Body Recomposition: Art of Losing Fat and Building Muscle
You have far more control over your body than you think. I'm not just talking about your flexibility or the quality of your movements. I'm talking about your ability to control how much fat or muscles you carry in your body.
In your fitness circles, you might have heard the term body recomposition or "recomp" — the concept of losing fat without losing muscles to achieve your desired body shape or size.
Yes. You have the power to change your general physique if you will. After all, our appearance and body shape are determined by factors such as metabolism, food quality, meal timing, activity levels, and many more.
Take competitive bodybuilders and bikini open models, for example. Their bodies can drastically differ from off seasons and competition. Of course, you don't have to do super strict bulking and cutting like elite athletes but imagine having the understanding to influence your body at your will.
This article will dive deep into the science of body recomposition and how you can use it to achieve your fitness goals.
Body recomposition refers to the simultaneous process of losing fat and building more muscles through a specific approach to exercise and nutrition. In literal translation, recomposition means "to form something again or differently."
In essence, body recomposition is a fitness goal that aims to optimize your fat and muscle composition. Unlike other fitness goals based on BMI or body weight, body recomposition aims to achieve an optimized lean body mass and fat ratio.
Here's the good news: Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned lifter, a man or a woman, you can achieve body recomposition.
Body recomposition works by following a routine and nutritional adjustment to allow your body to use fat as energy to build more muscles.
If you think about it, losing fat and building muscles are two separate processes. To lose fat, you need to burn calories and be in a calorie deficit. On the other hand, you need tons of calories or energy to sustain the muscle-building process. Thus, a typical weight loss program may prevent you from building muscles.
However, with the right nutritional plan and training routine, you can trigger your body to use body fat to fuel muscle growth and repair, thus achieving body recomposition.
Fitness is 80% nutrition and 20% hard work in the gym. This concept still stands strong when your goal is to achieve body recomposition. This means paying attention to your calorie intake and prioritizing high-quality whole foods while staying consistent with your training routine.
The key to optimal body recomposition is to be in a sweet spot of calorie deficit. Remember, you want to lose fat by decreasing your calorie intake, but not so much that it hinders your energy and muscle growth.
According to a meta-analysis of over 40 studies, most adults can effectively lose fat without negatively affecting muscle development when in a calorie deficit of 200-300 calories per day. Anything more than that can cause a decline in your ability to build more muscle mass.
Each person has different caloric needs or basal metabolic rates to sustain their activities and maintain their body weight.
To determine your maintenance calorie:
- Male BMR formula = 66 + (6.23 × weight in pounds) + (12.7 × height in inches) − (6.8 × age in years)
- Female BMR formula = 655 + (4.3 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)
You can use this BMR calculator to figure out yours.
Exercise is the second half of the equation when getting fit and getting your desired body composition.
HIIT and strength training emphasizing compound body movement and exercise volume is the most effective method to build muscles and burn lots of calories due to afterburn effects— the phenomenon wherein your body's metabolic rate stays elevated even after hours of completing your gym session.
This means putting serious effort into each set you perform. To maximize your body's potential for muscle growth, you must complete each set close to muscle failure or until you have no more reps left in the 'tank'.
Staying consistent with your exercise routine is critical for optimal muscle growth. Ideally, you should train each muscle twice weekly and be intentional with each set.
Sleep is one of the most underrated components of fitness. When you have a high-quality sleeping habit, your body releases significant growth hormones. When you are sleep-deprived, your growth hormones are suppressed.
In addition, a good sleeping routine can optimize your testosterone levels, which is essential to maintaining lean muscle mass and ensuring continuous muscle growth.
In addition, optimal levels of growth hormones can reduce and redistribute fat in the body. According to studies, people who exercise and complete 6-8 hours of sleep per night have more significant fat loss potential and gain lean body mass than people who workout but with poor sleeping habits.
Most people training for years can experience a plateau or 'wall' in their fitness progress. And this might affect their ability to achieve body recomposition.
A fitness plateau happens when people experience initial success in their training, such as losing weight, getting stronger, and becoming more toned, but their progress has stalled even though they continue to live healthy and stay consistent with their workouts.
To break this wall, you must go back to the basics of progressive overload or change your phase. You need to continuously challenge your body, provide new and enough stimulus for muscle growth, and overcome the physical demands you are putting it in.
Here’s a workout plan that can help with body recomposition for women:
And for men:
When it comes to achieving body recomposition, you need to focus more on your macros than just maintaining a calorie deficit.
Macronutrients or “macros” refer to nutrients that you need in large quantities: these are your proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Each has a different role to play in your fitness, health, and optimizing your body composition.
All your macros have corresponding calories:
- Proteins = 4 calories per gram
- Fats = 9 calories per gram
- Carbohydrates = 4 calories per gram
Your body needs sufficient protein to be used as building blocks for your muscles to grow and have more contractile strength.
Ideally, you want to consume at least 1 gram (g) of protein per pound (lbs) of your body weight. This figure can be easily achieved while maintaining a calorie deficit by subscribing to a high-protein, low-calorie diet.
For example, you are weighing 170lbs right now. You need at least 170g of protein each day to maintain a healthy balance of fat loss and maintain muscle mass.
You also want to prioritize high-quality whole food for your protein intake. This includes:
- Chicken breast, turkey, and other poultry products
- Milk, cheese, and yogurt
- Tofu and other soy products
Fats keep your hormonal and health metrics up. It also helps your body absorb vital vitamins, including vitamins A, D, & E, which are essential for your overall health and wellness.
You need at least 0.3 grams (g) - 0.5 grams (g) of fat per pound (lbs) of body weight in your diet to meet your daily needs and ensure a healthy hormonal balance.
For example, if you are 170lbs right now, you need to consume at least 51g of fats and limit your intake to 85g daily.
Your carbohydrates are your main source of mental and physical energy to support your body's functions. In addition, carbs are protein-sparing molecules that can enhance the muscle-building properties of a protein-rich diet.
Carbs constitute whatever is left in your recommended calorie intake. Using the corresponding calorie for each macro you should have something like this:
Assuming you are 170lbs and your maintenance calorie is 2300 per day. To achieve body recomposition, you need to be in a calorie deficit and adjust your calorie intake to 2000 per day.
- Protein = 170 * 4 = 680 calories
- Fats = 68 * 9 = 612 calories
- Protein + Fats = 1292 calories
- Recommended calorie intake (2000) minus total P & F Calories and then divided by 4 = 177 calories allocated for carbs.
To support your goal of building muscles while losing fat, your total calorie intake should look like this: 30-35% from carbohydrates, 30-35% from protein, and 40% from fat.
Body recomposition can be achieved following a consistent nutritional plan and exercise routine. Following a high-protein, low-calorie diet can support your body's potential for muscle growth while being in a calorie deficit, which can result in fat loss over time.