We performed this study to investigate the prevalences of insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome (MetS) in a Chinese population with normal weight. We also examined whether fat mass is associated with insulin resistance and MetS in normal-weight individuals. Data were drawn from a cross-sectional study in China. Subjects with diabetes were excluded. The prevalences of insulin resistance and MetS were calculated. Multivariate logistic regression analysis was performed repeated separately for body mass index (BMI) and waist circumference (WC) in both men and women. We also used the combination of BMI and WC to predict insulin resistance and MetS. 8.55 % of normal-weight men and 12.62 % of normal-weight women had insulin resistance. 7.41 % of normal-weight men and 10.24 % of normal-weight women had MetS. WC was associated with incident insulin resistance and MetS independent of BMI in both men and women. BMI was independently associated with incident MetS in women. Normal-weight individuals with insulin resistance and/or MetS are not rare in the Chinese population. Fat mass is associated with insulin resistance and MetS in normal-weight subjects. The current findings support using both BMI and WC in clinical practice.