If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, it would be no surprise for you that a good chunk of my clients and readers are skinny-fat Indian men.
Many of these Indian skinny-fat men sought out my online personal training services because they’ve seen several success stories of my Indian clients, such as Harshit Godha:
And Rikesh Murali:
In my experience, Indians specifically tend to have the worst starting point for building a great physique however they often end up making the most impressive transformations.
What Indians lack in the genetic department, they often end up making up for with work ethic and consistency.
In this article, I will outline some of the reasons to why Indian men often start out skinny-fat and have a bad starting point for transforming their physique.
Skinny-Fat Indians: Why Indian Men Start Out Skinny-Fat
On my website I’ve explained multiple times why skinny-fat is the hardest body-type to transform. You can read my skinny-fat starter guide here.
So why are most Indian men skinny-fat by default?
The answer is a combination of nutrition and culture.
First and foremost, the Indian diet is heavy in both carbs and fats while being low on protein.
Most dishes are centered around a combination of breads, rice and heavy sauces. This by default jacks up the daily Calorie intake of the average skinny-fat Indian man.
Then you add to that the specific food choices are centered around dairy (milk, butter, yoghurt, whey protein), and dairy increases the conversion of testosterone into estrogen.
Testosterone is the main muscle building hormone in the body, therefore when a higher proportion of it is converted into estrogen, you have less testosterone freely available for biological functions such as recovery and building muscle mass.
This makes it incredibly difficult to see any meaningful results from working out.
In addition, when you get excessive levels of estrogen you start developing a lot of feminine characteristics such as puffy nipples / man boobs, feminine fat storage (lower chest, hips, love handle area) and you may even start to get acne.
It also becomes much harder to add muscle mass and recover from training sessions once you actually start to exercise.
So where do Indians stand on this?
I’ve looked at countless hormonal blood tests from my Indian clients and in general, they tend to have the lowest natural testosterone production of any country out there.
Nearly all skinny-fat Indian men I trained had a very low testosterone level when starting out and I believe diet is the main culprit.
The good news are that this can be corrected with diet and other lifestyle changes.
I’ve personally boosted my own testosterone levels over 270% (from the bottom of the healthy range to the top of the range) and I frequently see my clients double their own levels.
Second, the Indian culture emphasizes academic achievements way above sports throughout the teenage years.
Most Indian men are sedentary throughout their teenage years and focus intensely on getting a high GPA and later getting into a high paying position.
This means that by default, physical activity is not prioritized throughout the teenage years and this is a huge problem because this is the time where you set your foundation for life.
There’s no easier time to gain muscle mass than your teenage years due to your body being much more susceptible to change (especially with regards to boosting natural testosterone levels).
In addition, the amount of fat that you carry at the end of puberty decides how many fat cells your body has.
Therefore, if you carry a lot of body-fat until the end of puberty, the amount of fat cells that you have at that time get’s locked in for life and you won’t be able to reduce it unless you do liposuction.
When it comes to fat cells, your body can shrink its existing fat cells, but it can’t get rid of them.
This means that people with a lot of fat cells will be much more prone to fat gain whenever they overeat.
When you combine a low testosterone production, high estrogen levels and lots of fat cells at the end of puberty, you set yourself up for having a skinny-fat physique the rest of your life.
This isn’t only a downside from an aesthetic point of view, but being skinny-fat also goes hand in hand with metabolic syndrome which has the following characteristics:
- High LDL cholesterol.
- Low HDL cholesterol.
- High blood glucose.
- High blood pressure.
This doesn’t mean that you can’t reverse a skinny-fat physique after puberty, it just means that it becomes much harder to do so.
The earlier you start taking your body composition seriously, the better you will look and the better your health markers will be.
Third, my impression is that most skinny-fat Indian men start out with a very low baseline knowledge of exercise and dieting.
They’re still stuck in the old mentality of “losing weight fast” at all costs.
This means doing endless cardio and some low Calorie or low carb fad diet to lose weight fast.
This is a problem because this approach will only lead to you becoming a smaller version of your existing self.
Sure, your weight will go down but you won’t look any better.
Your proportions won’t change and there won’t be any definition on your body.
To lose that skinny-fat look, you have to lose body-fat, but you also need to gain a lot of muscle mass.
To explain this better, I like to use the example of Brad Pitt in fight club:
A lot of skinny-fat Indians think they will end up looking like Brad Pitt in fight club after losing weight but the truth is that he already has a lot of muscle mass on his frame in that condition.
Brad Pitt’s weight in this movie was around 153 LBS (69 KG) at a height of 5’11” (180 CM).
This may sound skinny, however keep in mind that this is at a very low body-fat percentage.
Once you go below 10% body-fat, your body loses a lot of fullness because it doesn’t have a layer of fat and it retains less water from eating less food. You also lose a bit of muscle mass all over because it’s hard for the body to retain a lot of muscle at low body-fat.
Therefore, just because you look decently big at a moderate-high body-fat level, doesn’t mean that you will still look big after losing the fat.
It’s extremely hard to look fit at low body-fat unless you have a lot of muscle mass already.
In order to have anywhere near the same level of muscle as Brad Pitt at low body-fat, you probably need to spend a year or 2 building lean mass on a good training program since he has at least 20-30 pounds more muscle mass than the average skinny-fat Indian guy.
Muscle gains are a long and slow process no matter what program you follow, therefore it’s best that you get started with it from day 1.
To give you some perspective, you can gain something like 1 pound of muscle mass per month at the very most in your first year of training.
Spread all over your frame, 1 pound per month is barely visible — especially if it’s covered by body-fat.
There are of course exceptions, genetic outliers who are able to surpass that rate. But more than likely you are not an exception.
Also, social media is filled with influencers who are the equivalent of a walking pharmacy. The vast majority of them are on some type of performance enhancing drugs (anabolic steroids, testosterone injections etc.) which gives everyone following them unrealistic expectations.
For most of us, it usually takes 3-6 months of consistent training to see slight changes in muscularity.
You can see how long it took me to gain my muscle mass in my transformation video below:
It’s a long game and you have to stay patient.
And trust me, you need that muscle mass to look good.
Without that muscle mass, most skinny-fat guys end up looking something like this when leaning out:
How Skinny-Fat Indian Men Can Transform
So what do you do as an Indian skinny-fat guy wanting to get lean and muscular?
The first step is to clean up your diet.
This means that you emphasize the following foods:
- Organ meats.
- Red meat.
- Tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes.
- Olive oil.
- Dark chocolate.
- Pea protein powder.
- Pea protein powder or hemp protein powder (no whey protein since it’s dairy).
Eat as organic as possible and focus on food quality over quantity.
E.g. if you can’t afford to eat seafood and meat with every meal, then substitute pea protein powder for some of the meals and stick more to cheap carbs like potatoes and rice.
By eating organic, you avoid many of the endocrine disruptors in our diet which mess up our testosterone and estrogen levels.
These are the foods that you want to eat +90% of the time. Stick to home cooked meals only so you know all the ingredients that go into it. Get rid of all the heavy sauces, dairy, sugar and other junk that’s usually predominant in the Indian diet.
Also, make sure that you eat enough to fuel your day and activity levels.
Don’t starve yourself on a low Calorie diet, because that will slow down your metabolism over time.
If you’re in doubt about where to start Calorie wise, just use one of the many free Calorie calculators online. Here’s one of them: TDEE Calculator
Second step is sleep.
You have to schedule in at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night.
This means if you have to wake up at 6 AM and you need 30 min to fall asleep, your bed time is 9:30 PM.
I can’t stress this enough, but I see all the time in clients that their sleep is one of their big weak points.
You have to make a sleep a priority and schedule it in.
Optimal sleep will allow you to lose more body-fat on a diet and gain more muscle mass on a training program.
With sleep and diet dialed in, you’ll have the energy to actually train hard and recover from it.
What does training hard mean? As a skinny-fat guy you need a constant sustained stimulus to transform.
This means that you train the whole body most days of the week (at least 4), but you have at least 1 rest day per week.
In other words, you will train the whole body 4-6 days per week.
There are many ways to optimally program for this, however my preferred method is bodyweight training and all my clients start out with bodyweight.
The 3 exercises I recommend every Indian skinny-fat guy starts with are chin ups, diamond push ups and squats.
The chin up and diamond push up train the upper body.
- Chin up: Back, biceps
- Diamond push ups: Chest, shoulders, triceps.
Squats train the lower body.
These 3 exercises train most of the musculature in your body and are easy to recover from.
They are enough to make good progress as a beginner.
I usually have my clients reach 15 chin ups, 30 diamond push ups and 100 squats, all reps done in one set with full range of motion and good technique.
If you can’t do a single chin up or diamond push up, don’t worry. We all start somewhere and there are a lot of proven methods on each to get your first rep.
For example, with chin ups you can start with just hanging on the bar for time then move to negative chin ups later.
With diamond push ups you can start with regular push ups, wall push ups or incline push ups depending on your strength levels.
There are exercise variations that fit each level of fitness therefore don’t worry about that.
Overall bodyweight exercises are the perfect way to train for a skinny-fat Indian men because of the 5 reasons listed below:
- Skinny-fat guys have a small bone-structure and naturally low testosterone production therefore we need to perform low impact exercises that are easy to recover from. Bodyweight exercises are perfect for that.
- As a skinny-fat, you need a constant sustained stimulus to get results. This means that you have to train the entire body at least 4 days per week but ideally 6!
- Being a master of moving your own bodyweight through space locks you into being lean and muscular. You can be a fat powerlifter and bench press 400 pounds, but there’s no way you’ll be doing 20 chin ups with perfect form while being fat.
- Bodyweight exercises target all the most important muscle groups for skinny-fat guys: Upper chest, lats, triceps, biceps and shoulders.
- When choosing exercises for a muscle building program, it’s important to choose exercises that produce the highest ratio of muscle stimulation vs. fatigue. Bodyweight exercises provide a high amount of stimulation for all the target muscles with minimal fatigue.
When you combine restful sleep with good nutrition and regular hard training, you will see a massive change in your body-composition over time.
There’s no gym or supplements needed to see results, but you will need to be consistent over a long period of time.
You want to think of this as a 1 year process rather than 8-12 week.
Give your body time to optimize its metabolism and hormonal balance. You can’t undo years of destructive eating and sleeping habits in a matter of 8-12 weeks.
The key is to put your body into a state where it burns fat and builds muscle mass by default rather than having to starve off fat through a low Calorie diet and endless cardio sessions.
This takes 6-12 months in most cases, therefore you can see that initial time period as an investment into better future results.
Be proud but stay hungry!
Oskar Faarkrog, ISSA Certified Personal Trainer