Body recomposition is an unusual and quite costly process, in which muscle mass can be gained and fat can be lost in the same diet and exercise intervention.
When people engage in diet and training services they often use the phrase "I want to get clean" to refer to a strategy whereby they can gain muscle mass without overly covering up, especially in the abdominal area.
It is a process that, although it may occur in some subjects at a physiological level, it is not normal; let's bear in mind that these are opposite objectives:
- To lose fat we must ingest less than we expend, thus creating a calorie deficit.
- To gain muscle there must be a caloric surplus in our diet. This is a very energetically costly process since, in order to build tissue, muscle protein synthesis must be stimulated.
IN WHAT CONTEXTS CAN IT HAPPEN MORE EASILY?
In beginners in training, in profiles that are overweight or obese, or in athletes who are bedridden or immobilised due to injury or illness, who respond with this body recomposition when they return, thanks to what is known as "muscle memory".
It could be said that this type of profile suffers from anabolic resistance, i.e. their muscle protein synthesis is down-regulated and their muscle protein degradation is up-regulated. When they have the right approach with the right diet and strength training, they stimulate muscle protein synthesis upwards and their tissue responds quickly when it comes to creating muscle mass, so being on a normal-calorie diet and even in the deficit they can gain muscle and lose fat. Obviously in any case genetics has a lot to say.
HOW CAN A MORE ADVANCED ATHLETE ACHIEVE THAT LONGED-FOR BODY RECOMPOSITION?
Healthy and experienced athletes can also achieve it. Concurrent training is the most effective way to achieve this, i.e. combining strength and aerobic endurance. We should bear in mind that it would be an effective intervention whether the combination is given in the same session or if double training is carried out.
Actually, the diet part can be the most complicated part; adjusting calories is not easy, it is necessary to follow up, as it rarely hits the target the first time. Although it could be said that the idea is to stick to a normal caloric diet, with a slight deficit if necessary. Let's bear in mind that we need to be able to perform in training, so I stress the word "light".
WHAT PILLARS SHOULD WE RELY ON TO OPTIMISE THIS PROCESS?
High protein intake.
Adequate rest due to the catabolic environment caused by a lack of sleep.
MORE THAN INTERESTING SUPPLEMENTS
- Creatine monohydrate can help. It helps both to preserve muscle mass and to optimise the fat oxidation process, among many other benefits.
- Omega 3. EPA and DHA modulate inflammation and muscle regeneration after training, a key process for increasing muscle mass. In addition, after intense workouts, it seems to help reduce muscle pain.
- Take vitamin D into account if we have a vitamin D deficiency or advanced age, as it could help to improve our strength and muscle mass.
- Whey protein is also a very interesting supplement if we do not meet our requirements through food.
WHAT CAN HAPPEN IF WE DO PERIODS OF EXTREME DEFINITION?
And when I say extreme I mean competition fitness mode in which definition is certainly achieved while maintaining muscle mass.
If we reach very low levels of fat, below 9-10% in men and 17-18% in women, what happens is that the body goes into alert mode, because energy reserves are very low.
Subsequently, a normal caloric diet or even a diet focused on surplus will be sought in order to get out of this extreme definition and gain volume. The body will prioritise the accumulation of fat for pure survival and when it reaches values it considers safe, it will start to increase muscle mass.
That is why an exaggerated calorie deficit approach is neither advisable nor sustainable over time because in addition to being unsustainable, it has its repercussions. A more moderate and therefore more bearable deficit will always be more recommendable.
RECOMMENDATIONS SO THAT YOU CAN ACHIEVE IT WITHOUT THROWING IN THE TOWEL
Enjoy your training: choose a professional to lead your training sessions, with the overload you need and commitment on both sides. The fact of being clear about what you have to do at all times rather than thinking "let's see what I train today" will help you to be more demanding with yourself.
Definitely enjoy every meal: eating is a pleasure, and thinking about a boring diet can be very difficult to maintain in the long run, so it is necessary to have tasty and varied menus while controlling calories.
Don't overlook the rest. We all know this, but in practice and with the pace of life we lead, if we have to cut back somewhere we end up cutting back on sleep and this is simply not an option. Remember the hormonal environment and the balance between hunger and satiety; a good rest has a lot to do with it.
In subjects who are looking for that longed-for body recomposition and find it more difficult than others because they do not have such privileged genetics, the recommendation would be to eat a fair norm caloric diet that lasts over time, and through progressive overload, training will undoubtedly create more muscle mass in the long run and eliminate fat at the same time. The only thing left to do is to include patience in this equation.
Nutritionist and personal trainer