Being skinny fat can be challenging because it isn’t always clear what goal to focus on, and you might struggle to put together a good diet plan.
This guide will show you precisely what goals you should focus on and how to put together an effective skinny fat meal plan that puts you on the right track to reach your goals.
Let’s dive in.
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What Does It Mean to be ‘Skinny Fat’ And What Goal Should You Focus On?
Being skinny fat means having low muscular development but carrying a lot of body fat.
As a result, you might appear thin and ‘fit’ while wearing clothes, but a layer of fat covers your body, robbing you of any muscle definition.
Here is what a skinny fat man and woman might look like:
Many people end up skinny fat after solely focusing on cardio activities like running and coupling that with severe calorie restriction.
A common question skinny fat individuals ask is if they should focus on bulking or cutting, which is normal.
You don’t have much muscle to justify losing fat, but you’re also not lean enough to do a bulking phase.
A better approach for most skinny fat people is to do a body recomposition: building muscle and losing fat simultaneously.
The process is challenging and requires patience but pulling it off successfully leads to the quickest and most pronounced visual improvements in your physique.
Later in this guide, we will go over the steps you need to take to create a skinny fat meal plan. The calorie calculations and recommendations will cover the rules for pulling off a successful recomp.
What Should You Eat As a Skinny Fat Person to Build Muscle And Lose Fat?
1. Enough Protein
Eating enough protein is crucial for fixing the skinny fat look. There are several reasons why:
- Eating protein is necessary for supplying your body with the building blocks it needs to repair muscle after training (1)
- The nutrient promotes muscle growth (1)
- An adequate protein intake helps you protect the muscle you already have when in a calorie deficit (such as when trying to do a body recomposition) (2)
One significant reason why vegans often become skinny fat is due to the lower protein intake.
A diet free of animal products can be good for numerous health and ethical reasons, but it makes it challenging to eat enough high-quality protein.
According to research, the optimal intake is 0.7 to 1 gram of protein per pound (3). For instance, a person who weighs 160 pounds should eat 112 to 160 grams daily.
2. Complex Carbohydrates
Despite their mixed reputation in the health world, carbohydrates are beneficial for fixing the skinny fat look. Carbs are the primary fuel source for the body and provide the energy your body needs (4).
Most importantly, having carbs allows you to perform better in your training, which results in good progress.
Carbohydrates are also necessary for proper recovery. According to research, replenishing lost glycogen (the complex carb form stored primarily in skeletal muscle) after training is essential for supporting protein synthesis (5).
You can read more about the importance of carbs for getting fit in my guide.
Healthy carb sources include:
- Fruits (apples, bananas, berries, pears, peaches, pineapple, etc.)
- Vegetables (leafy greens, corn, cabbage, etc.)
- Root vegetables (carrots, beets, turnips, radishes, etc.)
- Potatoes and sweet potatoes
- Whole grains (oats, wheat, barley, quinoa, corn, brown rice, etc.)
3. Mostly Whole and Nutritious Foods
The rise of if it fits your macros (IIFYM) has led many people to believe that, so long as they cover their macronutrient targets, their food choices don’t matter. I beg to disagree. Your nutritional choices significantly affect your health, well-being, energy levels, and fitness outcomes.
Protein from a steak and protein from a Poptart might seem equal, but they aren’t. The former is a beneficial nutrient that supplies your body with all the essential amino acids you need.
In contrast, the latter is a cheap imitation only good for making you think you’re eating well.
The above also applies to carbohydrates and dietary fats. Processed junk food might seem like a good option, especially when you don’t have much time to cook, but that’s rarely the case.
Whole foods are necessary for getting high-quality nutrients in your body and preventing nutrient deficiencies (6).
A diet based on whole and minimally-processed foods is also vital for getting enough quality fats necessary for hormones, brain health, nutrient absorption, and more (7).
I recommend getting at least 80 percent of your daily calories from whole foods and leaving the remaining to your favorite treats.
Doing so would allow you to enjoy some dietary freedom, stay consistent, and achieve great results with your training.
Foods and Beverages to Avoid Adding To Your Skinny Fat Meal Plan
1. Processed Junk Food
There are a million reasons to avoid eating processed foods. Here are a few:
- Full of chemicals with unclear effects on long-term health outcomes
- Provide small amounts of low-quality protein that doesn’t contribute to muscle gain or post-training recovery
- Jam-packed with sugar that leads to unstable energy levels
- Full of transfats that have been linked with cardiovascular disease and early death (8)
- Calorie-dense and more likely to lead to unwanted weight gain
Small amounts of junk foods in your skinny fat meal plan aren’t harmful, but most people struggle to control their intake. If that’s a problem, consider eliminating processed foods from your menu.
2. Sugary Sodas And Fruit Juices
Sugary sodas are similar to junk foods in many ways. They are full of chemicals and jam-packed with sugar, contributing to energy crashes.
These beverages also contain calories, with a couple of glasses having as much as 300-400 calories.
You might follow a good diet, but drinking sugary soda can impact your calorie intake and stop you from making good progress.
Fruit juices, though seemingly healthier, are just as bad as sugary soda. Juices are also full of sugar and chemicals that can affect your health.
3. Energy And Sports Drinks
Most people don’t need convincing that energy drinks aren’t good for them. In the best case, these drinks provide a combination of caffeine and sugar, leading to a temporary spike in energy levels. In the worst case, they are just as bad as sugary soda.
Sports drinks are slightly different, probably due to their name. Most people believe these drinks are good for them and happily sip from a bottle while hitting the gym.
Unfortunately, these are often similar to energy drinks and sodas. You would be better off saving money and drinking water, tea, or coffee.
How to Put Together An Effective Skinny Fat Meal Plan (4 Steps)
1. Determine Your Caloric Needs
The basis of an effective skinny fat meal plan is to determine your caloric needs. Eating the correct number of calories will allow you to progress toward your goal, be it muscle gain or fat loss.
You can use various formulas, but I recommend the Harris-Benedict BMR calculator and equation. Begin by determining your BMR––the number of calories your body burns at rest:
English BMR Formula (Imperial)
Women: BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)
Men: BMR = 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) - (6.8 x age in years)
Metric BMR Formula
Women: BMR = 655 + (9.6 x weight in kg) + (1.8 x height in cm) - (4.7 x age in years)
Men: BMR = 66 + (13.7 x weight in kg) + (5 x height in cm) - (6.8 x age in years)
Then, use the multiplier to determine your TDEE––the total number of calories you burn each day:
- If you are sedentary (little or no exercise): Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.2
- If you are lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week): Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.375
- If you are moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week): Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.55
- If you are very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week): Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.725
- If you are extra active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or 2x training): Calorie-Calculation = BMR x 1.9
Let’s take a 110-pound, 5’6” tall, 28-years-old skinny fat girl who is just getting started:
BMR = 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) - (4.7 x age in years)
BMR = 655 + (4.35 x 110) + (4.7 x 66) - (4.7 x 28)
BMR = 1,312 calories
She is just getting started with gym training and plans to train four days per week. We’ll multiply her BMR by the middle value: 1.55
1312 x 1.55 = 2,033 calories
Her goal will be to do a body recomposition (simultaneous muscle gain and fat loss) for as long as she can see positive results.
To do that, we’ll remove around 200 calories from her estimated energy expenditure and end up with a daily goal of 1,830 calories.
These calculations will be the same even if you plan on exercising at home.
2. Calculate Your Macronutrients
Once you have a calorie target, you must come up with macronutrient goals. Macros are the components that make up the foods we eat; each has unique functions in your body.
Here is an example of a macro split you can follow:
- Carbohydrate - 45 to 65 percent of calories
- Fat - 20 to 35 percent of calories
- Protein - 10 to 35 percent of calories
In our calorie example from above, splitting up 1,830 calories would net the following macronutrient guidelines:
- Carbs - 205 to 297 grams
- Fats - 40 to 71 grams
- Protein - 46 to 160 grams
If you want to follow the split, I recommend roughly:
- 45 percent of calories from carbs
- 30 percent of calories from fats
- 25 percent of calories from protein
A more straightforward method to calculate your macronutrients is to follow these rules:
- 0.7 to 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight
- 0.35 to 0.45 grams of fats per pound of body weight
- Remaining calories from carbs
Doing so makes it easier to adjust your macronutrient intake and track your nutrition without obsessing over every gram.
Tracking your macronutrient is essential for fixing the skinny fat physique because your diet composition matters.
For instance, a significant reason why many people end up skinny fat after weight loss is that they don’t eat enough protein and lose a lot of muscle alongside the fat.
3. Come Up With a Sustainable Eating Schedule
The third step to a good skinny fat meal plan is determining how often you want to eat.
Don’t worry too much about your meal frequency; pick something you can sustain. What matters most is eating enough calories and covering your macronutrient targets.
Having a couple of meals before and after working out is also beneficial. Doing so is helpful for ensuring good training performance and kickstarting the recovery process early.
4. Plan What Meals You’ll Be Eating
The final step in a skinny fat meal plan might seem the most complicated, but it isn’t.
Once you get going, putting together your meals won’t feel as confusing. I’ll share an example meal plan based on the above calculations.
A Sample Meal Plan For a 110-Pound Skinny Fat Girl
The following plan will be based on 1,830 daily calories, 205 grams of carbs, 60 grams of fats, and 115 grams of protein. She will have three meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
As mentioned above, we would ideally love a slight deficit to allow for a body recomposition. Eating at maintenance isn’t ideal because it would prevent her from losing fat.
Meal 1 (Breakfast)
Oatmeal (cup of oatmeal, 1.5 cups whole milk, a scoop of protein powder, and half a banana)
Protein: 50 grams
Carbs: 89 grams
Fats: 19 grams
Meal 2 (Lunch)
Steak with potatoes (6-ounce steak, 4-ounce serving of seasoned baked potato)
Dessert: a medium banana
Protein: 46 grams
Carbs: 27 grams
Fats: 42 grams
Meal 3 (Dinner)
Chicken with a large green salad (4 ounces of chicken breast and a large bowl of mixed greens)
Dessert: small fruit bowl (berries, grapes, kiwi, apple slices, etc.)
Protein: 32 grams
Carbs: 59-66 grams
Fats: 4 grams
- Calories: 1,801-1,831 (1,830 target)
- Protein: 128 grams (115 grams target)
- Carbs: 175-181 grams (205 grams target)
- Fats: 65 grams (60 grams target)
A few notes on meal planning:
- You don’t have to be rigid with your skinny fat meal plan and eat the same daily.
You can be flexible, borrow calories from one meal, skip an entire meal, etc. For example, you can skip breakfast and have a big lunch.
- Don’t be afraid to experiment with your foods. The above can be a good meal plan, but tweak your nutrition to keep things fun and avoid potential nutrient deficiencies. For example, have chicken one day but eat fatty fish the next.
- Don’t be afraid to play with your macronutrient intake a bit. For instance, you can have slightly less protein (but no less than 0.7 grams per pound) if eating more of the nutrient makes you feel too full.
Similarly, you can tweak your fats and carbs to see what makes you feel best.
- A meal plan doesn’t have to be permanent. It can be helpful for a while and teach you a lot about the serving sizes you need when working toward specific goals.
The longer you follow a meal plan, the easier it will be to intuitively know if you’re eating the correct number of calories, even if you’re not tracking.
Putting together a good skinny fat meal plan isn’t that complicated. It all comes down to following a few simple steps.
As discussed, you shouldn’t worry about being 100 percent accurate. Enjoy some flexibility and know that being mostly on target is far more important than hitting your macronutrients within a gram.
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