Whether you’re on the skinnier or thicker side of the skinny fat spectrum, the science backed methods seen here will show you how to fix skinny fat fast.1
If you’re unsure whether if you are considered skinny fat, we will begin by reviewing key indicators of being skinny fat. We also include before providing before and after pictures of people who have successfully transformed from skinny fat to fit, as they provide a point of reference and inspiration.
Lastly, we lay out surefire, proven ways to achieve your dream body through proper exercise, nutrition (food, vitamins and supplements), recovery, and why cutting and bulking is the best way to fill your frame, put on lean mass and shed excess fat.
What Is Skinny Fat? How Does One Become Skinny Fat?
Prior to going from skinny fat to fit, one must understand what skinny fat means; “skinny fat” is a term meaning someone who is thin but has excess fat pockets in certain areas like thighs, upper arms, or in their tummy.
Skinny fat can also describe those who seem skinny but have a higher than average body fat percentage.
Becoming skinny fat can happen by rarely being physically active, leaving very little muscle tone. In fact, one can become skinny fat even if they do work out but only focus on walking, running or prioritizing what cardio machines burn the most calories instead of integrating strength training.
Someone could also be skinny fat due to genetics, hormones, poor nutrition, eating too many carbs or saturated fats, overconsumption of alcohol, or extreme dieting–or any combination of these.
How Do I Tell If I’m Skinny Fat?
Key signs that could help you determine if you’re skinny fat are seeming thin but not very toned, often feeling weak, or noticing excess fat collecting in certain areas of your body such as flabby thighs or skinny body fat arms.
Those who have a hard time discerning whether they’d qualify as skinny fat might be wondering how to tell the difference between fat and loose skin or how high their body fat percentage is.
Thankfully there is a way to accurately measure one’s body composition (how much of their body consists of fat in contrast to muscle mass).
A body composition test may be helpful for anyone who realizes they’re “skinny fat” or is concerned they might be and wants to get an accurate reading.
If one’s body composition is measured at starting weight and then later closer to goal weight (or even throughout weight loss), it can give great insight into how to adjust their goals, eating habits, and workout routines.
Such a test taken both before and after one’s transformation could certainly feel like a huge accomplishment to go from, say, skinny fat with a body fat percentage of 30% to healthier and fit with a later follow up measurement of perhaps 22% body fat instead. After months or a year of hard work and commitment, this would be a great achievement to see the different test results.
Modern technology enables measuring body composition to be done in several effective ways, but one of the most popular methods is the Dual Energy X-Ray Absorptiometry or DEXA scan, which makes calculating tricky body composition percentages much simpler.
In a DEXA scan, bone mass, fat, and muscle are measured by seeing how x-rays are absorbed in the body.2
Aside from DEXA scanning, other types of body composition testing include having your measurements taken in the BodPod–an oval-shaped cubicle that you’d get inside of and which calculates both body volume and body weight to assess fat versus muscle versus bone mass.
A third option is called the Bioelectrical Impedance Assessment (BIA) which differs in that it tests for water in the body to estimate body composition in comparison to one’s weight. Each of these three tests take just 5-15 minutes total.3
Skinny Fat Before and After Photos (Inspiring Transformations)
Here we have two examples of people who went from skinny fat to fit and their before and after photos. We’ll also cover each person’s stories of their journey from chubby and weak to in shape and stronger, and give you an idea of the various stages of noticing weight loss along the way.
Bobby’s Skinny Fat Transformation
First, we have a 5’4” man who was admittedly the smallest guy his age from grade school on and was picked on throughout childhood for his small stature.
He finally decided to get serious about his transformation from skinny fat to fit after realizing he’d begun constantly wearing loose shirts to hide his gut despite being viewed as skinny by others.
This 27-year-old knew it was time for a change; he was also feeling very weak in comparison to what he would have liked and wanted to gain both strength and muscle while losing some excess body fat he’d packed on due to his sedentary lifestyle.
The “before” photo from 2012 shows his protruding belly and lack of muscle tone at 137 lbs. After 6 weeks of garnering advice and perfecting his form with a personal trainer and then a year’s worth of very careful calorie tracking and regular lifting, he had a noticeably lower body fat percentage and his arms, chest, abs, and face were all undeniably slimmer and more muscular as shown in the 2013 photo (at 122 lbs).
In just 2 short years, this now-29-year-old had successfully gone from skinny fat to muscular and much healthier-looking, with a distinct 6-pack that we can see became even stronger and more toned by 2014 (at 130 lbs).
He mentioned that two aspects that really seemed to help along his journey were drinking a lot of water to ensure sufficient hydration before, during, and after his workout routines, and eating plenty of fruit, protein, and fiber.
He’s proven that with two years (or arguably just one) of dedication, calorie counting, and consistent physical exercise, it’s entirely possible to lose skinny fat and gain confidence and a body you’re eager to show off.
Next, we have Ashly who started a rigorous 6 week program with a fitness and nutrition coach and two friends for accountability.
Ashley’s Progress From Skinny Fat To Fit
Ashly started with a body fat percentage of 25.2% and weighed 137.5 lbs. Over the 6 weeks, her coach worked with her to hone certain muscles, improve form, and reminded her that doing exercises properly is crucial.
Aside from targeting muscles and increasing her strength, Ashly also followed her coach’s advice on calorie counting and eating clean, nutritious meals and snacks.
Instead of opting for convenience, she made time to cook chicken or fish with a side of vegetables. She also mentioned that branching out and trying new foods helped her not get burnt out.
With two accountability partners and a great coach to keep her motivated and on track, Ashly said she was really pushed to keep working towards her goals when she started noticing positive changes in her arms and didn’t have as many belly rolls anymore when seated.
After the 6 week program, Ashly had a 19.5% body fat percentage and looked vastly more toned despite actually gaining 3 pounds. She stated that she used to always go by the scale and this 6 week program taught her that the scale isn’t everything.
In both sets of before and after photos, Ashly’s 6 week transformation is truly impressive with her arms becoming slimmer, her abs gaining definition in the photos above, and her face glowing in the “after” photo.
Yu can clearly see more of an hourglass figure in the second photo, a more slender physique, and more glute definition as well.
Why “Bulking” & “Cutting” Is the Best Way To Transform Your Body for Good
For those unfamiliar with the terms, “bulking” is intentionally and strategically eating a surplus of calories to gain lean body mass, and then retain as much of that new-found mass as possible during the following cut — which in essence is just eating in a caloric deficit” This is called using pounds for a purpose.
The point of this concept of bulking and cutting is body recomposition–just as we explained above that body composition is the ratio of fat to muscle, recomposition has the goal of altering those percentages by building muscle mass and burning fat.
Those curious can you build muscle on maintenance calories or in a caloric deficit should understand that it’s very difficult to build muscle without eating a surplus of calories.
Therefore the idea of bulking and cutting has become very popular in the weightlifting world and for good reason–it’s the best way to transform your body for an array of fitness goals.
Some women may be wary or hesitant of bulking for fear of getting bigger or looking too bulky and muscular. Rest assured that it takes a lot to gain noticeable muscle size and that a few sessions of alternating bulking and cutting will certainly not give you bodybuilder physique.
Rather, it can trim off much of the excess fat, subtly fill in your frame, and simply help you look healthier, fit, and toned. For inspiration and reassurance on this, women can check out these weight lifting results after 1 month female.
We suggest figuring out your maintenance calories through a diet like MacroFactor and then go through cuts and bulks phases that last approximately 6 weeks each. We also suggest eating maintenance calories 1-2 weeks after a bulk or cut to get acquainted with the reduction or addition of calories.
How To Fix Skinny Fat For Good Through Science Backed Methods
Now for what we’ve all been waiting for: the top science backed methods on how to fix skinny fat.
We’ll go over every aspect from diet and eating habits to one’s lifestyle and workout routines that can get rid of skinny fat for good and leave you feeling your best–with your dream body and a great feeling of achievement when your efforts and consistency pay off.
1. Healthy Lifestyle & Routine
When trying to reach any health and fitness goals–weight loss and toning included–one’s small daily choices and how they go about their routine can be just as impactful as working out and eating right.
For example, if you don’t attend to your rest and get sufficient sleep, your mind and body will not function efficiently or properly throughout the day.
Let’s see how a healthy lifestyle and routine can aid in losing skinny fat for good.
Get Sufficient Sleep
The science community has long stood behind 7 hours being the ideal minimum for nightly sleep to ensure one’s overall well-being. Since sleep and a clear mind impact everything from working and driving to exercise and making healthy choices, don’t try to skimp on shut eye.
When we are overly tired, we’re more likely to make poor eating decisions and give into junk food cravings or load up on unhealthy sugary energy drinks.
Instead, make getting enough sleep a priority and see the ways it impacts weight loss through regulating cortisol levels, making your skin glow, and giving you increased energy.
Attend to Mental Health
Mental health is valuable when working on physical health, as it can boost confidence and mental toughness and help you think of yourself as “on the road to your dream physique” rather than resigning yourself to always being a skinny fat woman or man.
Move Your Body Often
Simple adjustments to begin moving your body more often can include walking for 15 minutes on your lunch break instead of sitting at your desk, walking the dogs around the block before work rather than letting them run around the backyard, or trying a new workout class on the weekend opposed to sitting on the couch watching tv.
These small changes can add up to a lot of extra calories burned in a day or week and can expedite your fitness journey.
Find Activities You Enjoy
Nobody wants to stick with running daily if they despise running; by exploring various options for fat burning and improving muscle tone, one can find what they truly enjoy and will be much more likely to push through and burn off “skinny fat” rather than giving up.
Depending on your interests, some fun activities or workouts could include racquetball, tennis, flag football, yoga, rock climbing, water skiing, snowshoeing, or joining a local recreational soccer league.
2. Diet, Eating Habits & Hydration
In the United States, the relationship between diet and weight loss is a rocky one to say the least, with nearly 3 in 4 Americans being classified as overweight–or even obese–with well over $70 billion annually being thrown at fad dieting, commercial fat loss programs, and overnight transformation marketing schemes that all too often disappoint and don’t give people the results they’re desperate for.6
Instead, we’ve compiled some straightforward, actionable tips to lose fat and get your nutrition right once and for all.
Other weight loss solutions that are simple yet effective are using a smaller plate, planning meals beforehand, and restricting or cutting out alcohol entirely. Below we’ll cover several more snippets of advice for those hoping to go from skinny fat to toned.
Check the Nutrition Label & Serving Sizes
By paying attention to nutritional information and serving sizes, one can gain a better understanding of where they may have been overconsuming calories, saturated and trans fats, added sugars, and more.
Both the nutrition label and ingredients list can give valuable information for those working towards being healthier and getting rid of skinny fat.
Checking the serving size at the top of the nutrition label is also important for those tracking calories or who are unsure of portions to go by.
Incorporate Fiber & Protein
Both protein and fiber are vital for healthy weight loss and overall well-being. The effects of protein consumption on weight loss are increased satiety (feeling fuller for longer) and perhaps even increased calorie burning due to heightened thermogenesis–meaning the body is ridding itself of energy or calories due to increased body heat.
Evidence indicates that regularly consuming higher levels of protein from sources with minimal saturated fats can speed up fat loss in contrast to low protein dieters.8 Protein intake is also important for muscle health.
Fiber aids in improving the body’s insulin response and blood sugar regulation, but can also improve metabolism, keep you regular, and help you feel full and decrease overeating.
Avoid Trans Fats
Trans fats are found in many unhealthy junk foods such as store-bought pastries, desserts, cakes, candies, and fried foods. These types of fats can lead to drastic weight gain as well as major health issues like fatty liver disease, heart issues, and several types of cancer.
Watch Out for Artificial Preservatives & Dyes
Fake preservatives and artificial colorings are simply unnatural and unhealthy, and they may directly interfere with your weight loss efforts by impacting hormones–causing hormonal imbalances that prevent us from knowing when we are full.
These artificial ingredients should be avoided by everyone, whether trying to lose weight or not.
Do Your Research & Be Prepared
Knowing what you’d like to purchase before heading to the grocery store can drastically save both money and excess pounds. Make a list of nutritious, low calorie meal ideas before your next grocery trip and stick to that list.
This can discourage spur of the moment craving purchases and temptations to buy junk food or high calorie alternatives.
Plan out restaurant or takeout orders beforehand too by looking up the restaurant’s nutrition menu before leaving home. For example, prior to a stop at Subway to grab lunch, simply look up lowest calorie bread at Subway or low calorie subs at Subway–don’t forget to add up calories for condiments, sauces, and drinks as well.
Healthy Foods & Snacks To Get Rid of Skinny Fat
Some great-tasting healthy foods and snacks that can help you lose skinny fat are listed below. Keep in mind that whole foods are often healthiest.
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Chia Seeds
- Leafy Greens
- Lean Meats
Vitamins & Supplements
Vitamins and dietary supplements are primarily used by women, but 15% of American adults have tried supplements specifically marketed for weight loss.
It’s important to know that supplements can be useful (and even necessary) in certain life stages such as pregnancy or for those with chronic deficiencies, but most of one’s nutritional needs would ideally be met via whole foods like those listed above.10
For those who do need supplements, omega-3 fish oil is highly recommended. A study done on the impacts of fish oil on satiety gave a very low level of long chain omega-3 fatty acids (less than 0.26g) to one group daily, while the other group consumed a minimum of 1.3g omega-3s each day for a two week period.
Results showed that the group with higher omega-3 supplement intake had fewer and less intense feelings of hunger or cravings, and instead felt fuller or more satisfied for longer.11 This is promising for those ranging from skinny fat to obese, as lower satiety can lead to less overall eating and–as calories are reduced–long term weight loss.
Caffeine & Herbal Teas
The effects of green tea ingestion on weight are impressive, with regular consumption leading to many health benefits. Drinking green tea or consuming green tea extract frequently both increases fat burning during exercise and improves insulin sensitivity and the body’s tolerance of glucose.12
Additionally, research done on the level of energy expenditure after caffeine consumption concluded that caffeine intake instantly heightens one’s metabolic rate (the measure of calories burned at rest).
The calorie burning increase remained for 3 hours beyond caffeine consumption before returning to normal levels, indicating that drinking caffeine regularly could positively impact weight loss.13
Ensure You’re Properly Hydrated
One of the simplest ways how to fix skinny fat is by drinking enough water. Hydration aids in overall body function and health and does wonders for skin health, tightness, and elasticity to really improve overall body image.
Get Into a Caloric Deficit and/or Caloric Surplus Depending on Your Goals (I.e. Cutting & Bulking)
Calorie intake should be based on whether you’re trying to lose fat or gain muscle–or both. By adjusting to a daily caloric deficit, those who notice they’re more fat than skinny can efficiently and effectively drop weight.
On the other hand, those who are more skinny than fat should consider caloric surplus paired with a weight lifting regimen. This goes back to our bulking and cutting alternation.
Tracking calories can be done simply and conveniently with phone apps; try a few and see if either Lose It vs MyFitnessPal has your preferred features.
3. Use Resistance Training To Promote Lean Body Mass
While focusing on clean eating and whole foods can prevent excess fat pockets that constitute “skinny fat”, physical exercise and resistance training are what will really give you that toned look.
Just like with finding activities you enjoy, you can also try out new strength routines and resistance exercises to find what suits you or is most aligned with your long-term goals (such as hypertrophy, toning, or weight loss).
Though elliptical before and after photos and results can be impressive and motivating, remember that doing solely cardio can lead to that stubborn skinny fat sticking around. The science backs up weight loss and toning being best achieved through a combination of both cardio and resistance training (muscles working against force).
A workout routine for men may include more repetitions and weight to increase hypertrophy (muscle size) which can help significantly fill in loose skin and give a more muscular look.
Women may also want to incorporate hypertrophy for increased curves and definition, or might prefer to have a slimmer aesthetic without much muscle definition. Of course this varies from person to person, but this serves as an example of how workout plans between men and women could differ depending on end goals.
Skinny Fat Workout Program for Women
Below you’ll find a sample skinny fat workout program designed with women in mind. If you choose to repeat this weekly workout plan over time, gradually add weight by increments each week to progress in strength and endurance and see results faster.
Many have questioned can you lose weight with Peloton and the answer is yes, but since this is a form of cardio we need to remember to integrate strength or resistance training too. This could be done by utilizing the best exercise machine for flabby arms or through using free weights. Check out our weekly workout routine for women below:
|Skinny Fat Weekly Workout Program for Women|
Skinny Fat Workout Routine for Men
For men working to get from skinny fat to fit, we’ve created a weekly workout plan that can be followed or adjusted to your needs. Regardless, remember to progressively increase reps or weight every week or couple of weeks to increase strength, stamina, and rate of progress.
|Skinny Fat Weekly Workout Program for Men|
Is Strength Training or Cardio Better for Body Recomposition?
When learning how to fix skinny fat, it can be confusing knowing whether to prioritize strength and resistance training or cardio. When aiming for body recomposition (changing one’s body fat versus muscle ratios)–especially when working to transform from skinny fat to fit–combining both cardio and strength routines is best.
This will give you the “best of both worlds” as cardio can help burn calories and increase heart health and endurance, while resistance exercises build and tone muscle and improve whole body physique.
Try to incorporate some exercises from each category daily, or alternate days of cardio versus weight lifting throughout the week.
Recall that skinny fat can come about from skimping on resistance training and only ever doing cardio, so ensure your workouts are well-rounded and holistic.
Effective Tips for Skinny Fat Men & Women To Stay on Track
Several simple yet fruitful tips for both skinny fat men and women to follow to reach their goals are listed below. Before getting into those, we’d like to inform you of a very useful chart that can be followed for those who enjoy walking and would like to integrate regular cardio into their total fitness plan.
This resource is a walking to lose weight chart–kg and pounds both given–that lays out approximately how many calories can be burned based on steps taken, how many steps are needed to burn one pound or kilogram of fat, and even shows the long-term potential of regular walking and how much weight can be lost in a month or a year in comparison to steps taken.
And if you live in a place that has mountains, hills or beautiful scenery, it can make walking that much more enjoyable.
Other tips for skinny fat men and women are to:
- Avoid alcohol, soda, and empty calories
- Be kind to yourself (don’t be your own drill sergeant)
- Form healthy habits
- Get plenty of sleep
- Give yourself healthy positive reinforcement or rewards when goals are met (a berry smoothie, new running shoes, a new yoga mat, etc.)
- Hide unhealthy foods (or preferably don’t buy them at all)
- Rest when needed
- Watch out for added sugars and harmful ingredients
Now that you have a good idea of how to proceed with your journey from skinny fat to fit, keep the long game in mind and think how amazing it will be to reach your goals.
If you slip up from time to time, go easy on yourself but get back to it since you should now have a firm grasp on how to fix skinny fat, and you’re equipped with the knowledge and tools for success — even if you have a hiccup.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the Main Sign I Might Be Skinny Fat?
Noticing chubby areas, weakness, or poor muscle tone are key signs you could be skinny fat. With our effective, science backed tips you can quickly get fitter and stronger.
What Are 3 of the Most Effective Ways To Get More Fit Instead of Skinny Fat?
Three foolproof ways to go from skinny fat to fit are improving your nutrition, cutting and bulking, and getting regular physical exercise.
Is There a Foolproof Way to Tell If I’m Skinny Fat?
The primary sign you’re skinny fat is being slender but with a high body fat percentage.
Should Skinny Fat Men & Women Follow the Same Approach To Get Fit?
While this is certainly not a universal rule, many men would likely want to go from skinny fat to ripped and looking big due to muscle (instead of fat), while most women would want to go from skinny fat to skinny and toned.
Women can (and should) still incorporate strength and resistance training, but those hoping to increase muscle size could add reps or weight, while those wanting to have a slimmer, fit look could make slight adjustments to lower reps and weights.
Is It Possible To Maintain Lean Muscle While in a Caloric Deficit?
It is likely possible–just not probable. Since it is extremely difficult to maintain muscle while losing overall mass, we recommend alternating between the bulking and cutting process.
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