Body Recomposition–losing fat and building muscle at the same time, is the holy grail of fitness.
But is it possible and if so, how does it work?
Recomposition is definitely possible.
However, it’s crucial to understand a recomposition is REALLY two goals…losing FAT and building muscle.
It will be a SLOWER process than chasing either goal individually. And most people who start a “recomp” stay stuck because they’re not seeing results fast enough, and constantly change what they do.
There are 6 cases when recomposition is most likely
Body recomposition is most likely when:
1. You’re a beginner in the gym or coming off a long layoff “Newbie gains’ ‘ skew many people’s perceptions of how fast they can make progress.
For example, my client Dave was an experienced lifter, fell out of shape…then lost 17 lbs of fat + gained 7 pounds of muscle in 8 weeks according to his weekly body analysis
While you can “recomp” when you get started, you’ll eventually want to specialize in one goal at a time.
2. Training correctly for the first time.
Many lifters work hard but don’t train effectively. By improving your programming, exercise execution, and creating progressive overload, even an experienced lifter can lose fat and build muscle at the time.
3. Eating properly for the first time.
If you’ve trained hard but never been strict with your diet, particularly with details like nutrient timing, you can lose fat and build muscle at the same time.
4. Recovering correctly for the first time.
Optimizing body composition is a delicate balance between stimulating your body (training) and recovering from the stimulus. Many people don’t recover due to high-stress lifestyles\, and poor sleep.
If, for example, you go from five hours of sleep to eight hours per night, you’ll see an increase in anabolic hormone levels, discipline in the kitchen, and lose fat while building muscle.
5. Training, eating, and recovering synergistically for the first time.
Put simply, if your training, nutrition, and recovery are all working together, they’re much more powerful.
A big mistake many people make is training INSANE in the gym with activities that rely on glucose (carbs) as the primary fuel for activity but follow a KETO plan.
Without the right type of fuel, cortisol skyrockets, and you end up shooting yourself in the foot.
Your nutrition must be in alignment with your training and vice versa.
6. Using PED’s.
Performance-enhancing drugs like anabolic steroids will help in a recomposition. Of course, there are a plethora of health risks to consider as well, and I’m not personally recommending PED’s; rather, highlighting the obvious: They work
To do a Recomposition you have to MAXIMIZE time periods of anabolism (Building muscle) with Catabolism (BreAKING DoWN tissue).
To do this, we need to follow a SPECIFIC Dietary strategy.
Step 1: Fat Loss Focus
For a recomposition, the primary goal is really fat loss with strategic meal timing.
With your diet, the goal is to lose about 1 lb per week–not so aggressive that building muscle is impossible.
Here’s how we set it up. You’re going to want to take notes on this…
Bodyweight (lbs) x15 is a good baseline estimation for maintenance. There are dozens of equations, and they all, more or less, get you close to the same number.
Let’s say you weigh…175 x 15= 2625 calories
Weekly Target: -3500 calories/week (1 lb of fat)
5 Days (deficit). 3500-600= 4100 calorie deficit on these days.
4100/5= 820 calories per day.
2625=1805 Calories Per Day.
2 Days (slight surplus): 300 calories= 600 per week.
2925 calories 2x
Step 2: Cyclical Dieting
If you’ve ever followed a diet that stops working, you may have experienced metabolic downregulation.
When losing fat and on a calorie deficit, your body slows down and you stop burning as many calories.
To prevent this, it can be helpful to cycle calories, as shown in studies like the Matador study
In essence, we need to periodically increase calories and it’ll help you lose fat faster.
How do we do this?
I’ve found it works best to follow an adapted 5:2 diet.
The 5:2 diet strategy IS OFTEN 5 days of eating at maintenance followed by two very LOW calorie days.
However, I’ve found it better to flip the script…
For 5 days, you follow a calorie restricted diet.
On two days, you eat at slight calorie surplus on your hard training days.
This works well specifically for training on the weekends…when you’re most likely to splurge, go out, and have a life.
Together this means…
5 Days of lower calories.
Two days above maintenance on training days.
This helps speed up fat loss and aids in muscle growth on the “high” days.
Step 3: Setting Up Your Diet (Fat Loss Days)
Okay, so what does this actually look like?
1g of protein per 1lb of bodyweight is a common standard for gaining muscle and losing fat.
The reason is, that protein is extremely satiating, will help you preserve lean muscle, and as many as 30% of your calories from protein are burned off during digestion. This trifecta makes protein a powerhouse for fat loss.
When it comes to recomposition, we recommend pushing protein even higher–to 1.25 g of protein per 1lb of bodyweight.
This is more than typically recommended with popular studies like Van Loon in 2016 for maximizing muscle protein synthesis, but in my years as a coach, this has helped people stave off hunger more effectively.
1.25g per lb of protein per 1lb of Protein
175×1.25= 219g of protein per day.
Protein 4 cals/gram= 876 calories
Once you have your protein intake dialed in, the remainder of your calories will be between carbs and fats–alcohol need not apply.
I prefer to keep fat around 20-30% of total calories, but no higher.
In most cases, your carb intake will then be 30-40%.
You can play with the percentages a bit based on personal preference, but I’ve found people to do much better with a higher % of carbs than fats during recomposition stages–primarily because they’ll be able to train harder and reduce the impact of cortisol post-workout.
Fats: 9 calories per gram.
1805x.2= 361 calories/9= 40g of fat
Carbs: The rest.
1805 Calories- protein (876 calories)- fat (361 calories)= 568 calories
568 calories/4 calories per gram = 142g of carbs per day.
5x Deficit Days
142g of Carbs
The science is clear that low carb vs high carb is highly individualized and primarily a matter of choice. I’ve seen my clients do better with higher carbs while keeping fat at least 20% (for hormonal function) so that’s what I’m going to cover here.
Step 4: Muscle Growth Days
Muscle growth days–I recommend these are on your hardest workout days and ideally, on the weekends.
Most people fall apart with their diet on the weekends. This provides you with a buffer to have a life but stay on track.
2x week: Final Macros on Higher calorie days:
358.5 grams of protein
5x Deficit Days
142g of Carbs
2x Per Week, your hardest workout days.
4 Common Questions:
1. This seems like a ton of calories. What gives?
If you’ve been undereating for a long time, this isn’t going to be ideal for you. This is often the case. You’re going to want to gradually elevate your calorie intake by 10% per week until you’re eating at maintenance.
If you SPIKE calories aggressively, you’ll gain fat.
If you DROP calories too aggressively, you’ll lose muscle.
Find a balance.
2. How Do I get so much protein?
Simple: Breakfast: 3 eggs + 6 egg whites.
Snack: 2 scoops Protein
Lunch: 4 oz chicken
Pre-workout: 2 scoops protein
Dinner: 4 oz meat, like steak.
Before bed: 1 cup cottage cheese.
This is like, 230ish grams of protein. Adjust accordingly.
3. Can I have more fat?
Carb intake is highly individual. A quick word of warning, though: the people with the best physiques in the world (athletes, bodybuilders) tend to eat a diet higher in clean carbs and lower in fat. That’s a pretty important thing to consider.
Ultimately, if you hit protein and calories, you should still be able to recomp.
4. How important is meal timing?
Very important. On training days, you want 30-50g of carbs in your system before you train. This has been shown to increase muscle protein synthesis after a workout.
In addition, you want to get another 30-50g of carbs (if not more) after your workout. This reduces CORTISOL, your primary stress hormone, after training and helps maximize muscle growth and recovery.
One final note…
All the details for recomposition matter. That means food quality needs to be on point. Get out of here with the if it fits your macros crap where you justify eating cookings–the composition of your body will be dictated by the quality of your food, not just your macros.