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skinny fat muscle building meal plan

by Jason Stallworth

August 4, 2020

If you have the problem with being skinny-fat, the first thing you need to do is eliminate the word ‘diet.’

That may sound counterintuitive, but that’s actually part of the problem. Instead, I want you to think ‘meal plan.’ And here’s why…

Diet = restricting calories – this is why you are skinny-fat! (I’ll explain more below)
Meal Plan = eating the foods and getting the nutrients your body needs to gain lean muscle and boost metabolism

In this post, I’m going to show you how to create your own skinny-fat meal plan, and I’ll even give you a sample meal plan to follow.

You’ll also learn what types of foods your body needs to transform your physique as well as what foods to limit.

*That last part is important – what foods to limit. It’s not realistic to completely stay away from the stuff you love to eat, so instead, we’re going to limit those foods. I’ll get into that further as well.

My ‘Skinny-Fat Muscle Building Plan’ is a 3-part series.

This is Part 2, and I’m going to take you through an entire eating plan that you can start today.

**If haven’t read Part 1 of this series, you can go back and read that here: Skinny-Fat Part 1: The Workout.

Why Diets Don’t Work for Skinny-Fat

Going on a diet makes sense to most people who want to lose body fat. And in cases of obesity, that may be the proper solution.

But in the case of skinny-fat, it’s actually the opposite. Rather, what you eat is more important than how much you eat.

Here’s what happens when you restrict calories (aka diet)

  • You may not be getting adequate amounts of the nutrients, like protein, that your body needs to build lean muscle – your body will feed on muscle before fat, which can be a prime cause of the ‘skinny-fat’ look!
  • Dieting more than often leads to binge-eating
  • Diets can be stressful, which can raise cortisol levels – I’ll explain more on that below…

To that last point, when your body is releasing stress hormones, you can actually gain fat in the worst places, like your stomach.

dieting leads to weight gain, she explains, because it’s stressful. Stress hormones act on fat cells to increase abdominal fat. What’s more, weight anxiety and dieting predict later binge eating and weight gain.

‘A Neuroscientist Tackles ‘Why Diets Make Us Fat’ by Jean Fain on June 7, 2016, npr.org

This is why I suggest not using the word diet and replacing it with ‘meal plan.’ On that note, let’s dig into some awesome foods that will help transform your body.

Types of Foods that Build Muscle and Boost Metabolism

food - low carb eggs sausage broccoli

There are two things you want in your meal plan. Food that…

  1. Build lean muscle
  2. Boost your metabolism

Of course, you want good health and to ensure you’re getting adequate macro and micronutrients. The good thing is that these foods I’m going to share with you cover all of that.

Before we get into the actual foods, let’s talk about macronutrientsprotein, carbs, and fats.

Protein

Protein is necessary for building muscle. And having lean muscle mass is crucial for helping your body burn more fat.

Protein also has a metabolism-boosting effect and will help satisfy cravings, leaving you feeling full. So that’s going to be a focal point in this meal plan.

Good sources of protein:

  • Free-range eggs
  • Lean cuts of grass-fed beef or steak
  • Chicken breast
  • Lean pork
  • Seafood (fish, scallops, shrimp, crab)
  • Nuts
  • Lentils
  • Greek yogurt
  • Tofu
  • Whey protein powder

Carbohydrates

Eating the wrong types of carbs is a sure way to achieve a skinny-fat body. Instead, you want to eat the types of carbs that will give you energy. So don’t worry, this is not going to be a low carb meal plan.

You’re going to focus on what are called complex carbs, which means they digest slower, do not spike insulin, and your body will use these carbs for energy.
There is a time for simple sugars, and we’ll talk more about that later.

Good sources of carbohydrates:

  • Sweet potatoes (these have more nutrients than any other vegetable!)
  • Oats
  • All vegetables
  • Legumes such as peas, kidney beans, lima beans, etc.
  • Whole grains like brown rice and quinoa
  • Fruits (great for post-workout)

Kris Gunnars, BSc talks about the myth of lowering carbs to lose weight is his article ‘Good Carbs, Bad Carbs – How to Make the Right Choices‘ on healthline.com. He also goes into more detail about the different types of carbs your body needs vs. what to limit, which I’ll cover below.

Fats

Fats can be another big problem causing you to be skinny-fat. But the issue isn’t fat, itself. It’s the types of fats you’re eating.

You need sources that provide omega-3s, give you heart-health benefits, and that lower bad cholesterol. I’ll cover the ‘bad fats’ in the next section of ‘types of foods to limit.’

Good sources of fats:

  • Whole free-range eggs
  • Cooking oils like olive, canola, coconut, peanut, and sesame oils
  • Avocados
  • Nuts such as cashews, almonds, walnuts, macadamia, and pecans (and natural peanut butter)
  • Seeds like sunflower, sesame, and pumpkin seeds (and flaxseed)
  • Fish such as salmon, cod, mackerel, and trout (some fish are fattier than others)

Here’s some more important info about healthy fats…

Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats are known as the “good fats” because they are good for your heart, your cholesterol, and your overall health. These fats can help to: Lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. Lower bad LDL cholesterol levels, while increasing good HDL.

‘Choosing Healthy Fats’ by Robert Segal, M.A., and Lawrence Robinson, from the version updated in June 2019, helpguide.org.

Types of Foods to Limit

Food - cheat meal pizza and wings

Obviously there are some types of foods that can be a direct result of having a ‘skinny-fat’ body. And I’m sure you already know what most of those are.

So let’s take a deeper look into why these foods are bad for us…

Type of FoodWhy it Sucks
Most fruit juices and anything with added sugarsThese are often loaded with extra sugars (far beyond the sugar in the actual fruit). And if you look at the labels closely on other similar drinks and foods, you’ll see ‘added sugar’ on the label.
Anything with high fructose corn syrup, such as sodas, canned fruit, some breads, and many sweetened foodsAlso loaded with a ton of sugar and many contain high fructose corn syrup, which can lead to health serious problems, per Rudy Mawer, MSc, CISSN in his article ‘6 Reasons Why High-Fructose Corn Syrup Is Bad for You.’
Foods with trans fats, which many boxed frozen foods and fried foods containTrans fat is the worst kind of fat, per the Mayo Clinic’s article ‘Trans fat is double trouble for your heart health’ because it raises your bad cholesterol.’
Most low-fat or no-fat foodsThese foods often contain other unhealthy ingredients to compensate; the ‘low-fat’ is often used as a marketing strategy

You also have to be careful with foods advertised as ‘health foods.’ When you see things like ‘sugar-free’ or ‘gluten-free’ or ‘all-natural’ take a close look at the label. Often times these foods are loaded with other junk.

TIP: Here’s a simple trick. Look at the label and if you see a long list of ingredients or ingredients that you can’t pronounce, put it back on the shelf.

I talk more about how labels can be deceiving in this post: 8 Food Label Deceptions

Macros for Skinny-Fat

Now let’s talk about the appropriate macros for transforming a skinny-fat body into a lean and muscular physique.

Here’s the thing…there’s not one macronutrient ratio that works for everyone. Much of this is tied to genetics, our body type, age, and other factors.

But there is a good ratio to start with. Just know that you will have to experiment and make adjustments along the way to dial in what works for you.

And also understand that what works for you today may not work the same 5 or 10 years from now. So you always need to be closely aware of your own body and how you are responding to certain foods.

All that said, a good macronutrient ratio for skinny-fat to try is…

Image from Bodybuilding.com’s article ‘Ask The Ripped Dude: Is There A Magical Macronutrient Ratio For Fat Loss?

Protein: 50%
Carbs: 35%
Fat: 15%

This gives you a higher ratio of protein which does 2 things:

  1. Protein will help you cut fat
  2. It will help you build more lean muscle

Remember, your carbs should mainly come from complex carb sources, not sugary sources. And your fats need to be from the types of foods that will benefit your health, as described earlier.

Should You Count Calories?

Many find counting calories to be stressful and not realistic. The best thing you can do is simply eat until your almost full, and no overdo it.

You should also pay attention to your body and how you feel an hour after every meal. This will help you further determine what types of foods work for you, and which ones don’t.

For example, if you feel sluggish an hour later, your body is working too hard to process and digest what you ate. If you feel alert and energetic, you know your body is using that food for energy.

I want to stress again that there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ meal plan. This is only an example of where you can start.

To learn more about macros and calories, read my post: Flexible Meal Plan for Building Muscle

Skinny-Fat Meal Plan

bodybuilding meals and recipes

Ready to dig in? Below is a sample meal plan you can start with based on everything you’ve learned so far.

The meals are structured around early morning workouts. In my opinion, this is the best time to train. The gym is less crowded and your testosterone is at its peak. Not to mention, you get the toughest talk to the day done first.

If you train in the evenings or at a different time, just move the meals around accordingly to fit your schedule.

Here’s an example of the meal timings:

  • Meal 1: 5:00 AM
  • Meal 2: 7:30 AM
  • Meal 3: 8:30 AM
  • Meal 4: 11:30 AM
  • Meal 5: 3:30 PM
  • Meal 6: 6:30 PM

This may look like a lot of meals but it’s important to eat throughout the day to keep your metabolism boosted.

Meal 1 – Early Morning Pre-Workout Meal

Your first meal of the day is more like a light snack to give your body fuel for your workout.

  • 1 serving of Greek yogurt
  • 1 serving of oatmeal
  • 1/2 serving of nuts (you can crush and mix these with your oatmeal)

As you can see, you’re getting slower digesting protein and carbs, which will give you sustaining energy during your workout.

You could even replace this meal with a high-quality protein bar.

Meal 2 – Post-Workout Meal

This is the time when you can have simple sugars, like fruits. And in this case, you’ll add that to your post-workout shake.

  • 1-2 scoops of whey protein powder
  • 8 oz almond milk
  • 1/3 cup frozen mixed dark berries
  • 1 banana
  • 1/2 serving of peanut butter

Meal 3

About an hour or so after your post-workout shake you’ll want to eat a whole food meal. I call this the ‘2nd post-workout meal.’ And this, of course, is considered your breakfast.

  • 3-4 whole free-range eggs
  • 1-2 slices of lean pork or turkey sausage
  • 1 serving of red potatoes
  • 1 serving of green vegetables

Meal 4

Lunchtime…

  • 6-8 oz of chicken breast
  • 1 serving of whole grain rice or quinoa
  • 1 serving of kidney beans or peas

Meal 5

This is a mid-day snack and could actually be optional. To keep it simple, you can eat the same thing you ate for your pre-workout meal. The goal is to give your body more sustaining fuel.

  • Same as your pre-workout meal

Meal 6

Now it’s dinnertime!

  • 6-8 oz lean steak or beef
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 serving of green vegetables

If you need help with how to cook muscle-building meals, ingredients, and in-depth meal planning, read my post:

Bodybuilding Meals and Recipes: Anabolic Cooking

Eat Your Way from Skinny-Fat to Lean and Muscular

muscle building post workout shake

The worst thing you can do if you’re skinny-fat is to go on a diet. Instead, construct a solid meal plan strategy, and now you have everything you need from this post to do that.

Remember to limit the bad foods. You don’t necessarily need to deprive yourself 100% of the time. You can schedule a ‘cheat meal’ or two throughout the week.

However, you may find that eating like this may help greatly reduce the cravings to those other types of foods. Much of that is from the simple fact that you’ll enjoy the energy you have eating this way.

READ NEXT: Part 3 – Supplements for Skinny-Fat

Excuses Don’t Build Muscle,

Jason