Can You Be Fat and Have Abs ?

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Last updated on September 5, 2022

Are you looking to achieve that perfect six-pack abs look, but afraid you’ve put on too many pounds to do so? Having six pack abs takes a lot of dedication and commitment on one’s part. Don’t worry, it isn’t impossible and you can definitely do it. In this article, we will help determine how to have abs while being fat, what to do in order to shed excess fat and make your abs visible.


It is possible to be fat and still have abs. However, people with extra body fat won’t have visible abs. The area of the abdomen called the “rectus abdominis” are the muscles we call the six-pack. Even if you work your abs out a lot, they can still be hidden under subcutaneous fat.


If you’ve recently started working out and are starting to see more muscle definition and a leaner body, you might be wondering when you will get to see some definition around those abs? Well, first and foremost, you will need to lose the layer of fat around your abdominal muscles for your abs to be visible. Let’s look at how you can get to the correct body fat percentage for those perfect six pack abs.

How To Get Your Abs To Show?

To get visible ads, you will need to have a lower body fat percentage to have visible abs. So what is body fat percentage, and what role does it play in having visible abs? Your body fat percentage is the total amount of fat mass your body has. Body fat presents itself in different ways for each individual. Factors such as age and gender also determine how fat appears and distributes itself in a person’s body.


There are three types of body fats:


  • Essential fat – required to protect your joints and organs by keeping you warm and your body functioning properly.
  • Subcutaneous fat – this is in the form of adipose tissue and this is what covers your muscles and makes you look fat.
  • Visceral fat – This is deep fat surrounding your organs and is biologically active and capable of affecting bodily functions.

You maybe also want to read our exercise ball for abs article.

Let’s look at different body fat percentages and what they mean for ab definition and overall health of an individual:


Body Fat % Ab Visibility Upper Abdomen Lower Abdomen
5 – 9 % Extreme Defined Defined
10 – 14% Clear Definition Defined Not Defined
15 – 19% Minimal definition Defined Not Defined
20 – 24% No definition Not Defined Not Defined


In addition, the required range for defined abs differs for both men and women as well:


  • Men – a body fat percentage of 6%-17% is optimal
  • Women – a body fat percentage of 14% – 24% is optimal


Again, each body stores fats differently so these stats may vary for different individuals.

How is Body Fat Percentage Measured?

Before you begin working on achieving the optimal body fat percentage for visible abs, you need to know your current numbers. There are different ways through which you can measure your exact body fat percentage:


  • Skinfold calipers – These calipers calculate the thickness of fat on various areas of your body.
  • Body circumference measurements – This method measures the circumference of different body parts i.e arms, legs, and waist.
  • Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) Scans – Two X-rays are utilized to determine your body fat percentage.
  • Hydrostatic weighing – Body composition is measured based on your body’s density underwater.
  • Air displacement plethysmography (Bod Pod) – Air is used to calculate the body’s density and composition.
  • Bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) – Electrical currents are sent through the body to differentiate between the amount of fat and muscle.
  • Bioimpedance spectroscopy (BIS) – Electrical currents are utilized but with a different technology and equations as compared to the BIA method.
  • Electrical impedance myography (EIM) – Current is sent through particular and smaller areas of the body to calculate fat and muscle percentage.
  • 3-D body scanners – Infrared sensors are used to generate a model of your body and your fat percentage is then calculated from that shape.
  • Multi-compartment models – This method segments the body into different parts and utilizes multiple techniques from the list above to calculate the body fat percentage of each area.


What Steps Can You Take to Shed Fat and Get Defined Abs?

If you’re on the heavier side of the body fat percentage range, you may need to put in a little extra effort to get those 6 pack abs. If you’ve already started building some muscles and want to focus solely on defining those abs and getting rid of the last layer of fat, here are a few essential steps you can take to speed up the process:

1.   Eat Right

This should be a no-brainer. So much of your health and fitness journey depends on what you’re putting inside your body. Eating right doesn’t just mean going after healthy ingredients. It means keeping a close eye on your macronutrients i.e carbohydrates, proteins, and fat at every meal and snack.


You need to eat a balanced combination of all three in order to shed fat and gain muscle. Another thing you need to be wary of is delaying meals. You need to eat on time and this is especially true for breakfast. The sooner you kick off that metabolism in the morning, the better it is for your health.

You maybe also want to read Fat loss diet plan for female vegetarian.

2.   Build Muscular Endurance

Building muscular endurance is key to building muscle and shedding unnecessary fat from the body. You will need to focus on strength training as part of your workout regime for a minimum of 2-3 days in a week.


This exercise regime should include both upper and lower body. You should start off by adding light weights and doing 15-20 reps of exercises. As your body gets used to the weight, you need to slowly start adding more repetitions. Your body should feel challenged but not overworked.

3.   Go for High Intensity Interval Training

HIIT involves short bursts of high intensity training paired with longer intervals of low intensity training. This aids in getting your heart rate up to burn that extra fat and also challenging your body to get out of the comfort zone and push a little extra.


Proper high intensity training pushes our body beyond our endurance limits. Working out in the right heart zones will help you build better efficiency in terms of performance.

you maybe interested in Best Way to Lose Back Fat.

4.   Prioritize Sleep

Working out is pretty crucial when trying to shed excess body fat and building mass. Your body also needs rest in order to recover and recuperate. Studies show that not sleeping properly can add to belly fat. So make sure you get at least 7 to 8 hours of proper sleep at night to avoid any excess buildup of belly fat.


Here are a few steps you can take to ensure a healthy sleep cycle:


  • Maintain a regular sleep schedule
  • Turn off blue light devices 30 minutes before bedtime
  • Sleep in a dark and cool environment
  • Exercises regularly
  • Get more sun exposure


5.   Stay Away From Stress

One of the biggest enemies of fat loss is stress. Stress produces cortisol in your blood. High levels of cortisol are associated with more fat deposits.


This means that if your mind isn’t at peace, you will have a difficult time getting rid of that excess body fat to get your perfect abs.


Indulge in relaxing activities like practicing yoga and meditation to become resistant to the effects of day to day stressful situations.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.   Can you see abs at 20% body fat?

If you start at 20% body fat, you will see your abs clearly after about 3 to 6 months of rigorous efforts.

2.   How long does it take to lose 3% body fat?

In ideal conditions, you can expect to lose about 1% to 3% of your body fat every month. But this range of loss may vary depending on individuals, Factors such as gender, age and weight, the amount and mass of the body fat you start with.

3.   Can walking burn fat?

Walking isn’t a very strenuous form of exercise but it can be effective in burning fat. It doesn’t help in spot reducing fat but it can aid in reducing overall fat.

4.   What is body fat?

Fat is tissue required to maintain essential bodily functions such as maintaining bodily temperature, shock absorption, and to maintain healthy hair, skin, and nails.

Final Thoughts

While it is possible to have a strong core and abs while being fat, they can be only visible if you get rid of the subcutaneous fat. Maintaining a healthy fat percentage is essential for your overall health. It will ensure your body is functioning at an optimal level and you’re staying active.

About the author  Steve

Steve Theunissen is from New Zealand and is a qualified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist with over 30 years experience. Read more about Steve in the 'about us' page.

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