What does it mean to do a body recomposition? A body recomposition is when your body burns fat and builds muscle at the same time—leading to a “recomposition” of your physique.
Does body recomp actually work?
Yes, body recomposition works in real life, and aside from doing it myself, it’s been reflected in many studies.
In a study from 2000, overweight police officers burnt 9.3 pounds of fat and gained 8.8 pounds of lean mass in only 12 weeks. They ate a calorie deficit, a high-protein diet, used a protein supplement, and lifted weights.
It even works in people who are already strong. In a 2012 study on elite gymnasts who can already do 17 pull-ups, they put them on a calorie deficit. After just 30 days, their body fat dropped from 7.6% down to 5% while gaining 0.9 pounds of lean mass. They ate pretty much just meat, fish, healthy fats like olive oil, and vegetables.
There are many more studies that demonstrate body recomposition:
- 1990: Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research on NCAA Football Team
- 2011: Effect of two different weight-loss rates on body composition and strength and power-related performance in elite athletes
- 2017: The Effects of Intensive Weight Reduction on Body Composition and Serum Hormones in Female Fitness Competitors
The way I did body recomposition was by eating a calorie deficit to burn fat through 16:8 intermittent fasting while eating enough nutrients needed to build muscle like a surplus of protein. I combined that diet with lifting weights and some cardio.
How many calories do I need for a body recomposition?
Each person will have their own amount of calories needed to get into a calorie deficit needed to burn fat. Some people will have a faster metabolism, or they will have a much more active lifestyle, or they’ll have less chronic inflammation, or they’ll have a different diet in terms of quality, which also affects total calories.
So the main goal is not to focus on an absolute calorie number but rather to focus on your results and then adjust from there. For example, if you’re getting heavier, then you will need to take a few hundred calories out of your day and try again for a week. If you’re losing weight too fast and you’re finding it hard to maintain your current strength when lifting weights, you may need to add in some more calories.
In our True Gains program, we teach how to move beyond counting calories and instead focus on what you eat and when you eat to burn fat and feed your muscle. For example, one important principle for body recomposition is nutrient timing. The basic idea is that you wouldn’t eat a lot of energy calories when you’re about to sit down and go to work for eight hours. But after you lift weights, you would eat a lot of calories to help you recover and build back stronger. So you would be burning fat while you sit and are inactive, and then you would build muscle after lifting weights.
Can you body recomp at maintenance?
Technically this wouldn’t be called maintenance because you be in a calorie deficit needed to burn fat, but you can maintain your current body weight while doing a recomp. For example, you might burn one pound of fat and gain one pound of lean mass, leading to a maintenance of weight. But for that to happen, you would technically be in a calorie deficit needed to burn fat.
How do I train my body for recomposition?
Doing a body recomposition requires you to be in a calorie deficit. When you are in a calorie deficit, your body is trying to be more efficient, and so it will remove unneeded muscle, which is heavy and costs calories to maintain. If you don’t need it, your body will remove it.
Your goal is to remind your body that it needs muscle and the best way to do this is by lifting weights or doing some other type of resistance training to challenge your muscles to not just maintain but also to grow. This isn’t the time to push the volume high, as you’re low in calories.
We also like to do some cardio work during a body recomp. Most people trying to do a body recomposition have poor fitness, and that poor fitness often leads to stubborn belly fat. So in our program, we combined lifting weights to keep our muscles, and we do some cardio training to increase our fitness to help reduce stubborn belly fat. That way, you move forward towards your goal in a number of different ways at the same time.
The other thing to be aware of is your diet. When you’re in a calorie deficit, your protein needs increase, so you will want to lift weights and also eat more protein than normal. Spreading out protein equally across all meals will also help with muscle gains.
Should I bulk, cut, or recomp?
If you are above 15% body fat and you can’t faintly see your abs, then we would recommend starting with a recomp/cut. The reason why is because most guys can still make decent strength gains while burning off fat.
Once you get to around 15% body fat and you can faintly see some shapes of your abs, we recommend looking at if you’ve reached your strength benchmarks. For example, if you are still feeling skinny, then that’s when we would recommend switching to a bulk to get your strength up (our other program, Bony to Beastly, is specifically designed for lean, skinny guys to bulk fast.) But if you’re already benching a couple of plates (225+ pounds) and deadlifting over three plates (315+ pounds) for five reps, then you could keep cutting down to 10% body fat to get six-pack abs.
If you are feeling both weaker and fatter than you want to be, a body recomp is a realistic and enjoyable way of moving forward on both goals. If you want to know how to do this in a step-by-step way, I’d suggest joining our True Gains program.