In this article, we’re going to share a body recomposition workout plan to help those of you who want to lose fat and build muscle at the same time, to reshape your body composition.
While many people go to the gym with the goal of losing weight or getting bigger, there’s a third group: people who want to reshape their body while staying around the same total body weight.
This is for that group of people. Keep reading for everything you need to know to build your dream body.
Body Recomposition Workout Plan: How to Progress
To progress towards your body recomposition goals, there are a couple of things you need.
First is consistency. You’re not going to build a new body in one or two workouts. It takes time and consistent effort.
The second thing you need is progressive overload. This means steadily increasing the capacity of your workout.
Overload comes first with the number of reps. Start with low reps, and try to slightly increase your reps each workout.
Once you hit a certain point in reps, increase the weight and start from a lower rep range again. Work in building more and more reps each time.
As for specifics, though body recomposition is difficult, it’s not exactly complicated. You can basically break down a body recomposition plan into two parts.
Focus on Heavy, Compound Lifts
Muscle building requires heavy resistance training. Putting your muscles under resistance stimulates muscle hypertrophy (i.e. muscle growth) when combined with good nutrition and rest. The heavier you can lift, while still maintaining safety and proper form, the greater the adaptation in your muscles.
At the same time, building muscle while you lose body fat simultaneously requires more than just resistance training, which means you may not have the time to focus on each muscle group in isolation. So you want to focus on compound lifts which utilize multiple muscle groups at the same time, allowing you to work out more efficiently.
Perform High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) as Needed
Lifting heavy on its own is a great way to build muscle and get bigger. But if you want to lose fat at the same time and alter your body composition, you need to do something that’s also going to stimulate fat loss.
The best thing for that is high-intensity interval training, or HIIT. This involves short, intense bursts of activity, followed by a small rest period.
HIIT is an extremely effective tool for burning body fat. And there are two additional benefits of HIIT that makes it perfect for a body recomposition workout plan.
First, it’s not going to cause muscle loss, as other fat-burning activities can do. You can get the benefits of burning excess body fat with minimal weight loss. And it’s efficient - HIIT workouts take just 10-30 minutes, giving you more time to fit these workouts in while still having time for lifting weights.
What About Cardio?
There is room for cardio in a body recomposition training plan, but it’s not essential. Some forms of cardio are not exactly beneficial for what you’re trying to do, as well.
Too much low-intensity cardio - long-distance running, for example - can lead your body to adapt to this kind of exercise, which can interfere with your goal of gaining muscle. Your goal is reducing body fat percentage, but
HIIT is a great way to burn fat, and does so while stimulating a strength response and activating your muscles as well.
That’s often all you need. However, if you’re still in need of more fat burning exercise, you may want to add certain forms of cardio to your routine.
Moderate-Intensity Steady-State Cardio (MISS)
MISS cardio, or moderate-intensity steady-state cardio, is the best option if you want to add some more aerobic activity into your workout plan.
MISS is when you maintain around 60-70% of your maximum heart rate during the exercise. This makes it somewhat intense, effective at burning calories, but won’t stimulate an adaptation in your body that interferes with muscle gain.
You could do 30-45 minutes on the bike or a moderate to high-paced run for MISS cardio. Consider adding this in on off-days or at the end of lifting sessions if you need to up your calorie output.
How To Lose Body Fat And Build Muscle Mass via Nutrition
Like any workout plan, working out is just half the equation. The other half is nutrition.
You can have the perfect workout plan, but if you’re not supporting it with nutrition you’ll constantly be wondering why you aren’t seeing results.
Like the workout plan, nutrition for body recomposition is deceptively simple. You don’t need any crazy, unique diets, all you need to do is follow a couple of key principles.
Consume a High-Protein Diet
First, you need a lot of protein. For a number of reasons.
Protein supports muscle growth. It’s often referred to as the building block for our muscles.
It also supports recovery, which you’ll need in order to maintain a routine of consistent, high-intensity exercise.
Excess protein is also not turned into stored body fat the way carbs and fats are. That makes a high-protein diet much more efficient for building fat-free mass.
And finally, protein boosts satiety, making you feel full for longer. This helps you stay disciplined to your diet and avoid going over your ideal calorie intake.
Utilize a Modest Calorie Deficit
The other thing to aim for is a slight calorie deficit, meaning you have more calories going out, from your workouts and base metabolic activity, versus the calorie intake from your diet.
This will help you lose fat, while your protein intake supports muscle growth.
It’s important not to go into too much of a calorie deficit. You still need enough energy from your diet to support your training. If you try to eat 1000 calories a day and still work out, you’ll find you never have any energy.
But a slight deficit is more sustainable, while also supporting fat loss.
Body Recomposition Macronutrients
As far as macros go (protein, carbs and fats), protein should be your primary focus.
You need protein to support muscle growth, and for a couple of other reasons, as mentioned above. The most important thing for building lean body mass is getting enough protein to support muscle protein synthesis, in which the body utilizes protein to rebuild, repair and grow muscle tissue.
Yet you still need other macros to support energy production. Carbs in particular, as a lot of your workouts will be utilizing the anaerobic energy system, which primarily uses carbohydrates for fuel.
You can cut down on fats - not completely, but fat will make up the lowest of your macros.
How Much Protein Do I Need for Body Recomp?
Look for approximately 1.5-2 grams of protein per KG of bodyweight each day.
This equals 112.5-150 grams of protein per day for a 75kg individual.
Space this out across the day, in 3-4 servings, as the body can only utilize a certain amount of protein at one time, and any protein that’s not used by the body is excreted in the urine (thus wasted).
Can You Lose Fat and Gain Muscle at the Same Time?
Let’s be honest - it’s most peoples’ dream to lose fat and build muscle at the same time. But most find it a lot easier to focus on one specific goal, such as slimming down or bulking up.
You can achieve results more effectively by working towards one goal at a time. That’s why bodybuilders usually alternate between cutting and bulking phases.
But that doesn’t mean body recomposition is impossible. It just takes a more disciplined, more deliberate workout plan to achieve simultaneous fat loss and muscle gain.
What Foods Help with Body Recomposition?
You want to focus on whole, unprocessed foods. These are foods with a high density of vitamins and nutrients, and few empty calories, which will just add unnecessary fat to your frame.
Look for things like lean meats, fish, eggs, greek yogurt and whey protein to support your protein needs.
Fruit and vegetables, whole wheat pasta, brown rice and quinoa are good sources of clean, nutritious carbs.
For fats, though they’re likely to make up the least of your macros, nuts, seeds, nut butters, avocado and fish are all good ways to get some healthy fat in your diet.
Body Recomposition Workout Routine
Here’s a simple training program you can use as a baseline to build a workout to achieve your ideal body composition.
All you need is a basic gym equipped with a few squat/deadlift racks and enough dumbbells for a decent workout.
Bench press: 8-12 reps x 3 sets
Incline dumbbell bench press: 8-12 reps x 3 sets
Chest dumbbell flys: 8-12 reps x 3 sets
Dumbbell pullover: 8-12 reps x 3 sets
Dips: 8-12 reps x 3 sets (last set to failure)
Finish with 15-30 mins HIIT
Deadlift: 6-8 reps x 3 sets
Dumbbell shoulder press: 8-12 reps x 3 sets
Bent over dumbbell row: 8-12 reps x 3 sets
Dumbbell front raises: 8-12 reps x 3 sets
Pull ups: 8-12 reps x 3 sets (last set to failure)
Finish with 15-30 mins HIIT
Barbell squats: 3-5 reps x 5 sets
Dumbbell lunges: 8-12 reps x 3 sets
Bulgarian split squats: 8-12 reps x 3 sets
Leg press (machine): 8-12 reps x 3 sets
Finish with 15-30 mins HIIT
30-45 mins moderate-intensity steady-state cardio (biking, high-paced run or elliptical)
Take rest days in between where necessary. The schedule can vary based on what works for you, but it could go like this:
Monday: workout 1
Wednesday: workout 2
Friday: workout 3
Sunday: workout 4
Pair this workout routine with consistency and proper nutrition, and you should start to see significant results after around 8 weeks.
If you're interested, you can also check our specific guide for body recomposition for women.