Body Recomposition Physiology
Okay, let’s assume you’re ready to give body recomposition a try. First, you need to know how the process works. With a basic understanding of the physiology, you’re more likely to transform your body.
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. For every positive action there is an equal and opposite negative action which 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. Of course, you can’t be both stressed out and relaxed at the same time. So you swing between the two states like a pendulum.
When you eat fewer calories than you burn (cutting) or stress out, the pendulum swings to the catabolic side. Conversely, the pendulum swings to the anabolic side when you eat more calories than you burn (bulking) or relax. Balancing the pendulum swings is the key to body recomposition.
Unfortunately, this is where it gets tricky because you can’t just keep the pendulum in the middle. Like doing half ass workouts and matching calories in vs. calories out. That doesn’t trigger change!
Instead, body transformation is a back and forth between catabolic and anabolic states.
Specifically, you need 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 closer at how to balance those aspects of life.
Body Recomposition Diet
First and foremost, calorie balance does matter. In order to burn fat and build muscle your daily calorie intake needs to come close to your calorie expenditure (TDEE).
How to Calcualte Your TDEE
Just as important is the separation of eating and digesting. You do this through daily periods of undereating and overeating.
When I say undereating, I mean consuming fewer calories than you burn within a given time period. 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.
As a general rule, I recommend consuming less than 1/3 of your daily calories during the undereating period. For example, if your TDEE is 2,400 calories, then eat fewer than 800 calories during the undereating period.
Typically the undereating period is at least 12 hours. But you can make it longer provided that you hit your calorie target.
Most often, undereating starts a couple of hours before you go to bed and lasts until your next overeating period the following day.
In contrast, overeating is consuming more calories than you burn within a given time period. 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.