The goal of body recomposition is to shed excess fat while gaining lean muscle mass.
In this article, you’ll learn all there is to know about body recomposition, plus we’ll provide a comprehensive guide to changing your body composition along with practical fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle tips to help you achieve your goals.
Whether you're a fitness enthusiast, an athlete, or just want to feel more comfortable in your own skin with more lean body mass, this article will equip you with the knowledge and tools necessary to achieve body recomposition.
Is it Possible to Lose Fat and Gain Muscle at the Same Time?
You may be wondering if it’s truly possible to lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously without going through periods of bulking and cutting.
When it comes to human physiology, building muscle is an anabolic process that requires a surplus of energy (calories), while losing body fat is a catabolic process, for which an energy deficit is needed.
You can see why one could argue that you cannot lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously because you cannot be in a calorie surplus and a deficit at the same time.
However, with a strategic approach, you can achieve body recomposition. Body recomposition involves creating an environment that promotes muscle growth while simultaneously reducing body fat percentage.
The focus is more on lean muscle mass (fat free mass) instead of just tracking body weight.
This is achieved through increased lean body mass instead of just losing weight.
This involves alternating between higher-calorie days (along with lifting weights) to support muscle growth and consuming fewer calories on other days to promote fat loss.
Through proper nutrition, focused training that involves lifting weights, and good lifestyle choices, you can maximize your chances of achieving your ideal body recomposition plan.
Don’t worry – we’re going to tell you exactly what to do later on in this article.
How is Body Recomposition Different From Weight Loss?
Body recomposition stands apart from traditional weight loss approaches because fad diets and speedy weight loss gimmicks don’t prioritize maintaining or gaining lean muscle mass.
The goal of weight loss is to simply decrease body weight.
While weight loss primarily focuses on reducing overall body weight, body recomposition aims to reshape the body by reducing body fat percentage and increasing or maintaining lean muscle mass.
With body recomposition, the goal is to create a lean and toned physique, rather than simply becoming lighter on the scale.
Body recomposition is also better for your overall health, because there are many benefits to increasing lean body mass beyond looking toned, like better immune function, improved metabolism, and better protection for your bones and joints, just to name a few.
What is the Body Recomposition Process?
Body recomposition is the process of reducing body fat percentage while increasing lean muscle mass. When lean body mass (LBM) increases and body fat decreases, this results in a lower body fat percentage.
Lean body mass is your total body weight minus fat mass.
The body recomposition process involves a combination of targeted nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle adjustments.
How Much Muscle Can I Gain Each Month with Body Recomposition?
The rate at which you can gain muscle mass varies depending on several factors, including your training experience, genetics, age, and gender.
On average, people who are new to weight training can expect to gain about 1-2 pounds of muscle per month, while those who have more weightlifting experience may see slower progress to increase lean body mass.
How Much Body Fat Can I Lose Each Week With Body Recomposition?
The amount of body fat you can lose each week depends on several individual factors and how much of a caloric deficit you’re in. Generally, the higher your fat mass, the more quickly you can lose body fat without losing your hard-earned muscle mass.
A person who weighs 300 lbs in body weight and has 30% body fat could reasonably expect to lose fat at the rate of 2–3 lbs each week while eating in a fairly modest calorie deficit.
However, an athlete who is relatively lean, weighing around 200 lbs with 15% body fat, would almost certainly lose a significant amount of muscle if they were in an aggressive calorie deficit trying to lose fat too quickly.
A safe and sustainable fat loss rate is generally considered to be around 1-2 pounds per week. Rapid weight loss can lead to muscle loss and other negative effects like malnutrition.
Be aware that it’s completely normal not to see consistent fat loss every week. While you may start off losing 1 lb per week, you may have weeks where your weight is maintained, especially as you get leaner.
Rest assured that these weight loss plateaus are normal, especially when your goal is to reduce body fat percentage and gain muscle simultaneously.
While it may seem counterintuitive, varying your calorie intake, specifically from carbohydrates, can help you push past weight-loss plateaus by reigniting your metabolism.
This is why alternating between high-calorie/high-carb and lower-calorie/low-carb days is an effective strategy for body recomposition.
How Can I Lose Belly Fat?
Everyone always wants to know how to get rid of the fat on their abdomen for an ideal body composition.
Unfortunately, there is no way to target specific areas of the body for fat loss.
You cannot control where your body holds onto excess body fat the way you can target muscle growth.
The answer to this common question is not hours of cardio and ab exercises.
The best way to lose belly fat is to decrease your overall fat mass. And the best way to decrease your overall fat mass is to target overall body composition through consistent nutrition, weight training with intensity, and moderate cardio.
Again, if you want leaner abs, you need to achieve overall leanness.
Research shows time and time again that calories are king when it comes to changing body weight.
Let’s get into the ideal macronutrient ratios for body recomposition.
Ideal Macronutrient Ratios for Body Recomposition Diet
There is no one-size-fits-all macronutrient ratio for body recomposition.
The key factor in regulating body weight is calories. Clinical studies have shown that most individuals who are actively engaged in gym workouts tend to fare well on a balanced diet with an ample amount of protein.
It is unnecessary and unhelpful to eliminate carbohydrates completely or follow trendy diets, especially when your goal is to simultaneously gain muscle and lose fat.
Carbohydrates play a crucial role in sparing protein and enhancing the muscle-building effects of a diet rich in protein. Eating carbs actually benefits the body's recomposition process.
So, there's no need to fear carbs, as they can be a valuable ally in achieving your desired physique.
A recommended starting point for macronutrient distribution is as follows:
30-35% of total calorie intake from carbohydrates
30-35% of total calorie intake from protein
30-40% of total calorie intake from fats
This balanced approach provides a foundation for supporting muscle growth, optimizing energy levels, and maintaining overall health during the transformative process to achieve an ideal body composition.
How Much Protein Do I Need Each Day?
Protein plays a vital role in body recomposition. It aids in muscle repair, growth, and maintenance, boosts metabolism, and promotes satiety.
There are different recommendations for protein intake based on age, activity level, and body composition goals.
If your goal is to increase muscle mass and reduce body fat with body recomposition, eating about 30% of your total caloric intake from protein should be the right amount to support this goal.
What is the Best Ratio of Fats and Carbs?
While there is no one-size-fits-all answer, a balanced approach is often effective.
Tailor your ratios based on your individual preferences, aiming to include about 30-35% of total calorie intake from carbohydrates and 30-40% of total calorie intake from fats.
Aim for a moderate intake of healthy fats, such as avocados and nuts, and a mix of complex carbohydrates, including whole grains and vegetables.
The best macro ratio is the one that will be most sustainable for you long-term.
Achieving body recomposition might be a short to medium-term goal for you. But to maintain the results you gain from body recomposition, you should go with a lifestyle that you can envision yourself living for years to come.
How Many Times Should I Eat Each Day? (Meal Frequency)
The frequency of meals is a matter of personal preference. Some people thrive on three square meals daily, while others prefer smaller, more frequent meals.
The key is to prioritize nutrient-dense foods, hit your calorie goals, and eat enough protein for muscle protein synthesis for gaining muscle.
A high protein diet is also important for losing fat because not only does it help with gaining muscle through muscle protein synthesis, but it also regulates appetite so you're not craving food all the time.
So, you end up eating fewer calories which is ultimately what is needed for losing fat.
In the fitness world, there is an ongoing debate about how meal frequency affects body composition, but there is limited research to support the idea that eating more frequently throughout the day boosts your metabolism.
The relationship between meal frequency and satiety is subjective and varies from person to person.
The key takeaway here is that going 4 to 5 hours without eating doesn't automatically trigger a "catabolic mode." As long as you meet your carb, fat, protein, and calorie goals with three to six meals or snacks throughout the day, you'll be on track.
If you feel hungrier on days when your calorie and carb intakes are lower, having more frequent meals may be a good way to help you feel more satisfied and stay within your goals.
Carb or Calorie Cycle: Do I Need to Do It for Body Recomp?
Carb and calorie cycling strategies can be beneficial during the body recomposition process. Carb and calorie cycling involves adjusting intake on specific days to optimize fat loss and muscle growth.
Remember, in order to lose body fat, the body needs to be in a calorie deficit.
To build muscle, it needs a caloric surplus. Carb and calorie cycling allow you to support both muscle building and fat loss at the same time.
On refeed days (high-calorie/high-carb days), we recommend increasing your carb intake to 50% of total calories and lowering your fat intake to 20%, while keeping protein at 30%.
Should I Do a Calorie Deficit or Surplus?
To achieve body recomposition, you need to create a calorie deficit to promote fat loss while providing enough nutrients and energy for muscle growth.
This can be achieved through a slight caloric deficit or by consuming maintenance calories.
It can also be achieved by alternating between a caloric deficit and a surplus (carb and calorie cycling). It's important to monitor your progress and make adjustments as needed.
How Long Does it Take for Body Recomposition?
It’s hard to say just exactly how long it takes for body recomposition.
The time required can depend on your starting body composition, genetics, and how consistently you adhere to a proper nutrition and exercise plan.
When embarking on a journey to body recomposition, look at it as a long-term process rather than expecting immediate results. Progress may take several months to a year or more.
Things to Avoid During Body Recomposition
During the body recomposition journey, it's crucial to avoid certain pitfalls that can hinder progress.
Avoid extreme calorie deficits, crash diets, and excessive cardio, as they can lead to muscle loss, nutrient deficiencies, and slowed metabolism.
Additionally, prioritizing sleep, managing stress, and maintaining hormonal balance are essential for optimal body composition changes.
Tips to Support Body Recomp
To enhance your body recomposition efforts, consider the following tips:
Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night to support muscle recovery, hormone regulation, metabolism, and overall well-being.
Chronic stress can hinder progress and affect hormone levels. Incorporate stress management techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, or engaging in hobbies you enjoy.
Drink adequate water to support digestion, nutrient absorption, and overall health.
Implement regular strength training workouts that challenge your muscles with progressive overload. Progressive overload gradually increases the weight, frequency, or number of repetitions in your strength training routine. This challenges your body and allows your musculoskeletal system to get stronger.
This helps to build and maintain muscle mass, boost metabolism to lose fat, and support body recomposition.
Cardiovascular Exercise for Body Recomp
Include moderate amounts of cardiovascular activities to increase calorie expenditure, lose fat, and enhance cardiovascular health. Avoid excessive cardio that may compromise muscle gains.
Is Body Recomp Better Than Cutting?
Whether body recomposition is better than cutting depends on the individual and how much body fat they have to lose.
Body recomposition offers a unique approach that focuses on simultaneously gaining muscle and losing fat, leading to a lean and defined physique.
Traditional cutting phases often involve significant calorie deficits to promote rapid fat loss. Cutting diets place less of an emphasis on maintaining lean muscle mass.
Studies have shown that people with more muscle mass tend to be healthier. Muscle mass is also a predictor of longevity and well-being in older adults.
For most people, body recomposition is better than cutting because it prioritizes the increase or maintenance of lean muscle mass, instead of just worrying about how to lose fat.
Cutting diets may also result in increased loss of muscle mass, which could be detrimental to body composition.
Nutrition for Body Recomposition: List of Foods
When it comes to body recomposition, nutrition plays a critical role.
While specific food choices may vary based on individual preferences, dietary restrictions, and cultural considerations, incorporating nutrient-dense whole foods is essential. Consider the following food sources when planning your meals:
Protein For Body Recomposition
Protein plays a crucial role in body recomposition and should be the main focus of your nutrition plan. Protein stimulates muscle protein synthesis and also minimizes the amount of muscle lost when in a calorie deficit.
Protein also keeps you feeling fuller for longer. Eating at least 20 grams of protein with meals can help you can reduce hunger and cravings, making it easier to adhere to your nutrition plan and maintain a calorie deficit to lose fat.
Protein has a higher thermic effect of food (TEF) compared to carbohydrates and fats, meaning your body burns more calories digesting protein, helping you make progress toward your body composition goals.
While the TEF is minimal, eating more protein can potentially boost your metabolic rate and increase calorie expenditure, which is helpful for losing body fat.
Best Lean Protein Sources
Extra lean beef
Extra lean bison
Higher-Fat Protein Sources
Salmon and fatty fish Whole eggs
Carbohydrates on a Body Recomposition Diet Plan
Carbohydrates are the body's primary source of energy. When you lift weights and do other physical activities during body recomposition, carbohydrates provide the fuel necessary for optimal performance.
Adequate carbohydrate intake supports energy levels, enhances workout intensity, and promotes overall athletic performance.
Carbs often get a bad rep when it comes to losing body fat, but it's not that simple. In fact, if you're looking for a long-term body composition approach that is sustainable, then you should include carbs in your plan and focus on whole-food sources of carbohydrates.
For one, if you want to gain muscle mass for body composition, carbohydrates are crucial for replenishing muscle glycogen stores after a workout.
They are also protein-sparing, which allows the protein to be used for muscle repair, growth, and maintenance.
When choosing carbohydrate sources, opt for complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes. These provide a steady release of energy, along with valuable vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
While simple carbohydrates like sugary foods and refined grains can be enjoyed in moderation, they should be balanced with nutrient-dense complex carbs for optimal health and body composition improvements.
Fiber is essential for digestive health and overall well-being, and not only for body composition. It increases fullness and satiety, aids in proper digestion, and helps regulate blood sugar levels.
Best Carbohydrate Sources
Fruits and vegetables
Nuts and seeds (almonds, chia seeds)
Nut butter (peanut butter, almond butter)
Reduced-fat and full-fat dairy
Monk fruit extract
Supplements for Body Recomposition
While not essential, certain supplements can support your body’s recomposition.
Protein supplements can help increase your protein intake if you have difficulty getting enough protein from food.
The following supplements may be helpful during body recomposition:
Protein supplements like whey
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs)
Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil)
Tracking Macros and Calories
Tracking macros (macronutrients) and calories can be a valuable tool to ensure you're meeting your nutrition goals during the body recomposition process.
It allows you to monitor your intake and make adjustments as needed.
How to Calculate Daily Macros and Calories
To calculate your daily macronutrient and calorie needs, consider factors such as your body weight, activity level, goals, and preferences.
One of the things to keep an eye on is your protein intake. People often undereat protein for their goals, and whether you want to lose fat, gain muscle mass, or both, a high-protein diet can help.
Online calculators and professional guidance from a registered dietitian can help you determine an appropriate starting point.
The best way to determine your calorie needs to is track what you are currently eating for 7-14 days to determine your average caloric intake for body weight maintenance.
Once you determine your average daily intake, subtract 300-500 calories from that to determine calorie needs for a moderate deficit.
Sample Body Recomposition Macros/Calories Calculation
For example, if you determine that your estimated daily intake is 2500 calories, then a moderate deficit would be 2200 - 2000 calories daily.
To determine your macronutrient needs, use the following calculations:
Calorie needs: 2000 calories
Protein: 2000 cals x 0.30 = 600 (cals) / 4 (cals/g) = 150 grams of protein
Carbs: 2000 cals x 0.35 = 700 (cals) / 4 (cals/g) = 175 grams of carbs
Fat: 2000 cals x 0.35 = 700 (cals) / 9 (cals/g) = 77.8 grams of fat
How to Track Calories
Tracking calories involves recording the number of calories consumed from different foods and beverages throughout the day.
This can be done using smartphone apps like MyFitnessPal or Cronometer, online food databases, or keeping a food diary.
Tracking calories can be a bit of a pain but ultimately essential if you want to lose body fat and achieve your ideal body composition.
How to Track Protein and Macros for Body Recomposition
To track macros, you'll need to monitor your daily intake of protein, carbohydrates, and fats.
Smartphone apps and nutrition-tracking websites simplify the process by providing a database of food items and their macro breakdowns.
What if I'm Too Busy to Track Macros and Calories?
If tracking macros and calories feels overwhelming, there are alternative approaches. Focus on making mindful food choices, prioritizing whole foods, and portion control.
Aim for balanced meals with an appropriate distribution of protein, carbs, and fats. Seeking guidance from a registered dietitian or nutritionist can also provide personalized strategies without the need for detailed tracking.
This will be the most sustainable approach long term to lose fat, gain muscle, and achieve the body composition that you're looking for.
Body Recomposition Workout Plan
Contrary to what many people might think, running on the treadmill for hours at the gym each day is not the best way to lose weight.
Remember that you want a holistic approach that will facilitate gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time.
Plus, as you gain muscle through resistance training, you'll improve your metabolism and burn more calories throughout the day naturally. Add that to a high protein diet, and very soon you'll start seeing noticeable change.
So, what's the best approach?
If you want to gain muscle, you have to do resistance training. There's really no two ways about it.
And when it comes to resistance training, compound lifts are king.
Compound lifts are the most efficient use of your time and effort because they involve multiple muscle groups and joints, maximizing calorie burn and muscle gain.
Here are a few examples of compound lifts:
While running on the treadmill every day is not the answer for building muscle and losing excess body fat, avoiding cardio altogether is also not the answer.
The ideal training program will include mostly resistance training to stimulate muscle growth, and cardio in the form of HIIT workouts.
How to Get Started With Body Recomp Training
The best thing to do is to talk to an experienced personal trainer who can assess your training history, where you're currently at, and what you want to achieve, and create a personalized plan that is best for you.
If you don't have access to a trainer but want to get started right away, then build a simple training plan for yourself.
It could be something like a full-body resistance training plan for 3 days a week that involves compound movements like push-ups, pull-ups, squats, etc. And then 2-3 times a week do HIIT workouts like sprints or running up hills/stairs, or kettlebell swings.
If you need a basic guideline to get started, you can check out our in-depth body recomposition workout plan.