Getting fat from not eating enough – AKA Skinny Fat

You might think (as well as most everyone else) that restricting your calories and eating much less will help you lose weight, which isn’t wrong, But isn’t always right either. Weight loss doesn’t always work like you think.

Practical thinking and basic math would tell us that if we subtract 3500 calories (equals 1 pound) from our diet, in the form of exercise to burn it off or by eating less, we would lose a pound. Then continue this process over and over we will lose all of the pounds right!? WRONG! Well not wrong, but kinda of depends.

There are many more factors that go into losing weight than just energy in and out. Metabolism, hormones, metabolic stress, and insulin spikes are a few of the other things at play. If you take away too many calories or you take away too much of a specific macro (protein, carb, or fat). This can cause some of the negative symptoms that will hinder the fat loss you are trying to achieve.

If you restrict too many calories, especially with the additive of excess aerobic exercise ie; too much cardio, you can send your body into starvation mode. Instead of just burning the fat on your body for energy (which it will to a point) it will start converting the other macros it is receiving in to storable energy because it thinks it is starving. So to survive it will start cannibalizing muscle tissue and convert it to usable energy and holding onto as much of the fat that it can to keep on living. Which equals SKINNY FAT!

So how can we avoid this you might be asking yourself? Here are a few things that you can try to either implement or avoid to stay away from this condition knows as skinny fat.

Weight and resistance training. It is a popular belief especially among women that if you pick up a weight that you are going to get bulky. Which then detracts from lifting weights and moves people to all the cardio machines. Even some HIIT classes fall victim to this. They allow you to move, sweat, and breath hard in hopes to make you think you have burned a ton of calories. Sometimes you probably have, but you haven’t done anything with real resistance to help create or strengthen the muscle that you have. When you get off a treadmill you stop burning calories shortly after you stop, but training with weights especially HIIT with added weights or can carry over 8-24 hours. That is far more effective than taking another spin class (nothing against spin, you just need more than just that).

Having more muscle mass. One of the bi-products of weight training is more muscle mass (hopefully). No this doesn’t mean being bulky. If that was the case then every guy you have ever met would just “get bulky”. The more muscle mass you have the more your body will allocate the calories that you consume to the maintenance of keeping your muscle. So not only will you burn more calories trying to build muscle. You will also burn more just having it.

Less cardio. Like I mentioned before if you continue to only do cardio, especially on a calorie deficit your body will go into survival mode and start holding onto the fat, and break down the muscle that you do have to use for energy (a process called gluconeogenesis). Which is exactly what you are trying to avoid when you are working out. Working out is hard and tiring, so don’t waste the hard work you are putting in.

Eat more food.  Obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone and should be done in moderation. But if you are restricting your calories, and putting in work 5 days a week at the gym and find that you aren’t losing the weight you feel you should, then it is a good chance that you aren’t eating enough. Your body has most likely gone into starvation mode and is holding on to every bit of fat that it can (it does this for your survival, but surviving doesn’t always look good in a swimsuit). Try bumping up your calories by 200-500 calories and see how that goes. No this doesn’t mean just eat those extra calories in garbage. You should still have food quality in mind but just trying to get more in and see how that does for you. You will most likely notice that you have more energy for your workouts as well, which is a nice perk.

Weight loss and muscle gain isn’t cut and dry. There are many different factors that come in to play within the realm of body recomposition. Allow yourself to try and think of it in different ways. Especially if you feel like what you have be doing, or what you have been told isn’t working for you.

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