I used to weigh myself every day. I would torture myself over the numbers on the scale, disappointed at every increase, jubilant at every dip. I was obsessed with losing body fat and getting as lean as possible. I didn’t have a healthy relationship with food. I micromanaged every calorie that went into my mouth, but without having any real plan or end goal in mind. All I knew was that eating too much was bad.
I couldn’t have been more wrong. Over time, I became tired and moody. I decided to make a change. After doing my own research, speaking with my dietitian, and testing multiple different methods, I discovered the secret to losing weight and building muscle at the same time. It’s a process called body recomposition.
What is body recomposition?
Everyone wants a sculpted body, but too often people think this means you have to focus on weight loss. The truth is, you’ll do more harm than good in the long term. Body recomposition is the idea that while you lose weight, you also need to build muscle. Diets, where you starve yourself, lead not only to fat loss but also to a reduction in muscle mass. With a good body-recomposition routine, you will lose body fat, but also build muscle. This means that the scale becomes irrelevant because weight loss is no longer the goal.
How does it work?
Body recomposition is less of a weight-loss program and more of a lifestyle, so your goals will change over time. It’s a process that balances exercise, both cardio and resistance training, with a focused diet plan that measures your calorie intake to promote the speeding up of your metabolism. This leads to simultaneous weight loss and muscle gain.
While it’s recommended that you do this with a trained professional, for optimum results, here is an easy five-step method to get you started.
1. To lose body fat or build muscle you need to decide on a primary goal
It’s important to identify your primary goal, building muscle or losing body fat, based on your current physical shape. If your body fat percentage is 8-12% (male) or 18-22% (female), your primary goal should be building muscle. On the flip side, if your body fat percentage is 15-20% (male) or 25-30% (female), your primary goal should be to lose fat. Not everyone is the same. Genetics, age, gender, height, current physique, dietary preferences (are you vegan or kosher?) all play a role in developing a nutrition plan and training program that works best for each individual.
2. Build a body-specific maintenance diet
Your maintainance caloric intake is the number of calories you require to consume daily to be able to maintain your current body weight. If your primary goal is building muscle, you want to take your maintenance calories intake and add about 5-25%. If your primary goal is to lose fat, you’ll take your maintenance calories and subtract about 10-20%. Remember that everyone is different.
3. Set up macronutrient targets (Pro tip: start with protein)
The biggest mistake I made for years was thinking all calories are the same. The calories in an apple are not the same as those in a loaf of white bread. Different foods contain different micronutrient and macronutrient variables that provide health, weight loss, and athletic benefits. Micronutrients are found in all unprocessed foods.
Your macronutrient (your protein, fat, and carbohydrate intake) split is the determining factor in achieving your dream physique. If you can get your macronutrient split correct, you will see dramatic changes in your physique; you will feel more energetic, sleep better and have better moods.
4. Learn to love resistance training
A perfect diet is the perfect starting point, but it’s only half the journey. If you want to build muscle and lose weight, resistance training is the key. The more resistance training you do, the more lean muscle mass you can put on, which will naturally increase your daily energy expenditure, meaning you will lose fat at a much faster rate.
5. Pay attention to details (sleep, timing of eating, supplements)
First, good sleep is vital in your body-recomposition journey. Your muscles are not built in the gym; they are built while you’re asleep. The National Library of Medicine claims that during sleep, the muscle-building growth hormone is released, and your muscles are relaxed, which allows for repairs to take place. With inadequate sleep, this hormone is impaired, and you may find yourself waking up very tense.
Second, time your eating around when you plan on training. You want to feed your body as much high-quality fuel as possible before a workout, in order to increase energy expenditure and improve performance. Finally, look at supplementation. Supplements are in no way a magic pill for weight loss, but the right supplements will help speed up the process.
The bottom line
What you need to remember is that losing body fat and building muscle at the same time may sound like a fairy tale. However, irrespective of your age, it’s actually simple and achievable.