Subj. Gain Muscle, Lose Fat and achieve Body Recomposition (Recomp).
In this article I explain how I train and eat to build muscle and lose fat at the same time (A.K.A. Body Recomposition).
I’m 205 pounds in both pictures. In the time between taking these pictures my weight changed only a few pounds up or down on a given day.
Although my weight stayed the same, my body fat percentage decreased and my muscle mass increased.
During this time, I trained hard and ate to my satisfaction.
My method is simple but very effective. It was more than just hard work and dieting. It was the right type of work and diet that made all the difference.
Body Recomposition is achieved through intelligent training and diet.
To build muscle you must weight train.
Your diet must provide nutrition for complete recovery and allow you to sustain high energy levels throughout the day and into your training session. Lean, natural foods are recommended. Here I explain my approach to body recomposition.
Weight Training for Body Recomposition
Your training should focus on large muscle groups like legs and back.
Squats, Deadlifts and pull ups will make up the bulk of your workout routine in a body recomposition program. The benefits of training large muscle groups are three-fold:
#1.Training Large Muscle Groups Makes Your Entire Body Grow.
There are several reasons for this.
- Training muscles to hypertrophy releases natural growth hormone. The more muscles trained, the more growth hormone that gets released.
- By virtue of the lifts performed to train back and legs, every muscle gets gets trained to some degree. Squats and deadlift work every muscle from head to toe. Your arms, shoulders, and core grow larger as a benefit of the growth hormone production.
For example, if you train upper body right after intense leg exercises, your upper body will grow more than if you just trained upper body alone.
The old school ’20-rep squat’ workout is a perfect example: Train you legs hard, release lots of natural growth hormone, then do upper body exercises to cash in on the freely available growth hormone to build your chest arms and back.
#2. The More Muscle Mass You have the More Calories You Will Burn
Muscle mass burns calories 24/7. Having muscles burns fat and prevents extra calories from being stored as fat because they get used as fuel.
People that are overweight with high body fat, just need to focus on building muscle and eventually it will ‘canabolize’ the fat mass. once you reach a certain point. you will have enough muscle mass to stay lean without much effort.
Training large muscles builds muscle the fastest. Meaning you get in shape faster and stay in shape easier.
#3. Build Muscle and Strength Faster
The most muscle fibers are in, you guessed it, your largest muscles. Muscle fibers breakdown during intense workouts and grow back bigger and stronger. The more muscle fibers you take to hypertrophy, the more muscles that grow. And the cycle repeats.
Training large muscle groups is self-reinforcing: Increased growth hormone > Increased muscle mass > More strength > More calories burned.
Intelligent Training for Maximum Muscle Gains
Intelligent training means making the most of your workouts. Maximizing results for the effort put in. You must train hard and smart to reap the best benefits.
When it comes to gaining the most muscle and burning fat, the best workouts focus on movements that engage the most muscle fibers.
The best 3 lifts in this case are Squat, Deadlift and Pull-ups.
Like a pyramid, the bigger the base the larger it can be. You will build muscle anabolicly from the ground up.
Pull-ups train your entire upper body with emphasis on your back which contains 70% of torso muscle.
Training squats, deadlifts and pull-ups will make you look sturdy. Your physique will look balanced and strong. It will also improve posture and breathing making you look and feel better and more energized.
I can tell when someone doesn’t do these lifts. Even if that person has some muscle definition they aren’t very large and don’t look particularly strong or complete. They lack muscle “fullness”.
During my body recomposition, my training focused mainly on Squats, deadlifts and pull-ups.
Each workout included accessory lifts such as shoulder press, lateral raises, tricep push down and over head press, Heavy calf press and raises, curls, and push-ups. I especially targeted my shoulders and triceps. Also, did barbell/cable rows but did no bench press.
I worked out 3-5 times a week. Typically Monday-Thursday and sometimes Saturday or Sunday.
Weight training is a must if you want to change your physique. Once you build enough muscle you will eventually reach a “critical mass” like state where it’s easy to maintain your preferred body fat percentage and look. This “critical mass” is a high muscle mass to body fat ratio. Critical mass is achieved usually around 12-16% body fat.
Sample 4-Day Split Workout Plan
The sample workout below is similar to the one I used including the exercises and rep scheme I used. I add weight every set.
Another note, I also vary rep range. Some days I’ll do high reps with lower weight. Other days I’ll do 5-6 sets in the 3-6 rep range. It’s good practice to vary reps/weight/sets used. Just remember the #1 thing: push yourself hard, at least 95% to failure on at least 1 set per lift, regardless of the weight.
Warmup: 5-6 minutes on the stair master (break a light sweat, warm up your knees and hips.)
- Squats – 12, 10, 8, 5, 5, 3
- Calf Press – 5 sets, as many reps as possible increase the weight each set.
- Shoulder press – 5-6 sets of 5-10 reps
- Pullups 40-50+ reps broken into 4-6 sets.
Warm up: 1 kilometer on the row machine
- Deadlift 10, 8, 6, 5, 4, 2
- Pull ups 40-50+ Reps broken into as few sets as possible
- Reverse curls – 4-5 sets 5-15 reps
- Tricep pull down – 4-5 sets 5-15 reps
Warmup: 5-6 minutes on the stair master
- Squat – 12, 10, 8, 5, 5, 3
- Pull ups 40-50+ Reps in as few sets as possible
- Tricep Overhead Dumbbell Press – 4-5 sets 6-12 reps
- Pushups – 50+ Reps in as few sets as possible
- Lateral Raises – 4-5 sets 6-12 reps
Warmup: 5-6 minutes on the stair master
- Front Squat – 10, 8, 6, 5, 3, 3
- Shoulder Press – 4-5 sets 5-10 reps (Lower the bar behind your head on a few sets.)
- Calf press and calf raises – 5-6 sets 5-20 reps (Go Heavy!)
- Pullups 40-50+ Reps in as few sets as possible
Make sure you stretch for 10 minutes after each workout. Try to touch your toes. This helps mobility and hip/leg/core flexibility and blood circulation. Very important if you’re seated often. Stiff, tight legs are not fun. Stretch to feel light and limber.
Part II: My Body Recomposition Diet
Nutrition and Training are interdependent. Lack in 1 area and the other will suffer.
“90% of bodybuilding is nutrition”. I disagree. It’s 50/50. When working out what you eat is very important but you don’t need to obsess over everything you eat.
Weight training and diet go hand in hand to maximize health benefits. Equal effort must be given in training and diet. Weight training breaks the muscle down, nutrition builds muscle back up.
The right body recomposition diet should do the following:
#1. Optimum Energy Levels
Nutrient deficiency lead to brain fog, fatigue, and makes you feel “off”. 90% of your required nutrients should come from natural food sources. When in doubt, take a multi vitamin to cover your bases when eating a lot of whole foods is not an option.
#2. Get Enough Nutrients to Recover from Workouts and Maximize Gains
You want to eat just enough to fully recover from workouts. Like I said before, you don’t need to obsess over diet, but here are a few guidelines I use
- Eat 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight. If you get 80%-100% on a given day that’s fine. Try to get all your protein from whole food sources. If you need a boost get a quality protein powder for some extra protein.
- I follow an 80/20 diet: I eat healthy 80% of the time and the other 20% I eat anything.
During the weekdays I typically eat the same few things: Meat/fish, eggs, and veggies.
A normal weekday of eating looks like this:
Breakfast: 2 greek yogurts.
Snack (sometimes): Clif Bar
Lunch: Large chicken breast, sweet potato, broccoli.
Pre-workout Snack: Cottage cheese and pineapple.
Dinner is the same as lunch or I’ll make fish (Salmon or Cod), or ground beef with fresh veggies and a salad. If I want desert I’ll have desert without restraint.
Snacks during the day include but are not limited to: Tuna, Crackers, peanut butter, greek yogurt, breakfast sandwich (Sausage, egg and cheese at the work cafeteria).
Another quick meal/snack that I eat several times a week: Poached eggs and pinto beans is a typical meal. Especially weekend mornings or as dinner if I’m hungry and want something quick.
Sometimes I’ll make a protein shake if I have a taste for it or want extra protein. I didn’t shy away from sweets. I ate chocolate, cupcakes, candy, brownies and cake.
My weekend diet is a different story –
Weekends for me are a free-for-all. Everything is fair game. I’ll eat out, drink beer and wine. Pizza, burgers, sushi, anything. I try to get one lean/wholesome meal a day on the weekends.
It’s good practice to give yourself a day or two during the week to eat whatever you want. It helps with morale and gives you something to look forward to.
As long as you eat well 80% of the time and train hard and heavy 4-5 times a week you will be fine.
The Build Muscle and Lose Fat Diet
Eat these foods for 80% of the time and you will lose fat and gain muscle (if you train).
- Chicken and Turkey
- Fish, Salmon, Cod
- Lean Beef and Steak
- Sweet Potatoes
- Lettuce, Spinach, Aspargus, Broccoli, Carrots, Snow Peas
- Cottage Cheese (Daisy brand), Non-Fat Greek Yogurt
- Pineapples and Bananas
- Natural Peanut Butter or PB2 Peanut Butter Powder
- Beans, Black, Pinto, kidney and Garbonzo
- Real butter, 100% extra virgin olive oil, and coconut oil.
The trick is to eat just enough to fully recover from workouts. When you start this diet – eat as much of these foods as you want. After a few weeks of consistent training you will be able to make adjustments based off your progress.
Other points about diet:
- Cook veggies in real butter. It tastes amazing. Margarine and vegetable oils are garbage.
- I didn’t count calories or macros. When I’m hungry I eat. It may be helpful to count calories when you first start a workout/diet program. It will help educate you about the foods you eat and wheat they are made of. After a while you will eat and train instinctually and get results. My Fitness Pal is a great app I’ve used and recommend. Read up on Macros here.
- I grocery shop once every week or two. I buy mostly healthy food. Get some snacks because you gotta live a little. Oikos flaved greek yogurts are awesome. Taste great and lots of flavors. (Key Lime Pie and Red Velvet Cake are fire.)
- I rarely drink alcohol during the week. Maybe a beer or glass of red wine every once in a while.
Intelligent Dieting for Fat Loss, Balanced Energy and Building Muscle
#1. Cook all your own meals. If you don’t cook it don’t eat it.
#2. Meal prep to ensure you have healthy meals ready to eat throughout the week.
#3. Most of your calories from eat meal should come from protein. If your meal is 1000 calories at least 334 calories should be from protein.
#4. Eliminate all refined sugars and carbs. a.k.a. processed foods
#5. This should go without saying but no pop. Only water and black coffee. Crystal light if you need some flavor.
I stress natural food because additive, preservatives and artificial flavor are hard/impossible to metabolize. They wear you down from the inside out. Avoid them when possible. Pick foods with ingredients you recognize. The few ingredients on the label the better.