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13/03/22 5

Skinny-fat: how to gain muscle mass without fat

Who are skinny-fat and what strategies can they take to gain muscle mass without any more fat

Those who have excess body fat, or simply unsightly, despite a low body weight (weight-to-height ratio of course), are often called skinny-fat, fake thin. Among them, we talked about it in a previous article, there are also those who have difficulty increasing muscle mass.

Those who have low muscle volumes, a physique even too thin, but areas of adipose such as on the abdomen and hips (the “handles” for men) or on the buttocks (for women), may be interested in this article.

Why does a person who is underweight have fat areas? Let’s debunk a myth.

Stubborn adipose has often been spoken of in terms of white or brown fat. The first cramps energy and has a low thermogenesis; the second serves to “warm” and protect some important organs and is very resistant. In humans, however, this distinction between adipocytes is insignificant: brown fat in adults is scarcely present and is allocated to residual areas between “clear” cells or close to certain organs. It is therefore not a factor that affects our weight or, above all, affects our appearance.

First case: genetics

The reason why a seemingly skinny person has unsightly areas of fat (or a high percentage of fat on their weight) may be genetic, but it is related to the behaviour of the hormone insulin and the ratio in which the cells appropriate nutrients when it is released (fat vs muscle). This resistance of some cells to appropriate nutrients is called insulin resistance. In this sense a person who can be called skinny fat or fake skinny can also be called a hardgainer, one who has difficulty increasing muscle mass.

Second case: diet and lack of physical activity

The second case (which does not exclude the first) is a context of poor or poor nutrition and low physical activity. Training in fact, would lead in any case to an increase in muscle mass, maybe with a dirty result, bulky, but still a good volume. This is the context of those who tend to have an endomorphic, round body, but retain their calorie consumption and exercise, perhaps with little planning in order not to gain too much weight. It remains so thin, but with adipose.

The setpoint and mechanisms of our body to not make us lose “too much” weight

With setpoint you define the percentage of fat below which it is difficult to get down. We lose weight, but the ratio between our muscles and fat remains the same or varies little. This is the genetic factor we talked about that is often defined during puberty.

During a low-calorie diet, no matter how high the insulin resistance is, the body will use fat to cover the energy deficit. It’s only a matter of time. Once the setpoint is reached, however, it will implement a series of mechanisms to prevent us from jeopardizing the “balance” it has genetically predetermined for us.

  1. Increased hunger: diet does not change, but hunger increases;
  2. Feeling tired, loss of interest in training;

Getting below your setpoint is not easy and does not guarantee that by increasing calories, our fat/muscle ratio changes. Coming back to eating more we could face the same blemishes.

Strategies for skinny fat to gain muscle mass without fat

Certainly the need is to maintain a low-calorie diet to push the body to use fat, which is an energy reserve. As mentioned, however, one should not aim to lower the setpoint too drastically with an extreme low-calorie diet. The result in that case would be to lose additional mass, even lean mass. In addition, such a low BMI (Body Mass Index) is neither healty nor easy to maintain and will certainly afflict the quality of our training.

The strategy is therefore to maintain a slightly low-calorie diet, generally 300 calories less than our daily requirement, for a very long period of time. The hope is to induce the body to improve nutrient uptake.

Protein vs Carbohydrates

We will also try to increase the protein content as much as possible (as advised by your doctor). The equation between proteins and carbohydrates facilitates this, since these two macronutrients have more or less the same caloric index. Carbohydrates should not be put aside for a long time (this could increase our insulin resistance in the long run). They should be concentrated before training and during the most active phases of the day or cycled (following a carb-cycling diet) in the hope of stimulating a better metabolism.

The powder protein, branched-chain amino acids will serve the purpose, being the supplements most used by fitness enthusiasts. Maltodextrin gel and other energy can instead cover the caloric needs of those who do endurance by concentrating their intake during exercise.

Training for those who keep fat even when they are slim

We need progression. It is essential to be able to see an increase in the training parameters. To get out of the skinny fat state and gain muscle mass, it is important to plan a workout and increase your strength. Occasional exercise can help to increase calorie expenditure, but it is not enough to carry out a body regrouping. Remember, however, that amazing transformations made in a few weeks, are marketing finds! A radical body recomposition, if there really is stubborn adipose, is rarely achieved. Often when we see extraordinary and rapid transformations, it’s either doping or photoshop.

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