skinny fat bulking or cutting

Are you skinny fat? Is the solution bulking or cutting?

This article will take you 5 minutes to read, you will learn what to do if you find yourself to be in the “skinny-fat” situation. Feel free to leave your questions in the comment section, they will be answered!

Are you skinny fat? What being skinny fat means?

You are skinny fat, which means you basically have small arms, narrow shoulders, and you have a bit of a belly. At least, this is how we could categorise someone as skinny fat or what most people would define it as. You might think being skinny fat is bad, but it’s actually good to start with!

Some people who are highly overweight have much more weight to lose and it is much more of a “painful” process than simply being in the skinny fat scenario. So in this particular case of being skinny fat, what should you do? The question often comes to “Should I be bulking or cutting down?”

Cutting or bulking? Quick definition and introduction on what to do as a skinny fat

cut vs bulk

As explained in the article where we learn about nutrition and bulking and cutting, we can consider both to be the opposite. One is eating extra calories to put on weight while building muscle. The other one is being at a small calorie deficit to lose fat while keeping the muscle built. In the case of being skinny fat, you are skinny, so you need to build muscle. But you are also a bit fat so you need to lose fat. 

What the hell are you supposed to do when skinny fat?

If you are skinny fat, this means you are a beginner in the gym. If you are a beginner, this means you are still lucky to put on size while losing fat. This would not happen at a more advanced level where you would have already been building muscle over a long period of time. Here is the thing, when starting the gym, you have a period where you basically get these newbie gains. That is why a lot of beginners sometimes do not have a plan but still see results.

In this article, we will also cover newbie gains and what to expect from them.

What are “beginner gains” or “newbie gains”?

Because exercising is so new to the body, the back and forth movements with the weights creating that new process of hypertrophy training for your body, even with a bad routine, is enough to build muscle. The fact it is so new makes the process of building muscle “easier”. The better you get at building muscle the hardest it gets, which is quite logical.

So when you know that, it makes sense that the start of your lifting journey is the easiest period to do well. People will often go from a 50kg bench-press to 100 kg bench press under a year or two. But then, going from 100kg to 120kg on the bench-press which is just a 20kg difference will take you the same amount of time. It is the same with muscles. You will build a good amount of muscle in your first year and then you won’t be able to add as much muscle in the following years.

How long do noob gains last?

Newbie gains aren’t that long. Beginners get started and then stagnate. They get confused because it was working until then but not anymore. They then do some research and realise that they don’t have a great routine and this was due to those beginner gains. This will usually last a few months. Three or four months. Then you will have to step up with your training routine to keep improving.

If you train well AND take advantage of the newbie gains, you can build muscle and lose fat at the same time

Here is why there certainly is a solution to your skinny fat problem. As you are starting, you will put on muscle easily thanks to this “beginner gains” period. And if you add the fact you actually know what you are doing with your training in this period of time, you will be at full potential to build ton of muscle!

Because training and lifting weights is a new habit in your daily life, you will also burn extra calories that you do not usually burn. If today you are skinny fat, you probably weren’t eating to excess, just a bit over the limit. The simple fact that you’ll keep maintaining the diet you have at the moment and start exercising will probably be enough to start losing fat. 

This means you are lucky enough to still burn fat and build muscle at the same time. Incredible right?

Should you be bulking or cutting then?

To sum-up what we said, not really changing anything should be enough to start losing fat while building muscle through good exercising. The thing is, we can consider that if you were skinny fat until now, this meant that you were not eating excessively but just a bit over maintenance. The fact you start exercising burns some calories which would make you slightly go under this maintenance level, or break-even. 

Now to make sure you are going through this process the right way, it’s good to not only start exercising but also have a new diet. Indeed, if you were eating at maintenance level or slightly above but with some beers and chips, that’s not great. What you want to do is eat at maintenance level but with better food, then start exercising which will put you at a small calorie deficit. The answer to whether bulking or cutting is the solution is then that you should either do none of them (maintenance) or be at a small calorie deficit (cutting).

Can you bulk though?

You can also directly bulk if you want. It’s just that you will probably maintain this little extra bit of fat you’ve got. Fortunately, this will go away the day you decide to go on a cut. At a skinny fat level, you basically have the choice to directly go for a bulk and build a good amount of muscle while keeping this extra bit of fat – or you can be at maintenance level or at a small calorie deficit and still build muscle while losing fat. That would put you in a “clean” shape before starting your first bulk ever.


If you were frustrated about your skinny fat case, you now know it is actually not such a bad situation to be in. You are in a great position and the results will come quicker than you can think of. If you do not know how to train or how to get started, feel free to also read our article on “hard gainers” and our “30 advice for natural bodybuilder beginners”.