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The Princeton Longevity Center Medical News

Don’t Be Fooled By Being “Skinny Fat”

Skinny-Fat is the latest media term to represent a person who maintains a proper weight (looking thin and not overweight), but still carries too much body fat. What your scale doesn’t tell you is how much or your weight is actual fat v. muscle. Not having enough muscle can greatly increase your proportion of body fat. Even though you might be an ideal weight - you still might be carrying around extra body fat and the associated health risks!

The best way to determine if you’re skinny-fat, aside from a non-defined abdomen or flabby arms, is to get your body fat percentage.  Don’t believe a simple skin fold caliper or barefoot scale (BIA). A body composition analysis by DEXA scan is a much more accurate way to find out if you have low muscle mass and excess fat.  This scan can tell you how much lean body mass (muscle) you have compared to fat, along with bone density and other useful information.  This ratio is important for aesthetics, but moreover for your health, functional abilities, and long term weight control.  A trained Exercise Physiologist can go over how much muscle and fat you should have.

One important note - the location of excess fat is not always visible externally (like love-handles).  Sometimes you acquire excess fat inside of the body (where it is more dangerous then fat you can pinch!) called visceral fat. A Visceral Fat Assessment may be a consideration to better assess where your additional fat may be stored. To learn more about Visceral Fat, click here to access previous newsletter article Is Your Low-Fat Diet Killing You.

Here are 4 sure-fire ways to help your fat-to-muscle ratio:

  • Perform weight training sessions 2-5 days per week on the upper and lower body.
    • Most men do dominantly upper body and women lower body.  Work towards a more even split and get much more out of your weight training routine.
  • Do not use aerobic training as your only form of exercise!
    • Aerobic training is great for heart health benefits and burning calories, but it helps very little to maintain your muscle mass.  This applies to both men and especially women.
  • Use a heavier weight! 
    • 15-20 repetitions for only 1-3 sets does not cut it.  Perform your exercise with 2-6 sets per exercise with repetition ranges from 8-14.  Performing more then 15 and less the 6 repetitions will help your strength and muscle endurance, but won’t help your “skinny fat”!
  • Perform your exercise with control through their range of motion.
    • While plyometric and other faster types of training have their benefit.  Training under control for 4-7 seconds per repetition is ideal.  Quality over quantity takes over here.  Also, performing a bench press or leg press for only a third of the intended range of motion will hinder your gains along with strength!

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