Guest Post: Andi Singer works with www.ihmonline.com, an HMR company based out of the San Diego area, to spread health and fitness tips around the web. She lost 60lbs several years back and has not only maintained her weight loss, but has completely transformed her body in the meantime.
Many of us dream of losing weight, be it 50lbs or just the last 5lbs. Weight loss is great and can help you become healthier, but really what we should be striving for is to lose body fat while also gaining lean muscle mass and strength.
Body recomposition is the process of maintaining your actual body weight, but adjusting the composition of your body– losing fat and gaining muscle mass. The result is a leaner, tighter, stronger body.
To put it into perspective: two years ago I weighed 155lbs and wore size 8-10 jeans. Today I weight 155lbs and wear size 0-2 jeans. How? Because muscle is so dense, one pound of it takes up a whole lot less space than one pound of fat.
Know How Many Calories You Need
When you want to maintain weight but gain muscle, it is important to know approximately how many calories you need. If you are at a caloric deficit you may lose weight, and if you are at a caloric surplus you may gain weight. The point with recomposition is to maintain actual body weight, but change what the weight is composed of.
How do you know how many calories you need? There are different ways to determine this. One way is simply by experimenting.
How does your body react when you eat 1800 calories? If you lose weight or feel fatigued, chances are you’re not eating enough. Alternatively, if you have trouble eating that much or gain weight, it might be too much. You can aim for a certain calorie amount for a week, take a look at your weight and assess how you feel, and adjust it until you find the perfect number.
You can also use a tool like the TDEE calculator (total daily energy expenditure) to get an idea of how much you should be eating. This assesses how much fuel you need based on age, sex, height, weight, and approximate activity level. Again, it’s not exact because we all do different types of activities and our bodies all react differently. You can use your TDEE as a starting point, and work up or down from there based on your results.
Know How Much Protein and Nutrients You Need
Protein is a vital macronutrient when you are trying to gain muscle mass. If you do not get enough protein your body will not be able to properly recover and heal the muscles you’ve worked out so hard.
Tools like the TDEE calculator can help you estimate how much protein you need, but again it’s very individual. Animal-derived proteins such as meat, eggs, whey, and casein are usually processed most efficiently by the body. If you are vegetarian or vegan, there are plenty of great protein powder options like soy, pea, and rice, or you can try to add more whole food proteins like dry or fresh peas, nuts, and soy products like tofu and tempeh.
Carbohydrates and fats can also play a part in body composition. Opinions and data fly around the internet and it’s hard to determine what’s true and what’s false. Try different things to see what your body reacts to the best. Some people will do just fine eating a diet full of carbohydrates and lower in fats, while others will easily trim down with very little grains and high amounts of saturated fats.
Know What Activity You Need
To be blunt, aerobic dance classes are not going to be a successful approach to body recomposition. The goal is to build muscle and strength, and lose body fat, so knowing what activities will accomplish this is vital.
Lifting weights is the only real way to substantially improve muscle mass and muscle tone. Plan on lifting weights 3-5 days a week for at least half an hour, and focus on multi-joint functional movements such as bench press, deadlifts, military press, and squats. Exercises like push ups, pull ups, planks, and other bodyweight exercises are also great and should be used as accessory to your main movements.
Some people can lose body fat simply by lifting weights, while others need cardo as well. Every body is different, and so you will see different results than other people. High intensity cardio and conditioning is the best way to torch fat. What’s important is that you are not going moderate and then in your intensity periods goin harder, but that you are going moderate and in your intensity periods you are going as hard as you possibly can until failure.
Try different things to see what your body reacts to, and take notes in a daily journal or activity/food log so that in the future you can look back and see what methods were the most effective for you. Ultimately body recomposition is the same as weight loss or intentional weight gain: the better you know your body, the more success you will have.