Body Recomposition Diet & Workouts

A realistic guide to losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time.

By: Jeremy Fox, CNC, CPTUpdated: October 27, 2022

If you’re unhappy with how your body looks, odds are your goal is to lose fat and gain muscle. This kind of physical transformation is called body recomposition. And it’s a controversial topic.

On one hand, the traditional bodybuilding approach focuses on fat loss or muscle gain separately. The dedicated phases of bulking and cutting maximize results in a short timeframe.

On the other hand, body recomposition focuses on fat loss and muscle gain simultaneously. The idea is to achieve a lean and muscular physique without seasonal swings.

Indeed, body recomposition sounds appealing. But is it feasible? And if so, should you try it?

body recomposition

Body Recomposition Basics

Before diving into the physiology of body recomposition, let’s answer some basic questions. That way, you’ll know what to expect. And you can decide if it’s the right goal for you.

What is body recomposition?

The term recomposition means to change one’s body composition for the better. And body recomposition is the process of losing fat and building muscle simultaneously to attain a healthier and more aesthetic-looking body.

Can you lose fat and build muscle at the same time?

The short answer is yes. However, it’s an incredibly complex process that requires balancing opposing forces. One drawback to this strategy is that it takes more time to see results.

How long does body recomposition take?

Losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time may seem like a shortcut. But, in reality, it takes longer to see a dramatic transformation.

Your weight could change by 20 lbs a month when bulking or cutting. Whereas your weight often stays the same in one month of body recomposition.

Even when you do lose fat and gain muscle, it can be difficult to tell.

How do you know if you’re losing fat and gaining muscle?

In order to know if you’re getting the results you want, you should be measuring your body composition. Or how much of your body is muscle compared to fat.

Try This Simple Body Fat Percentage Calculator

Who will benefit from body recomposition?

A point often overlooked is that body recomposition isn’t the right goal for most people. In fact, there are only a few circumstances where recomposition makes sense:

  • When you only need to make marginal changes in body composition

  • If you are okay with making slow and steady progress

  • You recently completed a bulk or cut and want to gradually transition the other way

  • Or you want a more balanced, sustainable, and healthy way to get fit

Who would be better off prioritizing fat loss OR muscle gain?

Instead, the majority of people should prioritize fat loss or muscle gain. Because most people find themselves in one of these circumstances:

  • When you’re significantly overweight or obese – prioritize fat loss

  • If you have a hard time gaining weight – prioritize muscle gain

  • If you want results in the shortest possible time – choose one or the other

  • Or if you’ve restricted calories for several months – prioritize rebuilding your metabolism

Body Recomposition Physiology

Okay, let’s assume you’re ready to try body recomposition. First, you need to know how the process works because you’re more likely to transform your body with a basic understanding of physiology.

Recomposition Requires Balance

It’s important to realize that natural processes are cyclical. Seasons change, tides rise and fall, particles travel in waves, and so on. Every positive action has an equal and opposite negative action that keeps the universe in balance.

In your body, this balance is present in the nervous system. On the negative side, the sympathetic nervous system is the fight-or-flight response. On the positive side, the parasympathetic nervous system is the rest and digest response.

What’s interesting is that your diet, exercise, and mindset all dictate which state you’re in. But, of course, you can’t be stressed out and relaxed simultaneously. So you swing between the two states like a pendulum.

body recomposition pendulum analogy

The figure above shows how the symbolic pendulum swings to the catabolic side when you undereat or stress out. Conversely, the pendulum swings to the anabolic side when you overeat or relax. Balancing the pendulum is the key to body recomposition.

Body recomposition is often a fine line to walk. You can’t simply exercise more and eat less because you’ll burn muscle along with the fat. But you also can’t eat too much, or you’ll gain fat along with muscle.

Furthermore, compounding stresses put you in a catabolic state all the time. While doing half-ass workouts and avoiding stress doesn’t trigger change either!

Instead, body transformation is a back and forth between catabolic and anabolic states.

Specifically, it’s best to swing the pendulum through daily periods of stress (sympathetic) and relaxation (parasympathetic). First, with undereating and overeating. Second, with hard training and ample recovery. And third, with an active mind and a relaxed mind.

Next, let’s look at how to balance those aspects of life.

Body Recomposition Diet

First and foremost, nutrition is the most crucial factor in achieving success with a body recomposition plan. And you must pay attention to calories, macros, and food choices.

Body Recomp Calories

It should go without saying that you can’t burn fat if you have a large calorie surplus. And you can’t build muscle if you have a large calorie deficit. So once again, body recomposition requires balance.

Energy Balance

Energy balance is when your calorie intake closely matches your calorie output.

Calories In ≅ Calories Out = Energy Balance

To achieve energy balance, you must know how many calories you burn. In other words, the amount of energy you expend through metabolic processes, daily activities, and any additional exercise. This number is also called your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).

Once you know how many calories you burn, you can determine how much to eat. And your daily calorie intake should be within +/-5% of your expenditure, depending on your current body composition.

Body Recomposition Diet Calories

This chart shows an example of a calculated calorie balance for body recomposition. In this case, the person burns 2,400 calories, so they should try to consume between 2,280 and 2,520 calories daily. I recommend erring on the low side if you’re heavier and on the high side if you’re already lean.

Once you nail down your calorie target, you should plan your meals around your daily schedule. The ideal meal timing provides some separation between eating and digesting through daily periods of undereating and overeating.

Undereating Period

When I say undereating, I mean consuming fewer calories than you burn within a given timeframe. The idea is to allow your body to swing back to fight or flight fat-burning mode. Similar to the concept of intermittent fasting.

Undereating vs. Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is when you don’t eat anything for part of the day. Then eat meals only within a set window. Usually 16 and 8 hours respectively.

The drawback is that this promotes a chronic calorie deficit. Because it’s hard to eat enough calories to match your calorie expenditure in such a short window.

The Pros & Cons of Intermittent Fasting

On the other hand, undereating is simply eating fewer carbs and calories for part of the day. In this way you get the benefits of intermittent fasting without the chronic calorie restriction.

That means eating small, easy-to-digest meals consisting of protein and fat. Such as a handful of nuts or a protein shake.

Generally, I recommend consuming less than 1/3 of your daily calories during the undereating period. For example, if your TDEE is 2,400 calories, eat fewer than 800 calories during the undereating period.

Typically the undereating period is at least 12 hours. But you can make it longer if you hit your calorie target.

Undereating often starts a couple of hours before you go to bed and lasts until your next overeating period the following day.

Overeating Period

In contrast, overeating is consuming more calories than you burn within a given timeframe. Usually, the overeating period is 12 hours or less. And the goal is to trigger an anabolic state.

For that reason, the overeating period often coincides with your workout. After a workout, your body is in a highly catabolic state. Therefore, it is primed to swing back to an anabolic state.

Moreover, high amounts of carbs and calories release the anabolic hormone insulin. As a result, your body uses the nutrients to build muscle and recover from the workout.

Related: How the Anabolic Window Swings the Pendulum

body recomposition anabolic window

Body Recomp Macros

By now, you’ve noticed a recurring theme around balance. And it’s no different when it comes to macronutrients for body recomposition.

In this case, balance means getting a reasonable distribution of carbs, protein, and fat in your daily diet. And we can measure that distribution in terms of macros as a percentage of calories.

As a starting point, the 40-30-30 diet is an excellent macro ratio for body recomposition. This diet consists of 40% of your calories from carbs, 30% from protein, and 30% from fat.

However, there are days when you probably don’t need that many carbs and days when you might need more to fuel your workouts. For this reason, I recommend implementing carb cycling to adjust your macros to your activity level.

It would be best to target around 50% carbs and 20% fat on high-carb days, while low-carb days are 20% carbs and 50% fat. Your protein intake can remain constant at around 30% every day.

Furthermore, you can cycle your calories along with your carbs to have fat-burning days and muscle-building days. Here’s a visual example of how carb cycling looks for body recomposition.

Carb Cycling for Body Recomposition

High carb/calorie days help boost your metabolism and refuel your energy (glycogen) reserves. By comparison, low carb/calorie days help you tap into stored body fat to get leaner. Finally, medium carb/calorie days are a perfect balance of energy.

Body Recomp Foods

As with any diet plan, you’ll get better results if you eat healthy foods most of the time. That means not following a blind IIFYM diet where you can eat any junk you want as long as it fits your macros.

Instead, focus on getting at least 80% of your calories from natural, whole foods with minimal processing or additives. Check out this simple healthy grocery list for a short list of my recommended foods.

Body Recomposition Food List

Body Recomposition Workout

As with diet, you must balance exercise and rest to achieve body recomposition. This balance requires attention to the frequency, duration, and intensity of your training.

Intense Resistance Training

To trigger body recomposition, your workouts must be intense enough to stimulate growth. But not so intense that you can’t recover before the next session.

The best practice is to do the minimum work required to stimulate growth. That means short but challenging workouts. Then get out of the gym and recover!

With this in mind, you should allow 24-72 hours between workouts. And you should limit training to 3 to 5 days per week, depending on your experience level.

Related: 5-Day Bro Split Workout Routine

workouts mobile

Custom Nutrition & Workout Plan

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With your custom plan, you will finally be able to burn fat, build muscle, and transform your body. All this for just $24.99!

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Moderate Cardio

Another critical point is not to overdo cardio. I recommend 15-20 minutes of medium-intensity steady-state cardio, either following resistance training or first thing in the morning.

How to Use Fasted Cardio

Another option is HIIT (high-intensity interval training). The anaerobic nature of this cardio promotes lean muscle while burning fat. But be aware that it is extremely taxing on the nervous system.

HIIT vs. LISS For Fat Loss & Fitness

Body Recomposition Cardio

Body Recomposition Lifestyle

A point often overlooked is that your rest periods need to be as deep as your workouts are intense. So you must actively promote rest, as bizarre as that sounds.

To put it differently, don’t just let the pendulum settle back in the middle. Instead, do things to let go of stress and swing the pendulum to the rest and digest side.

  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep (preferrably 8 to 9)

  • Go for a quiet walk in nature

  • Get some sunshine

  • Meditate or slow your breathing

As much as this hippy-dippy stuff seems to run against the grain of bodybuilding, that’s kind of the point! Be a beast in the gym, and be Buddha at home.

Body Recomposition Calculator

Now you have the general guidelines for how to do body recomposition. But you might still be somewhat confused about where exactly to start.

And I get it, there is a lot of measuring and calculations needed to know your energy expenditure, calorie intake, macro ratios, etc. That’s why I created a body recomposition calculator that gives you a personalized plan.

All you have to do is fill out the form below and answer a few simple questions. Then you’ll get a custom plan to help you burn fat and build muscle.

body recomp calculator

Answer the questions below and choose “recomposition” as your goal in step 3. After submitting the form, you can purchase your custom diet and workout plan.

Body Recomposition Before and After

At this point, you may wonder what type of results you can expect from body recomposition. So I’m going to share my personal experience using the abovementioned principles as I transitioned from a bulk to a cut.

The image below shows my 40-day transformation. Although my scale weight stayed the same, I lost almost 1% body fat according to skin fold measurements.

With some simple calculations, that means I actually lost 1.7 lbs of fat while gaining 1.7 lbs of muscle. Those numbers aren’t bad, but it’s not as dramatic a difference as you might see from 6 weeks of cutting or bulking.

Should You Bulk or Cut Instead?

Body recomposition isn’t the right goal for everyone. In fact, most people would be better off prioritizing bulking or cutting first. But it’s not easy to know which goal is right for you.

So I put together a definitive guide to choosing the right fitness goal, including a Bulk vs Cut quiz that points you in the right direction with a few simple questions.

Click below to see which fitness goal is right for you!

If you already have a fitness goal in mind, that’s great! Check out some of my other awesome content below.

Find Your Macros for Weight Loss

Learn how to calculate macros for weight loss and try the free macro calculator. Get the best ratio of carbs, fat, and protein to lose weight.

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By |October 27, 2022|Bodybuilding|0 Comments
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