Aggiornato il: 11 dic 2020
Who is re comp good for?
Should you bulk, re comp or cut?
How long should you re comp for?
Step 1 - Train to build muscle
Step 2 - Eat protein
Step 3 - Sleep, recover and manage stress
Step 4 - Eat the right amount
How do I know is working?
What's the difference between maintenance and re comp?
A Final Word
My client Simone is a perfect example of how to re comp on a medium-term. He achieved that with a long little calorie deficit. You can notice how although the fat mass reduced he was able to increase his muscle mass slightly.
A bad reputation
Body re comp has a really bad reputation.
A lot of coaches think you should either build muscle or lose fat with transition periods of maintaining your body weight.
I am not trying to prove those coaches wrong. After all body re comp is a viable way of training and eating which works perfectly for a lot of people and wouldn't work for many other.
In this article, I will teach what body re comp is, who is it good for and how to do it properly so you don’t get to spend time, energy, money and effort on it and see no results.
Who is re comp good for?
Before we dig into the nitty-gritty of body re comp I’d like to mention a story about what was my experience with it.
Back in 2018 I just finished my first bodybuilding competition.
In the following 2 years, I had a lot on my plate. I was building an online coaching business and training about 30-32 people at a commercial gym as a personal trainer. I was consistently training 4-5 times/week after all the gym was my second home. I also was comfortable with my muscle mass and body fat so I didn’t want to a) Start gaining fat straight away and b) have the stress of ‘’having to grow’’.
I found myself in a very good place where I was eating mostly from whole and minimally processed food, was enjoying my training, progressing nicely in all the exercises and my body weight stayed the same.
So I started taking pictures and I realised that although my body weight didn’t change much and perhaps even went down slightly I could notice a little improvement.
The reality is that any process of fat loss or extreme muscle building is a stress for the body.
Your body wouldn’t naturally go through those processes by itself. It’s a voluntary attempt to change our body composition. And despite what some coaches say (‘’If you’re not cutting you should be bulking’’) I found myself working really well at maintenance / little surplus most of the time.
Stress was not a problem and I could happily focus on my other projects.
All you need to do is, understand if body re comp is for you, improve your daily healthy nutrition habits and focus your training.
Body re comp is the process of increased fat-free mass and decreased body fat.
Sometimes a re comp will be best achieved through a calorie surplus, sometimes it will be maintenance calories, and often it will mean a slight calorie deficit.
If it is good for you depends on your body-fat level and training status.
Body-re comp is good for:
Novice trainees (0-3 months experience) ;
Relatively lean individuals. People with a body-fat of 12-23% who don’t have a very developed muscle-mass and little excess of body-fat (often around the belly area) sometimes this category is referred to as ‘’skinny fat’’;
Trainees coming back to training after a long stop or an injury (3 months +);
Trainees who have been training for a while but didn’t train with good form, intensity, volume or attention to nutrition, recovery or other important aspects of their health.
So, should you re comp, cut or bulk?
This a tough question let's narrow it down a bit. If:
You haven't lifted weights since 10th-grade gym class.
You experience constant "sugar crashes" or "brain fog," such as fatigue, low energy, or difficulty with your focus, memory, or concentration.
You pass on protein-packed foods.
Your belly is bigger than the rest of your body. "Look for abnormal body fat in the mid-section, similar to an apple shape,".
Your diet regularly consists of excess carbohydrates, artificial sweeteners, added sugar, fats or processed foods in general.
Workouts feel like a burden and you struggle to get stronger.
Then probably re comp is a good solution for you.
Consider this, if you are new to training and you were pretty much sedentary, training will not only make you burn more calories but will also give you a more finely tuned hunger signal.
In the first few months of training even if your body-weight stays the same you will gain some muscle and this will overall lower your body-fat. Your metabolic health will also improve thanks to resistance training.(7)
This being said, in some cases, you might still want to start a fat loss even if your body fat is, in this case, you’d start losing fat and speeding up that process.
In other cases re comp happens with a little surplus ( I find myself in this group).
Your energy expenditure or deficit will impact a lot your level of activity, in some cases, people need over 1000 calories a day to successfully build muscle at the best rate whilst others can be fine with as little as 300. (2)
How long should you try to re comp for?
You can run this cycle as long as your current goals are achieved and as long as you’re happy with your current look.
Sometimes people after a few months into eating and training at maintenance decide to have performance goals (such as running a marathon), either build muscle or lose fat(such as a bodybuilding contest, photoshoot or simply to get in shape for the holidays).
Perhaps you think you’d like bigger arms or glutes (muscle building) or perhaps you’d really like to see those love handles (fat loss) disappear once for all. Those are two completely different processes.
You could run a body re comp for months or years.
You will have the energy to enjoy the feeling of improving in your workouts and the normal social food occasions won’t be a problem.
If you have a little more body fat but you really love food and you don’t want to give up those Friday night indulgences, consider that the best range for gaining fat-free mass is somewhere between 10% and 20% body fat and 17% - 27% for a woman.
In the end, if you’ve been lifting for a while (6+ months) and you’re not sure if you should gain muscle or lose fat, the decision can only be yours.
So let’s discover how to re comp, shall we?
Step 1 - Train to build muscle
Focus on building muscle and strength. You are showing up to the gym to lift heavier weights and get stronger.
This is the only way to trigger muscle hypertrophy and strength adaptations.
Pick up a training program you like, enjoy and are consistent with.
Start from a relatively low enough training volume, and eventually add sets until you find what works best for you.
10 Training sets/week might be enough for a beginner after you run 2-3 months of this you might feel like you need more so you might want to increase your volume to 20 sets per muscle group/week.
Most of us will find their sweet spot in the 10-20 training sets per muscle group/week.
Mind that if you are adding weight on each lift week by week, you feel good, full of energy, you’re happy about the number you see on the scale, clothes fit better and other people notice a change in your look, you don’t need to mix things up.
One of the worst mistakes some people make is changing training plan too often without seeing any long-term difference.
Step 2 - Eat Protein
Eating enough protein is a fundamental requirement when trying to build muscle.
-Greater level of physical activity increases your protein requirements. (3)
-Protein are harder to digest. Protein have what is called a higher thermogenic effect than fat and carbs. That means your body will burn off some of the calories contained in the protein you eat.
-Protein are needed to support protein synthesis, the process of building new muscle.
Eat at least 1.6-2.6 g of protein / Kg of body weight or 1g/lbs of body weight from whole and minimally processed sources and you will get enough protein to successfully build muscle.
When it comes to sources, unless you're vegan or vegetarian, you don't have to worry about the sources you get the protein from.
It's always best to have a broad variety of food in your diet but animal protein sources contains all the essential amino acids you need for muscle growth. If you take those protein from plant-based sources you will need to mix different sources together (eg. Peas, chickpeas,soy and seitan) to achieve the same result.
Step 3 - Sleep, Recover and Manage Stress
Sleeping is another very important step in training for re comp.
You know you need to improve your sleep and recovery habits if:
-Your mind is foggy;
-You have a low motivation to train;
-Workouts feels like a burden;
-You are sore for multiple days every week;
-You have low energy and endurance;
-You have a slow reaction time;
-You’re always hungry;
-You get sick a lot;
-You’re irritable or moody;
-You forget things.
Get at least 7-9 hours of good quality sleep and check your sleep hygiene habits. Have 1-3 days off / week and make sure that when you train, your muscles feel ready to smash a workout.
Step 4 - Eat the right amount
To achieve body a re comp you will have to:
-Eat enough so that you eat don’t lose more than 0.5% of your current body weight/week (3);
-Eat enough so that you bodyweight doesn’t increase more than 1.5%of your current body weight/month;
After the first 3-4 weeks of eating a certain amount of calories if you’re still losing more than 0.7% / week, you should continue without changing anything until you’re happy with your body-fat, that’s a very sustainable rhythm of fat-loss.
On the other side, if after 3-4 weeks of eating a certain amount you’re still gaining more than 1.5% of your body-weight / month you can either keep building muscle or decrease your calorie intake and either maintain or lose fat.
Eating within this range will allow you to recover from your workouts, build muscle and have enough food on the table so you can still enjoy any social occasion.
How do I know it’s working?
1) If your body weight doesn’t increase more than 1.5% / month nor decrease faster than 0.7% / week; 2) performances at the gym are improving;
3) clothes fit better;
4) Visually you look better;
5) You feel you could do this for a long time.
How is re comp different from maintenance?
Re comp has the goal of changing your current body fat/muscle ratio (P ratio).
Eating at maintenance could instead be a viable option for many people who have healthy habits and don’t exercise at all because they are happy about the way they look and feel (although if they are really healthy, they will practice some sort of movement).
A final word
Regardless of what I say here if you feel like trying something do it. There's nothing more powerful than personal experience in your fitness journey. Use the information contained in this guide to make the best choice in regards to your diet and training.
Thank you for reading.
If you found this useful, you’re sure to get a lot out of my Fat Loss Guide for busy professionals.
The Muscle & strength pyramid: Nutrition. Second edition. E. Helms, A. Morgan, A. Valdez;
Project bodybuilding. Fabrizio Liparoti;
The Lean Muscle Diet. A. Aragon, L. Schouler.