Cindy Caudy is a fitness professional, personal trainer and nutritionist, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, NPC bodybuilding competition promoter and judge, national level figure competitor, Physical Therapist, founder of Champion Charms jewelry and clothing, and co-owner of Next Level Training with her husband, Chris Caudy. 

Cindy is has a solid reputation for helping people combine nutrition and fitness to help them attain their goals. You can find her at or reach out to her at


by Cindy Caudy

What Does It Mean To Be “Skinny Fat”?

How the heck can someone be both “skinny” and “fat” at the same time?  What kind of sense does that make???

Well “skinny” refers to having relatively low levels of lean muscle mass and the “fat” refers to having too much body fat.  And when you combine these two things – too little muscle and too much fat – you get the “skinny fat” look.

So why do people end up “skinny fat”?  There’s a foolproof way to become and stay “skinny fat”:

  • Severely restrict your calories
  • Do large amounts of cardio
  • Do little-to-no resistance training

If those things sound familiar, that’s because they make up the majority of mainstream weight loss advice, especially the advice given to most women.

Why Severely Restricting Your Calories Makes You “Skinny Fat”

It is true that meaningful weight loss requires that you feed your body less than it burns over time.  BUT if you get carried away with this and start feeding your body A LOT less energy than it burns, then you’re asking for trouble…the type of trouble that results in significant muscle loss and metabolic slowdown.  To make matters worse, when the scale gets stuck, which it always does at some point, most people respond by eating even less and doing even more cardio, which only accelerates muscle loss.  This is a one way street to “skinny-fat.”  Research shows that, when combined with regular weightlifting workouts and a high protein diet, a 20-25% caloric deficit allows for rapid fat loss while also preserving muscle.

Why Doing Too Much Cardio Makes You “Skinny Fat” 

Research shows that doing regular cardio workouts guarantees little in the way of weight loss.  In fact, many people that think they can lose weight by just doing cardio actually end of fatter than when they began the program.  That isn’t to say that cardio is absolutely useless when it comes to losing fat.  If you know what you’re doing with your diet, cardio can help you lose fat faster, particularly high-intensity interval training cardio.  If you want to get and stay lean without sacrificing muscle and strength, you need to keep your cardio to a minimum.

Why Doing Little-To-No Resistance Training Makes You “Skinny Fat”

Many weight loss regimens include very little to no resistance training and this is a HUGE mistake.  Weightlifting cause an “afterburn” effect called “excess post-exercise oxygen consumption”, or EPOC, which is an increased rate of oxygen uptake that occurs after exercise and results in additional calories burned.  This is where weight lifting really shines because a single session can elevate your metabolic rate for several days.  Heavy weightlifting is really effective as it results in hundreds of more calories burned when compared to training with lighter weights.  Additionally, resistance training is the only way to maximally preserve muscle while losing fat.  And you only really need a few weight training sessions per week to accomplish the goal of maintaining lean muscle mass.

So how do you avoid being “skinny fat”?  It’s pretty simple really:

  • Do a lot of heavy compound weightlifting.  Think squats, bench press, deadlifts, military press, etc.
  • Be stingy with your cardio.  No more than 20-30 minute sessions and no more than 1.5-2.5 hours total per week.
  • Learn how to diet properly.  A bad diet will make even the best workout program ineffective.

There is no reason to be “skinny fat.”  It is not a genetic curse.  It has very specific causes and a very specific solution.  So get started today on not being “skinny fat.”