Are You “Skinny Fat”?

We all know someone at work or socially, who spends hours each week doing cardio, be it running, cycling or on the cross trainer at the gym, who stays very thin, with long skinny arms and legs and appears to have low body fat.

But look closely and you may see a little fat around the belly area, this is known as “skinny fat”. A derogatory term, it is used to describe people who are usually underweight but hold fat around their midsection or in the case of men, have a small amount of man boobs, or “moobs”.

Though not the desired effect, nor the logical result of hours of cardiovascular training, these people are at a loss to understand how their body becomes this shape. Surely reducing the calories eaten and plodding along for their morning runs and training sessions, the spinning classes and legs, bums and tums would turn their initially soft body into a honed toned body with Kate Moss’s quads, Abby Clancy’s abs and Kylie’s behind.

And the more flab they see in the midsections the more they increase the distance of their runs, or the volume of their training. In doing so they increase the stress on their already over trained bodies and they increase the load on the tendons and joints. Whilst in this state of constant of atrophy, or muscle wastage, they may well be losing weight on the scales, though little of this loss is body fat.

A similar body shape can be achieved with dieting and limited exercise, when unhappy with the fat stored in the belly area, the person will just diet for longer, restrict their eating even further, resulting in even skinnier limbs, and the same amount of fat in the belly area.

This can all be changed with some careful thought. Instead if depleting the glycogen stores in all the muscles, eating slow release complex carbohydrates around training will bring fill the glycogen stores in the muscles, making them look fuller and more defined. Carbohydrates at the optimum time of day will fuel the body when it needs it, and keep energy levels up. Also once the body gets used to having a regular injection of carbohydrate every 2-3 hours, it will allow the fat to be utilised. When the body is in a state of overtraining and under eating, it will go into a type of “starvation mode” and cling onto any fat that it can.

Good natural protein sources eaten regularly throughout the day will help prevent muscle breakdown. These can be seeds, nuts, eggs, cottage cheese or lean meats.

Resting is incredibly important. Sleeping for 7-8 hours a night and having a day off training at least a couple of days per week will enable the muscles to grow, so that each training session can be tougher and more intense than before.

Weight bearing exercise preferably with free-weights, kettle bells, medicine balls, suspension kits and ViPRs will build muscle and tone the body, changing the composition from skinnyfat to lean and toned in a matter of months. All this can be done outside with only a small amount of equipment and a little know-how, without even stepping foot in a sweaty gym or forking out for a monthly membership.

Instead of jogging or cycling at one steady state pace, reduce the volume and the total time spent, and increase the intensity. Add some sprints in to the mix to strip the body fat and retain the muscle.

Everyone has a right to be completely happy with the way they look and shouldn’t have to settle for second best.

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About Nadia Tejani

Nadia Tejani lives in Surrey and works as a Personal Trainer specialising in weight management and obesity. She is also a Sports Massage Therapist and fitness model. Nadia runs marathons and does Olympic weightlifting and she has been competing nationally in Natural Figure (Bodybuilding) competitions since 2008. Nadia has a degree in Pharmacology and is qualified in Nutrition. She sticks to a strict clean vegetarian diet and practise what she preaches! Nadia has 3 dogs, a tiny horse and 2 pygmy goats.
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