The holy grail of body transformation is losing fat while gaining lean muscle mass, also known as body recomposition. The composition swing of replacing fat with muscle creates profound aesthetic changes in physique, giving people a look they desire.
Fitness trainers at Iron Bodies and Minds are experienced in successfully helping people accomplish body recomposition goals, guiding them through the process every step of the way. This article is crafted to describe why body recomposition should matter to you, overviewing the process of body recomposition and critical strategies for success.
What is Body Recomposition?
It’s helpful to understand body composition before diving into body recomposition. Body composition is your body’s ratio of fat mass to lean mass. Lean mass describes muscles and ligaments, tendons, bones, water, and other tissues. Anything that is not fat is considered to be lean mass.
Body recomposition involves decreasing your body fat percentage and increasing your muscle percentage. Weight is not a factor with body recomposition. We are simply looking to lose fat and replace it with lean muscle.
The consensus is that body recomposition is much easier for new trainees and becomes more challenging to achieve as you progress to an intermediate and advanced level trainee. Body recomposition and growth become much more difficult the closer you get to your genetic potential.
It is possible to see muscle growth occur during weight loss, but the overall magnitude is diminished due to the decrease in calories. Gaining muscle requires adequate energy intake (calories) and sufficient protein.
1 – Caloric Deficit and Fat Loss
In the past 100 years, controlled weight loss studies have confirmed that fat loss begins and ends with a caloric deficit. You have to expend more energy than you consume to see fat leave your body. Fat stores can’t be decreased while you are in a caloric deficit. On the flip side, fat stores can’t be increased without a surplus of energy intake (calories).
Still today, many people resist the idea that calories in versus calories out is critical to fat loss. If your goal is body recomposition, you can only lose fat in a caloric deficit. The sooner you realize this, the quicker you can make simple adjustments to your diet that profoundly impact your aesthetics.
The cautionary tale surrounding calorie deficit and aesthetics is that your body will not prioritize muscle growth if the caloric restriction is too aggressive. Your body essentially views it as a form of starvation and muscle growth becomes less of a priority. Caloric deficits can make it hard to hold onto muscle mass, much less gain any muscle mass.
Most people do well with a 10 to 15% calorie deficit per day.
2- Calorie Cycling
You have to eat fewer calories to lose fat, but consume more calories to gain muscle. So, what do you do? Calorie cycling.
Calorie cycling involves modifying your calories daily. The most straightforward approach for calorie cycling is to eat more calories on training days so you have the energy to fuel performance. On rest days, keep your calorie intake in a deficit. There could be nutrient partitioning effects by taking this approach. The increased calories might bias toward gaining muscle and not fat.
Calorie intake remains at maintenance throughout the week despite the increases and decreases.
Though it varies from person to person, consider consuming 20% more calories on training days and 20% fewer calories on rest days.
3 – Increase Protein for Optimal Muscle
Now, if your goal is to lose fat and build muscle simultaneously, you have to be smart about the source of your calories in the overall restriction. Eating enough protein so that your body has what it needs to build muscle mass is crucial. Protein is the building block for muscle.
So, what should your protein intake be for an effective body recomposition? If you’re in a caloric deficit in resistance training, aim for 1-1.4 grams per pound of fat-free mass. Depending on the severity of caloric deficit, protein intake might need to be higher than this.
4 – Resistance Training and Muscle Gain
The most impactful way to build muscle is by lifting heavy weights for multiple sets per muscle group each week. Your gym routine shouldn’t change whether you’re in a caloric deficit or surplus. Compound exercises such as squats, deadlifts, bench press, pull-ups and chin-ups, overhead press, core work, and a steady rotation of accessory exercises will do the trick to pack on lean mass. In general, 10 to 20 sets per muscle group per week seems to be the sweet spot for maximizing muscle growth.
Sound like a lot of work? Not really. If you’re squatting twice a week, each workout would include five sets of squats. Besides adequate volume, progressive stress is essential to keep packing on muscle. Lifting the same weight over and over will yield lack luster results. You must keep challenging your body by abiding by principle of progressive overload.
5 – Consistency and Delayed Gratification
Making muscle gains takes time and effort. Losing fat takes time and effort. The reality is, accomplishing both at the same time is possible, but it will require dedication, consistency, and patience. There is no instant gratification during the physique development.
Body recomposition is a slow and steady process. It requires sticking to your caloric deficit and protein intake requirements for an extended period, staying consistent, and being patient. The reality is that a caloric deficit makes muscle gain a bit more challenging but not impossible. Most people in a caloric deficit gain muscle at about 25% the rate they usually would.
The experienced trainers at Team Iron Bodies and Minds offer up the most effective resistance training practices, program design, and technical coaching. We understand the profound impact a personalized training program can have on body recomposition goals, strength, and packing on lean muscle mass.
If you’d like to learn about how to accomplish your physique goals, grab a free week of training by Team Iron Bodies and Minds today! Get started HERE!