Body Recomposition – How to Burn Fat & Build Muscle Together

They told you that nobody can build muscle while burning fat. But guess what? They were wrong. Welcome to the life-changing, physique-crafting world of Body Recomposition.

Keep reading to find out how you can do it…

Get in the mindset:

  • Introducing Body Recomposition: What is it?

  • The Basics of Body Recomposition

  • How to recompose your body

  • Who can use body recomposition?

  • Top tips for body recomposition

  • Best supplements for body recomposition

What is Body Recomposition?

Imagine your physique like a piece of music or a painting. You’re not just one block of colour or a single, long note, instead the physical vehicle you are is a complex composition.

Now, lets take a look at two key players in your health and appearance – muscle and fat. These are usually the things we want to change. How many of us say we’d love more muscle, while stripping down our levels of body fat?

Body recomposition is changing the ratio of your lean mass to non-lean mass. Simply put – you’ll alter how much muscle you carry in relation to fat and water etc. It’s not just about tipping the scale one way or the other, it’s better than that. It’s about improving, not just reducing.

For years people were told they couldn’t change the composition of their body in one swoop. If the broscience bodybuilding crowd were to believed, it was either bulking, or cutting. Most gym goers set their sights on these two clear cut pathways even today.

Beginners beware – the bodybuilding bulk’n’cut route isn’t always your best friend,

Just to clarify…

  • Bulking – gaining muscle by eating in a calorie surplus, while training for hypertrophy

  • Cutting – reducing fat (and some muscle) mass gained during the bulk by eating in a calorie deficit, while also training

  • Recomposition – simultaneously building or maintaining muscle whilst burning fat

Lean athlete showing signs of body recomposition

Body Recomposition vs. Weight Loss

Today, it’s normal for people to say ‘I want to lose weight’. It’s something we see on the TV, on the shelves of superstores in fancy shakes, and there’s even groups of people who meet up to do it.

Weight loss has become something we’re literally obsessed with. Whenever we see or feel something we don’t like, we go default lose weight today mode. Well, maybe Monday, right?

We now understand that excess body fat to the level of obesity is dangerous. According to scientists, it significantly raises the likelihood of developing life threatening diseases. Considering the fact obese people are at much greater risk of cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes, and cancers… Obesity can kill! [1] [2] [3]

However, the watching the scale isn’t always the healthiest way to positively change our bodies. BMI isn’t even the best indicator of how well we’re doing under the hood. Traditional weight loss doesn’t track how much muscle you’re also losing. BMI doesn’t usually factor in your existing muscle either. Just ask an athlete and they’re probably considered obese…

Body recomposition, on the other hand, is a superior approach. Although it might be slow weight loss (or none at all for a while) you’ll be leaner, stronger, and more toned. That’s the goal for all of us, right? Who doesn’t want to unveil an aesthetic, chiselled physique?

By staring down at the scale every morning it gets harder to see the bigger picture. Yes, you may be losing weight fast, but from where? If you’ve lost two-pounds this week but one of them is muscle, have you made progress? Not really – you’ve lost the lean mass you’re trying to reveal and firm up.

Lean man with muscle showing body recomposition

Body Recomposition – How to do it right

So, at this point you’re pretty decided you’re going to give this a go. After all, who doesn’t want to strip fat to reveal a great physique? Nobody – that’s who.

First, let’s get your house in order. By this we mean:

  • Diet

  • Exercise

  • Lifestyle

Crafting the ratio of muscle to fat you desire isn’t a one road journey. In fact, you need to be travelling down multiple pathways. The three factors above are your main plates to keep spinning.

Diet for Body Recomposition

Let’s try to understand the basics of fat burning here. Simply put, you cannot burn fat unless you eat in a calorie deficit. This means you’ll have to take on less calories than you expend in a day.

But you can’t build muscle unless you’re bulking!

Relax friend, you can. This writer has done it, athletes do it, and regular gym-goers do it. If you’re eating a nutritious, balanced diet rich in protein muscle building is possible. It’s all about learning how to cycle calories.

Cycling calories, much like carb cycling, is the art of manipulating your daily intake depending on activities. On the days you train hard, you eat more. Rest days or real relaxed sessions, you eat less. Here’s how to work out your daily needs:

  • First, find your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) multiplied by your activity level. This will give you an amount of calories necessary for maintenance of current bodyweight.

  • Hard work days = +15%

  • Rest or relaxed days = -10%

It also pays to intelligently alter your macro-nutrient ratios to support your body goals. Researchers suggest that eat a high-protein, nutritious rich diet may be more beneficial for weight loss [4]. One great thing about protein is it’s perfect for protecting muscle mass during calorie restriction. Not only that, but protein is also awesome at increasing satiety, which means it helps you feel full.

Here are a few body recomposition diet tips:

  • Keep protein intake high

  • Eat protein at every feed

  • Try to evenly distribute protein throughout the day

  • Don’t skip out on healthy fats

  • Cycle carbohydrates around training times to aid performance and recovery

  • Lower your carbs on non-exercise days

  • Enjoy a cheat meal once a week to rebalance hormones and keep moral up

Weight training woman in a gym showing signs of low body fat from body recomposition

Who can use Body Recomposition?

Believe it or not you don’t have to be a pro to benefit from body recomposition. In fact, the evidence actually suggests that being a beginner is a good thing. See if this way, you have nothing to lose (okay, maybe a little body fat) but everything to gain in muscle. Talk about beginners luck, eh?

When you’re a new guy or girl you can build lean mass by doing literally anything. Just looking at a dumbbell is usually enough to force adaptations. This is because you’re not used to resistance training, so, almost anything acts as a stimulus. Just think about how fast new people progress in the gym…

Not only that, but your inefficient movement during exercise means there’s a lot of kinetic energy lost along the way. Consequently, you’ll burn more calories trying to actually exercise in the right way, compared to someone with much finer tuned motor skills. Don’t even be sorry about that.

In short – Your non-adapted physique will alter quickly. You will probably have more body fat to lose, while you’ll have to work harder to complete movements, so should burn extra calories,

Similarly, if you used to be a stud but you’ve somehow let yourself go (don’t worry, life happens), you’re also in line for faster recomp gains. Essentially, you should be able to rebuild your physique quickly through muscle memory, while your body returns back to what it knew. You’ll no doubt have a handle on exercise too, so will be able to get stuck into the nitty-gritty quite quickly.

However, if you’re already lean and an experienced gym-goer, things might be tougher. You’ll already be at the stage where you have to switch up your programmes to trigger adaptations. Therefore, growing muscle is probably slower.

You’ll also not have as much fat to lose, meaning shredding that last little bit can be hard. Let’s not even get started on your efficient movement patterns… Your expertize under the barbell means you’ll waste less energy getting the sucker from A to B. But don’t sweat it though, you can still do it.

Simply put, healthy progress might be slow if you’re already in good shape.

But it’s not impossible.

By refocussing your training alongside altering your diet you can certainly get the job done. According to the International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, athletes should shoot for 0.7% BW weight loss per week to keep in peak condition [5].

All you’ve gotta do is do it – Ronnie Coleman

Woman weight training for body recomposition

Training for Body Recomposition

Now, if you weren’t already sold on body recomposition, you will be now! This is the most fun part!

Let’s take a look at your objective – to burn fat while growing muscle.

For this top happen, you must significantly simulate your muscle fibers to force adaptations. Simply put – we’ve gotta get those babies working.

Throw out the two hour long treadmill sessions! While this approach is usually associated with fat burning, it sucks. Yes, you’ll burn calories, but you’re more likely to lost both fat and muscle together. That’s really not what you’re trying to achieve here.

Instead, say hello to a sexy bunch of barbell lifts, Oly style lifts, strength style compound movements, and any other resistance training you love.

Even the cardio bunnies can feel a part of this. Cardiovascular training isn’t completely out of the question, it should just be cut short or even better turned into sprints.

Fact – the act of lifting alone facilitates fat burning.

Some scientists (most actually) say it even beats cardio for wiping out stubborn belly fat [6]. Good news if you’re not one for slugging away on the sidewalk.

An important factor about strength training specifically is that it increases lean mass. What’s even better is that by adding more muscle to your frame, you’ll raise your resting metabolic rate too.

In short – you’ll burn more calories throughout the day just by having more muscle.

One study even showed that a group of men experienced a 9% increase in RMR after 24 weeks of strength training. It’s data like this that leads scientists to believe that a large portion of body recomposition can be credited to this jump in metabolism.

According to researchers, it’s not all down to extra activity outside of training for getting lean [7].

What’s even better is that the more intense the movement, the greater the energy demand. Effectively, you’ll have to work harder, and in that way burn through additional calories.

Here are the optimum types of training methods for body recomposition…

  • Compound multi-joint movements – deadlifts, squats, presses, etc.

  • Olympic style lifts – cleans, jerks, snatches, etc.

  • High-intensity resistance – heavy lifting, AMRAPs, EMOMs, HIIT with resistance, etc.

  • Sprints – treadmill, ski-erg, C2 rower, Assault Bike etc.

However, if you have a preference for pumps and love your hypertrophy sets, that’s all good too. The basic concept is you want to create a high energy demand by performing exercises that build muscle.

Male athlete showing low levels of body fat achieved through body recomposition

Why build muscle while building fat anyway?

Building muscle while burning fat will help you develop an athletic, aesthetic shape. Otherwise, what can often happen is people become skinny-fat. Yes, they’ve certainly dropped a few pounds, but what’s left behind is a smaller layer of fat hanging from an underdeveloped frame.

When you imagine your future fitter, happier, and stronger self, this is not the image you see…

You want to build a mountain and peel back the fog to create a breathtaking view. Imagine it like building the ultimate race car, while slowly pulling back the sheet at an unveiling.

If you time everything right, once the cloth falls off the bodywork, the machine underneath will be a peaked physique. Excess, unwanted body fat should strip back to unveil your god damn hard work. This is why body recomposition should be your goal – not altering numbers on the scale. There’s a big difference between 170 lbs of excess abdominal fat and the same weight in lean, striated shreds.

Good luck out there guys. Take these tips, get in the mindset, and go crush your body goals!

As always, get in touch with any questions or comments.

References

  1. Zeng Q, Dong SY, Sun XN, Xie J, Cui Y. Percent body fat is a better predictor of cardiovascular risk factors than body mass index. Braz J Med Biol Res. 2012;45(7):591-600.
  2. Solanki JD, Makwana AH, Mehta HB, Gokhale PA, Shah CJ. Body Composition in Type 2 Diabetes: Change in Quality and not Just Quantity that Matters. Int J Prev Med. 2015;6:122. Published 2015 Dec 21. doi:10.4103/2008-7802.172376
  3. Bandera, E., & John, E. (2018). Obesity, Body Composition, and Breast Cancer. JAMA Oncology4(6), 804. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2018.0125
  4. Tang, M., Leidy, H., & Campbell, W. (2013). Regional, but not total, body composition changes in overweight and obese adults consuming a higher protein, energy-restricted diet are sex specific. Nutrition Research33(8), 629-635. doi: 10.1016/j.nutres.2013.05.012
  5. Garthe, I., Raastad, T., Refsnes, P., Koivisto, A., & Sundgot-Borgen, J. (2011). Effect of Two Different Weight-Loss Rates on Body Composition and Strength and Power-Related Performance in Elite Athletes. International Journal Of Sport Nutrition And Exercise Metabolism21(2), 97-104. doi: 10.1123/ijsnem.21.2.97
  6. Wang Z, Ying Z, Bosy-Westphal A, et al. Specific metabolic rates of major organs and tissues across adulthood: evaluation by mechanistic model of resting energy expenditure. Am J Clin Nutr. 2010;92(6):1369-77.
  7. LEMMER, J., IVEY, F., RYAN, A., MARTEL, G., HURLBUT, D., & METTER, J. et al. (2001). Effect of strength training on resting metabolic rate and physical activity: age and gender comparisons. Medicine And Science In Sports And Exercise, 532-541. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200104000-00005

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