The Secret to Physique Recomposition: Lose Fats & Achieve Muscle

The central theses

If you are new to weightlifting, you can easily build muscle and lose fat at the same time by limiting your calorie intake and lifting weights.
After your first year of weight lifting, building muscle will be much more difficult and you will make better progress if you focus on either building muscle or losing fat.
Read on to learn how body composition works (regardless of your experience), how to effectively re-compose, and more!

Building a great body is easy:

You need to lose fat and build muscle.


Find out online how you can achieve these two goals. Here's what you'll learn:

If you want to build muscle, you need to eat lots of calories, lift heavy weights, and be content with gaining some body fat on the go.

If you want to lose fat, you need to eat fewer calories, lift heavy weights, and maintain or even lose a little muscle.

In other words, you have to focus on one goal at a time.

Then there is a third group of people who claim that you can lose fat and build muscle at the same time. Progress may be slower, they claim, but there is no need to ever cut or massage to get the body you want.

This is known as Body composition, aka the Holy Grail, to get fit.


Supporters of body composition also claim that it really is just a game of patience and precision. Manage your daily calorie and macronutrient intake properly (usually with a caloric cycle of sorts), and after a few months you'll be bigger, leaner, and stronger.

The best part?

You can stay slim all the time and don't have to make drastic changes to your diet or exercise program. Simply pull the right levers and press the right buttons for a few months. You will be rewarded with the physique you have always wanted

That is the pitch anyway. . .

But what does science say about body composition?

Can you really "rebuild" the way people promise, build muscle and lose fat while maintaining the same body weight?

Is a body composition only possible if you are not yet familiar with lifting weights, or can everyone “tune in” with the right training and diet techniques?

The answers to all of these questions can be found in this article.

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Is a body composition possible? What science says

First, let's quickly define what we mean by that Body composition.

In the body composition, the percentage of body fat in body fat is reduced and the percentage of lean body mass is increased.

This can be achieved in three ways: reducing fat mass and maintaining muscle mass (basically cutting), minimizing fat gain and increasing muscle mass (basically muscle mass) and reducing fat mass and increasing muscle mass at the same time.

When people use the term "body composition", they usually refer to the last method – reducing fat mass and increasing muscle mass at the same time.

This is the method you will learn about in this article as it is the most discussed of the three.

Some people say that a reassembly of the body, also known as a "reassembly", is only possible in the first year or two of weightlifting, after which it becomes more or less impossible.


If you have little or no weight lifting experience, your muscles will overreact to the muscle building effects of strength training. In your first year of weight lifting alone, you can expect to gain between 15 and 25 pounds of muscle as a man and around half of it as a woman, a phenomenon known as "newcomer wins".

Read: How much muscle you can gain naturally (with a calculator)

And in most cases you can take that off while you gain very little body fat or even lose fat – and thus achieve a "new composition".

After your newbies are exhausted (usually after the first 6 to 12 months of weight lifting), it becomes much more difficult to build muscle, much less as you lose fat.

And this is where opinions differ.

Some people say that your ability to recompose completely disappears at this point. From here on, you either have to focus on building muscle or losing fat, but you can't expect to achieve both at the same time.

Others say that while recomposing will be more difficult, you can do it with the right diet and training techniques. If you have the patience and discipline, this is possible.

Who is right?

Well, they're both right, but mostly wrong.

Let's start with what's right about this mindset: Many studies have shown that people who are new to weight lifting can experience a profound body composition.

The most impressive example of this comes from a study conducted by scientists from Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who divided 38 overweight, seated middle-aged police officers into three groups:

A diet-only group that followed a weight loss diet that provided 80% of their total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) per day. In other words, they had a 20% calorie deficit per day.
A diet / casein / strength training group that maintained a 20% calorie deficit, ate at least 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram per body weight per day, consumed at least 25% of their daily calories in the form of casein hydrolyzate, and lifted weights four times a week. They followed a body part split workout routine and exercised every major muscle group once a week.
A diet / whey / strength training group that did everything the diet / casein / strength group did, but consumed at least 25% of their daily calories in the form of whey hydrolyzate instead of casein hydrolyzate.

The average age of the participants was 34 years, none of them had previous weight lifting experience and they had an average of 27% body fat.

After 12 weeks, the two weight lifting groups lost 9 to 15 pounds of body fat and gained an average of 4 to 9 pounds of muscle. In other words, after three months, they only gained a few pounds of body weight, but they were much leaner and more muscular. They had achieved an almost perfect new composition.

Incidentally, the Diet / Casein / Strength Training participants lost most of their body fat and gained most of their muscles.

In particular, they lost 15 pounds of fat and gained 9 pounds of muscle, while the diet / whey / strength training group lost 9 pounds of fat and gained approximately 4 pounds of muscle, and the diet-only group lost 5.5 pounds of fat and gained no muscle.

Read: The ultimate guide to the best protein powders: whey, casein, egg, soy and more …

The researchers weren't sure why this was the case, but it could simply be because of the small sample size in each group. Or it could be that casein is light better for promoting muscle growth than whey. We have to wait for the scientists to solve this problem.

These results are impressive, but not uncommon for beginners.

For example, here are a couple of boys and girls who have achieved similar results based on my results Bigger, slimmer, stronger Program for men and mine Thinner, leaner, stronger Program for women:

Legion Success Shawn-s unveiled

Brian O introduced

Legion-Success-Landon-P presented

alison l featured (1)


Kelsey Y Featured (1)

What about people who have already exhausted their newbies?

Well, despite the claims of the naysayers, they too can achieve body composition.

For example in a study Led by scientists from the Norwegian School of Sports Science, the researchers divided 24 male and female top athletes into two groups:

A slow weight loss group eating about 500 calories less than their TDEE (~ 20% calorie deficit) until they reduced their body weight by 5.5%.
A fast weight loss group who ate about 800 calories less than their TDEE (~ 30% calorie deficit) until they reduced their body weight by the same amount.

Both groups underwent strength training four days a week with a relatively low volume (6 to 10 sets per workout), with each muscle group being trained twice a week with a combination of compound and isolation exercises.

On average, the slow weight loss group lost approximately 0.7% of their body weight per week and the fast weight loss group lost approximately 1% of their body weight per week.

It gets interesting here.

At the end of the study, the slow weight loss group reduced their body fat by 8% (relative) and increased their total muscle mass by 2%. They achieved body composition, if not much.

The group with fast weight loss did not fare so well: they reduced their body fat by 4% and lost a small amount of muscle.

You can see the differences between the groups in this table:

Weight loss rates

There are two key findings from this study:

1. Despite a solid diet and a training plan, the well-trained athletes in the group with slow weight loss could only increase their muscle mass by 2% after 10 weeks of training.

For comparison, the sedentary police officers with no weight lifting experience in the study that you recently met were able to both increase muscle mass and reduce body fat by about 8% over the same period.

Therefore, athletes who are closer to their genetic muscle building potential are unlikely (at least naturally) to achieve significant recomposition.

2. The fast weight loss group did not build muscle and lost as much body fat as the slow weight loss group.

If you look at the results by gender, the men in the fast weight loss group lost an average of about 4 pounds of muscle, while the women gained a small amount of muscle (probably because they had less strength training experience).

One problem with this study was that we weren't sure how much strength training the athletes had, how much protein they were eating, or how much exercise they were doing outside of the gym. However, it is unlikely that any of these changes would explain how slowly they grew in muscle mass compared to the seated cops.

The most likely explanation for their relatively lackluster body composition is?

They had exhausted their newcomer gains and simply couldn't build muscle as quickly as before.

All in all, this means that as you get closer to your genetic potential, body composition and muscle growth generally become more difficult.

Listen: Menno Henselman on the influence of genetics on muscle building

When you look at other studies done by scientists Jyväskylä University, St. Francis Xavier University, and the National Research Institute of Polandyou will find the same result. Well-trained athletes can build muscle and lose fat at the same time, but only in very small amounts.

Your progress is measured in inches and ounces, not yards and pounds.

The best example of this is well-trained bodybuilderswho spend more or less all of their training time (and a good chunk of their lives) trying to get as big, strong, and lean as possible. Nevertheless, muscle building stops after only a few years and remains vanishingly slow for the rest of her career.

As Dr. Eric Helms, member of the Legion's Scientific Advisory Board, says it, ". . . Highly qualified bodybuilders who reach a lot of muscles may not be able to measurably improve the muscle mass even within a period of six months. "

For example in a study Scientists conducted by scientists from the University of Texas Southwestern found that advanced male and female bodybuilders could only express a small, insignificant, almost immense increase in bicep size after 24 weeks of training (that's) six damn months!). And with a lot of intensive training as they built themselves up.

Based on mine conversations With Dr. Helms and other bodybuilding trainers realize that after your first two to three years of weight lifting, you're lucky enough to gain more than a pound or two of muscle a year until you reach your genetic potential.

After you reach that point, stick with what you have.

For example, in the study I mentioned earlier, the athletes had 4 years of training experience and played mostly endurance sports, so they likely had greater potential for "novice gains".

Nevertheless, they only increased their muscle mass by about 2% after 10 weeks.

I've been lifting weights for almost 16 years now, and I've been following well-designed exercise programs and diet plans for about half the time.

What do you think my chances are of building muscle and losing fat at the same time? Slim to zero.

"Hypertrophy (muscle growth) can occur during weight loss" writes Dr. Helms, "however, the overall size is limited, with beginners, inexperienced, and overweight / overweight people experiencing major increases."

In other words, once you flirt with your genetic upper limit for muscle growth, any type of body composition you may experience will be so low you'll never notice it.

Why is that?

To understand the answer to this question, you first need to understand something about muscle growth and fat loss.

Summary: You can achieve impressive body reconstruction when you are new to weightlifting, but your ability to "recompose" diminishes as you approach your genetic muscle building potential.

The simple science of body composition

Why is it so much more difficult to recompose yourself as you progress, and what can you do to improve your chances?

Well, the best way to build muscle and lose fat at the same time is to understand how these two processes work.

Let's start with muscle growth.

The beginner's guide to muscle growth

Muscle growth is the result of the formation of new muscle proteins that are added to the muscle cells, making them bigger and stronger.

This is known as Muscle protein synthesis, and it is triggered through strength training and eating protein and calories.

Muscle protein synthesis is reduced by inactivity, insufficient protein and calories, and lack of sleep. In particular, these factors increase what is known as Muscle protein breakdownThis is the other side of the medal in muscle protein synthesis.

Read: The definitive (and practical) guide to muscle protein synthesis

The relationship between muscle protein synthesis and breakdown is known as Muscle protein balancethat works similarly to the energy balance:

If muscle protein synthesis and breakdown rates are more or less the same, you will not gain or lose muscle mass.

This is known as neutral muscle protein balance.

If the muscle protein synthesis rates exceed the muscle protein breakdown rates, you gain muscle mass.

This is known as positive muscle protein balance.

And if the muscle protein synthesis rates are lower than the muscle protein breakdown rates, you will lose muscle mass.

This is known as negative muscle protein balance.

If you want to build muscle, you want to spend as much time as possible on a positive muscle protein balance.

There are a few levers you can pull to speed up protein synthesis, but the strongest is strength training. More accurate, progressive voltage overloadThis means that you are forcing your muscle fibers to create more and more tension over time.

Neither is it enough to go to the gym and lift the same weights every day, as your muscles become resistant to the effects of strength training over time. That said, bench press 135 for 5 reps can significantly speed up muscle protein synthesis in the first few times, but the effects decrease over time. As a result, you have to put more and more tension on your muscles over time.

Read: Is it really the best way to build muscle to get stronger?

You can increase the tension in your muscles in different ways, but the two most effective ways are to lift heavier weights (increase the intensity) and more sets (increase the volume).

You also need to do enough sets every week and lift heavy weights in each set order to trigger a significant increase in muscle protein synthesis. More on that in a moment.

There's one more important thing you need to know about building muscle: it's a very, very slow process.

We don't have to get involved with the essentials Why it is like that (It's about many tongue twisters like Rapamycin mammalian target, prostaglandins, and 3-phosphoinositide-dependent protein kinase-1), but the long story is short:

Lifting weights and eating food trigger a long series of molecular and hormonal changes in the body that slowly but surely lead to a small, gradual increase in muscle mass over time.

The only time this isn't the case is in your first year of weight lifting, where building muscle is quick and easy.

After this “honeymoon” phase, building muscle is like building a house out of LEGOs. Show up and add a little week after week and month after month and you'll see progress at some point, but it's a long line to chop.

Read: Here's How Much Muscle You Can Really Gain Naturally (Using a Calculator)

This is important because many people expect to build muscle and lose or at least gain fat at the same rate something visible muscles and lose some fat, but this rarely happens. For example, someone might expect to gain 5 to 10 pounds of muscle and lose about the same amount of fat over the same period of time when they reassemble.

This only happens in the first 6 to 12 months of weight lifting. Then it becomes an illusion.

After your first year of proper weight lifting, you can always lose fat much faster than you can build muscle, which changes the expected results of the reassembly significantly (you always lose fat much faster than you can gain muscle).

Summary: Muscle growth occurs when protein synthesis is higher than protein breakdown over a period of time. After the first year of weight lifting, this is a slow, gradual process.

The beginner's guide to fat loss

The beginner's guide to fat loss

To lose fat, you need to use more energy than you consume.

Yes, it depends on calories versus calories compared.

It doesn't matter how many "impure" foods you eat or when you eat them or anything else. Your metabolism runs on the first law of thermodynamicsThis means that fat stores (energy) cannot be increased without providing an excess of energy, and cannot be reduced without limiting energy intake, which creates a calorie deficit.

Scientists have suspected this for centuries (even the ancient Greeks estimated physical activity and moderate consumption of food to achieve an aesthetic build), and this has been confirmed by the past 100 years of controlled weight loss Studies.

That's why research shows that reduced calorie diets lead to clinically meaningful weight loss regardless of which macronutrients they highlight.

This is still true if your goal is to restore the body: you can only lose fat if you have a calorie deficit.

When you talk about pure weight loss, a calorie is a calorie. Your body only burns so much energy and if you feed it less than it needs, it has no choice but to continue to access fat reserves to stay alive.

Read: The Complete Guide to Safe and Healthy Weight Loss

Of course, you are not just reading this to lose weight. You want to lose fat and build muscle – to recover.

And if that is the goal, you need to be smart about how much you limit your calories (less is not better) and where those calories come from. In particular, you need to make sure that you eat enough protein so that your body has the raw materials needed to build muscle.

Research shows that in restricting calories, a high protein diet is more effective in reducing body fat, Muscle maintenance, and increasing saturation.

How much protein should you eat?

We can look at one review conducted by scientists from the Auckland University of Technology (including Dr. Helms) for an answer. They came to the following conclusion:

"The protein requirement for athletes with energy and resistance training is likely to be 2.3 to 3.1 g / kg FFM (1 to 1.4 grams per pound of lean mass), which will scale up with the severity of the calorie restriction and the leanness."

For most people, this equates to about 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight.

So let's take a moment to review what we've covered so far:

To build muscle, you need to go through a strength training program that has sufficient intensity and volume, and you need to eat enough calories and protein to maintain a positive muscle protein balance.
To lose fat, you need to eat fewer calories than you burn and enough protein to support muscle growth.

However, if you've read carefully, you've probably noticed that this is a body composition problem:

When you need to maintain a positive muscle protein balance to build muscle. . . and you need to maintain a calorie deficit to lose fat. . . and a calorie deficit reduces muscle protein balance. . . How the hell are you supposed to build muscle and lose fat at the same time?

Well, people who claim that anyone can compose without problems have a good explanation for this problem.

You rightly point out that while your body needs enough energy to build muscle, it doesn't necessarily have to come from food. In fact, you probably have a lot more calories than you need to build muscle in the form of stored body fat.

For example, I'm about 10% body fat and weigh 195 pounds. Men can only reach up to 3 to 4% body fat before they die. Realistically speaking, we can say that I have 6% body fat available for energy, or in my case about 12 pounds of body fat.

Read: How to calculate your body fat percentage easily and accurately (with a calculator)

Since a pound of body fat contains about 3,500 calories of energy, it means that I have about 40,000 calories of body fat that my body can use to build muscle.

Fast math!

So on paper, my body shouldn't have a problem building muscle and losing fat at the same time, as long as I eat enough protein, lift weights, and still have over 3 to 4% body fat, right?

Not correct.

You see, this nice little explanation overlooks the way your body adapts to calorie reduction.

We don't have to go into the details, but the long story is that if you cut calories, your body will put other energy-intensive processes like muscle growth at a disadvantage. Although you may still have a lot of energy stored in the form of body fat, your body sees calorie reduction as a form of hunger (and it is, technically).

In this way, hormone levels drop, protein breakdown increases, protein synthesis decreases, and it becomes difficult to hold onto, let alone gain, muscle mass.

Read: "Metabolic Damage" and "Hunger Mode" Debunked by Science

Therefore also elite bodybuilders who often do everything “right” still lose Muscle mass as they prepare for competitions (and it is often the most experienced that loses the most muscle).

The greater your calorie deficit (and the faster you can lose fat), the more your protein balance will decrease.

How you will remember weight loss study We discussed earlier in this article that the athletes who lost 1% of their body weight per week lost muscle, while the athletes who lost 0.7% of their body weight per week gained a small amount.

The bottom line is that re-assembling the body is possible, but much more difficult than on paper.

Back to the question I asked recently. . . How to build muscle and lose fat at the same time?

The correct answer is verrrrrry slowwwwwwly.

As I indicated in the previous section, there is another problem with the idea of ​​body composition as most people understand it – the idea that you can build muscle and lose fat without changing your body weight (or changing it very little) ) – That you can lose fat much faster than you can build muscle.

While both men and women can lose 1 to 2 pounds of fat a week without losing muscle, men can only gain about 0.5 pounds of muscle a week in their first year of lifting (and that assumes they have excess calories ) about half of it every following year (£ 0.25 in the second year, £ 0.125 in the third year and so on). Women can halve these numbers. And once you've reached your genetic potential for muscle growth, muscle growth stops.

If you limit the amount of calories, you can count on building significantly less muscle.

Based on my experience of my own body and working with thousands of men and women in my books, blog and podcast, I would say that most people with a calorie deficit can build about a quarter of the muscles they have in a calorie would surplus.

That said, if you could normally gain a pound of muscle a month in excess calories (roughly the rate a man might expect in his second year of lifting), he could expect to gain about a quarter of a pound a month in a calorie deficit .

And this presupposes that he does everything right with his diet, his training and his sleeping habits.

Even if you are new to weightlifting, you are likely to lose fat two to four times faster than building muscle. Although this is technically a body composition, the results are not what many people expect.

Suppose you have had a solid weight lifting program for two years. Zu diesem Zeitpunkt können Sie unter idealen Umständen mit einem Anstieg von etwa 0,5 Pfund Muskeln pro Monat und etwa 0,125 Pfund (das sind 2 Unzen) beim Schneiden rechnen. Natürlich können Sie beim Schneiden immer noch 1 bis 2 Pfund Fett pro Woche verlieren.

Nach drei Monaten, in denen Sie ein Kaloriendefizit aufrechterhalten und Gewichte heben, haben Sie etwas weniger als ein halbes Pfund Muskeln aufgebaut und 12 bis 24 Pfund Fett verloren.

Nicht gerade der Effekt „Ersetze dein gesamtes Fett durch Muskeln“, den viele Menschen erwarten.

Darüber hinaus können Sie für den Rest Ihrer Karriere im Gewichtheben so schnell Fett verlieren, während der Muskelaufbau nach mehreren Jahren richtigen Trainings und einer Diät mehr oder weniger nicht mehr vorhanden ist. Das heißt, nach 5 Jahren beständigen Trainings können Sie beim Schneiden immer noch 1 bis 2 Pfund Fett pro Woche verlieren, aber es wird Ihnen schwer fallen, das ganze Jahr über so viel Muskeln aufzubauen, während Sie mager sind.

Schließlich erreichen Sie einen Punkt auf Ihrem Weg zum Gewichtheben, an dem Sie Ihren Körperfettgehalt immer noch schnell erhöhen oder verringern können, Ihre Muskelmasse jedoch mehr oder weniger unverändert bleibt.

Lesen Sie: In dem ich ein "Körperbau-Update" gebe

Während eine Neuzusammensetzung des Körpers möglich ist, müssen Sie Ihre Erwartungen lindern. Ihre Chancen, beispielsweise nach drei Monaten richtigem Essen und Training 10 Pfund Muskeln aufzubauen und 10 Pfund Fett zu verlieren, sind gering.

Nach Ihrem ersten Jahr des Gewichthebens können Sie nur hoffen, „ein paar Unzen Muskeln aufzubauen, während Sie schlank werden“.

Nur weil Sie nicht mit der gleichen Geschwindigkeit Fett verlieren und Muskeln aufbauen können, bedeutet dies nicht, dass es sich nicht lohnt, die Körperzusammensetzung fortzusetzen. Wenn Sie ungefähr den gleichen Körperfettanteil beibehalten möchten oder länger in Ordnung sind als sonst, wenn dies bedeutet, dass Sie geringe Kraft- und Muskelzuwächse erzielen können, ist die Körperzusammensetzung ein lohnendes Ziel.

Sie müssen nur wissen, was Sie tun.

Im nächsten Abschnitt werden wir all dies in einen Plan für eine erfolgreiche Körperrekomposition aufnehmen.

Zusammenfassung: Durch die Einschränkung Ihrer Kalorienaufnahme wird die Geschwindigkeit verringert, mit der Sie Muskeln aufbauen können. Dies bedeutet, dass Sie beim Versuch, sich wieder zu „kompensieren“, erheblich langsamer Muskeln aufbauen als beim Muskelaufbau.

Der Leitfaden für Anfänger, um gleichzeitig Muskeln aufzubauen und Fett zu verlieren

Transformation der Körperzusammensetzung

Lassen Sie uns schnell alles überprüfen, was wir bisher behandelt haben:

Um Muskeln aufzubauen, müssen Sie die Muskelproteinsyntheseraten konstant über den Muskelproteinabbauraten halten. Der beste Weg, dies zu tun, besteht darin, Gewichte zu heben, ausreichend Kalorien und Protein zu essen und genügend Schlaf zu bekommen.

Um Fett zu verlieren, müssen Sie weniger Kalorien essen, als Sie im Laufe der Zeit verbrennen, was Ihren Körper dazu zwingt, seine eigenen Fettreserven für Energie abzubauen. Wenn Sie ausreichend Protein essen, können Sie Fett verlieren, während Sie Ihre Muskelmasse erhalten oder erhöhen.

Obwohl diese Ziele auf dem Papier kompatibel zu sein scheinen, sind sie es wirklich nicht.

Muskelaufbau ist ein sehr energieintensiver Prozess, und Ihr Körper benötigt viele Kalorien, um so schnell wie möglich Muskeln aufzubauen. Daher ist die Kalorienreduzierung ein Hindernis für den Muskelaufbau.

Das heißt, es ist nicht unüberwindbar.

Wenn Sie wissen, was Sie mit Ihrer Ernährung und Ihrem Training tun, können Sie gleichzeitig Muskeln aufbauen und Fett verlieren, zumindest bis Sie Ihr genetisches Potenzial für Muskelwachstum erreicht haben.

Hier ist wie:

Mache viel schweres Gewichtheben
Behalten Sie ein kleines Kaloriendefizit bei
Iss ausreichend Protein
Genug Schlaf bekommen

Lassen Sie uns nacheinander jeden einzelnen durchgehen.

Mache viel schweres Gewichtheben.

Egal, ob Sie Fett verlieren oder Muskeln aufbauen möchten, was Sie im Fitnessstudio tun, sollte sich nicht wirklich ändern.

Das heißt, der beste Weg, um das Muskelwachstum zu stimulieren, unabhängig davon, was Sie mit Ihrer Ernährung tun, besteht darin, schwere Gewichte für mehrere Sätze pro Muskelgruppe und Woche zu heben. Ob Sie einen Kalorienüberschuss oder ein Kaloriendefizit haben oder bei der Wartung essen, ändert einfach, wie gut Ihr Körper auf Ihr Training reagiert.

Wenn Sie also gleichzeitig Muskeln aufbauen und Fett verlieren möchten, müssen Sie Gewichte mit der entsprechenden Intensität und dem richtigen Volumen heben, um das Muskelwachstum zu maximieren.

Wissenschaftler debattieren immer noch über die „optimale“ Intensität und das optimale Volumen zur Maximierung des Muskelwachstums, aber es scheint so als Etwa 60 +% Ihrer maximalen Wiederholungszahl (1 U / min) und 10 bis 20 Sätze pro Muskelgruppe und Woche.

If you’re looking for an effective strength training program that matches these guidelines, check out this article:

Read: The 12 Best Science-Based Strength Training Programs for Gaining Muscle and Strength

Maintain a small calorie deficit.

When your goal is to lose fat as fast as possible while maintaining your muscle mass, setting up your diet is straightforward:

Maintain an aggressive calorie deficit and eat enough protein, and continue until you have the body you want.

Read: A Simple and Accurate Weight Loss Calculator (and How to Use It)

When your goal is to lose fat and build muscle at the same time, though, you have to tread more carefully.

As you learned a moment ago, calorie restriction hinders muscle growth, and the more you restrict calories, the worse the effects become. After a certain point, restricting calories too much can cause muscle loss even if you’re doing everything else right (eating enough protein, lifting weights, etc.). That said, you still need to restrict calories to some degree if you want to lose fat.

Thus, you have to thread the needle between restricting calories enough to cause fat loss, and not restricting your calories so much that you shut down muscle growth.

The sweet spot here is probably something like a 10 to 15% calorie deficit per day.

This range is based on several studies that have looked at the relationship between calorie restriction, fat loss, and muscle growth, which have found that if you restrict your calories much more than this, it’s very difficult to build an appreciable amount of muscle, much less maintain it.

The leaner you are, the smaller your calorie deficit should be. This is because your risk of muscle loss increases (and chances of building muscle decreases), as your body fat levels drop.

Lesen: How Fast Can You Lose Fat without Losing Muscle? (According to Science)

If you’re at or below 10% body fat as a man or 20% as a woman, aim for the lower end of this range (a 10% calorie deficit). If you’re above 10/20% body fat, aim for the upper end of this range (a 15% calorie deficit).

Check out this calculator and article to set your calories:

This Is the Best Macronutrient Calculator on the Net (Updated 2020)

Eat sufficient protein.

Whether you’re cutting, maintaining, or lean bulking, eating sufficient protein is essential for building and maintaining muscle mass.

As you learned earlier in this article, your protein needs increase when you’re restricting your calories for fat loss.

Specifically, when you’re in a calorie deficit you want to eat around 1 to 1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight per day. This is true whether you’re solely focused on fat loss or chasing body recomposition.

You can use the same calculator I shared a moment ago to figure out your protein intake:

This Is the Best Macronutrient Calculator on the Net (Updated 2020)

Get enough sleep.

Sleep is often the last thing people think about when it comes to improving their body composition, but that’s a mistake.

Aside from sapping your energy to train and hampering your workout recovery, sleep deprivation also directly inhibits muscle growth and decreases fat loss.

The best example of this comes to us from a study conducted by scientists at the University of Chicago, which split ten overweight adults into two groups:

An insufficient sleep group, which slept 5.5 hours per night on average (about how long 40% of Americans sleep per night).
A sufficient sleep group, which slept 8.5 hours per night on average (about how long research shows is optimal for most people).

Both groups were also put on calorie-restricted diets during the two week study. The researchers measured everyone’s weight, lean mass, body fat percentage, hunger, and level of fat oxidation before and after the study.

They found that the insufficient sleep group lost 55% less fat and 60% more lean mass than the sufficient sleep group. In other words, they experienced near perfect body recomposition . . . but in reverse, gaining fat and losing muscle in equal proportions.

Specifically, the group that slept 5.5 hours per night lost a little over one pound of fat and over five pounds of lean mass, whereas the group that slept 8.5 hours per night lost three pounds of fat and three pounds of lean mass.

All in all, if you want to achieve successful body recomposition, make sure you get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.

A Better Alternative to Body Recomposition

counting calories

At this point you’re probably thinking, where are all the fancy strategies I’ve heard about?

What about calorie cycling and special training programs?

Are you saying I should just restrict calories, lift weights, and let my body take care of the rest?

Well, yes, that’s exactly what I’m saying.

First of all, calorie cycling is overrated.

You can read this article to understand why, but the gist is that it may help you stick to your diet more easily and slightly minimize fat gain while bulking, but it won’t help you gain muscle and lose fat at the same time.

Second, here’s the real lesson from this entire article:

If you follow a calorie-restricted diet with sufficient protein and lift weights, you can absolutely build muscle and lose fat at the same time.
Aside from avoiding mistakes that can stunt your ability to recomp (losing weight too fast, not eating enough protein, not training hard enough or with enough volume), there are no diet hacks, training protocols, or special supplements that will improve your ability to recomp.
Although you can build muscle while losing fat, you’ll almost certainly build less muscle than you would if you spent that time lean bulking.
You’ll pretty much always be able to lose fat at a much faster rate than you can build muscle, and this effect becomes more pronounced as you near your genetic potential for muscle gain.

And finally, here’s my biggest beef with most of the body recomposition protocols you’ll find online (including the one I shared a moment ago):

They aren’t superior to the traditional approach of cutting and lean bulking I’ve described elsewhere, and in some cases are just plain inferior.

That is, alternating between periods where you gain muscle and body fat (lean bulking) and periods where you maintain (or gain a little) muscle and lose body fat (cutting), tends to produce better results in the long run than trying to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time, all the time.

Here’s an example to illustrate my point:

Let’s say John has been weightlifting and dieting properly for a year, so he’s a solid intermediate weightlifter.

Under ideal circumstances he could probably hope to gain around 1 pound of muscle per month while lean bulking. Of course, he’s cutting, which means his rate of progress will be significantly slower.

Remember that in a calorie deficit you can expect to gain muscle at about a quarter the rate you would while in a calorie surplus, which would mean John can gain around 0.25 pounds of muscle per month.

Let’s also say he starts out at 180 pounds and 15% body fat, which means he has 153 pounds of lean body mass and 27 pounds of fat mass.

Since he’s above 10% body fat, he’ll maintain a fairly small calorie deficit (15%), so he’ll only be losing around 0.5 pounds of fat per week, or about 2 pounds per month.

If he were to recomp, here’s what his progress would look like over six months:

Muscle Gain (Cumulative)
Fat Loss (Cumulative)
Fat Mass
Lean Body Mass
Body Fat %
Month 1
Month 2
Month 3
Month 4
Month 5
Month 6

After six months, John would be 170.5 pounds and 9% body fat, with 155.5 pounds of lean body mass.

Of course, this is assuming John sticks to the plan perfectly and his body responds the same way throughout the entire process.

In reality, maintaining a 10% calorie deficit is difficult. There’s no room for error, and it’s easy to under or overestimate how much you’re eating, which can prevent you from losing fat or gaining muscle as consistently as you’d like.

For argument’s sake, though, let’s say the plan pans out as detailed above.

How would his results compare if he were to spend three months cutting followed by three months lean bulking?

Let’s say that if John were to maintain a 10% calorie surplus, he could gain about 1 pound of muscle per month along with 1 pound of fat (a reasonable goal for a guy in his second year of weightlifting).

Then, when he switches to cutting, let’s say he’s able to lose 1 pounds of fat per week (4 pounds per month) while maintaining (but not gaining) muscle.

Here’s what his progress would look like:

Muscle Gain (Cumulative)
Fat Loss (Cumulative)
Fat Mass
Lean Body Mass
Body Fat %
Month 1
Month 2
Month 3
Month 4
Month 5
Month 6

In the end, he winds up at 174 pounds and 10% body fat with 156 pounds of lean body mass.

Now, like the previous example, this is an oversimplification. In reality, John would lose slightly less fat every week as he got leaner, and he may not gain muscle quite this fast throughout the entire lean bulk, but overall it’s more accurate than not.

The bottom line is that, over the long-term, most people will make faster progress if they alternate between dedicated cycles of cutting and lean bulking than if they try to lose fat and build muscle at the same time.

While many people say that recomping allows you to stay leaner than you would cutting or lean bulking, this isn’t necessarily true, either.

In fact, if you cut down to a low body fat percentage and then carefully lean bulk afterward, you’ll actually be leaner on average than you would with recomping.

Lesen: Why Rapid Weight Loss Is Superior to “Slow Cutting” (And How to Do It Right)

Case in point, using the examples above, John’s average six-month body fat percentage while recomping was 11.5%. His average six-month body fat percentage while cutting and bulking? 10.3%.

Now, you could argue that these differences are too miniscule to matter (and they are pretty small). By recomping John winds up about 1% fatter and with about 1 less pound of muscle than if he were to cut and lean bulk.

That said, these small differences add up over time, especially when you consider that the biggest benefit of cutting and lean bulking is the simplicity and sustainability of it. You can focus your efforts on a single goal, and don’t need to be quite as careful about eating just enough to allow for muscle growth but not too much to sabotage your fat loss.

This isn’t to say that body recomposition is a bad idea for everyone.

During your first six to twelve months of weightlifting, you’ll experience significant body recomposition by just following a calorie-restricted diet and lifting weights.

Thus, trying to recomp when you’re new to proper weightlifting and dieting is not only possible, it’s inevitable. Just eat fewer calories and lift weights, and you’ll build muscle and lose fat like clockwork. (Of course, if you’re skinny and trying to gain muscle, then you should just focus on maintaining a calorie surplus and getting stronger).

Read: The “Hardgainer’s” Guide to Guaranteed Muscle Growth

After your first year or so of weightlifting, you have to more carefully micromanage your calorie intake to successfully recomp, and even then, your rate of muscle gain will slow down substantially.

And at this point, you’re better off switching to cutting and lean bulking.

Most of the people I’ve worked with who’ve tried to recomp after their first year of weightlifting ended up frittering away months of time and energy only to be disappointed with what they saw in the mirror.

Eventually, they wound up switching back to the tried-and-true method of cutting and lean bulking.

Summary: If you’re brand new to weightlifting and you want to build muscle and lose fat, maintain a calorie deficit and lift weights. If you’ve been lifting weights for more than a year and you want to achieve the same thing, you’ll make better progress by alternating between phases of cutting and lean bulking.

The Bottom Line on Body Recomposition

Everyone can build muscle and lose fat at the same time, but how much muscle you can gain while losing fat depends on a few factors.

The more years of proper weightlifting experience you have, the less muscle you’ll be able to gain at all (much less while in a calorie deficit). After your first year of weightlifting, your ability to recomp successfully largely disappears.

Restricting your calorie intake decreases the rate at which you can build muscle, which means you’ll gain muscle significantly slower when trying to “recomp” than you would when lean bulking.

To recomp effectively, then, you want to follow these four steps:

Do lots of heavy weightlifting
Maintain a small calorie deficit
Eat sufficient protein
Get enough sleep

Even if you do all of those things, though, you’ll still probably make slower progress than if you were to stick with the tried-and-true method of cutting and lean bulking. You’ll build muscle faster and lose fat faster than you would trying to recomp, and you’ll still stay lean throughout the entire process.

If you want to learn how to cut and lean bulk properly, check out these articles:

⇨ The Complete Guide to Safely and Healthily Losing Weight Fast

Why Rapid Weight Loss Is Superior to “Slow Cutting” (And How to Do It Right)

⇨ This Is the Best Macronutrient Calculator on the Net (Updated 2020)

The Ultimate Guide to Bulking Up (Without Just Getting Fat)

How to Successfully Clean Bulk In 6 Simple Steps

If you liked this article, please share it on Facebook, Twitter, or wherever you like to hang out online! 🙂

What do you think of body recomposition? Have anything else to add? Lemme know in the comments below!

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