Just to be clear, this isn’t going to be the fanciest post you have ever read on what is called body recomposition.
That said, people make this much harder than it needs to be and so I wanted to simplify this for those people.
So let’s start here:
To lose FAT tissue you are likely going to need to eat less for a bit (AKA a deficit. It’s important that you read the “for a bit” part). I will come back to this later.
To hold onto MUSCLE tissue and potentially build more you are going to need to eat in a slight surplus.
“But wait Paul, I heard you can build muscle in a deficit. I want to do that.”
Dieting programs in general are sensitive to this topic because essentially the two points I made above live in contrast to each other. While yes there are conditions where you can lose fat and gain muscle they are extremely rare, so rare in fact, that it’s MUCH better to talk about what actually works and why that is important. (So I wouldn’t waste your time or money chasing that dream)
I think it’s best if we talk about a deconditioned person that is new to working out and comes to fitness over consuming food. For this person, in my view, it’s best to start with fitness and become more conscious of their eating habits, moving to more of a normal calorie basis (not an acute deficit). The simple act of doing anything, especially if it’s some measure of resistance training (even body weight) can pay visible dividends and in the end that’s what we are all looking for….
In fact, in the beginning the body adapts so acutely it is one of the rare times I spoke about above as long as food intake isn’t too low. Weirdly this can be very frustrating if you are only looking at your weight. Here is why, let’s say you trade 10 pounds of fat for 10 pounds of muscle. You will literally look different, your clothes will fit better but if your goal is weight loss and not fat loss, things will get frustrating (in almost all cases, the goal should be fat loss). When a doctor says to you “you need to lose weight” what you need to hear is “you need to lose unwanted weight” aka fat.
After three to six months of increasing what you can do with exercise then we can look at eating less to get rid of unwanted fat AND weight.
Why in that order?
I like this order because it puts the client in charge. When you are eating enough to hold onto tissue and potentially replace fat with muscle, you should do that and this is one of those special times. We call this phase Performance/Recomp or Recomposition.
Ok, let’s build off of that framework. What if you come to us under-eating or you are moving from an ineffective diet to one that has more options like Eat To Perform? You would likely want to reverse out of the diet you are in but you don’t have to. With literally 100’s of thousands of clients we know what to look for when weight loss is stalled or slow. Not everyone going from diet to diet is the same, here is an example, someone that tried to diet but was too aggressive too soon and began over consuming as a result. That person might have success with weight loss with a better approach. Usually within 2-3 weeks we can sort out where a client is at and what the next steps should be.
Once we decide that it’s best for a client to move to performance, fat loss gets addressed by replacing fat with muscle. When you do this you have effectively changed your metabolism in two ways. More muscle from a scientific standpoint has a higher metabolic rate, especially when fed, with more and more useful muscle you can more effectively perform longer (performance) or build muscle (recomposition).
“But what if I have been over consuming and have a lot of weight to lose?”
Dieting is drop dead simple in 99.9% of the cases, what happens for most people is they want the end result too soon and it works against them. This is why we use stages, so let’s say in the first phase you had a lot of weight to lose and lose 30-40 pounds. By the time the first stage is done you will feel like a towel that has had all the water drained from it. That’s why we have built in “breaks” and it’s in those moments that you address fat loss like I mentioned above, replacing fat with muscle.
- If you are deconditioned and looking to get back into shape do that fueled before you move into a phase for fat loss.
- If you have gone from diet to diet to diet it’s time for a diet break before you tackle another dieting cycle. During that break you should be able to address fat loss building muscle and replacing fat along the way.
- If the goal is an extreme amount of weight loss you want to alternate between periods where you are focused on acute fat loss and then take short diet breaks (usually about the same amount of time as your diet cycle).
The simple rule is this, to lose weight you need to be in a deficit. The problem with this is that your body adjusts to that fast and no amount of walking or jogging makes that big of a difference. To build muscle you need to be in a surplus of calories. For almost everyone it’s easy to over do so that’s when coaching can help, it might take longer but you won’t need drastic cutting and bulking cycles along the way.
Even the programs that reverse don’t do a good job because they cave to the fear of their clients or they let AI (artificial intelligence) do the work.