How to Go From Skinny Fat to Fit (Cutting or Bulking)

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Skinny Fat Transformation

how not to lose weight

Many people show you how to lose weight and get fit, but how do you go from skinny fat to fit?

You see, growing up, I was never overweight, just skinny. And it wasn’t until I reached my early 20’s that I discovered counting macros and how eating more resulted in gaining muscle. The only problem here was that I ate too much of everything and put on body fat quicker than muscle. I was what you call skinny fat.

But over the years, I went from skinny fat to fit, and in this post, I’m going to show you how I did it. 

You need to bulk to go from skinny fat to fit. Track a weekly average of your weight, and when the scale begins to increase, you have reached your maintenance calories. To bulk and ensure you do not put on excess body fat, increase your calories 10% above your maintenance calories. Gaining muscle is a slow process – To avoid gaining excess body fat, quickly measure your progress by gaining no more than 1 – 2 pounds a month. To get rid of being skinny fat, continue to bulk for six months. Hereafter you can start a healthy cut.

Now that you know you need to bulk to get rid of being skinny fat, let’s jump into the specifics. 

What does being skinny fat mean?

You can consider yourself skinny fat when you carry more body fat than muscle, yet your body weight on the scale is still in a healthy weight range and not considered obese.

what does skinny fat look like?

Skinny fat is a real thing, and here’s a list of what skinny fat can look like

  • Low muscle mass
  • Healthy weight range
  • Higher body fat percentage
  • Not overweight or thin, but a “soft look.”

Keep in mind that your skinny fat can look completely different than someone else’s skinny fat.

Genes play a huge role here, but your genes also aren’t the reason as to why you should settle on your goals and blame them for not being able to grow your glutes, define your back, or tighten up your stomach.

Everyone stores fat differently. It’s just the way it works. Some people store fat in their lower belly, midsection, love handles, calves, thighs, butt, arms, or face.

For me, it was my chest area and lower belly hint hint – love handles and skinny fat stomach.

skinny fat

Why do people get skinny fat?

There are a couple of things that contribute to you being skinny fat, and some of these include:

  • Not eating enough protein
  • Overtraining cardio
  • Focusing on eating too healthy
  • Looking to supplements as the answer to stop being skinny fat
  • Not eating enough food

So how can you tell if you’re skinny fat and what body fat percentage is skinny fat?

If you’re a female ranging from 20% – 30% body fat and have never done any strength training or are not overweight, you’re probably skinny fat.

Why not eating enough protein makes you skinny Fat

If you’re feeling fat, flappy, soft, and skinny fat, your first instinct will probably be to want to lose weight.

And you know that to lose weight, you have to eat less than you burn.

So you do.

I mean, I did too. But what happens here is sometimes protein gets put on the back burner.

Your meals throughout the day may be filled with low-calorie foods like salads, vegetables, low-calorie snacks, and diet drinks.

The problem here is that even though you’re dropping weight, these foods don’t support you in maintaining the muscle you already have.

Not prioritizing protein and focusing on eating low-calorie foods is why some people losing weight really fast may look sick or unhealthy with no muscle definition.

Here’s an example of what I looked like after losing 20 pounds. Even though I was eating in a caloric deficit, I prioritized protein. Because of this, I maintained muscle and as much strength as possible even while I was losing weight.

skinny fat

If you’ve never strength trained before, don’t think retaining as much muscle as possible during your weight loss does apply to you because it does. You’ve got some muscle there, yes, you do!

Can you gain muscle and lose weight at the same time?

You can! And you’ve probably heard the term before too.

It’s called newbie gains.

If you’re a beginner in your fitness journey, you’ll reap the benefits of newbie gains. 

This is where you can lose fat and grow muscle at the same time! This won’t last long, but hey, take it while you can, right! Oh yeah! 

So how do you maintain as much muscle as possible? You eat more protein.

Protein is one of the essential macronutrients, and it has a pretty important job.

  • Breakdown and repair muscle
  • Hold on to your muscle mass during weight loss

Oh god, there’s a ton more protein does, but to keeps things simple, I’ll leave it at that.

Not eating enough protein can reduce the amount of muscle mass your body holds, especially during a deficit – giving you the skinny fat look. Include more protein in your meals, and if you need more help on you much protein you should be eating, check out my post on The Complete Guide to Calculating Your Macros (for Beginners)


Related post: 5 Easy Ways to Eat More High Protein Foods (Even If You’re Plant-Based)

Why too much cardio makes you skinny Fat

As a woman, it can be pretty intimidating stepping food in the weight room, and so before you cross strength training out of your list of things to do, check this post out on 9 Ways to Get Over Gym Anxiety (Like Now) because lifting weights is a game-changer.

Cardio is excellent for weight loss, yes. But so is lifting weights.

Lifting weights aids in fat loss.

Cardio not only limits muscle growth, but it speeds up the rate at which you lose the muscle you already do have.

Cardio isn’t bad, so if you enjoy going out for a run every now and then because it helps you destress, do the following:

  1.  Reduce the number of times you go on a run in a week
  2. Turn that run into a walk 
  3. Cut down the time you spend doing cardio

Aim to spend no more than 2 – 2.5 hours a week doing cardio.

1200 calorie diet

Why eating too healthy makes you skinny Fat

Back in college, you could catch my lunch, looking like a pack of fresh strawberries, chicken, and some sort of vegetable.

The bad thing here was that even though I was eating “healthy,” I had no idea how much I was actually eating.

Despite eating clean, all organic, or as healthy as possible, you can still be skinny fat.

It turns out I was undereating, and the bad thing with this is that the more your hunger builds up, the more likely you are to go overboard over the weekend eating out or at home by snacking around.

Foods like vegetables and fruits are great, but they are also low in calories. This means you’re eating in a deficit and not eating enough to lose body fat and maintain or grow muscle mass.

To fix this, track how much food you’re eating in a day on an app like myfitnesspal, I’ve been using it for years, and it’s too easy to use. If you’ve been undereating for a while, this can be the very reason your skinny fat.

myfitnesspal app

Related post: Your Simple Beginner’s Guide to Myfitnesspal

Why supplements make you skinny Fat

It’s easy to read promising labels on the internet or walk into a supplement store and feel lost.

I think it’s common for us women to walk in looking for weight loss supplements.

But when you’re not sure if you should bulk or cut weight to stop being skinny fat, you can end up wasting your time and money on supplements that’ll only get you further away from your goals. 

After budgeting and paying off my $36K debt in 8.5 months, I learned how to cut out what I do and don’t need.

Fitness is extremely important to me, but after doing a ton of research, I realized there are a ton of supplements out there that you don’t need. You really don’t need any.

Skinny fat recommended supplements

If you’re skinny fat, the only supplement I recommend buying is protein powder. Now, you need it to stop being skinny fat? Absolutely not.

It’s just a product that can help boost your protein intake if you’re not used to eating as much protein in a day. I love adding my peanut butter protein flavor into a smoothie, pancakes, or oatmeal.

Plus, quality protein tastes yummy.

For a guide on what to look for when buying a protein powder, check out this post I wrote on The Best Protein Powder for Women and Weightloss (Is It Really Good for You?).

Why not eating enough food makes you skinny Fat

The goal is to take you from skinny fat to fit. And to do so, you need to get out of the caloric deficit and gain muscle or eat at maintenance calories where you won’t lose weight or gain but will lose fat.

Eating in a caloric deficit will help you lose weight until it doesn’t.

Suppose you’ve been dieting for too long. You’ve probably plateaued and haven’t noticed any changes in quite some time. What do you do? You either take a diet break or start a reverse diet.

So if you eat more, will the scale stay the same or go up?


But you should freak out over this or rely only on the scale to measure your progress.

If the scale is messing with you, ditch it and track your progress another way.

Here’s an example of what 145 pounds looks like when you have more body fat (left) and less body fat (right).

skinny fat to fit

If you’re not ready to bulk or are not used to eating as many calories. Slowly work your way up towards your maintenance calories and eat around there for a while. The key here is to stop cutting calories.

You won’t drop or gain weight, but you will notice your pictures will start to look different, your clothes will fit differently, and your energy will also go up.

More energy, more food, and fat loss – I can dig it.

Related Post: 13 Non-Scale Victories to Track Your Weight Loss

How do you fix skinny fat?

To fix being skinny fat, you will need to take a look at your nutrition and training.


  • Start Bulking
  • Increase your protein intake


  • Start Strength Training
  • Do less cardio

Start Bulking

The biggest misconception is that you can eat anything and everything in sight when you’re bulking.

If you do this, you’ll find yourself gaining weight too quickly and putting on more body fat than muscle.

That’s exactly what I did. I ate whatever I wanted because I had no exit strategy for getting out of a diet, and I ended up gaining 41 pounds.

I went from skinny fat to fit, then fit to fat.

skinny fat

Gaining body fat happens when:

  • You don’t prioritize protein
  • You have no idea how much you’re eating
  • You eat way more than your body can burn for a long time and gain weight too fast.

To start your bulk, eat at 10% above your maintenance calories for six months. Throughout those six months, slowly increase your calories when you notice your weight no longer going up.

If you have no idea how many calories your body runs on in a day (maintenance calories) to neither gain nor lose weight, track your weight, and how much you eat for a week and calculate the average by adding you totals and dividing by seven.

Day 11700150
Day 21750151
Day 31800149
Day 41650151.3
Day 51800152
Day 61700150
Day 71800153
Weekly Average1742 Calories150.9 Ibs.

You can get by and lose fat eating at your maintenance calories for some time if you’re not used to eating as much food, but if you want to put on muscle, after a while, you’ll need to eat more calories than you burn to start growing your muscles.

Start strength training

Start hitting the weight room. 

To be honest, you don’t need to “bro it up” at the gym seven days a week, either. Start small, stick to a workout plan, focus on your form, work on progressive overload, and track your progress in the gym.

It is important that you work on progressive overload.

Progressive over also isn’t only measured by increasing the amount of weight you lift in the gym. You can also implement progressive overload by keeping the weight you use the same instead of increasing your reps, slowing down your reps, or implementing different variations.

free weights

Related Post: 3 Things You Need to Know About the Best Workout Program

do less cardio

Should you do less cardio if you’re skinny fat?

As a woman, it’s easy to find yourself trying a million one fitness classes that’ll have you jumping around breaking a sweat or running/walking for 30 + minutes on the bike, Stairmaster, elliptical, or treadmill.

And while breaking a sweat feels great – it isn’t the only sign of getting a good and effective workout in.

The less cardio you do, the better.

Keep your cardio sessions around 20 – 30 minutes and no more than 2 – 2.5 hours a week. 

how long does it take to go from skinny fat to fit?

To stop being skinny fat, you should bulk or eat at maintenance calories for six months if you have a long history of yo-yo dieting.

Why? Because if you have a terrible dieting history, your hormones and metabolism could already be in a funk, and to keep dieting won’t make things better.

Instead, hit the reset button so that when you decide to start cutting, the process will be a lot smoother, your relationship with food will have improved, and you won’t have to diet on extremely low calories.

1200 calorie diet

Follow this process:

  1. Slowly work your back up to find your maintenance calories (the calories that neither make you lose or gain weight).
  2. Add 10 % to those maintenance calories to put yourself in a surplus. 
  3. Track your weight weekly and keep an eye out at fast or slow you’re gaining weight.
  4. If you count how many steps you take in a day, gradually decrease your step count over the next couple of weeks. A good place to sit is around 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day.
  5. Realize that gaining weight is ok ! remember muscles can’t grow if you do not feed them. Plus, muscle weighs more than fat.
  6. Keep at this for at least six months before you start cutting.

Related Article: How to Walk 10000 Steps in a Day Without Leaving Home

Should you cut if you’re skinny fat?

Yes, you can cut and lose body fat by prioritizing your protein and strength training, but you won’t benefit from being able to cut and drop weight at much higher calories if you were to eat at maintenance than in a surplus for about six months first.

Let’s say you’ve been dieting on and off for months now. Your metabolism has adapted, and so has your TDEE. Not sure what TDEE is? Check out this post over at

What this means is that you’re no longer burning as many calories as you once were during a 30 minutes workout because your body has adapted, which means you have to lower your calories much more or increase the amount of time you exercise.

This can actually hurt you in the long run and is no fun.

To go from skinny fat to fit, eat at maintenance calories, and work your way into a surplus for at least six months. From there, you can start a cut.

Final Thoughts on how to go from skinny fat to fit

Being skinny fat is real and if you’re holding more body fat than muscle, have low muscle mass, are in a “healthy weight range,” do not do strength training, and use cardio as your only form of exercise, you’re probably skinny fat.

To get out of the skinny fat phase, do not:

  • Lower your calories
  • Skip out on using weights and strength training
  • Rely on supplements for results
  • Overdo it on the cardio

And instead

  • Bring your calories up to maintenance and eventually work your calories into a surplus (bulking phase)
  • Pick up the weights and start strength training
  • Limit your cardio and don’t use it as your main exercise

I hope this post helped you. Are you struggling to get rid of being skinny fat?

If so, check out my free lowers body workout and build your glutes at home or in the gym.

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