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Body Recomposition Guide: Lose Fat AND Build Muscle

May 16, 2024

Build muscle and lose fat at the same times. Sounds great, doesn't it?

Now not everybody is going to be able to do body recomposition but I think pretty much everybody should try anyway. I'm going to tell you why.

Natural bodybuilders and physique competitors who've been training in a structured way with optimal nutrition for many years are probably going to need to do either a bulk or a cut to achieve muscle gain or fat loss. But for the rest of us it's probably quite possible to lose fat and build muscle together.

I'm also going to talk about what it means to optimize your nutrition for muscle recovery and hypertrophy, muscle growth.

The percentage of people who have been doing those things consistently for a long period of time is quite small. I want to focus on those of you who probably have 10 to 20 lbs to lose and you want to get that more toned look, for lack of a better word. Putting on a little bit of muscle and reducing the fat. That's going to give you a more toned appearance.

So what would a body recomposition plan look like? Not knowing if you will be able to build muscle and lose fat at the same time, but trying to do it anyway. It would be the muscle-focussed fat loss plan that I designed for my online program, The Lean & Strong Academy.

At least 3 days of weight training per week to help you build muscle.

You want this to be structured enough so that you can monitor yourself as you go and that you know that it's progressive and you're pushing your muscles to grow.

As you get stronger you need adequate volume. That means the number of sets that you're doing over the course of the week. And you need sufficient intensity so you're pushing your muscles hard enough to grow. If you're capable of shoulder pressing 35 lb overhead and you're only pressing 10 lbs overhead then you're not getting sufficient intensity for muscle growth. That's a pretty extreme example but I've seen that happen in the gym. Ideally you're hitting those major muscle groups at least twice a week and you're getting in about 10 to 20 sets per muscle group.

This is actually fairly easy to do. Most push and pull type programs will let you hit multiple muscle groups at the same time. So you don't necessarily need to think of the biceps separately from the triceps and then the chest. But if there is a body part that you want to bring up a little bit more then you need to get in a little bit more volume on that body part.

I have a client who's currently working on biceps and that's what he's doing. He's getting more volume into those biceps over the course of the week. A body recomposition nutrition plan is going to focus heavily on getting sufficient protein for muscle growth.

I generally recommend a minimum of 0.7 grams per pound of body body weight per day. And up to about 1 gram per pound of body weight per day.

So I weigh about 135 lb right now and I fairly easily get in 135 and that's without eating red meat and relying exclusively on chicken, fish and dairy. It's not as hard as you think.

For leaner people trying to maintain as much muscle mass as possible while losing fat, you'll probably want to be on the higher side of that protein goal. And for people 35 and older also you probably want to be on the higher end of that. Because as we get older muscle metabolism reduces. We're not as efficient at getting the same results from that protein. Our rate of muscle protein synthesis goes down. So you're not getting the same effects from the same amount of protein as you did in your 20s. This muscle protein metabolism slows down by about a rate of 4 to 5% per decade.

You want to make sure that you're fighting against that every step of the way!

Now as part of your body recomposition diet you'll also want to have adequate carbs in order to promote recovery from your workouts and to fuel your next workout as well. Because if you feel like you're under fuelled then you won't put in as much into your workout you can't push those muscles. They won't grow.

Each time you go into a workout you want to be fairly well recovered and ready to push those weights harder again.

Not enough people think about the lifestyle aspects like sleep that can really affect every other aspect so if you're not sleeping enough then you're probably not putting in enough energy into those workouts.

You don't feel like preparing the meals that are going to fit into your plan. And you're probably just more likely to turn to easy comfort foods. That's going to hinder your fat loss efforts.

I know there are times when getting the right sleep is difficult but it is something that many people forget and can actually make or break your fat loss plan.

Now we need to look at calories specifically because if you 10 to 20 lbs from your target weight then you still want to reduce your calories a little bit from maintenance.

There are tons of calculators on the internet to help you determine your maintenance calories, but you know there are a lot of differences. Often the best way to find out what your true maintenance is just to track what you're eating for at least a week. Then you'll see how many calories you consuming. That's a true maintenance number.

It also gives you that practice with recording your calories and your macros. You'll learn a little bit through that process as well. As you set yourself up for this fat loss, you'll want to drop your calories maybe 250 to 300 calories below what you've been eating currently. So not a huge change necessarily. You don't want to do anything dramatic.

Often we get these estimates based on percentage of calories so maybe 10 to 20 % drop in your calories. For most people, roughly 200 to 300 calories is going to make a decent enough difference.

A body recomposition diet focuses on adequate protein and a slight calorie deficit from what you're currently eating. All of the members of my program are aiming for body recomposition. They don't need to maximize their muscle necessarily to compete in bodybuilding or powerlifting or anything like that.

They just want to live their daily lives and get that appearance of slightly more muscle and less fat. We're all aiming for that as a goal. A slightly reduced caloric intake but a focus on building muscle with particular attention to protein for muscle retention and growth.

It's really a win-win!

With your weight training program you do want to focus primarily on compound lifts like squats, deadlifts, lunges, pull-ups, shoulder press, lat pulldowns. Anything that is hitting multiple muscle groups at once.

That makes it much more efficient.

And because we want to hit those muscle groups at least twice a week it's a lot easier to do that if you're hitting multiple muscle groups at the same time with an exercise.

But it's not just about strength training. It's also important to include some cardio.

This is what we call concurrent training, when you're doing both weight training and cardio as part of your routine. This seems to be be the most effective training system for maximizing your muscle and minimizing your fat. And honestly, even for general health it's recommended that you get at least 150 minutes of aerobic exercise each week. That could be five sessions of 30 minutes or you could have a couple of hour sessions and a half an hour.

That's just for general health. We always want to include that in a well-rounded program anyway.

In this case it's ideal for a body recomposition plan.

I always recommend walking as well because most of us don't move enough. It tends to be the easiest thing to add in. It doesn't interfere with your weight training, it doesn't interfere with your cardio and it just makes you feel better.

If you're really keen to maximize your fat loss on top of what I already talked about the strength training and the cardio you can also include hit high intensity interval training.

That just means that you're working very intensely for a short period of time maybe only 5 or 10 seconds and then you're recovering. It could be up to 30 seconds or so. Then it's still really a full on effort and then a recovery that's either a ratio of 1: 1 or 1 to 2.

You have 30 seconds of hard work and then a minute of rest. Then you repeat this say 8 to 10 times and that would be a HIIT session. HIIT often gets associated with body weight activities like jumping jacks or burpees or even battle ropes things like that. But but you can do HIIT with absolutely any modality you like. So I often do it as part of my martial arts training. I'll hit the bag for a short period of time very very hard. Then I'll just kind of jog it out with skipping. Then you can skip really really fast for 20 to 30 seconds and then just go to a slower boxer skip for a minute or so.

You can use whatever you like I even do this on the bike outdoors. I'll just push really really hard on the bike and then go a little bit more gently as well.

Whatever activity that you enjoy doing a short burst of full out effort and then some recovery until you repeat it again. Probably one to two HIIT sessions a week is all that you really want to be doing.

Any more than that tends to be a little bit tricky for recovery. Then you won't get as much out of your weight training sessions. That's really where you want to focus your efforts. But you will get additional fat loss through HIIT workouts as well.

Once you've been following a body recomposition plan for a certain period of time and you feel like you might be stuck in a plateau find out what you can do to get out of it HERE.

Ivana Chapman