The title represents the ideal scenario every trainee wants himself to be in; build muscle and lose fat. Even though this might sound like something that would require a lot of work and fancy diets or even the use of drugs, it’s not. There is a catch, though. You may or may not be able to do it, depending on your body composition, training experience, and more. So, in this article, we will talk about what is body Recomposition, if you can do it or not and the ideal way to go about it. At the bottom of the article I’ll link to all the studies that I have looked into while writing this article.
In order to build muscle you need to be in caloric surplus. Being at a surplus means that you are providing your body with more energy than it burns which tends to help your muscles grow in size and strength.
In order to lose fat you have to be in a caloric deficit. Being at a deficit means you are providing your body with less energy than it spends. The extra energy that is needed by the body in order to function normally comes from the stored fat which helps in fat loss.
Now you understand what the catch really is, you cannot possibly be at a caloric deficit and surplus both at the same time. So, how do you do it?
Who Can Body Recomp And Who Can’t
A vast majority of people can build muscle and lose fat at the same time, but it is not for everybody. The people who can’t, or who can only gain an amount of muscle so small that it’s negligible, are experienced weightlifters who have several years of proper training under their belt. Unfortunately, if you’ve already achieved a large portion of your genetic potential in terms of muscle growth, you’re not going to be able to “recomp” effectively. You can body “recomp” efficiently if you fall into one of the following categories.
- You are a beginner. Meaning that you are within your first year of proper and consistent training.
- You are detrained. Meaning that you’ve taken at least a couple months off from training OR you’ve never really trained or eaten properly and consistently.
- You have quite a high body fat (for example over 25%).
- You’re an intermediate lifter ready for a “slow cut”.
Now that you know what category you fall into, we will jump to the next section but first we need to address an important issue, the HARDGAINERS. If you are a hardgainer, you probably want to skip this method even though you fall into the first category i.e., you are a beginner. It works better for those who can gain size at a normal pace, what I would recommend you do is a lean bulk where you put your body in a slight caloric surplus.
How To Build Muscle And Lose Fat
Now that you know this is possible, does not mean it comes easily. An important fact that you should probably know about is that muscle growth is slower when you are in caloric deficit as compared to when you are at a caloric surplus. So, you have to be patient with the process. Now, we will go over the steps that you should follow in order to do this right.
Maintain A Moderate Caloric Deficit
You can build muscle while staying at a calorific deficit but you will never be able to lose fat at a caloric surplus. So, the first logical step to achieve body recomp is to put your body in a caloric deficit but do not be reckless by landing yourself in a large deficit as it will interfere with the muscle growth process and its generally not a good place to be in. In regards to what is the ideal deficit, researchers at University of Jyväskylä have shown that a deficit of 25% is the ideal place to be in.
Focus On Heavy Compound Exercises
Body Recomposition, Lean Bulking, Dirty Bulking, Cutting. It does not matter what you do, if you want to get the most out of your workouts, heavy compound movements is the way to go.
Even though there is a lot of confusion about what is the ideal rep range, I would recommend you to completely stay away from the pseudoscience that says high reps low weights gets you toned. Heavy weights and low or moderate reps is recommended. I would recommend you to cycle between 4-6 reps for 3 sets excluding the warm up set. The weight is too heavy if you cannot do 4 reps and it is time to move on to a heavier weight if you can do more than 6 reps, simple.
You should focus on progressive overload so as to constantly give your muscles the stimulus to grow, ideally the focus should be to increase the weight instead of increasing the reps so as to increase the mechanical stress on the muscles and not metabolic stress.
Do HIIT Cardio
You will lose fat if you are in caloric deficit but if you want to lose fat even faster, you should be doing HIIT Cardio. Researchers have proved time and time again that HIIT burns more fat than steady state cardio and even saves time. Now, I am not going into the details of HIIT vs Steady State Cardio because it is of less relevance to the current topic but I will quickly mention the benefits of doing HIIT Cardio.
- HIIT Can Burn a Lot of Calories in a Short Amount of Time.
- Your Metabolic Rate Is Higher for Hours After Exercise. Meaning that you will keep on burning off fat even when you are not doing anything physically.
- HIIT preserves more muscle than steady-state cardio.
Certainly there are more benefits to doing HIIT like saving time and controlling blood sugar levels, etc. You get the point.
Inadequate sleep hurts both sides of your efforts to build muscle and lose fat. Research shows that sleep deprivation causes hormonal disruptions that can cause muscle loss, which helps explain why it has been linked to muscular atrophy. Insufficient sleep also decreases growth hormone and insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-1) levels, which play important roles in maintaining and building muscle mass. Studies also show that sleep restriction raises free cortisol levels, which further impairs muscle gain.And in terms of losing fat, sleeping too little can magnify your appetite, which makes you more likely to break your diet and overeat. Sleep needs vary from individual to individual, but according to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to be well rested.
The Bottom Line
Building muscle and losing fat doesn’t require that you follow complex diets or training programs. Smart, consistent application of the fundamentals of muscle growth and fat loss is all it takes. So, to recap, here’s what it boils down to:
- Maintain a moderately aggressive calorie deficit (with proper macros).
- Emphasize heavy compound movement in your workouts.
- Do no more than 2 hours of HIIT cardio per week.
- Get plenty of sleep.
- Use the right supplements to speed up the process.
- Effect of nutritional intervention on body composition and performance in elite athletes
- Myonuclei acquired by overload exercise precede hypertrophy and are not lost on detraining
- Influence of sleep restriction on weight loss outcomes associated with caloric restriction
- Effect of two different weight-loss rates on body composition and strength and power-related performance in elite athletes
- A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults
- Higher compared with lower dietary protein during an energy deficit combined with intense exercise promotes greater lean mass gain and fat mass loss: a randomized trial
- A high protein diet (3.4 g/kg/d) combined with a heavy resistance training program improves body composition in healthy trained men and women – a follow-up investigation
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