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The idea that weight is an accurate indicator of one’s health is outdated. More important than the Body Mass Index (BMI) is the study of body fat percentage concerning muscle mass. Someone belonging to the “normal” range in BMI can have a higher fat percentage and low muscle mass. The skinny fat body fat percentage makes all the difference. Working with this body type at a gym is more challenging than a bigger person with more muscle mass since the changes are not apparent.
What Is “Skinny-Fat”?
In medical terms, skinny fat meaning can be translated to metabolically obese normal-weight individuals. Even though body mass index is still much relied on, the ratio of fat to muscle makes all the difference. “Skinny Fat” is generally used to indicate an individual with a fat percentage that is way higher than the muscle mass.
What Does Skinny Fat Look like?
Since the term sounds a bit contradictory, you may be wondering – “what does skinny fat look like?” Individuals might look thin or in shape as they will not hold too much fat or too little of it. They are characterized by the presence of excessive fat, particularly around the abdomen or waist. They lack the definition that comes with the presence of lean muscle.
Causes of Skinny Fat
Multiple factors can cause skinny fat. Some types of bodies are genetically inclined to hold on to more fat than muscle. However, numerous internal and external factors can also worsen the situation.
1. Hormone level imbalance
The mass of stored fat depends on the levels of multiple hormones. For instance, insulin is a hormone produced to regulate carbohydrate metabolism. Excessively prolonged periods of stress produce excess cortisol, a hormone that makes the body insulin resistant. Another instance is when estrogen steadily falls after menopause. Such hormonal imbalances lead to the accumulation of harmful visceral fat.
2. Lack of mass
In general, a lower percentage of muscle leads to skinny fat. Having higher muscle mass ensures more energy is used to burn fat, even at rest.
3. Resistance/strength training
Skinny fat is characterized by low muscle volume. Lack of strength training using weights or resistance training using bands and body weight, which helps muscle tear and ultimate growth in volume, results in low muscle mass.
4. Dietary habits
Less protein and a high percentage of simple carbohydrates lead to more accumulated fat and low muscle volume.
5. Caloric deficit diet
Usually done in an attempt to lose weight, an extremity of caloric deficit also causes skinny fat. When the body is deprived of energy, it uses muscle mass to compensate for the lack of energy and stores fat for emergencies.
Signs of Being Skinny Fat
The general notion is that someone with weight within the normal range of BMI index is healthier than a skinny or obese person. But the scales and the mirrors can be deceiving. Several signs can indicate an individual being skinny fat. Following are some of the skinny fat examples:
1. Certain hereditary conditions
Medical conditions prevalent in the family history make one naturally predisposed to being skinny fat. Hereditary issues, such as high blood sugar, blood pressure, and higher cholesterol levels, are mainly associated with skinny fat. Losing weight and increasing lean muscles should help when done healthily.
2. Higher level of fat
A tell-tale symptom of being skinny fat would be visible higher proportion to fat than lean, toned muscle. Even if the person’s frame is small, a disproportionate amount of fat around the abdomen than the rest of the body hints at skinny fat.
3. Higher level of triglycerides
The level of triglycerides is an essential determiner of heart health. They are a type of lipid/fat found in the blood, and an intake of excess calories and processed food increases triglyceride levels. An excessively high level of triglyceride will be stored as unused fat around the organs.
4. Higher density of cholesterol
Another kind of lipid in the blood, like triglycerides, indicates a high cholesterol level, is also associated with skinny fat. Cholesterol is of two types – high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and low-density lipoprotein (LDL). HDL is the “good” type needed for various hormones to function, whereas LDL is the harmful or “bad” kind. When there is an excess of LDL, it may cause serious health problems, like atherosclerosis and cardiovascular issues.
5. Increased levels of blood sugar
When occurring due to type II diabetics, stress, and a high caloric diet, elevation of blood sugar levels is usually the cause. These factors lead to the skinny fat condition as the body starts malfunctioning and stores excess fat and not enough muscle. Testing the hemoglobin A1C also helps determine the blood sugar levels of around the last three months.
6. Consumption of a bad diet
Outrunning a bad diet is impossible. Aesthetics matter, but health is even more critical. A diet full of simple, processed carbohydrates and the wrong kind of fat and insufficient quantities of protein accumulates mostly visceral fat.
7. Belonging to a high-risk population
Some populations tend to have more skinny fat than others since genetics and external factors can make significant differences. Due to this, more South Asians are skinny fat than Caucasians.
8. Inclined to a high blood pressure
Health concern, such as high blood pressure, is another good indicator of someone being skinny fat. Higher blood pressure indicates a poor condition of blood vessels and a high level of stress.
Health Risks of Being Skinny Fat
The health implications of having a skinny fat body type are dangerous. The normal BMI does not protect the individual because of the imbalance between fat and muscle. Being skinny fat is the doorway to many kinds of health conditions. Having poor metabolic health will reduce the overall immunity of the body.
- Muscle mass is the base of the metabolism, and the lack of it opens up opportunities for multiple diseases. Any body type with a higher percentage of muscle is better than a body type with higher body fat percentage.
- Risks of cardiovascular health are involved. As the individual has a higher percentage of fat, the risks of developing atherosclerosis and other heart diseases and heart attack increase multifold, making the individual vulnerable to such complications.
- Developing high blood sugar levels leading to type 2 diabetes is another expected scenario from skinny fat. It rises because of insulin resistance.
- Blood pressure can rise and be fatal as it would lead to other diseases.
Can Your Diet Make You Skinny Fat?
Our diet plays an important role in how our bodies look and our overall internal health. While being skinny fat may be due to hormonal imbalance and hereditary reasons, diet plays a role too. Some diet-based scenarios include:
- A lot of times, in an attempt to lose weight, caloric restriction is suggested. However, when a skinny fat diet is restricted to over 25% of one’s caloric needs in a day, one starts to lose muscle along with the accumulated fat. It leads to one being skinny fat as the muscle ratio to fat is imbalanced.
- Having a diet that is calorie-dense and too high above one’s daily caloric need while leading a sedentary life can lead to storing fat cells while muscle volume remains low. Eating sugar in high quantities tends to hike up insulin that converts sugar to fat.
- Consumption of regular meals that are deficient in protein makes building muscles even more difficult, leading to a low muscle volume compared to the body fat percentage.
Dietary Measures to Follow
There are s few suggestions that will let one reverse being skinny fat when the diet is concerned. Some of them are as follows –
- Having a protein-rich diet will help to build lean muscles.
- Cutting down on refined and processed food items may help reduce sugar.
- Reducing the consumption of simple carbohydrates will not hike up the insulin as much.
- Reducing intake of liquid calories like sugary soft drinks and juices.
- Reducing fat by reducing caloric intake by a percentage lower than 25.
- Increasing the intake of whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.
Tips to Get Rid of Skinny Fat
The dangers of having skinny fat are evident. Certain tips can help control or reverse the situation.
In an attempt to lose weight people, tend to focus only on cardio. While cardio is good for cardiovascular health, too much of it can affect gaining muscle. Without muscle mass, the fat percent goes up. The aim should be to do a healthy amount of cardio.
2. Strength training
Lack of strength training of muscles does not give them enough break and tear to repair and increase volume. Any form of strength training or resistance training, like free weights, resistance bands, or weightlifting, will help. Do the one you enjoy the most!
3. Consuming proteins
Proteins are the building blocks of our body, and consuming the required amount of them will ensure that while you tear the muscle, you are providing enough nutrition for it to grow. Also, the consumption of enough protein will fill you up and prevent hunger cravings.
4. Heavy compound weightlifting
If building muscle volume is the goal, lifting heavy and getting better at movements like squats, deadlifts, and the military press should be the goal. Progressive loading should work where the weights are added slowly and steadily.
5. Extreme caloric restriction
Eating extremely less might help to see the number go down on a scale but will harm your health and stamina in the long term. Visceral fat surrounding different organs accumulates as the body enters starvation mode, preserving energy. So, avoid extreme levels of caloric restrictions.
6. Moderation in cardio
As a rule of thumb, you must spend only half the time on cardio that you spend on weight training. This will allow you to boost calorie output while taking care of cardiovascular health. The kind of cardio you engage in will depend on whatever you prefer, whether you choose to go for low-intensity workouts or high-intensity interval training.
7. Healthy dieting
The word dieting is often misused to represent a restrictive form of eating habit adopted to reduce weight. Finding a diet that is more of a lifestyle change that you can maintain through the long term. A diet sustainable and inclusive of all nutritional needs is ideal.
Workouts for Skinny Fat
Along with diet, exercising is also important to gain lean muscles that will help eliminate skinny fat. Remember to hit all the muscle groups and give rest between training sessions. The different muscle groups to train and the various exercises to perform are –
- Chest: Different presses like bench ad inclined dumbbell press works as it hits the three different chest muscles.
- Shoulders: Exercises like barbel and seated shoulder press can help.
- Triceps: Narrow grips pushups, narrow grips barbell bench press, and dumbbell tricep extensions work wonders.
- Legs: A couple of exercises, like squats, lunges, calf raises, etc., can be used for your leg day.
- Back: Compound movement like deadlifts, lat pulldowns, and bent over rows all work the back. Exercises involving the pull bar is always a good idea.
The condition of having skinny fat might be more or less harmful to an individual’s physical health than that of an obese. The health risks involved are dangerous. However, with a little work, the condition can be controlled and even reversed. Nutrition and working out go hand in hand to fix the situation.