Mastering Body Recomposition; AKA how to get toned!

posted on February 18, 2020

What is Body Recomposition?

Body recomposition is the process of maintaining your body weight whilst simultaneously building muscle and shredding fat.

When people say that they want to ‘get more toned’, body recomposition is actually what they’re referring to. It’s often thought that becoming ‘toned’ is something that your muscles do when you exercise them, but really, ‘toned’ is just a term to describe a muscular body with a low amount of fat surrounding it, thus creating the ‘toned’ look.


So what’s the difference between Body Recomposition and Weight Loss?

Imagine the muscle and fat tissue that your body is made up of. Losing weight refers to the amount of total body mass reducing, including muscle and fat decreasing together at a similar rate. Body recomp is different in that only fat is reduced from the body and muscle remains/grows.


Is Body Recomposition difficult to achieve?

The reason why body recomp can cause confusion is that you’re sort of trying to accomplish two entirely opposing goals. In order to build muscle you need to be in a calorie surplus, and in order to lose fat you need to be in a calorie deficit.


So is Body Recomposition possible?

I feel as though there’s some struggle and conflict at the moment within the fitness space. On the one hand, you shouldn’t want to lose fat because that would be conforming to diet culture and beauty standards and EVERYONE is beautiful no matter what they look like on the outside. In addition, if you want to get more toned then you’re regarded as vein, disordered and should probably self reflect inward to see your inner beauty.

So with that in mind, the most ‘PC’ thing is to actually say… f*ck this… I’m not going to tell you how to recomp. Sorry. But actually, I think it’d be irresponsible of me as a PT to say this especially when there is still so much evidence to support that fat bodies are not healthy bodies (see my separate blog on Health At Every Size). But what someone decides to do with their body is their choice. We can’t escape the fact that fitness is still so closely linked to aesthetics and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

And just remember, IT’S OK TO HAVE AESTHETIC GOALS AND WANT TO BE LEANER IF ITS GONNA MAKE YA FEEL GOOD STILL. When I really think about, I personally prefer a muscular, strong physique because it signals to me that that person is exercising and looking after their body. And having one makes me feel like a bad ass too.

Anyway… slight tangent but in short, yes, it is entirely possible to recomp. And here are my top tips on how to do it;


1. Create a Calorie Deficit

It’s impossible to shift body fat without being in a calorie deficit so you’re going to need to calculate what your BMR is (which is the amount of calories your bod needs each day to function), and make some adjustments based on your activity levels, food intake and general lifestyle. Although I don’t like the idea of counting calories in the long term because it can be a slippery slope to disordered eating, if you have any type of aesthetic goal (especially weight loss) then there needs to be an initial period of analysis where you track your energy intake and energy expenditure to understand what’s happening and make necessary adjustments. If you want to maintain your current weight then the calorie deficit for recomp only needs to be slight! If your energy deficit is too big then it’s going to make it really difficult for you to retain the muscle mass required to master recomp.


2. Eat More Protein

A common recommendation for gaining muscle is between 0.7-1.2 grams of protein per pound of body weight, but there is no definitive answer. As an example though, I’m 130 pounds so therefore my target is around 130g of protein per day. Sounds like a lot… I know. Most people are not eating enough protein each day and so need to make some adaptations to their diet to fit it all in. Protein is super important for recomp because it helps your muscles grow and recover after your weight training sessions… which leads me onto point 3.


3. Lift Weights.

There are a million reasons why lifting weights is a good idea. I genuinely worry for my older relatives who are beginning to naturally lose muscle mass which will eventually result in frailty. Frailty CAN be largely postponed and the later years of your life can significantly be improved by incorporating weight training. You don’t have to be lifting stupidly heavy weights whilst grunting and sweating like a bodybuilder. But practising correct, functional movement with resistance is so important for maintaining ability in our later years. But when it comes to aesthetics, obviously weight lifting trumps everything else. Ultimately, to look toned you need to achieve hypertrophy (muscle growth), and weight lifting is going to give you the muscle shape that you need to ‘poke through’ the now thinner layer of fat (due to your calorie deficit).


In Conclusion

So those are my top 3 tips, create a slight calorie deficit to aid in fat loss, lift weights and eat all the protein in order to build muscle. Lifting weights and eating plenty of protein is pretty much my daily mantra and is why my bod stays muscular all year round.

Like any specific aesthetic goal, you’ll probably reach it faster and more efficiently with help from a PT, nutritionist or lifestyle coach (ideally a combo of the 3). Effectiveness of a body recomp can be influenced by many factors including genetics and timing so partner up with someone who can put together a proper programme for you!