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Will I become skinny-fat?

fakehippiefakehippie Member Posts: 13 Member Member Posts: 13 Member
Will I become skinny-fat if I am only doing cardio and no strength training/weight lifting? I am trying to lose weight. I've heard that if you eat at a calorie deficit, your body goes into starvation mode and loses muscle but "holds onto" fat, and the only way to prevent this is by doing strength training/lifting. And I've additionally heard that too much cardio makes you skinny-fat. Is this just another one of those diet myths, or is there scientific evidence for this?

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  • ThoinThoin Member Posts: 703 Member Member Posts: 703 Member
    fakehippie wrote: »
    Will I become skinny-fat if I am only doing cardio and no strength training/weight lifting? I am trying to lose weight. I've heard that if you eat at a calorie deficit, your body goes into starvation mode and loses muscle but "holds onto" fat, and the only way to prevent this is by doing strength training/lifting. And I've additionally heard that too much cardio makes you skinny-fat. Is this just another one of those diet myths, or is there scientific evidence for this?

    There's a lot to unpack here. To try to answer your question from what I know, only lifting weights with diet works much better then only doing cardio and diet. Cardio is great and very healthy but lifting weights helps keep your muscles as you lose weight. I actually have seen photos of my friends who switched from Cardio only to more weight training and there is definitely a difference. Sorry, I don't really know what skinny-fat is.
    edited March 31
  • janejellyrolljanejellyroll Member, Premium Posts: 25,744 Member Member, Premium Posts: 25,744 Member
    A calorie deficit doesn't send your body into "starvation mode."

    Things that help you retain muscle in a calorie deficit are eating a reasonable number of calories, getting sufficient protein, and -- yes -- doing some resistance training. If you're using cardio to create a large calorie deficit and no doing anything to protect your existing muscle, you may feel "skinny fat" even once you're at goal.

    Is there a specific reason you don't want to do any strength training at all? You don't need weights -- even body weight resistance exercises will help.
  • cwolfman13cwolfman13 Member Posts: 39,279 Member Member Posts: 39,279 Member
    Doing some kind of resistance training is important to many aspects of good health and vitality. "starvation mode" as you describe is not a thing, but in the absence of resistance training, particularly while dieting, you will lose more muscle mass than you otherwise would. Muscle mass is an expensive commodity for the body...it requires a lot of energy (calories) to maintain and to grow...so if you're not using your muscles, there's really no point in your body preserving such an expensive commodity with a deficiency of energy (calories) coming in. Losing muscle mass ultimately results in a drop in metabolism because you simply don't require the same level of energy that you would otherwise need to maintain it...remember, it's an expensive commodity. It's just like your $$$ budget...if your money coming in is cut, more than likely, you're going to have to look to cut expenditures as well...where do you cut? Typically whatever is the most expensive but doesn't really get used much right? "Luxury" goods.

    Whether this will result in you being "skinny fat", nobody can really answer. "Skinny fat" is a physique in which one is within a healthy BMI range, but still overly fat...this would typically be a BF% that is outside of the healthy range despite being within a healthy BMI range due to a lack of muscle mass.

    "Too much cardio" is relative...do marathon runners or endurance cyclists look "skinny fat" to you? In most cases, they are skinny as they don't have either much fat or muscle mass. These folks do quite a bit of cardio in order to train and engage in their chosen sport. Many only lift or otherwise do resistance training sparingly as muscle mass also has weight and being at racing weight is important for performance...they don't want either fat nor much in the way of muscle mass, as it hinders performance.

    In and of itself, cardio doesn't make you skinny fat...as mentioned above, most endurance sport athletes have to do a *kitten* ton of cardiovascular work to engage in their sport. Where problems arise is incessant amounts of cardio coupled with improper fueling of activity...ie crashing your diet and then doing a *kitten* ton of exercise on top of that...
  • snowflake954snowflake954 Member Posts: 6,544 Member Member Posts: 6,544 Member
    I think you need to wipe the slate clean and start over with correct information. No one knows if you'll wind up "skinny fat", that depends from person to person. To try and avoid it: strength training added in to what you like to do.
  • AnnPT77AnnPT77 Member, Premium Posts: 20,293 Member Member, Premium Posts: 20,293 Member
    sijomial wrote: »
    I've heard that if you eat at a calorie deficit, your body goes into starvation mode.
    Nonsense. No such thing. It's not optimal to lose weight too quickly though.

    and loses muscle but "holds onto" fat
    Nonsense, muscle is a precious resource, fat is an energy store. Primarilly you will use your energy reserves to make up the shortfall from your intake. We tuck away a surplus as fat when we overeat and use it up when we undereat.

    , and the only way to prevent this is by doing strength training/lifting.
    It's a great idea to do some and sends a strong signal you need to keep hold of your muscle.
    A sensibly slow rate of loss and a higher than usual protein intake are also helpful.

    And I've additionally heard that too much cardio makes you skinny-fat.
    Cobblers!
    First define "cardio" as it's an extremely wide range including quite a few cardio types that incorporate a good degree of resistance - swimming, rowing, cycling as examples.
    Secondly define "too much". Too much for someone eating in a massive deficit will look very different to too much for someone fuelling their exercise properly.
    The primary cause of low muscle mass is NOT using your muscles.

    Is this just another one of those diet myths, or is there scientific evidence for this?
    Myth the way you have presented it, there is some science behind the myth in that there are drawbacks and dangers to dieting badly.

    ^^^ This.

    We don't know how much muscle you have now. We don't know what "cardio" you do. We don't know anything about your nutrition plans (protein, but also other aspects). We don't know how extreme a calorie deficit you plan (how fast you're trying to lose weight).

    Since we don't know your starting point, and don't know what methods you propose to use, how could we possibly know where you'd end up?

    I do think we know enough to suggest that you've been relying on some very questionable information sources, for reasons others have mentioned above. Most of the things you're expressing concern about are myths, or largely so.

    Strength training is the most efficient, effective way to gain muscle mass, and to hold onto muscle during weight loss. It's not the only way, nor is it the *only* essential element for keeping/gaining muscle mass. If you start out with less muscle mass than an average person in your demographic, and gain none (maybe lose some) during weight loss, you could end up "skinny fat".

    Don't lose weight punitively fast, get decent overall nutrition (especially but not exclusively protein), challenge your muscles some way to remind your body you need them, and you probably won't lose unnecessarily much muscle mass while losing weight. You won't gain much muscle mass, either; so where you are now would matter - not so much your body fat percent, but how typical your current body fat percent is for your current BMI (weight/height ratio).
  • riffraff2112riffraff2112 Member Posts: 1,753 Member Member Posts: 1,753 Member
    When you lose weight, you lose both fat and muscle. To hang on to what muscle you have, definitely do weight training.
    Too much cardio isn't necessarily a problem. I know lots of older, long distance runners who are not skinny fat.
  • sijomialsijomial Member, Premium Posts: 18,530 Member Member, Premium Posts: 18,530 Member
    When you lose weight, you lose both fat and muscle. To hang on to what muscle you have, definitely do weight training.
    Too much cardio isn't necessarily a problem. I know lots of older, long distance runners who are not skinny fat.

    This is not universally true and stating it as an absolute rule that encompasses the entirety of weight loss experiences from say 1lb to 100lbs, from too fast to glacially slow, for everyone whether totally untrained and chubby to highly trained and lean is both wrong and unhelpful.

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