Body Recomposition for Women: Gain Muscle, Manage Weight

As we get a little older, it’s common to see changes in how our body looks. Maybe you aren’t as active as you were before, maybe you just had a baby. 

Either way, most women would probably agree that it would be nice if you could swap out all that extra weight for muscle. 

Well, you actually can. This process is called body recomposition and it can change the way you look and feel. 

Define Your Body Recomposition Goals

Body recomposition is not just about losing weight, it’s about replacing excess fat with muscle mass. To do this, you first need to define your body recomposition goals. What would make you feel your best?

Your body recomposition goals include both exercise and diet goals. To reduce body fat and increase muscle mass you need to adjust your eating habits and incorporate exercise that supports muscle growth. Although there are many ways to do this, what works best will depend on you, your lifestyle, and what feels best. 

For example, the best exercises for muscle building include strength training and high-intensity interval training (check out these three HIIT workouts for women). 

If high-intensity exercise is not your thing, consider creating a strength training routine that challenges you in a way you’re more comfortable with.

When it comes to diet for body recomposition, it’s important to consume more protein to support muscle growth. You can do this with protein powders, high-protein foods such as meat and poultry, or vegan/vegetarian protein sources such as soy. 

You can also do a combination of these if that works better for you. 

salmon and asparagus for body recomposition

Is it Possible to Gain Lean Muscle and Lose Fat at the Same Time?

If you maintain a consistent strength training regimen that challenges you while also consuming adequate protein with a slight calorie deficit, you can gain lean muscle while losing fat. Although it may sound easy, it can be tricky to find the proper balance. 

If you eat too little, meaning you have too large of a calorie deficit, then you might not be able to build muscle despite being dedicated to a weekly exercise routine. Likewise, if you're not consuming enough protein in your diet to support muscle growth, you might be stunting your improvement. 

If you are struggling to find a good balance between diet and exercise for body recomposition, consider meeting with a professional, such as a licensed Registered Dietitian. 

Body Recomposition Plan for Women

Although body recomposition plans are not one-size-fits-all, it can be helpful to get an idea of what to consider when setting your goals. Below are some common questions and tips for creating a body recomposition plan for women. 

Ideal Macros for Female Body Recomposition

According to the Food and Nutrition Board of the Institutes of Medicine, macronutrient ranges for the average adult population should fall within 45-65% of calories from carbohydrates, 10-35% of calories from protein, and 20-35% of calories from fat. These ranges cover most active adults and can be adjusted based on lifestyle [1].

In the context of body recomposition for women, adjusting to the lower range for carbohydrates and higher range for protein would provide beneficial results in combination with strength building exercise. 

Note that macronutrient ratios are based on calories. For example, a woman consuming 2,000 calories a day and looking to adjust her macros for body recomposition might consider consuming 45% of her calories from carbohydrates, 30% from protein, and 25% from fat. That adds up to about 225 grams of carbohydrates, 150 grams of protein, and 55 grams of fat.

How Much Protein Should I Eat?

The amount of protein you need during body recomposition depends on many factors. Personalized protein requirements take into consideration weight and activity level. 

Recent studies have found that consuming somewhere between 0.8-2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day is effective in supporting muscle growth. 

The amount you consume will depend on your level of training. The current recommendation for the average person is between 0.8-1 gram per kilogram per day [2, 3].

If you are looking to lose a significant amount of fat, research supports reducing your caloric intake by 30-40% and consuming between 1.2-3.1 grams per kilogram of body weight of protein per day. This can help to maximize fat loss while still promoting muscle growth during training [4].

Grass-fed Naked Whey

How to Track Your Macros and Calories

If you are interested in tracking your calories and macronutrient ranges, consider using an app such as MyFitnessPal or MyMacros+, to help you stay on track. You can also purchase a tracking journal or simply use a blank notebook to hold yourself accountable if this works for you. 

Because tracking calories and macros can be tedious, using an app is usually the best way to go however, what works best will vary from person to person. 

Training for Body Recomposition

In addition to dietary changes, exercise is critical to building muscle and reducing fat mass. The two best types of exercise for muscle building include strength training and HIIT.

Strength Training

Strength training incorporates exercises that challenge your muscles to help them grow stronger and larger. An example of strength training exercise includes weight lifting. 

Many women are concerned about introducing certain strength training exercises into their workout routine due to fear of looking bulky. Rest assured, this is a myth. Strength training can help to increase muscle which will provide a toned look, not a bulky one.

HIIT Workouts

fit woman performing HIIT with kettlebell

High-Intensity Interval Training, a.k.a. HIIT, is exercise that alternates between periods of high-intensity movement that reaches upwards of 80% of your maximum heart rate followed by brief bouts of low-intensity movement for rest and recovery. This can be done in several ways including with equipment or with body weight alone [5]. 

HIIT exercises are typically short, between 10-30 minutes in length. This type of exercise can be done in several ways with several different exercises. An example of HIIT for runners includes a 30-second sprint followed by 1-2 minutes of moderate to slow-paced jogging. This would then be repeated 4-6 times per workout.

Common Mistakes to Avoid for Body Recomposition

One of the most common mistakes people make when trying body recomposition is not eating enough calories or protein during training. If you do not fuel your body to support muscle growth or fat loss properly, you won’t see the results you were hoping for. 

Many people believe that if they want to lose weight/fat quickly, they should reduce the minimum amount of calories. Unfortunately, this inhibits our ability to build muscle and is unsustainable. This can cause you to give up quickly and feel defeated. 

Always take a realistic approach to make diet and exercise goals. If you aren’t sure where to start, enlist the help of your local Registered Dietitian and/or Certified Personal Trainer. 

Bottom Line

Body recomposition is a great strategy to help women lose body fat while simultaneously building muscle mass. A combination of strength training and/or HIIT exercise with a reduction in overall calorie intake and an increase in protein intake makes this possible.

This strategy is not just limited to elite athletes, anyone can do it and the results can help to boost your overall health. If you aren’t sure where to start with body recomposition, consider speaking with a professional such as a Registered Dietitian and/or Certified Personal Trainer. Always consult your physician before altering your diet and exercise routine.