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 gain muscle, lose fat, and reach 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!

This is where the concept of body recomposition comes into play (not the same as weight loss).

Let's take a closer look.

What is the Concept of Body Composition?

fit couple doing CrossFit in a trendy gym

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?

chocolate shake in a glass jar

You may be already familiar with the concept of body recomposition 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.

Some advanced body composition measuring tools like the DEXA scan even 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 (and thus body fat percentage).

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 lose fat and gain muscle, and experience body recomposition. 

How Long Does Body Recomposition Take?

fit man performing gymnastics at home

Body composition, whether your focus is to lose fat or increase muscle mass, it 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 body recomposition 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 body weight, muscle mass, fat mass, diet (including protein intake), 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 only fat mass 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 deficit due to a longer timeframe. Although this took more patience – they ended up losing more body fat and experienced greater muscle gain in comparison to the other group which showed no change in muscle mass. 

How much muscle mass can you gain each week? A rough estimate is around 1% of your current body 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)

So now that you know what to approximately expect as far as fat loss and building muscle mass, you can plan your body recomposition timeline accordingly.

The timeframe may also vary a bit based on your gender. Be sure to check out our guide specifically on body recomposition for women

Ideal Macros for Body Recomposition

chicken breast and broccoli on a plate

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, making it easier to reach your body recomposition goals.

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 body recomposition – 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

strawberry protein shake

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.

The body can't store protein for later use, as it does with fat and carbohydrates, so for most effective muscle gain, you want to ensure you're getting a regular protein intake.

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).

Meal frequency can be changed up based on your preferences and what's realistic for you. But in most cases, it's best to eat smaller, more regular meals in order to meat your macro goals.

Meal Timing and Macros

plat protein lentil soup for body recomposition

Another thing to think about is not just how often you eat, but when you eat certain things.

You need fats and carbs, even if you're trying to reduce body weight and drop body fat percentage. These macros are the body's primary source of energy. The only issue comes when you have an excess of carbs and fat, which is when they end up getting stored as body fat.

With that in mind, time your carbs and fats around your workouts.

Having these macros a few hours before working out (especially high-energy workouts like intense weight training) means the body will use all of the calories from carbs and fats as energy, and not store them as excess body fat.

Post-workout, have some carbs to replenish glycogen stores, along with protein for muscle repair.

At times when your body doesn't need as much energy (such as if you're sitting at a desk all day), focus on higher protein meals with lower carbs and fats.

Calorie Intake for Body Recomposition

fit athlete drinking a protein shake during rest between sets

How many calories you need during the body recomposition phase depends on your activity level, as well as the type of body composition you want to achieve.

Operating at a calorie deficit will help you lose weight, but may also result in muscle loss or not having the energy to work out.

Gaining muscle and lean body mass while losing fat requires some time in the gym, on activities such as resistance training.

You may need to consume more calories to get the energy you need to do this.

In between workouts, however, you can consume fewer calories to balance it out. This will help ensure you have the energy to work out, without resulting in excess calories overall.

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 higher calorie intake or more 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

fit woman doing yoga at home

You'll want to find foods that fit your macronutrients targets, to help you reach your body composition goals.

This generally means prioritizing a high-protein diet, which will help you gain muscle mass, along with boosting your metabolism, which will help you burn fat faster.

Complement this with healthy sources of carbohydrates and fats, to sustain energy production.

As long as you don't overdo them, carbs and fats will be used as energy and won't result in excess body fat.

  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

If you're unhappy with the way your body looks, yet your BMI (body mass index) is normal for your height and weight, you probably need a body recomposition plan.

This starts with a body recomposition diet.

The goal, in most cases, is to combine fat loss with an increase in fat-free mass. The result is not necessarily a change in weight, but a change in the ratio of fat to muscle on your figure.

Losing fat and gaining muscle is the holy grail for most people. It's also difficult - it requires a well thought-out plan, time, and consistency.

You'll need to execute your plan for at least 12 weeks to see optimal results.

Yet it absolutely is possible to lose body fat and build muscle simultaneously. A quality diet is key to this, in particular eating the right things at the right time.

In addition, make sure your training is on point, with high-intensity strength training to maintain muscle growth as you lose fat and cardiovascular exercise to reduce belly fat.

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