The Secret Benefit of Getting Lean Before Bulking

When you start your skinny-fat transformation, you have to decide whether you should bulk or cut. If you visit any bodybuilding forum, the majority of people will tell you to bulk first, because if you cut now you will end up looking skinny.

This advice is not only ineffective to achieve your fitness goals, but also potentially harmful for your health. In this article I will explain why you should ignore that advice, and get lean before bulking.

The Vicious Cycle of Bulking from a Skinny-Fat Base

When you’re skinny-fat, your hormonal balance is most likely whack, and with a poor hormonal balance it’s difficult to gain a significant amount of muscle. For us fitness people there are 2 key hormones that need to be optimal to gain muscle while staying at a low bodyfat:

  • Testosterone: This is the key male hormone responsible for building muscle. You want this hormone to be at the high end of the range.
  • Estrogen: This is the key “female hormone”, but men also need a bit of it to function. When your bodyfat percentage increases a lot, your estrogen levels also increase. You want this hormone to be at the low end of the range.

Unfortunately,  during and after my bulk from 200 lbs to 235 lbs my estrogen levels were at the high end of the range while my testosterone levels were at the low end of the range. No wonder that I added a huge amount of fat rather than muscle during my bulk, despite adding 300 lbs to my deadlift and over 200 lbs to my squat.

This is typically what happens to skinny-fat guys that bulk from a skinny-fat base.

I like to call this The Vicious Cycle of Bulking:

Vicious Cycle of Bulking

I was caught in this vicious circle during my first 2 years of training, and that’s the main reason why I made so little progress.  In September 2010 I started as a skinny-fat guy with fairly high estrogen levels and low testosterone levels.

To overcome my skinny-fatness I decided to gain muscle by following a strength training routine and bulking. As a result, my estrogen levels increased and I became fat in February 2011.

To make up for this I decided to do an extreme cut where I lost a lot of weight in one month. During this cut it’s fair to assume that my testosterone levels got lower since I lost the weight so fast. Low testosterone levels made it difficult to train hard, so I lost muscle mass and strength – I was back to being skinny-fat instead of fat.

Just take a look at how the pictures below fit the vicious circle perfectly:

Picture 1 (Sep 2010): skinny-fat

Picture 2 (Feb 2011):  bulk > estrogen levels increase > become fat

Picture 3: (Mar 2011): extreme cut > lower testosterone levels > cannot train hard > loss of muscle mass > skinny-fat

Vicious cycle of bulking

I’m actually quite embarassed about wasting so much time in this vicious cycle, but I know that some people have been stuck in this vicious circle for much longer and eventually they gave up on changing their skinny-fat physique.

Optimize Your Hormones to Break the Vicious Circle of Bulking

To break this vicious circle I asked my endocrinologist about what I can do to solve my messed up hormones, and she answered something along the lines of: To increase your testosterone levels you should sleep as much as possible and eat a BALANCED diet. To reduce your estrogen levels you should lose weight.

So I asked myself 3 questions:

  • Am I eating a balanced diet? No, I’m eating a high proten/high carb/LOW FAT diet.
  • Am I sleeping as much as I need? No, I wake up because of an alarm, and not because I feel well rested.
  • Why am I at a high bodyfat after 1.5 years of training? I never focused 100 % on fat loss because I wanted to gain more muscle.

After asking myself those 3 questions I knew what to do to optimize my hormones.

For a whole semester I didn’t attend lectures or classes (luckily you don’t get graded based on attendance in Denmark). Instead I slept as much as I needed – some days up to 12 hours.

Furthermore, instead of focusing on eating as much protein as possible everyday, I focused on eating more fat in my diet.

And here are the results…

Testosterone levels (reference range: 9-37 nmol/l)

  • 24 Jan 2012: 11.66 nmol/l
  • 02 May 2012: 24 nmol/l (+106 %)

Estrogen (E2) levels: (reference range: 41-170 pmol/l)

  • 27 Jul 2012: 101 pmol/l
  • 18 Sep 2012: 47 pmol/l (-53 %)

As you can see by looking at the numbers above, my testosterone levels increased with 106 % in a timespan of less than 5 months. A few months later my estrogen levels started improving greatly and eventually they decreased by 53 % in less than 2 months.

As soon as I got lean for the first time in my life, my hormonal balance improved and as a result I was able to train harder and eat more food without gaining any significant amount of fat. This is the secret benefit of getting lean before you bulk.

I finally broke the vicious cycle of bulking and cutting.

Therefore, if you have a significant amount of bodyfat, you should lose that before you even think about bulking. Don’t waste your first 2 years of training on being stuck in the vicious cycle like I did.

How Lean Should You Get to Optimize Hormones?

In terms of getting lean I want you to reach this sweet spot where you are lean enough to build a significant amount of muscle without being so lean that your testosterone levels have gone to whack. That’s right: when you get too lean, your testosterone levels decrease.

A recent study has shown that a competition ready bodybuilder that dieted down for competition experienced a huge decrease in testosterone. In other words, he looked good, but he felt like crap and he lifted significantly less at the gym. The reason why I’m sharing this study with you is that I want you to know that dieting down to extremely low bodyfat levels is NOT healthy.

In my experience the sweet spot is roughly at 10-12 % bodyfat depending on how you feel at each of those. Some of you may go as low as 10 % without any problems while I prefer 12 %. To show you how 10-12 % bodyfat looks like, I reached out to a reader of Skinny-Fat Transformation.

Picture 1: May 2013, 154 lbs of skinny-fatness

Picture 2: Oct 2013, 121 lbs of leanness (-33 lbs)

skinny-fat vs lean

The body in picture 2 is the kind of “look” you should aim for if you’re a skinny-fat beginner: lean chest, arms, neck and slight ab definition.

Once you reach this level of leanness, you’re ready to bulk and gain some quality muscle mass.

By the way, should it happen that you found this article useful, be sure to follow my daily updates on my facebook page and instagram.

Be proud but stay hungry,

Oskar Faarkrog

 

Read my guide the 2 Phases of a Skinny-Fat Transformation:

 

View My Top 40 Fitness Articles (Read By Over 3 Million Skinny-Fat Guys):

Comments

  1. I can’t seem to reach the 10-12% body fat. I got stuck at 13-16% body fat range which results to the visible love handles and some flab in the lower abs (the upper abs shows though in proper lighting).

    I’m on a low carb, high fat, medium protein diet. What do you think am I doing wrong?

  2. Hi Oscar,
    My problem is I,m underweight with 15,%bf and man boobs too.should I cut or bulk first.p lz help me

  3. Hi Oscar, excellent article.

    1. The article doesn’t say how much lean exactly you got before you started bulking up. How much was your weight before you started bulking up / when you fixed your hormones and were lean for the first time in your life? How much was your body fat %?

    2. For people who have been severely obese in the past, it is not possible to reduce body fat % down to 10% or 12% without having a significant amount of muscle. I was 266 lbs at 6’2″ and reduced to 180 lbs by doing cardio only and a healthy diet. I did not have the strength to lift even 10 kg free weights when I was obese nor do I have now. (I am also extremely skinny fat with weak upper body and low testosterone). Now I have started bodyweight exercises and joined a gym too and no longer doing cardio but bulking up. Is 180 lbs lean enough for 6’2″ height and a small frame but still with significant body fat % (20%+) and lots of loose skin and man boobs?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hey Gaurav,

      The first time I did a successful bulk I was 177 lbs at 6’2 and about 10-12% BF. I already had trained for almost 3 years and could deadlift 400 lbs

      It’s hard to say exactly how lean you should be. It really requires an individual assessment.

      Going by your stats though it sounds like you need to lose another 10 lbs and tweak your training program so you can gain strength

      Btw congrats on the big weight loss! Very well done

      • My god! Even though you could deadlift so much weight, you did not have significant muscle as you have now!? That’s astounding and your transformation pictures are very inspiring! But it shows the challenge skinny fat guys face. The “fit” look with a shirt on but flabbiness inside without any definition is horrible. The worst part is the general guidance by gym trainers or that on the web is not applicable to skinny fat guys due to the lack of the natural manly musculature that develops in adolescence for most of the “normal” guys. Judging by the symptoms you write in your low testosterone article, I am sure my condition is similar – pear shaped body and very thin arms which can’t put on muscle no matter how many weights I lift. My diet does have healthy fats and I did do bodyweight exercises for almost a year slowly increasing the load, developed some arm muscles but no gains in size of arms nor the expected increase in strength and hardly any loss of lower abdominal fat. Anyway, your site is excellent and I am going through all the articles. If I don’t get results from my gym, I will gladly join your personal consultation program. I might *have to* if nothing works.

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          Hey Gaurav,

          I didn’t gain much muscle mass from lifting heavy weights and the same goes for the hundreds of skinny-fat guys I’ve messaged with the past 3 years.

          When you get stronger in the lower rep ranges, it’s largely a result of adaptations in your Central Nervous System (i.e. your brain becomes better at signaling to your body that it has to get stronger).

          This is why you will sometimes see a guy who is very strong and lean, yet not that big.

          Now, some guys will get big from doing heavy weights, but these guys would have gotten big from ANY training they do.

          I will link two articles for you below, one which covers my experience with heavy weight training and the other about training with higher reps:

          http://skinnyfattransformation.com/why-you-shouldnt-do-starting-strength-as-a-beginner/
          http://skinnyfattransformation.com/serge-nubret-pump-training/

          I hope you find them useful!

  4. Hey Oskar I’m a 22 year old male and weigh 59 kg and I am 69 inches tall, with a 29 inch waist, however i still have some flab on my belly, he problem is i don’t know if I should bulk or continue cutting; i’ve done my body fat using callipers and is coming to 17%. It will be great if you can shed some light on this

  5. Hey Oskar, I’ve been lifting for a couple of months now and was at a slight deficit of about 200 calories; I’ve put on a little bit of muscle but still cannot get rid of this belly fat. I am a male, 22 years of age, currently 69 inches in height and at 58.9 kg in weight and my waist is 29 inches however I calculate my body fat as 18% with a caliper, this is really troubling for me as I do not know what to do; I read online that I am too high in body fat to bulk however if I cut; i feel like I will be dropping to 1000-1100 calories which seems unreasonable. It will be great if you can shed some light on this.

  6. Hey Oskar,

    How do i know if i’m lean enough to start bulking? And can i eat white rice + Beef/chicken 2 meals a day for leaning ?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hey Haziq,

      If you have a flat waist with some ab definition you’re good to go.

      • Unfortunately, i don’t have a pull bar to build my lats and there is no gym nearby my house. So, i just do the diamond push up and some other exercise ( using light weight ) and sometimes i can do 25 diamond push ups and sometimes i can only do 16-20 diamond push ups ( I use 16 reps for my workout ). I increase 2 reps every week for my diamond push up but if i still struggling with my current reps, i will master it first.

  7. Just wondering how tall you are so I can sort of judge if I’m close to where you were in picture 2!

    Also, when you were at your lean base and ready to start adding muscle, did you still have “flab?” Standing up, I am now quite skinny looking. But when I sit down shirtless or even lay down in bed on my side, my body is not really “tight” at all.

    I am 6’0″ ~145 lbs, 24 years old. I was almost 250 lbs eight years ago, but puberty helped get me down to a stable weight of around 205-210 lbs. I started eating healthier/less and watching my calories about two years ago, and I’ve been holding steady at my current weight for about a year.

    I am guessing that most of the looseness is probably because I was fat, and I do have some stretch marks from my bigger days. When I say “loose skin” though, it’s nothing like the worst case scenarios you see online. Standing up you cannot tell I have any loose skin at all. Does it tighten up a bit more when bulking?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      I’m 6’2″ (190 CM)

      “Also, when you were at your lean base and ready to start adding muscle, did you still have “flab?”

      Yes I did. When I was at my leanest I still had some loose skin around the lower waist. I think only a liposuction can get rid of that, or building a large amount of ab muscle to tighten up the skin, but that would make my waist bigger.

      I think this is nothing to worry about and if it’s a big deal, the liposuction surgery is a good option for you to consider.

  8. Hi Oskar, I just found your resource. I have been eating healthy for the last few years. Occasionally, I do cheat though, but who isn’t. I workout, sometimes a lot, I have developed muscle but it is covered by fat, belly and moobs. They have always been there. Thanks to your website I am gonna look into balancing my hormones. Do you believe it is worth it to get a hormone test? Just testosterone is $50… testosterone and estrogen is $90… If I already know I fit the skinny fat description, maybe it will be redundant… Thanks

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      Hey Jan, it’s definitely worth to check it now, and then check every 3 months until you have optimal values on both tests (650 ng/dl testosterone and around 20 pg/mL on estradiol). Once you have optimal values, you just check yearly to be on the safe side.

  9. What bf percentage should a woman start bulking at? Lots of great information here but you’re missing out on helping us skinny fat women.

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      Hey Emily, I would love to help more women, but I’ve only coached 2 skinny-fat women and even though I helped one of them get visible abs and get to 10 pull ups, my experience with women is limited.

  10. Ryan Smith says:

    Hey I was wondering if that second lean picture at the bottom you were flexing your abs or just relaxed?

    I’m almost to the point where I’m considering bulking but not sure if I’m skinny enough. When you say slight ab definition is that while flexed or not?

    Thanks!

  11. Sebastiàn Etxegarai says:

    Hello, i’ve been bulking for 3 months and although i haven’t gained considerable weight (2kg) ive gained more strength and my measures have increased, but i just found out that im in 18-20% bodyfat. a 1800 calorie diet with 25% Carb 40% Protein 35% Fat would be nice enough to decrease my BF to 12 11 or 10 by march? thanks!

  12. I have a flat body but i cant get the fat on my waist to burn. If u can plx tell me a few exercises.

  13. Hy my name is zoraq im 17 years old 6 feet tall and i weigh 161lbs but my body fat percentage is 23% on reading ur article i realized that i should cut my fat but o what percent. I have been training for about an year now i have gotten slimmer from before but when i take the shirt of you can see the fat. So what should i do and to what extent

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      Get to around 12% body-fat. This means some ab definition and a flat waist.

  14. I’m skinny fat, with no strength foundation weak like a skinny guy with flabs, hips, love handles and a gut like a fat guy. So I believe you’re transformation is really relatable to mine in the near future. I’m confused what to do though in terms of excersing to become “lean” since I don’t have a foundation of strength should I just do a lot of cardio and no calisthenics body weight training?

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      You become lean through diet. You gain strength and muscle through calisthenics (and later gym training if you want to add that, but master calisthenics first).

  15. i am 178cm,88kg.Should i cut or bulk first?

  16. Hi Oscar,

    I’m 5’9, 183 lbs, and probably between 22-25 bf%. All my friends suggest bulking up to get/look bigger, however; I’m on the fence. My currently training plan is lifting 4 days a week and some form of cardio 2 days a week. Should I stay at a deficit to lose weight and get leaner (dropping to about 160-165 lbs)? Or bulk up towards 200 and then lean back down? Thanks!

  17. I am so in need of help. I weigh 117 pounds, and have a short waist, so any slight fat in the belly makes me look wide. I have small love handles and since my 4th child (1.5 years ago) I can’t get back into my pants without love handles. can you help me?? I ‘ve been told to bulk. . . by everyone. I would add pics, but don’t know if I can. .

  18. Hey oskar, have you seen any change in fat distribution over time? The skinny fat distribution seems to be on the hips and thighs. I was wondering if the change in hormones led to any change in fat distribution at all.

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      No change at all. But filling out my frame with muscle made my fat in my hips, glutes and lower waist less visible.

  19. Hey Oskar,

    Right now I’m on about 17% bf, weight: 165 lbs. As you know, as a skinny-fat you have insanely lean arms and legs, which make you look like a girl, but looking at your progress, it seems that you have to go through such a period in your life. So if i cut and reach my goal of 12% bf, i guess i will reach that when I’m at 150 lbs, do I have to bulk then? And for how long should I bulk then? And what if I’m done with bulking, do I have to cut back to 12% bf again?

    Please help, I hate to be a skinny-fat and I want to get rid of this asap!

    • Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer says:

      You cut to 10-12% first, and then you do short bulking and cutting cycles, staying between 12-15%. Basically, let’s say you cut to a 30 inch waist. Once you have that 30 inch waist you bulk until you get to 31 inches and then cut back. Does that make sense?

      • Hey Oskar, This is reg. your reply to Enes – I am in a similar position. When you say bulk, you mean a slight calorie surplus (500 cals and under) or a huge calorie surplus (over 1000 calories)?

  20. Hey oscar,

    First of all i totally agree with you that leanness is beneficial when you try to get rid of the skinny fat look.

    But i don’t think that you should lose 30 lbs of bodyweight just to reduce your bf and then bulk up again. What’s the point of losing weight in order to get it back again? Because when you have reached a lower body fat and then begin bulking you will gain some fat along with the added muscle.

    I think that the best approach is to increase the muscle:fat ratio by increasing your muscle percentage. Even if your bodyfat stays the same you will look much better with the added muscle which will work as a METABOLIZER to burn the fat. Combine this with a clean diet and rest and voila.

    I would like to hear your opinion on that.

    kind regards,
    Damian

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      You will gain fat regardless of whether you’re lean or not.

      The big difference is that a lean body has better nutrient partitioning which means that it’s better at using nutrient for muscle gains, thus a bigger percentage of your gains are muscle.

      Besides that, you can better see your muscle mass which will keep you motivated to stay consistent.

  21. Jim Walker says:

    I almost thought that was a different person on the cover of the book than in the before pics! Unbelievable, great job!

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thank you, I really appreciate it! By the way, that picture is now 2 years old. Today my condition is way better than that pic.

  22. Hey Buddy,

    I am really inspired by your story. Thanks a ton. I’ve been reading some of your blogs and love it. I ‘ve been going through the same journey. Below are some stats

    To cut the story short I lost about 46 lb in 2 years from 195 to 149. In between, I did a 2 complete sessions of Insanity and 1 complete session on P90x. Lots of Cardio and body building.

    I had reached a point of 300 pushups and 115 pull ups a day when i was at ~160. But had an injury in the hand and decided to just stick to cardio till the injury is fixed and reduce calorie intake. Because of which I lost all muslce and some fat. I went in starvation mode and got really sad at 149. Now to fix my metabolism, I am increasing my calorie intake little bit while lifting (injury is mostly gone). I am not sure what to do next. To be super lean like the one seen in the article I would have to go down to 135 which would really look bad and it would really affect my social life. I am 31 now, and there are some stretch marks on my body as well. Most people already think I am too skinny and I should eat more. What they dont realize is that I am trying to get rid of fat before I gain muscle. Now your skinny fat solution suggests to get really skinny and then build foundation. I still have belly and man boobs and at 13.5 % BF even after loosing so much weight.

    I am curious what are your thoughts on those programs and about my situation?

    Is there an email I can send you my pictures and discuss more? really appreciate your response.

  23. Hi Oskar, I love your website. A lot of what you posted is the same I’ve been through. Whats your take on caffeine? A lot of people use it for pre workout and for fatloss. But caffeine raises cortisol, which lowers testosterone.

    Should caffeine be avoided by skinny fats? Since our hormones are already out of wack, would the cortisol increase it just make our problem worse?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Juan,

      I don’t drink coffee and never looked into this, but I can’t imagine caffeine having a significant effect unless you drink extreme amounts.

      Remember, sometimes people will tell you stuff like “caffeine raises cortisol so it’s bad for you”, but stressing about it, might raise cortisol even more. Is the increase in cortisol signficant, and if so, how much caffeine do you need to consume to reach that levels? That’s the important question to ask here.

  24. Instrumentalberry says:

    Hey Oskar,
    I am currently at 13,8% bf but I am still very weak at bodyweight training as I mostly used barbells for training. I am trying to get to 10-12% bf as you recommend but due to my low weight I constantly get ill (have been ill for 2 1/2 weeks in Oktober and 3 weeks in November). Unfortunately I don’t have this ‘lean look’ (I have got a little bit of fat around my belly) but that could be due to my weight loss (I lost about 45 kg/99,2 lbs), so I think it is a mixture between excessive skin and a little bit fat.

    I am also following your guidlines for nutrition but if I am really going to 10-12% bodyfat I would have to eat about 1,800 kcal per day which somehow doesn’t sound right to me.

    I’m really appreciating your blog, it helped me so much at not freaking out about nutrition and training :)

    I hope you have some tips for me and thank you for your answer! :)

    PS: My testosterone levels are okay

  25. Thanks for the article Oskar. Everything you have written has been really helpful. I’m 5’7 and started at around 165 lbs and skinny fat. I’ve been cutting and doing some bodyweight training for several months and now I’m down to 135 lbs. I feel like I look way too skinny now and my friends are telling me that also. However, i feel like I may not be at 12% yet because I still don’t have great definition, but somewhat hesitant to lose even more weight because I don’t want to look emaciated and sick. Would I be able to send you some pictures and get your opinion if you think I should start my bulk or continue to lose bf%.

    Thanks again

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hey Michael,

      You’re welcome, I’m glad it has helped you.

      Congrats on the huge fat loss! How did you lose the weight? Did you follow the advice here?

      Send me pictures through the contact form and I’ll take a look.

      • Just sent you the pictures through the contact form. I actually didn’t find your website until I was already deep into my cut so I didn’t start doing strengthening and body weight exercises for the first couple of months and I probably lost weight a little too fast, which probably made me lose a good amount of muscle at the start. But since then, Ive been following your advice, losing 1-2 pounds a week, and generally just eating healthy and in a deficit with the occasional cheat day. I do have some issues though restraining myself from alcohol, since I’m still a college student and its the main way to socialize here, but have definitely cut back a lot. Thanks for all your help!

  26. Hi Oskar, thanks so much. I am good.

    I am assuming my bf is 30% based on waist size 36 inch and weight (72 kilos at 5’11”). I do not know for sure. But even otherwise, I feel 36 inches is too much and must be reduced. My only worry is, if I reduce my waist to 30 inches my weight may go down to 55 kilos or so, and that will make me look skin and bones.

    So is there some way around it?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      You will most likely look like skin and bones after the cut, but it’s better to be skinny than to be chubby. Once you’re skinny your face will look more angular and much better and you won’t have all that fat around your waist. Also, it’s much better to gain muscle from a lean base, rather than from 30% bf.

  27. Hi Oskar, how are you? I agree with the logic but …. in my case I am a little confused.

    I am 72 kilos at 5’11” with 36 inch waist, so I am guessing my bodyfat percentage is 30%. Obviously, I should lean down before trying to add muscle. However, what if my weight alone goes down and my waist remains the same …. wouldn’t that be a bigger disaster?

    Can u shed some light on that?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Oscar, I’m great thanks, you?

      If you have a 36″ waist at 5″11 and a BF Of 30% there’s almost no way your waist will stay the same once you cut down to 12%, unless it’s all bone and no fat.

  28. I’ll try to eat 3 meals at day, because when i eat like 6 meals at day every 3 hours i don’t feel good, and when i started to drink like whey shake i didn’t notice anything special so idk , thanks for the answer!

  29. if you said eat max 3 meals at day to lose fat , like 3 meals at days is rly low calories ? how many calories should i eat to lose fat?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      I never counted calories so can’t say, but I know there are some guidelines posted online where you multiply your bodyweight with some number.

  30. Hi i didn’t understand you said one time to eat 3max meals at day ? but this is kinda low carbs and protein diet? i am 19years old , 75 kg, 188 cm and about 20+% bf, can you help me what to do ?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Just because you eat 3 meals a day, doesn’t mean you eat less protein and carbs. I eat quite big meals. This fits me, since I have a big appetite.

      You need to focus on fat loss if you have over 20% BF.

  31. thanks again Oskar. for poor digestion we need to consume more sodas or pepsis than other guys!! ;)
    one last propose, if you can plz create a freeebook like your previous, about hormone optimization and what exactly a sf should does to decreases estrogens and increase testosterone for his whole life.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      To keep testosterone high and estrogen low do the following:

      – More fat in diet
      – Sleep without alarm
      – Avoid low calorie diets when cutting
      – Never bulk up to the point where you lose all your abs
      – Don’t eat or drink from plastic and don’t put food into plastic boxes, use glass instead
      – Work on your posture

      Those are some of the most important things to do. I will expand on this in the future. I don’t know yet if it will be in an article or a book. Perhaps both.

  32. 1. What nutrition strategy are you using during your bulks & cuts? for example 40/40/20 pr/carb/fat
    3. I just started a diet with gluten-free products and i will see how it works. As i remember in one of your articles you noticed that many SFs had problems with gluten consumption. in my opinion it is not random.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      1. I don’t count macros. The only thing I change is that I generally eat more calories. I do this by eating more natural peanut butter and more cheat meals.
      3. It surely isn’t random. Skinny-fat guys generally have poor digestion.

  33. Thank you for the welcome!

    1. Happy to hear it from you! I wonder if it is necessary to increase fat or carb during cutting period because i do not have so much energy and testosterone as bulking periods.
    2. I totally agree with you!
    3. I will try your recommendation and i will discover if i have gluten intolerance, by replacing oatmeal, bread etc with similar gluten-free products.
    4. I eat only one cheat meal per week(on recovery day) without caring if i am on bulking/cutting. However i use normal salt quantities in my food. according to many surveys salt is necessary in our diet.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      1. This is normal. This is also one of the reasons to why I like to keep cuts to 2 weeks max. With that said, experiment with different intakes and see how high you can go and still lose fat.

      4. Salt is necessary yes, so keep doing what you’re doing. I just wanted to point out that most people consume too much, which doesn’t seem to be the case for you.

  34. Hey Oskar! Initially thanks from your precious content! I have been trained for over a year alone and 4 months since I discovered your webpage. I have great results with bodyweight training. However I have some questions

    1. How can I optimize my hormones? Until now I eat medium protein/high carb/and high fat during my bulks and high protein/low carb/and medium fat during my fat loss cycles. Also I do not use alarm in my sleep and sometimes I take a nap in the noon.
    2. In your opinion which is the best time to train for muscle growth? In the morning, afternoon or night?
    3. In one of your articles you suggest skinnyfats to eliminate gluten. That means no oat, bread and all the foods with wheat right? However you consume rye bread. Do you recommend me to eliminate completely gluten and buy only gluten-free products?
    4. What about sodium? It is difficult to eliminate since there is exist hidden salt in many foods.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Sammy, you’re welcome!

      1) You’re doing it right. Keep this up!
      2) In my experience, the evening is best. I’m stronger in the evening, because by that time I had more meals in. Also, I read somewhere that your body is generally stronger in the evenings. With that said, it’s probably different from person to person. The key is to experiment and see what works for you.
      3) Yes, I look better without gluten (leaner, no puffiness or bloating and better digestion). I try to reduce my gluten intake, however I do still consume a bit, since small amounts do not bother me too much. I recommend you to eliminate it as much as possible, and see how your body responds to it.
      4) You don’t have to eliminate sodium, however most people get too much of it. Just try to use less salt in general, and eat less junkfood, then you should be fine.

      The key is not to eliminate it completely, but to try and find ways to reduce your intake. I found that this work best in the long term, so you don’t have to obsess about every single meal you eat.

  35. Hi Oskar,

    I’ve read this article – and others – could you explain please what exactly you mean by cutting?

    Is this just eating less? Whilst cutting do you still train hard?

    I’m 5′ 10 155 lbs and a waist of 36″ I have some flab around my stomach – very little elsewhere – I think I need to reduce weight to get lean properly. I want to do this right – could you help please

    Thank you

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Cutting is basically fat loss. You eat a caloric deficit to lose fat.

      Yes, I still train hard, but not as hard as during my bulks since I have less energy from food.

      Yes, with that waist measurement at 5″10 you definitely need to lose fat. I would aim for something like a 30″ waist.

  36. Hi Oskar, very inspiring website!
    I have some question for you about how to became leaner.
    I’ve always been skinny fat, now I’m about 20% of body fat…in my perpetual try to lose fat I’ve always done cardio with temporary good results but I’ve never manteined it.
    I’ve read all your post, and I’ve seen that you suggest to do cardio to obtain a better cut when one reach 10/12% of BF…but how to reach this 12%? Only with a moderate calorie deficit + chin up&diamond push up at least 3 times a week? Do you suggest to train everyday to increase energy deficit? Which range of weight loss in lb do you suggest for a week?
    Thanks, Fabio from Italy

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Fabio, thank you!

      You’re right; a moderate calorie deficit combined with bodyweight training will get you to around 12%. I recommend you to train minimum 4 times a week.

      I don’t have a weekly recommended range since fat loss is non-linear. You will often go several weeks without losing any fat, and then you will suddenly lose 2 kg in one week. On average, I lost 1.8 kg per month during my fat loss. Also, keep in mind that if you’re new to strength training you may gain muscle mass WHILE losing fat, so your bodyweight may not change much. That’s why it’s crucial to track your waist and hip measurements every week.

      Hope this was helpful.

  37. im 5 9 155ls don’t know body fat how many cal aday to get ripped

  38. Ok thanks

  39. Hey

    I made new menu food with 2000 calories

    The total carb is 160-170 gram, protein is 129 gram and fat is 93 gram

    Now is it okay?

    The high carb is because the white rice ( has 102 gram of carb – I eat 400 gram rice)
    So my question is if eating like maybe 300 gram rice or less ?
    300 gram rice is will be total calories less 117 of calories and less 25.5 gram carb
    So it will be ( 134.5 carb )

    And I wanna know of by this menu with the program everyday workout, I will really see any
    Changes on my weight and waist and more until I became lean?

    Cuz I not count as high weight to my hight

    Thanks

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      hey Roy,

      The total carb is 160-170 gram, protein is 129 gram and fat is 93 gram

      This looks ok, try it out and and see if you lose fat. If not, reduce calories with around 200.

      The beginner program is 4 days a week. You start with 4 days, then you add days later if you feel you need it.

      Yes, you will see changes if you lose weight. You’ll most likely go from skinny-fat to skinny, but that’s ok for now. Once you’re skinny, you can focus on building muscle without getting fat.

      • Okay!

        Thanks

        And I can’t doing chin ups so I jump on the chin up bar and hold it as I can

        Is it okay? I doing that 3 sets

        And I do 1 set of chin ups, push ups and squats
        And then set 2 and 3 ( the push up its hard to do but I try what I can)

        Thanks Agian :)

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          Instead of holding it, lower yourself slowly, then jump up again and repeat as many times as you can. There’s more on that in my free ebook.

          • It’s hard for me hold it and keep me up and go down very slowy

            I jump and try hold and go down slow as I can

            It’s ok ? And when u think I will be strong enough to do regular chin ups?

            Thanks

            • Oskar Faarkrog says:

              It’s hard for me hold it and keep me up and go down very slowy

              It was VERY hard for me too in the beginning. I could barely do 3 reps like that.

              But, losing fat and doing this consistently will get you your first chin up. That’s how I and many other skinny-fat guys have gotten our first chin up.

              I have no idea how much time it will take, that’s very individual. A guess would be anything between 1-3 months. The key is to lose the fat, while doing this consistently.

              • Oh okay
                And more 3 months I will look better? I will lose fat and will do ur program .

                And I wanna to ask, I wanna doing running but I don’t know if I should doing half hour or hour? And how hard running ? Easy/ medium ?

                Thanks

                • Oskar Faarkrog says:

                  Yes, you will look better. I don’t know since I don’t run myself.

                  • So u not recommend doing running? I thought I will lose fat faster if I will doing that

                    And if I will be in like ummm 60 kg ( now I 67) and I will be still with the fat? What should I do? Just keep doing the program?

                    And I try add more reps to my set but I can’t add more to the last set so i do as I can and in the first set I do more always and got more power

                    Wat u think ?

                    Thanks Agian for hleping

                    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

                      Roy, I’ve already explained what I recommend. You’re overanalyzing everything. Just do your bodyweight training, and go for a run if that’s what you want to do. I personally don’t like running since it’s rough on the joints, but that shouldn’t stop you if that’s what you want to.

                      How would I know how you’re gonna look at 60 kg? There’s only one way to find out.

                      It’s normal to do less reps as you get exhausted throughout your workout.

  40. Awesome article! This gives me new insight. Knowledge is power!

  41. Hi Oskar,

    Accidently found your site and this is so so great. I feel very hopeful right now after read your article, I been stuck in the vicious cycle for more than 3 years after randomly follow diet/workout on the net. Anyway… may I know how do I monitor my hormones level time by time? Thank you so much again for having this site… feeling so grateful & hopeful :))))

  42. Hey Oscar,

    I was 100 kg and by eating healthy food and not junk food and some Running on a treadmill I became 59 kg

    I didn’t train with Weights and strength training and because that I am skinnyfat I think

    I am 17.5 years old and my height is 178 cm and now my weight is 67 kg ( when I was 59 kg I started doing bulking and train in the gym but I just became fat)

    I am in right weight to my height but, I got ugly body, fat in my chest, arms, legs and shoulders.

    What should I do if I am in right weight ? Still doing cut ? And until what weight should I do that? I really really Desperate! All what I wanted is be happy with nice body , I hope u can help me

    And ur story so amazing

    If u wanna I can send u photos of my body: my email is: [email protected]

    Thanks

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thank you Ron,

      I saw your pictures.

      You definitely need to lose the fat first. Read through the articles listed under Step 1 in the start here section, and follow the advice there.

      • Hey Oscar

        It’s roy :)

        Thanks for u answer!

        But my problem is that my weight is ok for my height so until when do cut?

        And u can send me the links u talking about?

        Thanks :)

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:
          • But my weight is 67 kg and my height is 178 cm

            So by cut I need eating less and doing ur program ? Cuz now I already eating not much

            • And u said cut until I will be lean

              So with the program u wrote , and with less food I should get lean within how many time?

              And I afraid be in weight that count too low for my height , so what u think?

              Thanks

              • Update :

                I checked now: I eat 1710-1720 Calories

                This is photo :

                http://sizmedia.com/my.php?i=dy1wykdtmzjy.jpg

                It’s in Hebrew so the final is: 1707 calories, 27.07% Protein(92.3 gram)
                Fat 19.52% ( 66.7 gram) and Carbohydrate 53.44% ( 182.5 gram)

                This is the total my food Nutritional Values

                So what u think ? Cuz my bmr is 2,111 calories so I actually not eating much , so what u suggest me to do ?

                Thanks !

                • Oskar Faarkrog says:

                  Try upping fat intake and reduce carb intake. How long time have you been stuck at the same weight?

                  • I am a year in this weight , I was 69 before few months but now I 67 kg and stay in that weight.

                    Can u help me how up the fat by my food menu? It’s really will help me !

                    And what about my bmr (2111 cal) vs my total cal I eat in day (1700-1800 cl) is it ok? What should I do? Still eating less?

                    Thanks

                    • I can eating less white rice ( now its 102 grm of carb)
                      And less bread ( I eat 4 in a day so I can make it Haif 2 and it will be 31.2 only grm)

                      But how I up the fat? I waiting for ur advice

                      And I really need ur answer about what do vs my bmr thanks I really wnana start tomorrow the program

                    • Ok listen ! I found solution and I wanna know if it’s now ok

                      I will not eat bread at all, instead I will eat 250 grm cheese spread 9% ( has only 3 grm of carb and 22.5 grm of fat and 30 grm protein)

                      And I will eat half of the rice I eat so it’s will be 51 grm of carb , 0.6 grm fat and 5.4 grm protein)

                      So I count this with my new menu and all the calories now is: 1400 calories ( 70.3 gram of carb, 82 grm fat and 93.4 grm of protein)

                      What u think now? Is it good? And the total calories not low? Maybe add more ? And of yes what?

                      Thanks

  43. Hi Oskar,

    I have been following your workout, (pull ups super set with diamond pushups 3sets than chin ups superset with incline diamond push ups). This is the progress i have made : pull up 10 to 13, diamond push ups 10 to 17. I don’t do squats because I have huge legs. Recently my progress has stopped and I seem to be gaining weight. I eat clean every meal consists of veg, protein and little carbs. I’m so close to losing my chest fat and gut totally please help.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      How long time has your progress stopped?

      How much fat do you eat per day?

      And, how much did your measurements and bodyweight change while your progress stopped?

  44. Hi Oskar,

    I just came across your webiste – wish I would’ve seen it a long time ago! I’ve been struggling with being skinny fat for about 4 years now. I’ve gathered some amazing information from your site, but I’m still confused as to how many calories I should consume. Should I aim for a calroic deficit or surplus? All of my fat is around my mid section. I have a huge gut and gross love handles. I want to gain lean muscle and lose the fat! Please help!

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Shan,

      You need to lose the fat first, and get to around 10-12% bodyfat. Don’t focus at two goals at the same time (gain muscle + lose fat) – that will get you nowhere. Lose the fat first by eating a caloric deficit.

  45. Hey, first I’d like to say i love your blog and it feels really helpful. But after reading this article i’m kind of confused..
    Should i do a certain workout while doing all of this ? If yes which one ? And thanks.

  46. Hello, congrats for your website i really like to read your articles.
    I have high estrogens levels and medium-normal testosterone level, would you be so kind to give me some advice to lower estrogens?
    Thank you so much.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Dannu,

      If you aren’t lean already, get lean. By losing those excess 20-30 pounds your problem may go away.

      Furthermore, you should eat a high testosterone diet with a lot of eggs, fatty meat, natural peanut butter and so on.

      You may want to google around for foods that increase estrogen, and avoid those. If I recall correctly, soy and beer increases estrogen.

  47. Bonnita says:

    p.s. Your whole “get wide shoulders thing” can work for women too! It is a trick I’ve used as a skinny, small chested woman because it gives the illusion of a smaller waist. Plus, upper body definition can take attention away from being less amble in the chest department :D

    • Bonnita says:

      Oh, sorry, remembered another thing! Skin brushing is good for firming up loose skin, it does work if you have the discipline to do it a few times a week (before showering) – I suspect this is something men don’t think to do but it is worth the trouble.

      • Oskar Faarkrog says:

        Will it still work if the skin has been loose or years? I have never thought much about loose skin, but I believe I have some in my lower waist since I’m hard in that area but never had definition.

        • Bonnita says:

          I think so, yes. I discovered it while on an exercise forum where a few women talked about amazing transformations from skin brushing (e.g. very loose skin from extreme weight loss and/or past pregnancies) a couple even showed before and after pictures. I’d imagine it works just as well or possibly even better for men, it wouldn’t surprise me if Men have some testosterone advantage for skin regeneration :D

          I noticed benefits of skin brushing after about 2 weeks of doing it consistently (about 3 times a week). You need to be careful at first if you have dry or sensitive skin, but the skin gets used to it and toughens up quite quickly.

  48. Bonnita says:

    I just wanted to say hi from a 35 year old woman who finds your writing helpful. As an ectomorph type I’ve spent my life cycling between skinny (stick figure) or skinnyfat (stick figure with belly). My problem with conventional weight loss advice for women is the assumption that a woman needing to lose weight is an endomorph, and therefore needs lots of cardio and a low cal or low carb diet. I’ve learned through trial and error that this approach is a metabolic and hormonal disaster for my body! I have done much better with the kind of advice you give (get lean without starving yourself, then build muscle through strength training/weights), even though it’s tailored for the skinny guys, so for that I thank you and look forward to reading more!

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thanks for leaving a comment.

      I didn’t know I had female readers as well.

      What you’re saying makes a lot of sense. Skinny-fat guys have a naturally feminine hormonal balance, so using the advice here should work for females to some degree.

      I’m glad you find it useful!

  49. Hi Oskar,
    Prior to finding this post, I have been working out for 5 months while eating at maintanence. I’ve added on a bit of muscle and lost a bit of fat (and I conclude this from the mirror because my weight is around the same as before roughly 145-150 lbs, but I can really see my muscles have grown). Now, my gains are slowing down and I’m starting to feel a bit disapppointed because I don’t even know if I’m making muscle or fat anymore.

    So here are my questions:
    Should I continue what I’m doing until I get ripped? or should I start cutting calories and start getting lean now?
    And, if I should get lean, will I lose the small muscle mass and strength that I’ve trained hard for (I really don’t want to lose it :/ ) ?

    Oh, and I forgot to put my height: 5 feet 10 inches

  50. Hey Adrian,

    Let me start off by saying great article. Having spent some time on the bodybuilding forums I continue to get the same responses. I’ve also been in your shoes – I’ve been working out for the past 5 years. In the first year or two I looked great but now I’m stuck in the skinny-fat boat.

    Being 6’0 tall and 155 lbs everyone tells me that I should bulk. However I’m sitting at ~20% body fat so I have the man-boobs and a tummy. This is mostly embarrassing when going to the beach or pool. However I still have some good strength.

    I was wondering if skinny fat people actually have fat, or lose skin. I ask because for me to lose weight I need to be eating around 1600 calories, which seems very low. And when I eat less, my strength goes down so I end up stopping to eat more, to get more strength.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Jim,

      Definitely cut. You don’t need to eat a huge deficit – I was losing 4 lbs on average per month during my 18 month cut. If you do it like that, strength loss should be minimal.

      By the way, my name is Oskar.

  51. Hey Oskar,
    I was wondering how many lbs of fat should I aim to lose per week?

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Hi Adrian,

      It depends on how lean you already are. If you’re 12-20 % bodyfat, then aim to lose 1-2 lbs per week (perhaps a bit more in the first few weeks).

      – Oskar

  52. Great post Oskar. I really like these cyclical frameworks. I created many myself.

    Good points about estrogen vs testosterone. I remember freaking out about xenoestrogens when I was reading a lot of nutrition & health books 1-2 years ago.

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thank you Ludvig.

      My approach has always been minimalistic; I focused on losing fat to reduce estrogen levels and increase my testosterone by adding fat to my diet and sleep without an alarm whenever possible.

      Do you know if xenoestrogens make a significant difference? If so, I will definitely research that more.

  53. I just recently found your blog and prior to that Anthony Mychel’s blog – definitely cool inspirations for use skinny-fatties, thank you guys!

    And that “debate” hahah, seriously man, how the hell did you remain calm? I would’ve lost it if someone repeatedly tried to shove their own world-view and think it’s the one and only view haha.

    Don’t mind them and keep up the good work man!

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Thanks Josef!

      Yeah, that debate was a complete waste of time, but I felt like I had to chip in with my point of view.

  54. Wow, your transformation is very inspiring to me! I’ve been skinny-fat my whole life and I really want to change my body shape. I’ve been going to the gym and bulking for a year and one month so far and my results were very unsatisfactory: I only gained 11 lbs and half of them were fat. I currently weight 154 lbs, my height is 5’9” and my body fat was at 17.1% the last time I got measured.

    Just curious, in the period of getting lean can I stop going to gym and change it to swimming classes or is it a bad idea and I should stay in the gym?

    Thanks for the attention and the amazing site! :D

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      You’re welcome Rafael.

      You should keep training at the gym to maintain the muscle you have built during your bulk.

  55. hi oskar i have read your article and what you have written is amazing and the transformation you have been through is out of this world and it will give confidence to people like myself who are skinnyfat that we can transform just like you.

    i am 29 years old, 5ft 9, i have a body fst of 19.8 and have a lot of flab and love handles, i have a skinny body frame with hardly any muscle mass. when i try and eat it seems like everythinh is being stored as fat around belly and i dont feel like eating. i follow the 5×5 stronglifts i can bench 70kg, squat 100 kg, barbell row 50kgand working on the remainder. please can you advice how my nutrition intake should be n what i should be eating like calories protien fat? and if so what excercises should i be doing? thanks

  56. When trying to lose fat, does it matter what food you eat as long as it fits in your macros or is that BS?

  57. Hey. I weight in at 155 pounds at the moment. I’m worried that if I get leaner it would damage me because of how much weight id lose. My height is 6″1 so I’m probably only just over the average weight on proportion to what my height is. My bf is roughly 20% at the moment so I’m curious as to what is a good idea?
    Also I can’t really hit the gym at the moment because of money so would body weight training still be ok? Thanks

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      Are you sure that your bf is 20 % at 155 lbs and 6″1? I think you may be overestimating it a bit. Weight is not nearly as important as how you look. 2 people can weigh the same but one is 10 % bodyfat and the other is 20 %, so they would look completely different.

      Bodyweight training is great, that’s what I do all the time, so go ahead and train hard with bodyweight exercises.

  58. I am in the current spot where I have bulked from around 15% bf and gained around 7-8lbs over the last 5-6 months and gained about 30lnd on bench and 60-70 lbs on deadlift but my bf is probably closer to 17% as I have lost my abdominal definition… I know I should probably lean down slowly a few % over the next 6-8 weeks ad try to hold onto my strength it is a weird one I do not want to bulk to over 20% but I had goals of getting my bench to 100kg and deadlift close to 200kg

    • Oskar Faarkrog says:

      You should be able to lean down from 17 to 12 % in less than 2 months without losing any strength.

      If you continue bulking it may get out of control and suddenly you are at 25 % and have to cut for +4 months and that’s where you may lose a significant amount of muscle and strength.

      • That’s what I was thinking will just lower my volume and drop lifting to 3 days a week and increase. My cardio then take it from there

        Thanks

        • Oskar Faarkrog says:

          I would try to keep the samevolume and lift as many days as week as you can to maintain and possibly gain muscle during your cut. Do that instead of adding cardio.

    • I’m 5’11 and 187lbs around 16-18% bf

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