Help I'm Skinny Fat!
An Overview of Skinny Fat
Skinny fat is a pretty interesting term. It's a term used to describe people like our stick figure to the right, who are otherwise skinny and in shape, but have sections of fat on their bodies that won't seem to go away. Skinny fat people don't generally weigh a lot, but because they don't have much muscle mass, their body fat percentage is quite high. This condition is becoming more and more common, so much so that it's being recognized as a legitimate body type in most heath and fitness publications. Skinny fat seems to be one of those ironic conditions that happens to the body when too much emphasis is placed on a particular type of exercise, similar to when marathon runners have heart attacks. It's the opposite of what you would expect. Skinny fat people commonly fall into two groups:
- People who only do low intensity cardio
- People with fat building eating habits such as eating before bed
Understanding the Fitness Plateau
As we talked about in the last section, skinny fat people generally tend to fall into one of two groups. Let's talk about the first group. People who only ever do steady pace cardio, like running on a flat surface with no hills, can plateau very quickly and become skinny fat. The reason why is because of the fitness plateau. The human body is very habitual. It always strives for balance, and it has regulatory mechanisms built into the metabolism to achieve it.
When a person first begins to exercise, the body responds by burning fat and by build new muscle or defining existing muscle. There's a deficit between the calories being taken in and the calories being expended. But very quickly, the body will strive for balance, of equalizing the calorie intake vs burned. Then, very quickly, the body will hit what's called a fitness plateau, where no real benefit is being accomplished from the exercise being done. In fact, with steady pace cardio, muscle mass tends to shrink and belly fat or other fats tend to accumulate. It can lead to a very unhealthy situation, where muscle mass is at an all time high, and body fat is actually higher percentage wise. This situation leads to what's known as an "exercise/weight-loss paradox." The metabolism has so coped and balanced itself to the routine that it actually has led to a slower metabolism than a faster one. If this is your situation, there are a few tips you might try:
- Vary Your Cardio Routine -- There are lots of different cardio programs out there. Don't always just run on even ground. Sometimes do high intensity/low intensity programs like the cross country, which has built in periods of super intense hill climbing followed by times of low intensity flats.
- Don't be Afraid to Weight Lift -- Especially if you're a woman, don't be afraid to throw in some weightlifting in your exercise regime. If you're afraid of bulking up, concentrate on doing lots of reps and low weight. Switching up your workouts will help to ensure that your body can't plateau and will have to keep following your lead. The body has regulatory hormones which keep it from bulking up beyond a particular size. If you're a woman, you really have to push hard and take weight lifting supplements to be afraid of bulking up.
Skinny Fat from Poor Eating
Your body is a machine, and understanding how the machine works will help keep you from bad habits which lead to being skinny fat. Here are a few poor eating habits that can lead to being skinny fat:
- Don't Eat Late at Night -- Eating late at night or right before bed is a huge no no if you're trying to get into good shape. Eating right before bed is a surefire way of building more fat. Most of the energy taken from late night meals is simply stored as fat. Try eating earlier and doing something active at night, like a late night walk.
- Don't Be Afraid of Healthy Fat in Your Diet -- Don't be overly fearful of fat in your diet. Fat is necessary. Every cell in our bodies rely on fat for proper function. Fat is used in the cell membrane of every cell in the human body. We need it. But we need the right types. There are many types of unhealthy fats, but there are also many types of healthy fats out there. Some of the healthy fats that you might think about adding into your diet are Fish Oil, and Coconut Oil. I take a spoonful of Coconut Oil before every workout. Coconut Oil contains what's known as medium chain triglycerides. These are a form of fat that's difficult for the body to store. The body prefers to burn them immediately. So I get a huge burst of energy, and teach my body to get into the habit of burning fat during a workout.
Understand the Role of Fat in Exercise
The body uses different forms of fuel for exercise. Sugars are used for quick fuel but are inefficient. Think about what happens the first time you go to workout after a long absence. You get tired really quickly and end up being terribly sore the next day. Every wonder why? The reason is because your body isn't used to working out and is using inefficient fuel as an energy source. This inefficient fuel is comprised mostly of simple sugars and leads to the production of lactic acid. What happens is that as you continue to exercise, and your body comes to expect it, it transports more efficient fuel to the muscle groups, a combination of Fats, Sugars and Oxygen to the muscles to burn as efficient fuel which doesn't produce lactic acid as a byproduct.
So having healthy fats in your diet is key, because it encourages your body to use fat as fuel during exercise. Otherwise, you'll be locked in to burning inefficient fuels and you'll always get tired quickly during exercise and won't ever be able to really push. If you go on a low fat diet and begin to exercise heavily, your body might go into starvation mode, and instead of releasing stored fats, might try holding onto them even tighter. The most effective method for burning stored fats is to have healthy fats in your diet and to push hard while exercising. This encourages your body to use its most efficient mixture of fuels, and will burn the maximum amount of calories in the process.
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