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Body Recomposition: How to Lose Fat and Gain Muscle at the Same Time

Updated: May 16, 2022

Most people trying to lose weight want a trim yet toned body. In fact, getting toned is one of the most common goals people say they're after. Whether they realize it or not, these people are referring to body recomposition. Most weight loss programs often focus on cutting body fat and hitting lower numbers on the scale rather than gaining muscle.

Body recomposition is an approach that emphasizes the importance of not only losing fat but gaining muscle at the same time. Aside from trimming fat, using body recomposition techniques may help you increase strength and boost the number of calories you burn throughout the day.

What is Body Recomposition?

Body composition refers to the amount of fat and lean mass your body contains. Lean mass includes muscle, bones, ligaments, tendons, organs, other tissues and water -- in other words, everything that's not body fat.

Analyzing body composition gives a better understanding of health than other screening methods that only factor in weight and height, such as body mass index (BMI). That’s because your body fat percentage in relation to your muscle mass better reflects your overall wellbeing than just weight or BMI.

Body recomposition refers to the process of changing your ratio of fat mass to lean mass -- that is, losing body fat and gaining muscle mass. The goal of body recomposition is to lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously. Therefore, body recomposition focuses on body composition rather than weight. Unlike a standard diet, body recomposition is a lifestyle in which fitness and nutrition techniques lead to healthy changes in your body’s ratio of fat to muscle.

Body recomposition isn't about weight loss; it's about fat loss. On a body recomposition plan, you may maintain your current weight or even gain weight -- remember that muscle is denser than fat.

Body Recomposition Is More Than Just Weight Loss

Typically, people use a scale to gauge their progress when trying to lose weight.

If the number on the scale goes down, most dieters infer success. However, the problem with using a scale as the only method to track your progress is that most scales don’t differentiate between fat loss and muscle loss, which is an important factor in measuring health.

Also, some people (like me) can be “skinny fat,” meaning that they are within their normal BMI range but still have too much fat tissue. Individuals who fall under this category are at risk for obesity-related health issues like cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, even though their scale may indicate a healthy weight. The opposite can also be true, where athletic people who have a lot of healthy muscle mass can be placed in the “overweight” category, all while their body composition indicates that they are in great physical shape.

Having too much body fat has been linked to a slew of health issues and may increase your risk of chronic conditions, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease. In contrast, having a healthy ratio of muscle mass to body fat can improve your health while decreasing your risk of the above diseases. If done correctly, body recomposition changes the makeup of your body so that you have less fat and more muscle.

Interestingly, favoring body recomposition techniques over other methods of weight loss may result in much slower weight loss, or no weight loss at all, due to the simultaneous gain in muscle. However, contrary to popular belief, your ratio of muscle to fat is the best indicator of overall health and fitness, not body weight.

Plus, increasing muscle mass boosts your resting metabolic rate (RMR), meaning that you will burn more calories while at rest.

What is the Approach for Body Recomposition?

To successfully change your body composition, you need:

  • Cardiovascular exercise for fat loss

  • Resistance (weight) training to build muscle

  • Overall decrease in calorie consumption to lose fat

  • Increased protein intake to promote muscle formation

Consume A Moderate Number Of Calories

To cut fat, you have to be at a caloric deficit. When you eat fewer calories every day than your body uses, it has to start burning through the stored energy in your body, which is found in your fat cells and muscle tissue. If you purely focus on a caloric deficit and do not consider the nutrients you eat, you may lose muscle mass in addition to fat.

However, with body recomposition, you want to preserve muscle mass at the same time, so a caloric deficit on its own isn’t going to cut it. Eating too few calories every day can cause you to lose muscle mass in addition to fat tissue, and it certainly won’t help you build muscle when there aren’t enough calories to spare.

So you want to be at a moderate caloric deficit so that you’re burning fat, but not so much that your muscles don’t have enough fuel. The best way to determine the right number of calories for you would be to find your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR), or the number of calories your body burns every day at rest. From there, you can plan out your diet and exercise routine so your net calorie count for the day is slightly below your BMR.

Bump Up Your Protein Consumption

You need to make sure that you’re eating enough protein every day, especially following a workout. For example, there’s evidence that eating a high-protein diet of 3.4 g/kg of body weight in conjunction with a heavy training program can help you lose more body fat, even at a caloric surplus!

Consuming whole, complete protein sources throughout the day is the best way to gain muscle mass. It’s recommended to distribute protein sources evenly throughout the day by consuming protein-rich foods like eggs, poultry, dairy products and organic protein powder (whey, pea, casein).

Cut out high-density Carbs

Carbohydrates are an essential nutrient for energy, but they’re also calorie-dense. When eating for fat loss, it’s a good idea to replace low-quality carbohydrates (highly processed, high sugar, low glycemic index) with healthier carbohydrates like from your fruits and vegetables. These will keep your blood sugar more balanced than simple sugars and provide you with more nutrients like fiber, which are also helpful for losing fat.

Increase fiber intake: Eating more fiber-rich foods, such as vegetables and beans, can help decrease body fat, especially in the belly area.

Fats are also critical in any meal plan since they can help increase satisfaction when following a diet. However, not all fats are created equal. Choose healthier fats, like olive oil, avocado, and omega-3s, more often than trans and saturated fats, so your body can get the most nutrition.

Strength Training

The best workout programs are the ones that switch it up to keep your body challenged and working hard. Some of the best exercises to include in your body recomposition training include:

  • Resistance training – Resistance training using weights, resistance bands, and other forms of resistance is the gold standard for building strong, lean muscles. Research suggests that performing weight-training exercises in multiple sets of 6-12 repetitions is the best way to increase muscle hypertrophy.

  • Bodyweight workouts – Don’t underestimate the power of bodyweight workouts in addition to lifting weights. Bodyweight workouts like push-ups and plyometrics use your entire body, including your core, which can lead to more calorie burn while still building muscle.

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting as a strategy that has been shown to help people preserve and gain muscle mass while losing weight. Intermittent fasting can help support metabolic rate and metabolic flexibility.

This relates to muscle building and weight loss because if you’re able to burn through carbs efficiently during a workout, you can lose weight more efficiently since you’ll then be burning through fat stores.

Combining weight training with intermittent fasting can help activate that process, she says. Combining strength training with intermittent fasting is a great way to burn through leftover carb stores overnight and increase your chances of waking up burning fat in the morning.

Bottom Line

Body recomposition stresses the importance of gaining muscle while losing fat, which may decrease your risk of chronic disease and boost metabolism. Try increasing your protein intake to at least 0.73 grams per pound (1.6 g/kg) of body weight per day and complete strength training at least twice per week. Body recomposition methods can be used by anyone looking for a healthy way to get in shape.

About the authors:

Madur & Anitha Jagannath are certified Nutrition Consultants, in addition to their professions in technology and human resources. When Madur started feeling lethargic and slowing down, he started exercising regularly, became conscious of healthy eating habits and nutrition. He is an avid runner and does half-marathons often. At Voyage to Wellness, they attribute our reputation to the lasting customer relationships they have developed throughout the years. They believe in health & wellness and being fit, at all stages of people's lives.

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