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How Body Fat Sabotages Your Immune System

By Fat mass, Health

If there’s one thing everyone can agree on, it’s that no one likes being sick.

What if there was something you could do to improve your health and reduce your sick days?

As it turns out, having a healthy body composition contributes to a stronger immune system, helping you to resist minor infections and reduce your risk of getting serious diseases, like heart disease and diabetes.

What’s a healthy body composition? Put simply, there are two main areas of focus: sufficiently developed muscle mass and a body fat percentage in a healthy range  (10-20% for men; 18-28% for women).

Unfortunately, over ⅔ of Americans are classified as overweight, with a shocking 1/3 of Americans classified as obese . Americans are on average heavier than any other time in history. There has been a similar increase in heart disease and diabetes diagnoses. That is why the CDC says obesity is an epidemic in this country.

How does this tie back into the immune system and your health? It all has to do with the nature of body fat.

What Happens When Your Immune System Activates

When your body gets sick – due to a bacterial infection, a virus, etc. – the body’s defense system gets triggered, causing inflammation.  This is thanks to your “innate” immune response: your body’s all-purpose defense mechanism that serves as the first wave of defense against foreign invaders.

The infected area becomes red and swollen due to increased blood flow, which can be unsightly and uncomfortable. Think of what happens to your nose when you get a cold. That’s inflammation.

This reaction is caused by white blood cells called macrophages and the proteins they emit called cytokines (this word will be important in a minute). These cytokines encourage inflammation.

You may have not thought of it this way before, but inflammation that’s triggered by your immune system is typically a good thing. That means your body is releasing the appropriate hormones and proteins, activating your white blood cells to start the recovery process, and working to defeat the infection.  If there wasn’t any inflammation, your body would be in serious trouble.

So if inflammation is what naturally occurs when your body’s immune system is triggered, how does inflammation relate to body fat, body composition, and obesity?

When Inflammation Becomes Permanent

When white blood cells cause inflammation, it’s a sign that your body’s immune system is properly functioning. Inflammation begins, white blood cells attack the foreign invader, the invader is neutralized, and the inflammation subsides.

This is how your body’s defense system naturally works. However, white blood cells aren’t the only type of cell that have the ability to emit cytokines.  A second type of cell that can emit cytokines and cause inflammation are adipocytes or fat cells.

Most people know that your body stores excess calories as fat so that you can use it later for energy if food becomes scarce.  

Just recently, scientists have learned that fat is an active endocrine organ, one that can secrete a whole host of proteins and chemicals, including inflammatory cytokines.

What happens when your body keeps adding on more and more adipose tissue?  Cytokines are released by your fat cells, triggering inflammation. In fact, obesity is characterized by researchers as “ a state of low-grade, chronic inflammation.

This means that increased fat cells puts your body in a constant state of stress/immune response. Your body is always in a state of inflammation; your immune system is permanently “switched on.”

Think of your body’s immune system like your body’s crack team of defenders, highly trained and designed to repel any and all foreign invaders.  In this scenario, your adipose cells are like enemy agents planted in your home territory. Their mission is to spread fear of an attack at all times, and they trick your defenders to be on high alert at all times.

As you might have guessed, perpetual, never-ending inflammation isn’t good for the body.

Sabotaged Immune System

Obesity causes a state of chronic inflammation, and this causes your immune system to become compromised.  Chronic inflammation is a serious issue and can lead to the development of minor and serious illness and conditions.  Here are a couple examples:

  • Influenza (the flu)

You may remember several years ago that there was a particularly deadly strain of the flu virus called H1N1.  As hospitals started to fill up with the sick, doctors in Spain noticed something: overweight and obese patients were beginning to show up in disproportionate numbers in intensive care units, and they were staying for longer than people who were not obese or overweight. Increased inflammation due to increased pro-inflammatory cytokines appeared to be a leading factor contributing to their increased flu risk.

Stories like these led  researchers in Canada to analyze the flu records for the previous 12 years, stretching from 2008 back to 1996. They found that people who were obese were more likely to come into the hospital for respiratory diseases than those who were not obese. They concluded that obese people were an “at risk” population during flu seasons due to their compromised immune response.

  • Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading killer of adults in the United States.  Although there are many factors that can contribute to heart disease, recent research has pointed to inflammation caused by obesity as one of the most significant factors contributing to its development.

The main culprits are, again, the cytokines produced by excess fat in the body.  These cytokines cause inflammation of the walls of your arteries, causing damage to the arteries and increasing pressure. Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against the walls of your blood vessels. When you have high blood pressure, it means that your heart isn’t pumping blood effectively, and it starts to enlarge. An enlarged heart is a significant risk factor that can lead to heart failure if steps aren’t taken to remedy it.

  • Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition characterized by insulin resistance – the inability of your body to remove excess sugar from your blood. Just like heart disease, there are many related factors that lead to the onset of type 2 diabetes, and obesity has long been associated with the development of diabetes.

However, with the discovery that fat is an active tissue that can secrete cytokines and wreak havoc on the immune system, researchers have been able to show a link between obesity, inflammation, and insulin resistance. Increased inflammation was shown to disturb a whole host of processes and the endocrine system. When obesity and the subsequent inflammation is left unchecked for a long time, it increases the risk of developing insulin resistance, and eventually diabetes.

Who’s At Risk?

A compromised immune system and inflammation aren’t issues that only concern overweight people.

Many people know that being overweight and obese is unhealthy and can lead to serious diseases over time.  Admittedly, poor diet and low levels of activity contributing to heart disease and diabetes over time in obese people isn’t exactly news.

Unless you start to take into account what the word “obese” actually means.

Classically, obesity has been defined by having a high Body Mass Index (BMI), a way of expressing the relationship of your weight vs. your height.  If your BMI exceeds 25, you’re labeled “overweight,” and once your BMI increases beyond 30, you progress into different levels of obesity.

Doctors have used BMI for obesity assessment for years, but unfortunately, BMI has led to confusion by inappropriately labeling people as obese or overweight when they are not, or healthy when they should be aware of their obesity risks.

Obesity doesn’t always simply mean “fat.” What obesity does mean is the excess accumulation of body fat, but what’s excess for you might not be for someone else. It is possible to have a “normal” BMI but a lot of excess fat; this is called being “skinny fat.”  Crucially, skinny fat people share many of the same metabolic risks as people who have high BMIs, including the risk of inflammation and a faulty immune system.

This is why you should look at having too much body fat not only as a problem for people who are visibly overweight, but also for people who don’t have enough muscle relative to how much body fat they have.

One way to determine whether you’re at risk is to have your body composition analyzed.  This assessment method will reveal your body fat percentage, a number that you can use to understand if the amount of fat you have is healthy or excessive for someone of your size.

How To Get Your Immune System Back In Line

Fortunately, because researchers have been able to identify body fat (and particularly, internal visceral fat)  as a major cause of inflammation and a compromised immune system, they’ve also been able to measure improvements when body fat is reduced. The goal to getting your immune system to function properly again is to stop it from being perpetually triggered.

In a study that followed obese patients who lost weight with caloric restriction and bariatric surgery, the researchers observed a significant reduction in immune system activation, which means less inflammation.  This reduction in immune activation occurred before and after surgery, which indicates that surgery isn’t always necessary: just the reduction of fat mass – and specifically, visceral fat.

Improving your body composition through a mix of strategies that promote fat loss and muscle gain can allow you to reduce your fat mass in a healthy manner that doesn’t require drastic measures like bariatric surgery.  Although this process can and will take time, the effects of having an improved and healthy body composition are immense, not the least of which is reducing overall body inflammation and having your immune system function properly again.

Healthy Immune System, Healthy Life

We’ve gone over a lot of very technical stuff here, so let’s go over the main points for you to take away.

  • Excess Body fat sabotages your immune system by leaving it permanently triggered
  • Inflammation caused by body fat makes you sicker and more vulnerable to disease
  • You can reduce and reverse these changes by reducing your body fat
  • Anyone can be at risk, depending on their body fat percentage, not their weight

No one likes being sick, and no one likes having to manage diseases like diabetes that stick around for a lifetime. To help you avoid these problems, one of the best ways to determine if your body fat is excessive and/or causing inflammation is to have your body fat percentage determined.

Once you have your body fat percentage, you can compare it against the normal ranges for men and women.  For men, you’ll want to be no higher than about 20% body fat; for women, try to stay under about 28%. These ranges may vary slightly depending on whichever source you consult, but these are good guidelines and agree with the ranges set by the American College of Sports Medicine and American Council on Exercise.

If you reduce your fat mass to a healthy range, you will subsequently reduce inflammation and boost your immune system. Having a killer “beach bod” may not motivate you, but what about a healthy body and fewer sick days?

Everyone should see the value in that.

 

Eating Fat Doesn’t Make You Fat

By Body Composition, Fat mass

If you went to primary school in the 90s, you probably remember this diagram from a nutrition class.

food pyramid nutrition

 

Released in the U.S. in 1992, the food pyramid was designed as an easy way for people to remember which foods they should be getting their calories from and the relative importance of each. Carbs were healthy and good, and so they formed the base; fats were bad and placed at the top. The fat category lumped everything together from healthy fats like Omega-3s and olive oil to saturated fats and sugar. This concept helped trigger the fat-free craze. Although this concept seems pretty normal to us now, at the time in the late 1970s it was actually considered quite radical – so much so that then-president of the National Academy of Sciences, Philip Handler, described the proposed shift as a “vast nutritional experiment.” Essentially, the Dietary Guidelines suggested that people eat less fat and get more calories from bread, grains, rice, pasta, etc. This was intended to protect Americans from weight gain and heart disease. This is why the “high carb, low fat” diet seem familiar and normal to you, and probably why you think eating fat makes you fat.  

What was the result of this recommendation?

Beginning at around the time when the guidelines were first recommended in 1977 and their release to the public in 1980, the percentage of Americans classified as obese increase almost 20% as they followed the government’s advice to cut fat and increase carbs. Why have obesity rates in the United States skyrocketed over the last 18 years? Because the idea that “fat makes you fat” is wrong. Fat is just another nutrient source, same as carbohydrates and protein.  What makes you fat is taking in more energy (calories) in a day than you use. That’s called being in a caloric surplus.

While this might seem like a somewhat challenging thought, fat isn’t solely to blame for weight gain, and it’s not fair to even say it’s a major factor in weight gain.  At fault is a confusing mishmash of terminology, the negative connotation of fat over the past generations, and a pesky little diagram that’s been imprinted in the minds of generations of Americans.

Let’s take a look at how fat got a bad rap to see what you really should be thinking about when you’re trying to lose weight.

Eating Fat Is Not the Same as Becoming Fat

Part of the reason people get confused and think that the fat they eat makes their body store fat is because we use the interchangeably to describe both body fat and dietary fat.

  • Body Fat = Adipose Tissue

The fat that is stored by our bodies is more accurately called “adipose tissue.” Adipose tissue stores are made up of primary adipocytes or fat cells and are responsible, among other things, with storing excess energy for times when you’re not able to give your body the energy it needs in a given day.

Body fat/adipose tissue is essential for survival.  Anyone with a body fat percentage of 0% would not be alive. When you cut your body fat level down to what’s called your “essential fat” – the fat needed to maintain a healthy and functioning body – complications arise.

Take the example of bodybuilders, who in a sense could be defined as “professional body fat cutters”.  When bodybuilders get into competitive shape, they try to lose as much body fat as possible in order to achieve more muscle definition.  Often, this can lead to some health complications that they don’t frequently advertise.

For example, in a 2013 study a competitive male bodybuilder preparing for competition was continuously observed 6 months prior to competing and 6 months after. During that time frame, the bodybuilder was able reduce his body fat percentage from 14.8% to 4.5% by competition time.

In the process of losing all this fat, the researchers observed various complications:

Of note, many of the physiological changes observed including an elevation in cortisol, reduction in testosterone, reduction in testosterone, reduction in immune function, alterations in mood status, and decreases in physical performance and maximal heart rate that occurred during the preparation period are consistent with markers of overtraining.

Rossow, et al (2013)

Contrary to popular belief, the study shows that a very low body fat percentage can disrupt important biological process and can actually be detrimental to your health!

  • Dietary Fat = Macronutrient

The fat you eat is dietary fat and is one of the three essential macronutrients your body can get energy from.

When we talk about calories, we’re actually talking about some combination of the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, protein, and fat.

Let’s examine a standard nutrition label. What do you see?

Although they’re not labeled as such, you’ll see the three macronutrients listed there – which we’ve underlined – along with the grams of each.  Each macronutrient contributes a certain numbers of calories to the total caloric content of the food.

  • Carbohydrate: 4 calories per gram
  • Protein: 4 calories per gram
  • Fat: 9 calories per gram

You can actually multiply the grams by the calories and add them together to get the total calorie number listed at the top of the label (this one actually comes out to 232, but the government allows rounding to the nearest 10).

This bears repeating: fat is a macronutrient. It isn’t necessarily bad on its own.  Furthermore, you need dietary fat. That’s because your body can make all the fatty acids it needs, except for two: linoleic acid and linolenic acid.  These two necessary substances have to be found in your diet.

Would you believe that people actually used to eat more fat than they do now and at the time obesity rates that were much lower? It’s true, they did, and it’s true – obesity rates used to be much lower.  So if increased fat isn’t making you fat, what is?

What’s Actually Making You Fat?

Too many calories, probably from carbs.

Eating more calories than your body uses and needs in a day causes you to gain weight, and Americans continue to eat more and more calories with each passing year.

According to the USDA, from 1970 to 2000, the total number of daily calories that Americans ate increased by 530 calories, an increase of 24.5%. During the same time period, the percentage of Americans categorized as obese increased dramatically.

What happened?

Americans started to eat more calories.  This is surprising when you consider that carbohydrates contain less than half the calories (4 Cal) that fat (9 Cal) does, gram for gram. Shouldn’t shifting away from fats and towards carbs just reduce overall caloric intake, just by simple math? It doesn’t work that way if you just eat more carbohydrates. You see, consumption of a high carbohydrate diet can trigger something called “reactive hypoglycemia.This is a condition experienced by people who do not have diabetes and are otherwise healthy. Among its symptoms is a feeling of hunger. 

Guess what’s the best way to make that hunger go away? Eat more carbs – your body will be craving them.  And since carbs were supposed to be the largest macronutrient source anyway, most people didn’t think twice about having a snack that consisted of bread, rice, or something else carb-heavy.

By advising people to eat less fat and eat more carbohydrates, the government actually made the obesity problem far worse.  Recognizing the sharp increase in obesity, the food pyramid was revised in 2005 and ultimately retired in 2011 in favor of what the USDA now calls “My Plate,” which gives people a much better visualization of the relative importance of each food category by showing roughly how much space each should take up on a plate.

 

To be clear, neither carbohydrates nor fats on their own cause you to gain weight – it’s just that you tend to eat more calories when your diet is focused on carbohydrates over fat.  Being in a caloric surplus causes you to gain weight. A carb-heavy diet makes it very easy to be in a caloric surplus.

So I Can Throw Away the Low Fat Options?

If you’re smart about it, yes, but you still have to be careful.

Remember, it’s not the fat itself that’s making you fat; it’s the extra calories that you don’t need that makes you fat.  While it’s very easy to eat extra calories on a carbohydrate-based diet, it’s also very easy to add on extra calories from a fat diet too.

At 9 calories, fat is the most calorie-dense macronutrient by far.  This means that if you’re looking to lose fat, the low-fat options are still fine choices – not because of their low fat content, mind you, but because of their lower caloric content.  

The fat isn’t making you fat due to just being fat; it’s the extra calories from fat (as well as all the macronutrients) that is causing you to gain weight.

What this means is, if you are responsible with your diet, you can choose foods that contain fat, guilt-free.  You just need to be smart about your caloric intake throughout the entire day.

For example, if you really like the taste of whole milk and have been forcing yourself to drink 1% milk because you think you’re supposed to, you can drink whole milk guilt-free so long as you know that that whole milk contains 46% more calories than 1% milk and you understand that you’re making a deliberate choice to get more calories from milk than from somewhere else.

This means that if you choose to get more calories from milk (and by extension fat), you have to cut calories elsewhere.  If you’re like most Americans, you can probably find foods containing carbohydrates, that if you’re being honest, you can probably do without.

The current (2015-2020) Dietary Guidelines for Americans agrees, as it does not encourage a low-fat diet any longer.  It even encourages a lower intake of carbohydrates.

Optimizing Your Diet

Ultimately, the only person who has any real influence on how you divide your nutrient intake/calorie limit is you.

A lot goes into planning, preparing, and following a diet. Trying to balance what you like to eat with what you should be eating to maintain a healthy weight and body composition can be tricky. Don’t punish yourself with a extremely low-carbohydrate diet because it will probably be unsustainable. But if you want to make improvements, a good guide would be a diet that is low-sugar and low in saturated fats and high in healthy fats (like Omega-3s) and protein.

When you have a good idea of what your individual caloric needs are, which you can learn by using a combination of your Basal Metabolic Rate and your activity level, this will become a lot easier.

Understanding how fat and the other macronutrients make up these calories will only further ease the problems with designing a nutrient dense balanced diet. Remember, fat isn’t bad on its own.  Focus on building a diet that you actually want to eat, keep it within a reasonable number of calories, add in more physical activity, and you’ll be closer to your weight loss goals than if you simply just reach for packaging that promises “low fat” or “reduced fat” foods.

Source: https://inbodyusa.com/blogs/inbodyblog/90571521-fat-doesnt-make-you-fat/

How to Tell If You’re Skinny Fat (and what to do if you are)

By Blog, Health
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on July 20, 2018for accuracy and comprehensiveness. It was originally published on July 1, 2015.
by InBody USA

The term “skinny fat” has been around for a while now, but it seems to have started trending following a feature in TIME Magazine. In it, outwardly skinny and visually healthy people were surprised to learn that they had the same medical issues as an obese person.

Bottom line, looking skinny doesn’t mean you’re healthy if you are skinny fat.

If you’re a little unclear on what exactly skinny fat means, it refers to someone who has a weight and BMI that is normal for that person’s height but has much more fat than and not enough muscle recommended for optimal health.

Many people just assume that if their weight and/or BMI is normal, they have nothing to worry about. This has a lot to do with misconceptions about BMI’s usefulness in assessing weight and health. For example, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), if your BMI is between 18.5 and 24.99, you are considered to be in the normal range for sufficient health. So if you have a BMI of 22, you’re automatically in the clear, right?

Not so fast – although the WHO has set these ranges, they are quick to qualify them with the following:

[BMI] should be considered as a rough guide because it may not correspond to the same body fat percentage in different individuals.

Source: WHO

The fixation on weight, thinness, and BMI is where so many people get fooled into living unhealthy lifestyles. They feel like exercising daily and eating a healthy diet doesn’t apply to them because they look skinny. But looking the part doesn’t always mean you fit the part.

As Long as I Look Good, That’s All That Matters!

If only that were the case.

Unfortunately, that attitude is exactly what causes people to become skinny fat in the first place.  The appearance of being skinny seems to outweigh being fit and healthy. However, because of the way fat can be stored, skinny fat people risk having serious health problems.

Not all fat gets stored under the skin. Fat that people can see is referred to as subcutaneous fat, but there’s a second type – visceral fat – and it’s the worse of the two.  If you’re skinny fat, you likely have a lot of this second type.

Visceral fat is internal fat that develops in the abdominal cavity, gets stored around the organs, and wraps around your kidneys, intestines, stomach, and liver.  It’s sneaky because while it’s easy to see subcutaneous fat, it isn’t so easy to see the visceral fat in your midsection.

Having large amounts of visceral fat can spell a heap of trouble, according to Harvard Medical School.  Visceral fat has been linked with:

So while on the exterior, skinny fat people might look attractive, on the inside, their bodies may be at high risk for a number of health problems and syndromes.

How can you tell if you’re skinny fat?  It’s not as easy as looking in the mirror or standing on a scale. You need to understand what your weight is made of.

It’s Not Just About Weight

How your weight is distributed determines whether you fall into the skinny fat category.  Weight alone cannot tell whether you’re skinny fat or not, which is precisely why so many people don’t realize that they are.

The term “skinny fat” is actually a popular term that describes a very real medical condition called sarcopenic obesity. This condition refers to an individual who may have what would be considered a normal/healthy weight, but metabolically, this person shares many health characteristics as someone who is overweight or obese

A person who is sarcopenic obese will have high fat mass and low muscle mass.

One of the best ways to determine whether you may be skinny fat is to have your body composition analyzed and your percentage of body fat determined.

How to Tell If You’re Skinny Fat

Once you’re able to get reliable information about your body fat percentage, you can compare it against the recommended percent body fat ranges. The recommended ranges for healthy men are between 10-20% body fat, and for women, the ranges are 18-28%.1

If your body fat exceeds these ranges, but you have a normal weight when you stand on the scale, you may be skinny fat.

There are several ways to have your body composition analyzed, all of which come with differing degrees of convenience and accuracy. Here are three ways to measure body composition:

Calipers

Probably one of the most common forms of body composition analysis. Calipers operate by pinching the fat that is held just under the skin (subcutaneous fat) and estimating the internal (or visceral) fat, which is where many skinny fat people hide their weight.

Getting consistent results from test to test can be an issue as well because each test administrator will have a different degree of skill than the person who conducted the test before. Even if it is the same person conducting the test, there is always the risk of human error (pinching softer/harder, etc.) with each test.

So, although this is probably the most accessible way to measure your body fat, it won’t be the most accurate. This is because calipers only actually measure the subcutaneous fat and then use prediction equations or tables based upon your age to guess the visceral fat.

Clinical Tests

It is possible to have your body composition determined in a clinical setting using tests and procedures such as hydrostatic weighing and dual x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA). However, these procedures both require specialized equipment, and in the case of DEXA, exposes your body to low levels of radiation. Although both of these tests are regarded as being highly accurate, because of the limited access, they may not be the easiest to access for regular testing to track changes in body composition.

BIA Scales and Devices

BIA devices are devices that use small electric currents to measure body composition. These are the body composition results of someone who fits the skinny fat/sarcopenic obese body profile:

Below are results from an InBody Test, a medical body composition analyzer:

This section is taken from the InBody Result Sheet. 

For this person, who is a 5’4” female, 135.3 pounds is just above her ideal weight, but within what is considered normal (BMI 23.2).  However, it’s clear to see that this person does not have enough Skeletal Muscle Mass and has excessive body fat. If you do the math, this person has a body fat percentage of 35.0%. This surpasses all upper limits of percent body fat ranges, which are usually around 28%.

BIA devices are quick, easy to use, and depending on the manufacturer, can be quite accurate in determining body composition results for all areas of the body – including the abdominal area, where visceral fat builds up over time.

Visceral Fat area over 100 square meters increases the risk for metabolic syndrome.

When using a BIA device, it’s important to look into how the device you are using determines body composition and how accurate its results are.  Some handheld devices may only directly measure your arms and estimate the remainder, while others may only directly measure your legs and estimate the upper body.  Whenever possible, use a BIA device that directly measures the entire body for the most accurate results.

If you find out you are skinny fat through body composition, the next step is to figure out how to improve.

How Do People Become Skinny Fat?

Image Credit: LifeSpan

First, you need to understand how you may have become skinny fat.

Essentially, the net result of losing muscle mass (and decreasing metabolic rate) and gaining fat mass due to maintaining the same caloric intake with a lower metabolic rate creates the skinny fat condition.  Diet and exercise (or lack thereof) play key roles here.

Carbohydrates and foods that are high in calories are great for creating energy potential in the body, but if that energy is not used through activity and exercise, it will become stored in the body as fat.

Similarly, muscle mass decreases over time when the muscles are not being used. If you work in a 9-5 job that requires you to be seated and not move around for most of the day, skeletal muscle mass is likely to decrease over time.  Fat mass will also increase as mobility decreases.

Sitting all day, eating an unhealthy diet, and skipping workouts is a recipe for muscle loss and fat gain.  Many people have sedentary lifestyles due to work and are prime candidates for muscle loss and fat gain if they don’t do anything to guard against it.

However, this isn’t the only way muscle loss and fat gain can occur.

Michael Matthews over at Muscle For Life, in an exceptionally well-researched piece, has another take on how people become skinny fat. Instead of losing muscle because they don’t exercise, he shows that people can lose muscle because they don’t diet and exercise the right way:

Conventional weight loss advice:

  1. Severe calorie restriction
  2. Excessive amounts of cardio
  3. Minimal weightlifting with an emphasis on high-rep training
Source: Muscle For Life

If you try to cut calories, while at the same time run on a treadmill an 1 hour a day 5 days a week, your body may not have the energy it needs to perform.  After a certain point, your body will start metabolizing muscle because it needs energy once the other options are exhausted. Weight loss will occur at the expense of both fat and muscle loss, which will do very little to improve body fat percentage and becoming less skinny fat.

Now that you understand the cause, here is the solution.

How To Overcome Being Skinny Fat

It all goes back to improving your body composition.

People who want to be thin and healthy need to increase their muscle mass and reduce their fat mass.  

This can be done in a number of ways, such as eating a protein-rich diet, but one of the best ways is to increase Skeletal Muscle Mass from weight training that focuses on heavy, compound exercises.

Why weight training?  Lifting heavy weights is the best way to increase muscle growth, and correspondingly, Lean Body Mass.

With increased lean body mass, your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) increases. In plain speech, the higher your BMR, the more calories your body naturally burns when it is doing nothing (i.e. sleeping).  The more calories you burn at rest, the greater the fat loss.

If you are worried that building muscle might make you look bulky instead of skinny, don’t!  Muscle is much denser than fat, meaning that if you weighed the same as you do now, but you had more muscle than fat, you would actually appear thinner.  Except in this thin body, you would be healthier.

Most people don’t know that muscle is also heavier than fat.  So, perhaps ironically, if you were to increase your muscle/Lean Body Mass to the point where you were able to reduce your body fat percentage significantly, you may actually weigh more than you did when you had a skinny fat body.

This is why understanding your body composition is so important.  If you were just measuring your weight with a scale and judging your appearance in the mirror, you may have never known you were potentially at risk for health problems.

Also, misunderstandings about building muscle/gaining weight due to muscle may have led you to avoid strength training altogether and instead focused on insane levels of cardio coupled with calorie restriction. This is how many people become skinny fat in the first place.

So, now you know the facts.  Just because someone looks skinny, don’t just assume they are healthy.  Don’t aspire to be skinny, aspire to be healthy.  Because at the end of the day, being healthy is always attractive.


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