Skinny-fat people are in a tough spot. They’re too skinny and they’re too fat. So, should they cut to burn off the fat or should they bulk to gain muscle? Maybe there’s another approach—let’s talk about intermittent fasting.
- Skinny-fat guys and Intermittent Fasting
- Intermittent fasting and cutting
- Intermittent fasting and bulking
- Is intermittent fasting good for skinny fat guys?
- Intermittent fasting won’t fix a bad diet or A Bad workout program
- can Skinny Fat People do intermittent fasting forever?
- Does intermittent fasting cause muscle loss?
- How long can a skinny fat person fast?
Yeah, the covetous position of building muscle and getting leaner at the same time. How can skinny-fat guys do this when almost no one else can?
- Because they’re skinny, they are far from their genetic potential, and their body is practically begging for them to build muscle.
- Because they’re fat, they already have tons of accessible energy to build muscle with. In fact, this is the reason why lean people bulk because they consistently need a lot of extra energy to build muscle.
So with all that said, where does intermittent fasting fit in for the skinny-fat guy?
Skinny-fat guys and Intermittent Fasting
Intermittent fasting can mean a lot of different things. For example, it could mean eating totally normal one day, and not eating the next day. But when it comes to building muscle and burning fat, the most common type is called 16:8 intermittent fasting. This is when you still eat every single day, but you’re only eating for a small window of time. In the 16:8 example, you eat for eight hours of the day, and fast for 16 hours of the day.
Every person does some sort of form of this, when they go to sleep, and they don’t eat for 6-8 hours of the night. All we’re doing is extending that window of not eating.
Why would someone do 16:8 intermittent fasting?
The two main advantages of intermittent fasting are:
- it’s easier to get into a calorie deficit without trying. One study showed this benefit when researchers told study participants to do intermittent fasting but to make sure you eat enough to not to lose weight. But those people in the study couldn’t eat enough food in only 8 hours, making them lose weight without trying.
- helping people deal with hunger while cutting. This 2015 review showed that those doing intermittent fasting were able to handle their hunger much better compared to those eating more frequently.
It’s not easy to get into a calorie deficit to lose weight. Usually, it requires tracking what you eat with a food log which is annoying. But with intermittent fasting, most people find themselves in a calorie deficit without trying.
Second, it’s hard to deal with hunger when you’re losing weight. Your body is continually reminding you to eat. It’s hard to focus at work, you start to get moody and lash out at your loved ones, and you get envious of people eating delicious snacks around you at work and home.
But with intermittent fasting, most people won’t need to track calories to get into a calorie deficit, and you can eat big, tasty, and satisfying meals, and get nice and full. It allows you to feel satisfied when eating, so it’s much easier to handle.
Example: 16/8 intermittent fasting as a skinny-fat guy
In the most typical version of intermittent fasting, the 16/8 option, where you fast for 16 hours and only eat for 8 hours, almost everybody cuts out breakfast. They’d eat from 12:00 pm to 8 pm. That means you’ll be eating lunch, dinner, and snacks in your 8-hour feeding window.
Eating Less Often Means You Can Eat Bigger Meals
For example, let’s say you eat 2,200 calories daily. You want to be eating a calorie deficit around 1,800 calories to start losing weight. If you eat four meals a day, that might mean eating 450 calories per meal for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and one snack. It’s not a ton of food per meal. It’d be very easy to overshoot one of them.
But if you cut out breakfast by doing intermittent fasting, suddenly you’ve just freed up another 450 calories to spread out across your day, such as having an extra large dinner with your family. Imagine finishing a huge dinner, totally stuffed and feeling great, while still losing weight!
Obviously, some people who are excellent bingers can erase the main benefit of intermittent fasting, and get into calorie maintenance (or possibly even gain weight.) But most people will do great with eating less frequent meals and find themselves naturally getting into a calorie deficit.
Intermittent fasting and cutting
Let’s take a look at at this 2016 study on 16:8 intermittent fasting on athletes.
- 34 young men (oldest was 33 years old) who had been lifting weights for at least five years.
- Half of them did 16/8 intermittent fasting and they ate three meals within an 8 hour period. The other half did regular dieting.
- Both groups lifted weights 3x per week with the exact same program.
- Both groups had 20g of protein from a whey shake after lifting.
- They ate the same amount of calories and the same macros.
After eight weeks, they got a DEXA scan to find out the results. So, what happened?
Both groups made minor strength gains—but the fat-loss is what’s interesting.
Those doing the 16:8 fasting burnt burnt 5x more fat in the same amount of time—while eating the same amount of food—and gaining the same amount of strength.
What’s crazy is some guys on the regular diet *gained* fat. And some guys doing intermittent fasting got even better results than the averages, with over 3kg of fat burned off. (Scientific studies will always average out results and not individual results, which is why you should try experimenting for yourself.)
These are guys who have been lifting weights for at least five years—and suddenly, one group is getting 500% better results just by one little trick.
Now, intermittent fasting doesn’t work for everyone.
Some people feel shaky and irritable when they skip a meal. Some people need to have a good meal in them because they have stressful jobs with a lot of responsibilities, or they work an active job. But intermittent fasting can fit like a good glove for those who do desk-work like busy professionals. Essentially, you aren’t eating while sitting all day and burn fat to fuel your day—and then you can break your fast, go lift some weights, and fuel muscle gain.
My experience Cutting with intermittent fasting
I was pissed. When I first discovered intermittent fasting—and how easy it was to burn fat while getting stronger, I had to tell my business partner Shane about it. And he casually responded with, “Oh yeah, it works. I used it when I did that super successful cut before.”
A few years earlier, we had decided to do burn some fat off at the same time because we trained together at the gym, and we’d change our training program to match. The only problem is—I got weaker and didn’t burn much fat while he seemingly got stronger and ripped. This is a photo of Shane that covered this time:
I was pissed because he used intermittent fasting and got results—and I didn’t.
I asked, “How come you didn’t tell me you were going to experiment with intermittent fasting?”
He said, “I did, but you didn’t seem to care.”
He was probably right. (I likely didn’t remember his suggestion because I obviously didn’t act on it.) I only found out the power of intermittent fasting years later, and now I’m hoping I can save you some time. It’s worked out amazingly for me to burn off fat while getting stronger *without* calorie counting.
Intermittent fasting and bulking
Bulking is when you’re trying to eat a calorie surplus to gain weight. If intermittent fasting puts the majority of people into a calorie deficit, then it would not be good for gaining weight.
Some people are trying to gain weight without caring about the muscle-to-fat ratio of weight gained. Some examples would be:
- Underweight skinny guys who could use some more fat on their bodies
- Line-backers in football who need more mass for leverage
- Sumo wrestlers, again, using weight for leverage
But if you’re above 10% bodyfat, you might want to build muscle as leanly as possible. In that case, intermittent fasting could help. It would slow down your results a little bit, but improve your muscle-to-fat ratio by improving nutrient timing.
If you’re in a rush, a bonadide bulk and then a cut (using fasting) might be the fastest route. (Although more painful.)
If you have a bit more time, you might want to try building muscle as leanly as possible by orienting your calories around your lifting sessions and doing some intermittent fasting.
Is intermittent fasting good for skinny fat guys?
If you’re skinny fat and you work a sedentary job, like a web designer, and it’s not too stressful, 16:8 intermittent fasting might be a great option. This is because you’re sitting around all day and not eating won’t be too difficult. But if you’re on your feet all day, that’s another story. The idea of not eating while working on an oil rig or digging a ditch, sounds absolutely awful. Similarly, if you have a high-stress job, like being a doctor in an emergency ward, you will want to eat so that you have lots of energy as you make difficult and rapid decisions.
Intermittent fasting won’t fix a bad diet or A Bad workout program
Skinny-fat guys can’t keep eating lots of junk food and then just skip breakfast and expect to become leaner and more muscular. If they keep eating a poor diet, they’ll likely just lose weight due to the calorie deficit from fasting, but they’ll also lose a lot of muscle from not eating enough protein/meat. So then they’ll become even skinnier and weaker. If this happens, they’ll be at risk of becoming even fatter as their body rebounds in weight to reclaim it’s health (through a slowed metabolism and increased appetite, 2020 study).
Skinny fat people can avoid losing muscle and even gain some muscle during 16:8 intermittent fasting but they’ll need to:
- Lift weights a few times a week. Lifting weights causes muscle protein synthesis, which is where the protein you eat will be direct to go to your muscles to help make them bigger and stronger. (Check out our programs here.)
- Eat 0.8–1g of protein every single day. You need to eat protein to live, as it makes up your cells, skin, hair, organs, and even brain chemicals. But to build new muscle, you’ll need to eat so much protein that you’ll be eating above and beyond what you need to live. Your body can maximize muscle protein synthesis when you eat at least 30g of protein every 3–5 hours. Eat lots both meat and collagen (bone broth, gelatin, etc.)
can Skinny Fat People do intermittent fasting forever?
Can you do intermittent fasting forever? Well as we covered earlier, everyone is doing some sort of intermittent fasting when they go to sleep. So ultimately, it depends. Here are some things to think about:
- Are you still feeling energetic and happy?
- Do you notice yourself feeling grouchy when intermittent fasting?
- Are you using fasting to give you licence to eat junk food? (This would slowly make you less healthy as you age.)
It’s healthy to eat breakfast. It can give you energy to move more throughout the day. Ideally, from a long-term perspective, you’d want to eat more earlier in the day, and less after the sun sets. So you could start fasting once the sun goes down.
So, eventually, once you shed your skinny-fat body, maybe you lose 15 pounds of fat and gain 15 pounds of muscle, maybe now you’re looking lean and fit… but still a bit small. You want to double-down on building muscle without getting fatter. An easy way to do this, would be to start eating more often again.
Does intermittent fasting cause muscle loss?
Not eating a lot of meat or protein over a long period of time will obviously cause muscle loss. We have to eat enough protein to offset muscle protein breakdown (MPB) which is a normal job that our body does all the time. It is constantly tearing down and building up proteins in our body to keep them healthy and working properly.
So if you don’t eat any protein for a couple of days, of course, you will lose some muscle mass. Your body will break down the muscle to get access to the amino acids (protein) needed to do more important tasks like building blood cells, maintaining organ health, etc.
But in terms of 16:8 intermittent fasting, you are still eating protein every day. As long as you’re eating enough protein in your eight-hour window, then your body will be able to use that protein. So your meals may get a bigger dose of protein to offset the smaller number of meals that you’ll eat.
How long can a skinny fat person fast?
The 16:8 intermittent fasting method is a tried and true method. It allows you to get both some benefits from fasting and some benefits from eating. If you are trying to burn fat while building muscle, I would personally start there by eating in an 8 hour window and fasting for 16 hours.
How long can you truly fast? That would depend on how healthy you are, how much fat you have, etc. Long fasting, for days, would be best talked about with your doctor or medical professional.
Some people with poor health (bad metabolic flexibility) might get shaky from intermittent fasting and shouldn’t do it without talking to someone. They may need to improve their diet and their health first, before spreading out how long they eat.
Well, now you’re in the perfect position to do a lean bulk. Trying to gain weight while doing intermittent fasting is like shooting yourself in the foot. You can read a great article about intermittent fasting and bulking on Bony to Beastly. But, because gaining weight will mean getting into a calorie surplus, and the main benefit of intermittent fasting is getting a calorie deficit, they are conflicting goals.
- Skinny-fat guys should focus on getting into a calorie deficit because they can get leaner and build muscle at the same time (like we teach in our programs.)
- Intermittent fasting is a great tool to get into a calorie deficit without tracking calories.
- Intermittent fasting can help you manage the feelings of hunger while being in a calorie deficit.
- Intermittent fasting allows you to eat large meals with family and friends, and not just avoid getting fatter, but actively burn it! (unless you’re in the minority and are exceptionally skilled at binging.)
- Another downside is less meal frequency means you might need to eat more total protein to counteract the inefficiency of eating less often.
- Once you’re no longer skinny-fat and are now leaner and stronger, if you want to continue to get bigger, you should look into doing a lean bulk because the benefits of naturally limiting calories through intermittent fasting will now be the opposite of what you want.
If you want to learn more about intermittent fasting, be sure to check out our super-guide on IF here.