There are many factors driving people to start exercising, one of the leading ones being the desire to burn fat and gain muscle – all at the same time, please. Whilst older data suggests this is not possible, we have great news for (not so) instant gratification seekers – this is an achievable goal! There is even a fancy term for this – body recomposition.
The fact that something is possible doesn’t make it easy, however, and body recomposition is one of the trickiest possible exercise goals. The abundance of inaccurate information out there doesn’t make it any better, drawing you further and further away from that lean yet toned body you’re after!
Fear not – we’ve got you covered. In this article, we are covering the basics of body recomposition, as well as offering suggestions to help you keep on track and maintain an efficient routine with maximum progress!
What is Body Recomposition?
As we’ve mentioned above, the term “body recomposition” stands for building muscle while losing fat. If this sounds appealing, we have some news to keep your feet on the ground before we even start:
- YES, it’s definitely possible to lose fat and build muscle at the same time
- NO, it’s not achievable unless you strictly adhere to certain rules and conditions
- NO, you can’t trust the majority of advice out there – no random googling!
Now that we’ve made this clear, let’s start our body recompositioning adventure.
Why Diet Is the Most Important Factor in Changing Body Composition
Just like with every other program, nutrition accounts for at least 80% of your success. When it comes to shedding fat and gaining muscle, energy balance is the most important variable: to lose weight, you must consume less then you burn. For gains, it’s the opposite.
Sounds a bit confusing as you’re effectively trying to gain and lose at the same time when it comes to body recomposition?
There are a couple of tricks involved – just bear with us and you’ll find out everything!
The key to successfully achieve your body recomposition goals is so called nutritional “cycling”. This simply means that certain aspects of your diet are going to be different on different days.
Cycling is not at all uncommon – in fact, almost every type of fitness regime utilizes it to some extent. Intermittent fasting, carbohydrate loading and ketogenic diets are all technically forms of nutritional cycling. A large body of evidence suggests that dietary cycling boosts weight loss and helps achieve exercise goals .
However, if in case of other regimes dietary cycling just compliments them, when your goal is body recomposition, cycling must become your religion!
Let’s have a closer look at how it works.
Basic Calorie Cycling for Recomposition
As we’ve briefly mentioned before, to achieve body recomposition, you will need to eat more on certain days (specifically, on the days when you exercise) and less on other (rest) days. If you think about it, it makes perfect sense – when you exercise, you need more energy, right?
It’s also important to define “exercise” here – when it comes to body recomposition, the only training days that “count” in terms of increasing energy allowance are those when you weight train for at least 30 minutes. Other forms of exercise are definitely beneficial and should be encouraged – but remember, we’re only talking about your regime from a dietary perspective here.
It makes much more sense if you consider that weight training is the most effective form of exercise to gain muscle , and that’s exactly where we’re heading here!
Now that we’ve established the basics, it’s time to determine the exact steps you’ll have to take to facilitate body recomposition:
- Figure out your maintenance calories.The easiest way to do it is to download literally any calorie tracking/fitness app and set your goal to “maintain weight” or something along those lines. The number you’ll get out of it it’s your Maintenance Calories!
- Figure out your training day calories.To do that, take the number from step one and increase by 15%. That’s your allowance for the days you lift weights!
- Determine your rest day calories.This one is your MC decreased by 10%. Remember – rest days are all days when you don’t weight train; you may still be doing other forms of training but use the same allowance!
That’s it – quite simple, isn’t it? If you’re still unsure if your calculations are correct, get in touch with a professional personal trainer for some help and advice.
Determining Macronutrient Intake for Recomposition
It’s not all about energy though, as your macronutrients – that is, protein, carbohydrates and fat – are equally important! It’s crucial to consume an appropriate ratio of macronutrients to achieve your body recomposition goals.
Historically, macronutrients are measured in grams. The amount of calories per gram varies for different macronutrients; protein and carbohydrates each contain 4 calories per gram, while fat is more energy dense and has 9 calories per gram. With this in mind, let’s play with a simple formula (taken from this website – thanks, My Fitness Pal!) to determine optimal macronutrient intake for you!
How To Determine Training Day Calories:
- Determine your protein intake in both grams and calories. Multiply your bodyweight by 1.5 (this is the total grams of protein you eat). Multiply your result by 4 (this is the total number of calories that will come from those grams of protein).
- Determine your carbohydrate intake in both grams and calories. Multiply your bodyweight by 1.5 (this is the total grams of carbs you eat). Multiply your result by 4 (this is the total number of calories that will come from those grams of carbs).
- Determine how many calories remain.
- Determine your fat intake in grams. Take your remaining calories, and divide that number by 9. The result is your fat intake in grams.
So this is you macronutrient intake for training days!
How To Determine Rest Day Calories:
To do this, perform all the calculations above BUT use your rest day calories as a reference. The rest is literally the exact same simple calculations!
Closing Thoughts & Next Steps
Body recompositioning is quite an intricate goal and definitely has some art to it. Proper nutrition and training take a bit more planning here compared to many other exercise regimes.
However, considering you’re achieving two major goals at the same time – which is burning fat AND building muscle – we think it’s very much worth the effort!
It’s worth mentioning that the above is not the only way to eat for body recompositioning, but we believe it’s the easiest to figure out and basically fool proof as all the calculations are quite simple. It’s up to you if you want to try something different, but please do your research beforehand as there are so many false claims out there!
How Can a Personal Trainer Help You With Body Recomposition
Speaking of separating false claims from the truth, a professional, competent personal trainer is your number one bet if you’re not sure where to start. They will help you out with calculations, will answer any questions and motivate you to keep going, as by no means achieving body recomposition is easy!
Besides, a personal trainer will even help with nutrition and meal planning, so this extra investment will definitely make your journey much more pleasant.
I hope you enjoyed this article, and all the best in achieving your goals!
- Kresta, J. Y., Byrd, M., Oliver, J. M., Canon, C., Mardock, M., Simbo, S., …Kreider, R. B. (2010). Effects of diet cycling on weight loss, fat loss and resting energy expenditure in women. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 7(Suppl 1), P21. http://doi.org/10.1186/1550-2783-7-S1-P21
- Santos, L., et al. (2017). The improvement in walking speed induced by resistance training is associated with increased muscular strength but not skeletal muscle mass in older women.Eur J Sport Sci. 2017 Jan 9:1-7. doi: 10.1080/17461391.2016.1273394.