So I’ve got this dilemma… I watched this show on fitness that included this skinny guy like me. I was wondering why he was on it- you know being skinny and that- but it turned out he was really unfit and couldn’t save himself or his family in this disaster scenario.
It got me thinking… I’ve been kinda depressed about being skinny and tall [6”5] for most of my life, now I’m thinking I’m outta shape as well [I eat a lot of junk food]. I want to turn things around but I don’t wanna get skinnier through exercising. Do you have any suggestions?
Thanks for the question Russell!
With most of society dealing with rising obesity levels and worrying about how to lose body fat, most people don’t realize just how difficult it can be for a “skinny” person to put on muscle.
Sure, if added weight was your only priority, you could fill out your 6’5” frame by eating as much junk food as you like. But, as you’ve found out, that does not add up to a lean and healthy body.
It sounds like you’re currently in the dreaded “skinny fat” zone. What does this mean actually?
Basically, even though you look “skinny”, your body composition is made up of too much fat, even though you are visually “skinny”. This is where looks are deceiving. You appear skinnier, and by assumption, healthier than bulkier people; but your fitness level and dietary habits tell otherwise.
So what should you do?
My recommendation would be to weight train at least twice, and preferably 3 times per week and avoid long, slow, steady state cardio (like long bouts on the treadmill or elliptical). Some interval training may be ok, but even it may need to be curtailed in order for you to fill out your frame.
If you are unfamiliar with weight training, I would highly recommend hiring a qualified trainer in your area to get you started. Look for trainers with the National Strength & Conditioning Association’s CSCS or CPT certification if you can find one. (They have an online trainer locator here.)
If that’s not possible, there are numerous books on the market that could help you. I’d recommend my colleague Brad Schoenfeld’s “Max Muscle Plan”. (Check it out on Amazon here.)
In addition to training, we need to improve your diet.
You make a good point, if we just cut out the junk food, you will probably lose weight (hopefully body fat), but that could make you appear “skinnier”.
If your weight has been stable on your current diet, we’ll want to replace at least some of the junk food calories you are taking out with healthier alternatives. We’re trying to offset the junk calories lost with at least some better calories so that you have enough fuel for your body to add muscle.
Adequate protein and essential fats are the first priority, followed closely by vegetables and fruits, beans and legumes, and yes, even unfairly demonized carbohydrates like potatoes and rice.
I don’t like to count calories if it can be avoided. Most of us (me included) will find it tedious and not stick with it. Most people will do well to simply eat healthier foods in conjunction with a consistent workout program.
As a thinner guy, your biggest issue may be getting in enough calories to add muscle mass once you clean up the diet. If this is the case, you may want to consider adding a protein shake (or two) to your daily intake.
But again, unless you are training hard with weights, any excess calories…even “healthy” calories can cause body fat gains.
Lastly, you might consider supplementing with creatine monohydrate. Creatine is one of the most researched, safest, and effective supplements on the market. Creatine is a fuel source that is stored in you muscle tissue. It will allow you to train harder and longer. (Please note: a few people may experience gastric distress from using creatine and others called “non-responders” may not notice any improvements while using creatine. Caveat Emptor!)
Also, due to the ability of creatine to pull water and nutrients into the muscle cell (called cell volumization), most people will gain between 5 and 10 lbs (due to the extra fluids in the muscle cell).
Between the workouts and the dietary improvements and supplementation, you’ll be well on your way to both getting healthier, and achieving the body you want.
Just remember that it’s a long, slow process even under the best circumstances. Don’t get down on yourself or get depressed. As in the old story of the Tortoise and the Hare, “slow and steady wins the race!”
Thanks again for the question Russell!