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Bulk vs Cut: Which Should You Do if You’re Skinny Fat?

Is this your case?

If you are skinny fat, you probably considered doing a cut or starting a bulking phase. Find out what might be the best for your fitness goals.

The term “skinny fat” is used to describe individuals who appear to be thin or have a low body weight, but still have a relatively high percentage of body fat. It refers to a body composition where there is a lack of muscle mass combined with a higher proportion of body fat.

Skinny fat individuals typically have a low muscle-to-fat ratio, which can result in a soft or undefined physique. Despite having a slim appearance, they may have a higher body fat percentage, which can be associated with health risks such as metabolic issues and a higher likelihood of developing chronic diseases.

“A skinny fat physique has two major problems,” Mario Tomic, an entrepreneur who helps other busy working professionals get fit and build a sustainable and healthy lifestyle, explains. “One is excess body fat that you want to get rid of, and number two is not enough lean muscle.”

Source: Scott Webb / Pexels

So what should you do if you are skinny fat. Should you begin bulking or cutting?

  1. Bulking: Bulking is a phase where individuals focus on consuming a calorie surplus to support muscle growth and overall weight gain. The primary goal of bulking is to provide the body with an excess of calories and nutrients to facilitate muscle hypertrophy (increase in muscle size) and strength gains. During a bulking phase, individuals typically engage in intense weightlifting or resistance training exercises to stimulate muscle growth. They often increase their calorie intake, consuming more protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats, along with regular meals and sometimes additional protein supplements. The surplus calories are believed to provide the necessary energy for workouts and support muscle repair and growth.
  2. Cutting: Cutting is a phase where individuals aim to reduce body fat while maintaining muscle mass. The primary goal of cutting is to achieve a leaner and more defined physique. During a cutting phase, individuals typically reduce their calorie intake to create a calorie deficit. By consuming fewer calories than the body requires, it is believed that the body will start utilizing stored fat for energy, leading to fat loss. Cutting often involves a combination of dietary adjustments and increased cardiovascular exercise to burn calories and promote fat loss. Protein intake is typically maintained to support muscle maintenance and recovery, while carbohydrates and fats may be adjusted to create the desired calorie deficit.

Find out below.

Bulk vs Cutting if You’re Skinny Fat

What should your path be first then? A muscle-building phase or a fat-loss phase?

First, there isn’t one size fits all, and that is why Mario Tomic further subcategorises skinny fat:

1. Skinny skinny fat – not a lot of muscle, but also not a lot of body fat, just enough to cover your abs and have love handles

If you don’t have too much muscle mass but are not too fat either, you should get into a lean muscle-building phase which is different from a traditional bulk. In this case, you’re running a small surplus of calories to your intake, limiting the amount of fat you gain and focusing on gaining muscle. The goal is to gain no more than 1% of bodyweight per month.

Run this lean muscle-building phase for at least 6 months. After that, you should do a clean-up fat loss phase in which you stay in a caloric deficit for 8-12 weeks to remove the excess body fat you’ve gained.

Source: Natalie Hawthorne on Pexels

2. Truly skinny fat – when your weight is corresponding to your height, but body composition is not lean or muscular

 If this is your case, you should do a body recomposition or “gaintaining” phase. “Set your diet to a caloric maintenance, eating enough high protein diet, and then focusing your efforts on training and recovery.”

Train hard with progressive overload and focus on building muscle and losing fat at the same time.

How to Lose Fat and Build Muscle at the Same Time

You have another alternative if you want to look slimmer than most people and you are “truly skinny fat.” To do that, simply be in a not-so-aggressive caloric deficit instead of a caloric maintenance to lose no more than 1 pound of bodyweight per week.

3. Skinny fat fat – your body is skinny (arms, legs, chest) but you have quite a lot of excess fat in your midsection

If this is your case, you need to go through a two-step process that is the exact reverse of the skinny skinny fat. First, get into a fat loss phase. “We don’t want to gain more because that can result in loose skin, stretch marks, multiplying fat cells which makes getting lean and staying lean harder in the future.”

The idea is to get your body fat percentage down to 15 or 12 and then engage in the second process which is the lean-gaining phase.

For more information, check out the video below.

Several factors contribute to the development of a skinny fat physique. These may include a sedentary lifestyle, lack of regular exercise or resistance training, poor dietary habits, and genetics. Insufficient physical activity and a lack of muscle-strengthening exercises can lead to muscle loss over time, while a diet lacking in proper nutrition can contribute to excess body fat accumulation.

Addressing the skinny fat condition typically involves a combination of resistance training, cardiovascular exercise, and a balanced diet. Engaging in regular strength training exercises can help build muscle mass and increase overall metabolic rate, while cardiovascular exercise helps burn calories and improve cardiovascular health. Additionally, adopting a nutritious diet that includes adequate protein, healthy fats, and whole grains can support muscle development and fat loss.

It’s important to note that everyone’s body composition goals and health needs are different, so seeking guidance from a qualified fitness professional or nutritionist can provide personalized advice and support in achieving a healthy and balanced physique.

Source: Lucas Guimarães Bueno on Pexels

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