Body Recomposition Diet: An Easy-to-Follow Guide

Do you find yourself dreaming of a physique where you have washboard abs or bigger biceps? You may even feel like you deserve it with all the hard work and dedication you show at the gym. It shouldn’t be a surprise but the saying “abs are made in the kitchen” has some merit when it comes to your physique. 

Here’s a secret: You probably won’t be able to stair-step your way to this goal of being lean and muscular. It’s going to take some dedication, willpower, and consistency to obtain this desired look. Don’t get discouraged – it’s totally possible!

What is the Concept of Body Composition?

We all have different body compositions. For example, you may have more fat mass, muscle mass, or even bone mass. Have you heard or used these words at the gym or while describing someone's physique?

  • Toned
  • Muscular 
  • Lean 
  • Striated 
  • Shredded
  • Ripped

These are all words we use to explain body composition. After all, it would be a little strange if we said something like “Man, check out Dave, he’s looking great at 12% body fat” since we can only guess this number without the proper testing equipment. 

If you are looking to lose fat, maintain muscle, or gain muscle you should focus on your body composition rather than just your “weight”. 

Can You Lose Fat and Gain Muscle at the Same Time?

You may be familiar with thinking of composition as a process that includes various phases like fat loss, maintenance, and building. That’s likely how certain phrases like “fall in love with the process” were born. 

But, it’s actually completely possible with a very strategic plan to lose fat and gain muscle at the same time. 

There are certain body fat testing methods that have displayed results like this over and over again. You might even want to throw away your scale after learning about some of them like the 3-compartment DEXA scan that separates bone mineral content, fat mass, and lean mass. 

Many people that are focusing on body recomposition prefer using these methods because the number on the scale may not change much, if at all. However, that’s only because they are increasing muscle mass while decreasing fat mass. 

According to research and studies, it’s possible for beginners as well as those that have already been training for a period of time to experience body recomposition. 

How Long Does Body Recomposition Take?

Body recomposition isn’t something that happens overnight, consider bodybuilders that generally take a minimum of 12 weeks to prepare for a show. The majority are following a 16-24 week plan to reveal the best physique possible. 

Challenge yourself to stay focused and locked in for 12 weeks then re-evaluate and consider what’s next for your fitness journey. 

It’s important to remember that there are many factors at play when it comes to body recomposition and what to expect. Here are a few things to consider – your current weight, composition, diet, training regimen, sleep, stress, lifestyle habits, and more. 

On average, you can aim for around 0.5 kg of weight loss per week to make sure you are losing fat and not muscle mass. One study showed a group that aimed for a loss of 0.7% of their body weight per week for 8.5 weeks versus another that aimed for a 1.4% loss per week over 5.3 weeks. 

The 8.5-week group had a smaller calorie reduction due to a longer timeframe. Although this took more patience – they lost more fat and gained muscle in comparison to the other group that showed no change in muscle mass. 

How much muscle can you gain each week? A rough estimate is around 1% of your current weight per month with the proper training and diet. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, that’s approximately 1.8 pounds which averages to 0.45 pounds per week(1)

Ideal Macros for Body Recomposition

Your nutrition definitely plays a role in how you reach your body recomposition goals. If you had to pick one macronutrient to hyper-focus on during this process – it’s protein. Daily consumption of protein will help you feel full and satisfied while preserving and building muscle mass. 

Now, for carbohydrates and fats, you’ll want to split them up after calculating your protein needs. You’ll find various numbers for protein, but for healthy individuals that are focused on their physique – evidence suggests a good place to start is around 1.8-2.7 g/kg/day(2)

Dietary fat intake typically ranges anywhere from 15-20% for physique-focused individuals and as high as 30% for athletes(2). The remainder of your calories will be from your carbohydrates to provide proper recovery and maintain energy levels to keep showing up for your training sessions. 

Aren’t sure where to start? Reach out to a nutrition professional for more in-depth guidance. 

How Often to Eat for Body Recomposition: Meal Frequency

You might already feel overwhelmed by the focus you’ll need to have on your macronutrients and training plan. If so, place your tunnel vision on those two aspects but know that there’s still room for growth and improvements. 

It may be best to split your protein up between meals throughout the day, every 3-4 hours is typical and a common trend among bodybuilders. 

Are you stuck in meetings all day long at work? Prepare a protein shake or bar that you can quickly grab throughout the day. 

One way to increase your protein during the day and chances of a successful body recomposition is by eating casein protein before bed. Casein is a slow-digesting protein powder used before bed to help prevent a catabolic period while sleeping(2)

You’ll also want to make sure you have carbohydrates and protein following a workout to replenish your glycogen storage, boost recovery, build muscle and sustain your energy. 

Meal frequency can also be changed based on your preferences and what’s going to be realistic for you. There’s a chance you may need to eat a very high-calorie diet, this is often one reason people choose to have 3 meals per day with 2 snacks and a protein shake before bed. 

Should You Carb or Calorie Cycle During Body Recomposition?

Whatever you choose to do, keep in mind that you need to be consistent for 12 weeks. So, think about what your lifestyle looks like and your training regimen. 

Is there a day of the week that you may benefit from more calories or carbohydrates? For some, it’s the mental break and for others, it may truly be the fueling aspect. 

Don’t mistake an increase in your calories from carbohydrates for a cheat day. This isn’t the purpose and can turn into a slippery slope.

Some studies even show using specific strategies that involve increasing calories or carbohydrates to provide the same or better composition results in comparison to restriction over extended periods of time(2). Here are three of these strategies that often work for people.  

  • Diet break which is 1-2 weeks of having calories at maintenance.
  • Refeed which is 1-3 days of higher calories primarily from carbohydrates. 
  • A cheat meal which is a surplus of calories with a more relaxed approach regarding the macronutrients. 

Best Foods During a Body Recomposition Diet Phase

You’ll want to find foods that fit your macronutrients to reach composition goals. This will likely prioritize high protein options with healthy sources of carbohydrates and fats. 

  1. Protein sources to look for are lean and high-quality options like chicken, ground beef, turkey, fish, shrimp, tofu, lamb, elk, cottage cheese, grass-fed whey protein powder, casein protein powder. 
  2. Carbohydrate sources depend on your focus and preferences. Some common sources are rice, beans, potatoes, fruit, oatmeal, pasta, and bread.
  3. Select healthy fats like avocado, nuts, seeds, and olive oil. 

Who Should Try a Body Recomposition Diet

You should consider a body recomposition diet if you feel like you are ready to build muscle and lose body fat. A recomposition diet can be beneficial for anyone at any stage in their journey. Make sure you have a plan and are ready to execute it for 12 weeks to see optimal results. 

Remember that your nutrition and training should be relatively on point for building muscle and losing fat. It’s no secret that this isn’t going to happen overnight and it might not be reflected through the scale – but there will be visible changes if you stick to the plan. 

So, consider getting a body composition scan or testing to measure your progress, prep some high-protein meals, and get to work.