THE “SKINNY FAT” BODY TYPE: SHOULD YOU BULK OR CUT FIRST?
For guys who are starting out with the classic “skinny fat” body type and who want to achieve a lean and muscular physique, knowing where to begin can be a big challenge.
Should a skinny fat guy start with a bulk or cut?
The reason why this is such a tough decision for most skinny fat guys is because:
A) Any time a person tries to add a significant amount of muscle to their frame, they’ll always gain some additional body fat with it. This is just the nature of the muscle building process and is to be expected. But since you’re already carrying a decent amount of fat as it is, the prospect of adding even more on top isn’t very appealing.
B) Any time a person tries to lose a significant amount of body fat, they won’t be able to build much if any muscle during that time. And since you’re only carrying a minimal amount of muscle to begin with, starting with a cutting phase could simply leave you looking overly thin and weak.
Search for advice on this topic and you’ll generally get a pretty even split down the middle…
Some will say that a skinny fat guy should “definitely bulk”, while others will say that they should “definitely cut”.
This is obviously confusing, and in this post I’m going to give you what I believe to be the most logical answer…
Should Skinny Fat Guys Bulk Or Cut First?
The main problem with making one single “blanket recommendation” for everyone is that the term “skinny fat” does not describe one exact body type.
It basically just means that you’re carrying a reasonable amount of excess fat, but you also aren’t carrying much muscle either.
The reality is that this comes in varying degrees…
It can mean a naturally skinny ectomorph who is very thin all over but also has a small “pot belly”, or it can mean a person who is carrying a higher amount of fat all over their body but also lacks decent muscle development.
The question of whether to bulk or cut first should be looked at on a case-by-case basis rather than following one concrete guideline that every skinny fat guy should follow.
Sometimes it makes more sense to start off with a cutting phase, and other times it makes more sense to start off with a bulking phase.
It depends on just how “skinny” an individual is, how much body fat they’re carrying, and also what their personal mentality is toward the whole process.
Some guys are okay with being on the thinner side if it means that they’re no longer carrying the excess fat, while other guys really don’t want that look and would prefer to gain some muscle first even if it means carrying a higher amount of body fat.
And the reality here is that neither of these approaches is technically “wrong”.
The key thing to be aware of is this…
If you have a skinny fat body type and your ultimate end goal is to be lean, strong and muscular, your initial training phase (whether it’s a bulk or cut) is still going to result in a physique that you’re temporarily unsatisfied with.
You’re either going to be lean but fairly thin, or you’re going to be muscular but carrying a decent amount of fat.
This is just the way it is, and it’s important to think longer term and realize that the initial physique you achieve is nothing more than a temporary stepping stone to your ideal body.
There’s nothing wrong with being “lean but thin” or “muscular but flabby”, because you ultimately have no choice but to go one of those two routes at the beginning of your program.
You’ll hear things like “skinny fat guys should never cut because they’ll end up looking overly thin” or “skinny fat guys should never bulk because they’ll end up looking overly flabby“, but if you’re a complete beginner who is just starting out, either of these is still an improvement from where you’re at right now.
So, how should you make your initial decision?
How To Decide Whether To Bulk Or Cut
Ultimately, this just comes down to assessing your current physique and then combining it with the approach that you believe will keep you most motivated moving forward, whether it’s to lean down first or gain more size first.
The most important factor to look at is your overall body fat percentage.
For example, if you’re already carrying a pretty significant amount of fat (I.E. a “saggy chest” combined with a decent amount of fat around your midsection and love handles) then despite your lack of muscle development, you’ll still probably be best off to lose the fat first.
Building quality lean muscle takes a lot of time and effort, and if you continue adding more and more fat on top of what you already have, there’s a good chance that you’re really not going to like how you look as you progress from week to week and month to month.
This could easily de-motivate you, throw you off track, and lead to the constant back and forth “yo-yo” approach between bulking and cutting that so many guys fall into.
Here are some examples of skinny fat body types that I’d generally recommend focus on fat loss first…
In this case you’ll want to get yourself into a proper calorie deficit (around 500 calories below your maintenance level), combine that with some weight training and cardio, and focus on dropping around 1-2 pounds per week.
Once you’ve gotten yourself down to a good lean base (roughly around the 12% body fat range), you can then shift into a controlled lean bulk and focus on adding muscle size.
Again, bulking from the start is technically not “wrong” and can still lead you to your end goal over time, but in cases where body fat is already decently high, the best course of action for most skinny fat guys would be to focus on fat loss first.
Now on the other hand, let’s say you do have some noticeable excess fat but it’s not to a significant degree, and you’re a naturally skinny guy with more of an ectomorph frame. In this case you’d probably be best going straight into a clean bulk in order to fill your body out first.
Here are some examples of skinny fat body types that I’d generally recommend focus on building muscle first…
If your current physique is more along these lines, then focus on building up a solid foundation of muscle size and strength first, and you can then shift into a fat loss phase later on once you’ve gained some reasonable mass.
Just make sure to take things very slowly and to focus on building muscle in a controlled and gradual manner.
You will gain some additional fat throughout this process, and the last thing a skinny fat guy should ever do is a careless “dirty bulk”, as this will almost certainly cause you to gain an excessive amount of fat.
Put yourself onto a small calorie surplus of around 200-300 calories above your maintenance level, and keep the weight gain limited to around 2-3 pounds per month at the most.
Again, if that excess fat really bothers you and you’d prefer to get rid of it first before bulking, then beginning with a cut is still an option and is not “wrong”.
However, given the choice between the two, if someone is fairly skinny and not carrying that much fat, I would generally recommend concentrating on gaining overall muscle first.
The Bottom Line For “Skinny Fat” Guys
If you have that skinny fat body type, don’t just take someone’s black and white recommendation that you should “definitely” bulk or “definitely” cut.
There is no such thing as one absolute “skinny fat workout” or “skinny fat nutrition plan” for everyone, and the best approach depends on the individual.
Take into account your current body type, how much fat you’re specifically carrying, how little muscle you’re specifically carrying, what your personal preferences are in terms of how you want to look, and then decide from there.
Either approach is ultimately okay in the big picture, so the most important thing of all is that you simply make a decision, take action and stick with it.
Just remember that this stuff takes time and patience, and whatever initial body you achieve after your first bulk or cut is just a temporary phase on the road to your ideal body.
If you want my personal opinion on whether you should bulk or cut, you can feel free to message me on my Facebook Page and I’ll be happy to help you out.
If you’ve already decided on your starting approach and you want to get a complete step-by-step plan that will show you exactly how to carry out a successful bulking or cutting phase, then make sure to check out my free interactive video presentation below…