without losing weight, but when I was in a more restricted diet, I noticed I look skinner and burn some muscles instead, while my evident fat was still there. I don`t know how to bulk either, I thought 2000 cal would put me in bulking mode, but nothing has actually changed.

If you have any advice, it would be great!

Thank you in advance and kee[ up the great work!

Shane Duquette

Hey Yara, glad you like it! What you’re doing is already pretty good. For your weight, while 150 grams of protein per day is awesome, 120 grams would be similarly awesome. But that’s definitely not the problem. Carb cycling and whatnot is good too.

I think the issue is that it’s very hard to build muscle without all the anabolic effects of being in a calorie surplus (i.e. without gaining weight) and it’s very hard to lose fat without creating the need for your body to burn stored energy by putting it into a calorie deficit (i.e. losing weight). You can see both things happening at once sometimes, but that would be more realistic if you were new to lifting weights and eating well.

I think if you want to lose that fat you’ll need to lose a little weight. Losing say, four pounds of fat is four pounds of weight loss, after all. With a high protein intake, a good muscle-building lifting routine, and good rest I think you’ll keep your muscle mass and avoid looking too much thinner. And to build muscle you’ll want to gain weight. So do one then the other. That would be my advice for you. I hope that helps!

Shane Duquette

Oh! You’ve seen Bony to Bombshell, yeah? (www.bonytobombshell.com) That’s our site for women who are looking to build muscle / gain weight (and even lose some fat!). There’s some good free info that might help in the two most recent articles 🙂

Harrison Max

Hey man, I hope all is well and I love your advice a lot. So I was very skinny/skinny-fat about 6 months ago and began to dirty bulk pretty badly going from 130-156 in about 6 months. If I start cutting now, am I gonna lose a ton of muscle mass? My lifts have been going up, but have plateaued of late, therefore I think it is time to start cutitng. Would you mind taking a look at my picture and now and let me now what the best route would be?

Shane Duquette

Hey Harrison, I don’t see an attached photo, but this isn’t really the best place for that anyway. (The member community is where we give personalized feedback like that.) As for your questions though, 1) So long as you do a good job cutting you can expect to at least maintain your muscle mass, and 2) If you’re above 15–17% body fat then cutting down to 12–14% is oftentimes a good idea, as you’ll be able to make leaner gains with a lower body fat percentage. You’ll look better too 🙂


hey im 19 and I would like to know how to get muscle im skinny fat

Jared Polowick

Hey Daniel,

I’d highly recommend joining our program if you can. That way you can be sure you’re covered nutritionally and with your workouts. And we could help you personally through the coaching side of things in the community. Otherwise I’d definitely give all of our articles a read for starters 🙂


I love the ilustrations you guys have. Do you make them yourself?

Shane Duquette

We do! I make them with Jared’s wife, Michelle 🙂


Shane, just a question on skinny fat physique:

Normally fat is the excess of calories. But skinny fat people may even be underweight, which means there is no excess calories. So without excess calories how did they manage to get fat on belly????

Don’t you thinjk I’ve asked a great question?


I’m no expert but i’ll try to aswner your question.

Combine a sedentary life style with a poor died high in fat and sugar and you will have a metabolism working not as good, and every bit of excess calories (witch would be easy to achieve) would be stored in your belly since it’s primary where it goes .


Thanks, Rafael, but that’s NOT what I am asking. Underweight person = less calories, belly fat = excess calories. So how can an underweight person (less calories) have belly fat (excess calories)? Is that not a contradiction?

Shane Duquette

Hey Oscar. Rafael is actually correct! The type of exercise you do and the types of food you eat will determine what ratio of muscle to fat that you gain in a calorie surplus, and what ratio of muscle to fat that you lose while in a calorie deficit.

So if someone who is thin eats in a calorie surplus while doing, for example, endurance exercise, he will gain more fat than muscle. Similarly, if that person were overweight and eating in a calorie deficit, he might lose both muscle and fat, winding up skinny-fat by the end of it.

This is why it’s important to lift weights, eat enough protein, and eat quality foods when trying to build muscle, not just get your calories right. Same deal when trying to lose weight.

Does that make sense?

Shane Duquette

Oh! How well you sleep, your genetics, how stressed you are, etc—all of that will impact the ratio of muscle to fat that you gain/lose as well. There are a ton of factors, I just tried to simplify it down a little bit.

Jay T.

Hello Shane!

This is an awesome article 🙂 So I started off fat at 90 kg with 33% body fat percentage last August. I started blind bulking (without closely monitoring the caloric intake) and kept lifting hard until I was at 101 kg at 35.1% body fat percentage in April 28th. Since the 1st of May, I decided to go on a cut with a daily deficit of approximately 500-750 calories. I lost weight steadily for 6 weeks until I’m now at 93 kg with 29% body fat. What I’d like to ask is, I got advice that I shouldn’t cut longer than 15 weeks, as too long of a cut is potentially unhealthy, while at the same time I got an advice that I should cut all the way until 10% body fat before starting a lean bulk. Which path should I take?

a) Stop the cut at week 15 (I probably should end up at about 20% body fat or so) and go in a lean bulk for 6-12 months and then cut again to get leaner.

b) Cut all ghe way until I’m left with 10% then start lean bulking from there

C) Your suggestions?


Shane Duquette

Hey Jay, congratulations! 90 kg with 33% up to 93 kg with only 29%? Doing some very rough math here, you’ve lost 3 kilos of fat while gaining 6 kilos of muscle? That’s awesome! Really awesome.

I’m going to go with option C.

For someone who accidentally found themselves at 33% body fat, I don’t think cutting down to 10% body fat on your first try is very realistic. That’s more something that I’d recommend for someone at like 15% body fat. For you, cutting down to 15% would probably be a good idea. You’d have a flat stomach, the hint of abs, great muscle definition in your arms. You’ll also have great insulin sensitivity and nutrient partitioning. From there you can either take a break, build some muscle, or decide to keep cutting.

Can you cut for longer than 16 weeks? Sure! Just monitor your hunger, sex drive, mood and strength. So long as everything is good there, no worries, keep it up. If you start to struggle, consider taking a week off from the deficit, going back to your maintenance intake.

If you get down to 20% or whatnot and you feel super tired of cutting, you can always reevaluate then too. You won’t have the same insulin sensitivity and nutrient partitioning advantages of if you were 15%, but you can still build muscle fairly leanly. If you’re sick and tired of cutting, switching up your routine could really be a breath of fresh air.

Does that make sense?

Fernando Villasenor

Hey there its fernando, ive read lots and lots of articles yours really was the most interesting and helpful. I am still quote confused though. I am 5’7. Approximately 145lb. And i ised to weigh 180 goin onto 190 but i went on a calorie deficit diet and did lots and lots of cardio. Now im skinny fat and i dont know where to start i tried lifting and i saw no progress and i dont want to eat alot because i already have a big gut. And ive seen all of the skinny fat guys i think i have it bad my gut is pretty big and arms are literally sticks im embaressed to wear short sleeve shirts.

Shane Duquette

Hey Fernando,

Congratulations on losing around 45 pounds! That’s really impressive, man.

Losing weight while just doing cardio (or being sedentary) will result in both fat and muscle being lost, especially if you aren’t eating a higher protein diet, and especially if your genetics aren’t amazing. We usually recommend that guys take their lifting and nutrition fairly seriously when trying to lose a serious amount of weight.

Fortunately, rebuilding lost muscle mass is very easy, so it will spring back as soon as you get into a good lifting/nutrition routine.

As for why that didn’t work for you in the past, it’s really hard to say. It could be because your lifting plan wasn’t very good, your nutrition plan wasn’t very good, you weren’t sleeping very well, your calories were off, etc. Without knowing more we can’t really troubleshoot it.

Moving forward though, lifting is the type of exercise that will make you leaner and more muscular, so that’s the type of exercise that will help you accomplish your physique goals. Might just need to take a more strategic approach with it.

As someone who was able to lose 45 pounds, I think you’ll be quite successful with it. Losing all that weight isn’t easy, so you’ve already shown that you’ve got what it takes 🙂


Im skinny fat, im 200 pounds , 5’8, age- 16 and Im really havin’ a hard time with it. I was 14 when i first started pushups but somehow that deteriorated my hand strength. I used to be the strongest before my teenage years. But when everyone hit puberty I still had a 3 year decline in Testosterone production. I still do. The pushups probably killed everything in me. Ive acquired weak and small wrists (Im unable to lift a chair easily even with both hands), my punches started slowin down. And whenever i lift somethin’ theres some kinda stress up my wrist, forearms and biceps. What should I do to rehab? Also could you recommend exercises I can at the gym OR at home which doesnt involve weights? I dont wanna cut. I just want to bulk up and atleast ‘look’ like a 16 year old.

Shane Duquette

For a guy in your situation, weights would definitely be the way to build muscle while losing fat without overly stressing your wrists. For example, the deadlift may help strengthen and rehab your wrists, and the dumbbell bench press is way easier on your wrists than push-ups (which require a ton of wrist mobility/stability).

Is there a reason you’re trying to avoid weights?


Hi, I’m Michael.
I think I have a skinny fat physique. I’m a 19 year old boy from Malaysia and I weigh 143lbs at 5.9ft(180cm) tall. The thing is, I have love handles and lower abdominal fat as well as my chest having quite a large amount of fat, making it somewhat flabby. Measurements around my chest are 36 inches, around my waist are 33.5 inches and around my hips are 36.5 inches. How should I approach this? Should I bulk? I’m scared of cutting because 5more lbs under and i’d be underweight but if I bulk, I’d get fatter and flabbier won’t I? What do i do?

Shane Duquette

You should cut first, building a little muscle as you go. Even though your weight will drop into a too-low BMI, it will just be fat that you’re losing. This will actually be better for your health, since it will do a better job of improving your body composition. Then you can build up muscle leanly from there, bringing your BMI back up to an ideal point.


Hi Shane,
I must say I love the work you guys put in your content, kudos! I too, think that I am skinny fat. I used to be super-skinny a few months ago, had a flat stomach and as you mentioned, a hint of abs when flexed in appropriate lighting. However, due to my lifestyle in the past few months, I have put on a lot of fat around my stomach and there’s actually a small paunch out there.

I weigh 150 pounds and my obesity analysis reveals that my Percentage Body Fat (PBF) of 21.2% and my Waist Hip Ratio is also high at 0.85! While my BMI is normal but on the higher end of the scale at 22.5, my skeletal muscle mass is quite low, merely 67 pounds.

I’m caught up in the cut first-bulk first conundrum, I wish to build muscle but not settling for a thick layer of mass around my tummy. What should I do? I have been advised to take muscle mass gainers by my gym instructor but I’m wary of it, and need a second opinion. Having said that, I love your articles!

Shane Duquette

Thank you so much, Manan!

I think you’d see better results if you focus on cutting first. It sounds like you’re fairly new to lifting and eating for muscle growth, so I think you’ll gain some muscle as you cut down to 15% body fat or lower. When you get to that point, your insulin sensitivity will be higher and you’ll be able to build muscle more leanly as you transition into a lean bulk 🙂


Perfect, exactly the sort of response I was looking for. Yes I’m fairly new to lifting and would very much like to reduce the body fat to 15% or thereabout. Does this mean I should refrain from consuming muscle mass gainers (I have been advised to, but ..)?

Shane Duquette

Gainers are just protein + processed carbs and maybe some fat. Sort of like your trainer telling you to have more chicken breast and cake. That’s more something that helps when trying to gain weight, not when trying to lose it. In your case, I’d recommend whey protein instead.

We have an article that covers supplements here, though, and we talk about the purpose of gainers throughout (since they’re a supplement designed for skinny dudes who struggle to eat enough to gain weight—exactly our clientele).



Hi. To cut first (I’m 158lb and 21%fat) what calorie deficit a mount would you recommend? I weight train four times a week and have a physical job.


First take a look at how your macros are structured would me by guess and then go into calorie deficient diet. You can achieve plenty by just increasing protein intake and lowering your carbs and fats. But i think about 250 calorie deficit would be a safe way to lose fat. Thats just from what I’ve known to work Shane probably has 5 studies to back up his answer 🙂

Shane Duquette

I think he could handle a larger deficit. A daily deficit of about 500 calories, for example, would have him losing around a pound per week. That’s still slow enough that he wouldn’t be losing any muscle or feeling awful.

If you don’t know how much you’re currently eating and want to calculate your calories instead, you could start at around 2,200 calories per day, weigh yourself each week, and reduce your daily calorie intake by another 200 every time you don’t lose enough weight on the scale. You may or may not lose enough weight during that first week, but it’s self-correcting, so it would be fixed as you adjust based on your weekly weigh-ins.

Shane Duquette

If 2,200 seems like more than 500 calories less than you’re currently eating, start higher. Maybe 2,500.


I’m currently eating 2700-2800. I run 4 miles at 5 am then go into my gym for 50 minutes after then work a full day working as a mechanic and just didn’t want to have too much of a deficit and end up in starvation.

Shane Duquette

Hah, no way! So my guess of 2,200 was spot on! (2,700 – 500 = 2,200)

Alex - Anabolic Health

Loving the blog Shane!

I think one cool thing to look into for gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time is targeted ketogenic diets.

Basically for a period of time you eat keto (high fat, low carb) to increase fat loss and then before workouts you consume most of your daily carbs 30-50g usually in a quick form like maltodextrin, fruit sugars etc.

This will go straight into your muscle glycogen stores and make gains and it will only take you around 8 hours to get back into ketosis burning that fat.

Shane Duquette

Ketogenic diets seemed pretty cool when they first started coming out, but it seems like most of the research is showing that they produce very similar amounts of fat loss to just regular ol’ diets. For building muscle, especially for a more ectomorphic body type, a higher carb diet seems to do better. I’ve heard of people being able to do it with a ketogenic diet, but I don’t think it would be as effective. (The research is limited still, though.)


My friend needs help. He’s ecto-skinny-fat(15-19.9% body fat with skinny muscles). Should he cut or bulk first? Body types:Skinny-fat(20-22.9% body fat with skinny muscles)Endo-skinny-fat(23-24.9% body fat with skinny muscles) Fat-weak:25% body fat and above with skinny muscles.

Shane Duquette

He could probably build muscle while cutting if he’s new to lifting, so he might want to try getting down under 15% while learning the ropes in the gym, building a little muscle, gaining some strength. Then he could transition to a cautious bulk and put more emphasis on building muscle while staying fairly lean. This would be my recommendation.

But if he’s really gung-ho on building muscle, getting bigger… that’s okay too! He could start with a cautious bulk and just try to keep his body fat percentage from going up to much. It wouldn’t be quite as easy to bulk leanly, and his muscle definition wouldn’t be that great, but he’s still within a fairly healthy range. I think he’d do fine.


He wants ripped abs. He wants to be strong which is below 10% body fat 22-24.9 BMI

Paul 'God of skinnyfats'

Shane maaate, arghh I’m 5ft 10 and 35 years old, but been spinning my wheels in this damn skinny fat to even skinnier fat cycle for 5 years!! No matter what I do I can’t get out of it. I’m fed up of dieting! I checked myfitnesspal last week – I’ve dropped from 176lbs to 155lbs dieting slowly from February this year. Still no abz in sight, literally all my flab sits on my sides and stomach. I don’t even give a monkeys about having dem razor abzz all the kids want, I just can’t add muscle without a tonne of fat so I figure I need to start from the skinniest possible to reset my nutrition partitioning.

Very frustrated with it all. The most annoying thing is, Ive forgotten more about training and nutrition than most gym rats will ever know!

Great article by the way.

Shane Duquette

And here I was thinking that Paul was just an apostle!

So I take it that you’ve been dieting while following a good lifting program, eh? How’d your strength hold out over the course of the cut? And were you consuming adequate protein?

There’s some sort of something that’s borking your results, we just don’t know what it is. Could be that your sleeping habits are poor, a consistency issue, a stress issue—hard to say. We’d need to poke around inside your routine and see what the troublesome element is.

Paul 'God of skinnyfats'

Yeah I’ve tried numerous ways of lifting but tend to come back to either a 3 day full body or a 4 day upper/lower split which fit my schedule well. My pushing strength tends to plummet whilst my pulling strength holds just about, although I’m at the point where I’m losing 2 or 3 reps now.
At my strongest I’ve strict pressed OH 48.5kg for 5 x 5 where as now I can only get 40kg. I also had a back injury which set me back months and was at 100kg for sets of 5 squatting and 145kg deadlifting, but I don’t do either now. I learned Front squats (safer back angle) and had to half the weight, which is humbling!

Like I said, I’ve been dieting since February and my maintenance has shot down to 2100 calories now. I’m having a diet break this week because eating 1700 cals p/w as a grown man is getting too much. Protein has always been 180-200 g p/w (I’ve tracked for 5 years also), I sleep for 6-7 hours a night and don’t have any stress in life apart from the stress of no gainzzzz!

Paul 'God of skinnyfats'

I should say, your article suggests the best way to get out of this vicious circle is to cut down to skinny fit or bulk up to strong fat. As strong fat hasn’t worked for me, I just get skinny monster belly, this is why I’m trying to lose the fat. I’m at a good stage right now, I love being able to fit in my old jeans again – but this is usually the point where I would start bulking again. I’ve already established this doesn’t work for me, perhaps my calories went to high to fast? Perhaps I jumped from diet calories to bulking calories (I went from 1700-3000 one time)? Maybe the answer is to diet a few more weeks to 150lbs, and then move back to maintenance for a while before starting a slowwww bulk adding in calories very slowly?

Shane Duquette

Hmm. For example, an ideal bulk/cut cycle might look something like this:
1st Bulk: bench goes from 135 to 185
1st Cut: 185 drops to 175
2nd Bulk: bench goes from 175 to 205
2nd Cut: 205 drops to 195
3rd Bulk: bench goes from 205 to 225

Whereas spinning your wheels looks more like this:
1st Bulk: bench goes from 135 to 175
1st Cut: 175 drops to 165
2nd Bulk: bench goes from 165 to 175
2nd Cut: 175 drops to 165
3rd Bulk: bench goes from 165 to 175

So perhaps you’re losing too much strength during your cuts? Not gaining enough strength during your bulks? As for why, that’s harder to say without more information. 6–7 hours per night is not a lot. Have you tried sleeping more? Could be that you’ve had a bad run of luck (or bad technique) that brought on some injuries.

You could try maintenance before shifting to a bulk, yeah. And then when you shift to a bulk, go up by 250–500 calories. All you want to do is gain 0.5–1 pound per week. More than that and you’re too likely to gain too much fat. Patience is good with this stuff.


Hey thanks for replying so fast man.

Yeah I think you’re right about not gaining enough strength during a bulk and then going back to where I was on a cut. It happens every time, I don’t know why. I used to have really bad sleep after doing shift work, something like 4-5 hours a night and it was broken. Now I get nearly 7 so I’m really happy with that but I couldn’t get more if I wanted to.

I definitely over ate on the last bulk so I will take your advice on the calories. Your article gave me a bit of extra motivation that I needed to trim a bit more fat before I go back to maintenance so thanks for that! I’m just so tired of it having dieted for most of this year already.

Shane Duquette

Glad I could help, man! Good luck with this next round 🙂


Are these the body types taking account body fat? Skinny ripped:below 10% body fat. Soft Skinny: 10-14.9%Ecto-skinny-fat: 15-19.9%Skinny-fat: 20-22.9%Endo-skinny-fat: 23-24.9%Fat-weak:25% and above.


Hello, i’m 19 years old and i guess i’m a skinny fat since im only 156 pounds and 6,1ft. The thing is my bf is like 17%. My arms are very skinny(31cm biceps), but i have pretty big belly and legs compared to my arms. I’m not sure if i should cut, since my weight is already too low(i guess). Do you think i can bulk?

Here are photos: first, second.

I would say cut first even tho im so skinny already?

Sorry for bad english


Shane Duquette

Hey Cal, I’d peg your body fat percentage at over 20%, but I’m not any kind of master at that. Are you new to lifting and dieting for muscle gain? If so, even while cutting, you’ll still be able to build a fair amount of muscle. Not as much as if you were bulking, but still a fair amount.

So you can have the best of both worlds for a while 🙂

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