Summer is coming up quick - and for many, that means a desire to shed a few pounds.
Losing weight is one of the most common fitness goals... yet it's also one of the most frustrating, with a high rate of failure.
For a more sustainable solution, we advocate for putting long term effort into body recomposition - strategically using nutrition and training to burn fat while gaining lean muscle.
In this article, we’ll cover:
- Why Focus on Body Recomposition: Not Weight Loss
- The Best Muscle Building & Fat Burning Carbs, Proteins & Fats
- Body Recomposition Tips
Why Focus on Body Recomposition: Not Weight Loss
Reducing the number on the scale and keeping it off is an emotionally difficult process. Many going through this suffer a cycle of restriction, overeating, guilt and restriction - never getting closer to their weight loss goals, losing more self esteem instead.
80% of those who successfully shed a significant portion of their body fat do so unsustainably and so gain back more than half of what they lose within two years.
Thankfully, it’s becoming more widely understood that the number on the scale is not the only measure of health and fitness.
After all, 1 pound of muscle weighs the same as 1 pound of fat - even if muscle is much more dense. That means that one can “gain weight” on the scale by shedding fat, gaining muscle and thus changing the composition of their body shape.
One of the biggest myths in fitness is that you can’t gain muscle mass while also losing fat. To build muscle, you need to consume surplus calories. And to lose fat, there must be a calorie deficit. So how can you do both?
It’s not straightforward - but it’s also not impossible.
Introducing Body Recomposition - the Holy Grail of body transformation, and the ability to burn fat and gain lean muscle mass at once. This strategy is slow and steady and relies on consistent, sustainable effort and lifestyle shift instead of extremely restrictive diets to lose pounds in a short amount of time.
Body recomposition is effective for lifters across the board, especially for those who are:
- in their first year of consistent training
- ready to train again after a few months off
- brand new to training and never worked out consistently
- wanting to reduce their high body fat percentage
- intermediate lifters working toward a cut
In order to successfully achieve a body recomposition, we must do the following:
Train with progressive overload. Our muscles need to be consistently challenged to grow, and we do so through resistance training with progressive overload. Keep track of your workouts and challenge yourself each week by either increasing reps or increasing your weight lifted.
Don’t have a variety of weights at home? A pair of Adjustable Dumbbells would elevate your home gym experience, providing up to 72lbs weight each dumbbell in 1 space saving set. Add or drop weight with just a twist of the wrist.
Eat at a moderate caloric deficit. We want to make sure that our body weight isn't dropping too fast so we can continue to achieve muscle gains. Determine what your daily caloric maintenance level is and eat at a 25% deficit.
Ensure protein intake. For optimal body recomposition, consume roughly 1g to 1.6g per each lb of bodyweight. A 2018 study shows that every subject on a high protein muscle building diet consuming a little over 1g/lb of bodyweight per day gained muscle while losing a kg of fat.
To help you plan out your meals for optimal Body Recomposition, the next section will go through the function of proteins, carbs and fats - and the best fat burning, muscle building sources for each macronutrient.
Burn Fat, Gain Muscle - Body Recomposition Nutrition Guide
Bulking to gain muscle and cutting to lose fat is a common strategy weightlifters use each year.
The problem with this more traditional method is that too often, those in the bulking stage eat whatever they want - thinking that the caloric surplus will help them gain more muscle.
This is true, within reason. The consequence is that you’ll also gain additional fat and likely consume high calorie foods that rank low in nutrition. The idea is you’d lose this fat during the cutting phase, as you consume lower calories and do lots of cardio. Yes, you’d lose fat, but you’d also lose your hard-earned muscle, while compromising your health with low nutrition food.
While effective for many, this model is reminiscent of a binge and restrict cycle which isn’t conducive to a healthy relationship with food.
The Body Recomposition method will take you closer to your ideal body shape through an overall lifestyle shift - and a big part of this is high nutrition food to fuel your training.
Let’s go over each of the 3 macronutrients and the best pantry staples to get you started.
We know that consuming higher protein levels is optimal for muscle growth.
So which protein packed foods should we add to our grocery lists for muscle growth and fat loss?
Whether you air fry, stir fry, or enjoy in soup - soy protein is a dependable protein source. Firm tofu (soybean curd) has 10 grams of protein per half a cup. Edamame contains 8.5 grams of protein per half a cup. Tempeh has 15 grams of protein per half a cup.
One cup of Lentils cooked lentils contains 18 grams of protein and 15 grams of dietary fiber. Add lentils to your meat sauces, soups, stews, even salads! are so versatile they are a great addition to soups, stews, and even salads. High protein and high fiber means lentils will keep you feeling fuller for longer - reducing your appetite and caloric intake.
Here’s a tip - add a carton of egg whites to your grocery list so you can fluff up your eggs with even more protein. Eggs also provide Vitamin D, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12, Zinc, iron, selenium and copper - making them essential for muscle gains and overall nutrition.
One cup of quinoa contains 8 grams of protein. Enjoy quinoa in place of starches to increase your protein intake for muscle gains.
- Turkey Breast: 26.7 grams of protein per 4 oz
- Bison Steak 26.4 grams of protein per 4 oz
- Beef Steak 25.1 grams of protein per 4 oz
- Chicken Breast 23.6 grams of protein per 4 oz
- Beef Liver 23 grams of protein per 4 oz
Simple carbohydrates are broken down and digested easily to be used as a quick source of energy. Most simple carbs are processed, lack fiber and other essential micronutrients. It's best to keep simple carb consumption to a minimum.
Complex carbohydrates on the other hand take longer to break down in the body due to being high in fiber, starch, and other nutrients, keeping you satiated and energized through the day.
Don’t shy away from carbs. Not eating enough carbs lead to depleted glycogen stores, low energy, and our bodies breaking down protein for fuel.
Here are the best carbs for muscle growth and fat loss:
Bananas are a great source of complex carbohydrates, with 1 average banana containing 23 grams of carbs and 2.6g of fiber. Not only are they a reliable source of carbs, they also aid in digestive health and are rich in potassium, which is essential for muscle recovery.
White rice, a simple carb, is heavily processed and is stripped of most of its nutrients. Brown rice, a complex carb, contains fiber and nutrients that provide longer-lasting energy.
We chatted briefly about lentils before - but they need to be mentioned again. Legumes (like beans, peas, and lentils) are an excellent source of both complex carbohydrates and protein.
Oats are a whole-grain and complex carbohydrate containing vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and soluble fiber.
Oats help with weight loss by suppressing appetite and slowing digestion thanks to its high soluble fiber contents. 100 grams of raw oats also contain up to 16 grams of protein - making them the perfect supplement in your diet for Body Recomposition.
TIP: Avoid processed / instant oats and stick to raw, whole-grain oats.
Sweet potatoes are complex carbohydrates with naturally-occurring sugars and filled with dietary fiber and vitamin B6 to improve mood and energy levels.
Sweet potatoes are great to eat pre or post-workout.
Just because we want to shed fat doesn’t mean we need to stop consuming fat.
Our bodies need dietary or essential fats to lose weight and function properly.
Healthy fats regulate hunger hormones, keep us full, protect against heart disease, transport nutrients through your body, and improve our fat-soluble vitamin uptake. Most unprocessed, high-fat foods also contain many important nutrients - from vitamins and minerals to free-radical fighting antioxidants.
Grass Fed Beef
Grass fed beef provides us with healthy fats like conjugated linoleic acid which helps improve heart health and reduce belly fat, and stearic acid which reduces LDL cholesterol.
Coconut is high in saturated fat - but more than half of its fat comes from lauric acid which fights bacteria, improves cholesterol scores, and increases 24-hour energy expenditure by as much as 5 percent. Dietary supplementation of coconut oil is also scientifically proven to reduce abdominal fat.
Rich, creamy, and so nutritious - avocados are packed with protein, fiber, and of course, healthy monounsaturated fats. Consuming avocados will keep your hunger at bay! Substitute mayonnaise in your sandwiches for avocados.
Dark chocolate takes more time to process, thus staving off hunger while giving you a little caffeine boost. It’s also packed with antioxidants, principally polyphenols including flavonoids such as epicatechin, catechin and notably the procyanidins, which helps fight off free-radicals and improve blood flow to the brain - making you more alert and efficient.
Polyunsaturated fats contained in nuts activate genes that reduce fat storage and improve insulin metabolism. At about 13 grams per one-ounce serving and with more omega-3 fatty acids than other nuts, walnuts are one of the best nuts to consume.
Whole Greek Yogurt
Whole-milk, Greek yogurt tend to have more protein and fat and less sugar than their leaner counterparts. Because protein takes longer to break down and fat makes you feel full for longer, having Greek yogurt in the morning will reduce your need to snack.
Flax & Chia Seeds
Flax seeds and chia seeds contain ALA, an essential omega-3 fatty acid that aids with weight maintenance, heart disease risk reduction, and lower inflammation.
In this photo: Better Body Twist Adjustable Dumbbells & Rack
Body Recomposition Tips
To wrap up, here are some final tips to help you burn fat while building muscle.
Maintain a moderate calorie deficit.
You can build muscle in both a calorie deficit and surplus, but you can’t lose fat unless you’re in a deficit. However, you don’t want to be in too large of a deficit as this can inhibit muscle growth and cause low mood, low energy, and binge eating. Choose a deficit of up to 25% for optimal body recomposition.
Eat enough protein and nourish yourself well.
Pack your meals with high quality protein, fats and carbs from our list above.
Focus on heavy, compound weightlifting with progressive overload.
When we perform compound exercises with heavy loads, we achieve high levels of muscle tension and activation - leading to whole-body muscle growth at a level much greater than isolation exercises. Keep the gains coming by continuously challenging yourself with progressive overload.
Don't do too much steady state cardio.
Instead of steady state cardio, use HIIT. High Intensity Interval Training burns more fat, elevates metabolic rates, increases insulin sensitivity and can reduce appetite.
We hope you found this article useful as you take on your own Body Recomposition.
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