Lean on the outside, fluffy on the inside

Lean on the outside, fluffy on the inside

Nowadays, most people are aware of the importance of working out. We have noticed a trend in the fact that more and more users update their Instagram profiles with photos/videos of them working out in their fancy outfits and colourful trainers. I am happy to see the increase in awareness among young people in the last 2-3 years who are including gym time into their daily routines. However, the question we should be asking ourselves is “Am I doing the right thing when I work out?”

The last thing we want, with our busy schedules, is to waste our time in the gym. We invest money into our gym memberships, outfits and supplements and we spend extra time to follow all the “gurus” on social media in seek of tailored advice.

Being ‘skinny-fat’ does not mean you weigh over the odds. It means you have a poor body composition with mostly fat and not enough  lean muscle.  An effective weight-loss workout aiming for a good body composition is loosing fat without loosing muscle mass. It is natural to think you would not find many skinny-fat people among the ones who work out regularly and that it would be more common among the rudimentaries.  It is a big misconception hence I wanted to address the matter. Many people work out struggling with “stubborn fat” in the most common problematic areas such as belly, arms, neck, thighs and bottom. The main causes for this are:

  • severe calorie restriction (high calorie deficit)
  • low proteins diet
  • excessive cardio
  • lifting the same old small weights

We all burn fat at a different rate depending on gender, hormonal levels (testosterone), fitness condition and body composition at the start of the transformation process. So don`t compare yourself with others and completely forget about the scale when treating a skinny-fat body because you might weigh even more when you`re done. Muscle mass is heavier than fat. To put things in perspective, a woman`s fat percentage when you can see her muscles clearly is about 20-22 percent of the total body weight. Between 22 and 35 percent fat you are skinny-fat, over 35 percent fat you are obese.

Since we clarified what a skinny-fat body implies and what causes it, I want to mention the following: if you went to gym yesterday and today you are not feeling sore at all, if you feel drained everyday and lack energy, if you feel ever so hungry to the point where you would murder anyone who would get in your way to the fridge you must read this article in full. I have been there and there is plenty room for improvement in your gym routines and diets.


I will start with explaining dieting because “you are what you eat” and “abs are made at home”, the most common quotes which I totally agree with, are true. During my research and since I started working out (about 3 years ago) I have learnt that diet represents 80 percent of achieving your goal which leaves the rest of 20 percent to exercising.

When skinny-fat, the goal is to lose fat without affecting and burning out the lean muscle mass, which low-calorie diets cause while slowing down our metabolism. We want to avoid that as the muscle is very timely to reconstruct. It`s not that complicated to respect this as long as you shop for groceries accordingly. I always cook my food for the week in advance in order to save time and prevent me from relapsing and go for “easier” and “quicker” alternatives.


Eat whole protein such as beef, poultry, fish, dairy, whey – have a good whey protein shake; I use Holland and Barrett`s own brand as they have a good composition and they are very affordable, plus always on offer. Consume veggies and fruits. Don`t forget about the healthy fats such as fish oil, olive oil, nuts, peanut butter. Drink water, no fizzy drinks, no energy drinks, no alcohol – maybe once a week if necessary. Eat grains such as whole wheat pasta and brown rice strictly in the days you work out.

In order to lose fat you must regularly intake less energy than you naturally burn in a day (your Basal Metabolic Rate – BMR)

That is the reason why which types of food you go for is less important than how much you eat. People have lost lots of weight on loads of junk food, chocolate and Coke only diets, however I personally don`t recommend them because nutrition is very important for our bodies and brains to function at full potential.

In order to prevent burning lean muscle mass, a woman should eat:

  • 1.2 grams of full protein times 150 pound (your weight) a day
  • 1 grams of carbs times 150 pound (your weight) a day
  • 0.2-0.25 grams of good fats times 150 pound (your weight) a day

If you weigh more or less that 150 pounds you should be able to work out the numbers yourselves.

For the ones wanting to build muscle while burning fat as well, alternate the following:

  1. Muscle gain (4 weeks). During this time you must eat 15-20 percent more than you burn (BMR). Eat everything I mentioned above 3 times a day with snacks in between such as Greek yogurt, fruits, nuts, cottage cheese.
  2. Fat-loss (2 weeks). Eat 15-20 percent less than your BMR. During this time avoid any protein shakes/bars and any other additional energy intake that you can avoid. Eat 3 times a day with no snacks in between. Start these 2 weeks with alternating 3 days of cutting all the carbs (except the oatmeal in the morning) as well as cutting all fruits (except bananas, green apples and berries) with 3 days of slowly including back the carbs in your diet such as brown rice and sweet potatoes. This technique is called cheating your body as it never knows what to expect because you don`t exclude all the carbs completely and it does not go into panic/starvation mode (when instead of losing the fat it holds on to it in form of a reserve). The 3 days on/off technique is very successful in losing fat and more importantly it`s healthy.

Download the Fat Secret app to calculate your BMR as well as keeping track of your daily calorie intake.

Weights training

Weights don`t make you look “bulky”, fat does. It takes years of heavy training and to “get massive”. Women don`t have as much testosterone as men so it would take double the effort, strict nutrition and supplements to become like a body-builder. When you have layers of fat and do weight training, the muscle underneath develops and you will gain some inches around your arms, legs, bottom, however not around the waist as I don`t recommend using more than your own body weight when working on your core anyway. My point today is with a good diet and the right type of cardio fat will disappear guaranteed. To prevent you gaining inches, I stress on the fact that you should not start weight training before you get to at least 25% fat percentage or lower in your body.


I will present 2 scenarios and routines to follow in the gym using weights. Check YouTube links to see how they should be executed if you are not sure or ask a personal trainer at your gym. With these routines you will get at least 24 hours break between the groups of muscle you work on.

Scenario 1: You should do between 6-8 reps per set. Do between 4-5 sets per exercise. If it feels easy to do 8 reps, you must increase the weight. If you can`t do at least 6 reps it means it`s too heavy for you. Find your balance and listen to your body. Don`t push yourself over the edge and to avoid injuries.


Monday (Upper Body) Tuesday (Lower Body) Thursday  (Upper Body) Friday (Lower Body)
Bench Press Squat Dips Deadlift
Bent Over Row Still Leg Deadlift Pull-Ups (could be assisted) Leg Press
DB Shoulder Press Leg Extention DB Side Lateral Lunges
Lying Trycep Extention Leg Curl Tricep Cable Pulldown Seated Calf Raise
Barbell or DB Curl Sanding Calf Raise Cable Curl Abs
Abs Incline Crunch
Lying Leg Raise Back Extension
Swiss Ball Crunch


Scenario 2: Strong Lifts 5×5: The Simplest Workout To Get Stronger, Build Muscle and Burn Fat
Read more: http://stronglifts.com/5×5/

You must alternate the two workouts (1 and 2) as below and every time you repeat workout 1, for example, you  must add 2,5 kg, so start low if you had not done weights before. You will do 5 sets of 5 reps per exercise, except the deadlift where you do one set of 5 reps only.


Monday (workout 1) Wednesday (workout 2) Friday (workout 1)
Squat 5×5  Squat 5×5  Squat 5×5
Overhead Press 5×5  Bench Press 5×5  Overhead Press 5×5
 Deadlift 1×5  Barbell Row 5×5  Deadlift 1×5


HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training)

It is the best way to lose fat even 48 hours after you completed the session and it is useful to pump the muscle as you would so with weights. The good thing is that you can squeeze and interval session in your lunch break. The most important advantage is that it speeds up your metabolism so when you finally get to the desired shape, it is a lot easier to maintain it. Must keep up in mind as we are not forever young. Replace the dreadful endless cardio sessions with 25-35 minutes of HIIT to lose more fat than in hours of walking on an inclined treadmill. Forget long cardio sessions as it only gives you that dry, skinny look with no shape. Perform HIIT 1-3 times a week, depending of how much fat you have when you start.

Start with 2-3 min warm up, 20-25 min intervals, 2-3 min warm-down (cool-off)

Your intervals (the 20-25 mins in the middle) should be:

Start with 1:2,3 ration – 1 min of high intensity, 2,3 min of low intensity

When your fitness level goes up, move on to 1:1 ratio (desirable).

Check this example of HIIT training below.


I am truly confident that these steps will help you look fit and healthy and it will be a lot more effective in your long run as well as preserve you for longevity and long-term strength. You get a lot of contracting articles and endless fitness and nutrition websites, but I found the information above make the most sense and it does not involve you starving yourself or exclude any vital foods from our diet.

I hope you found this post useful, please upload photos with your results at a later stage in the comment box below, I want to see that you took the advice on board and I want to see the smile on your faces when you get the results you`ve wanted for so long. Good luck!

My disclaimer: this article has not been written with the purpose of generating discomfort or making you feel uneasy with who are. I wrote this for those who work out regularly and feel stuck in their progress looking for answers to their questions.