BlogPhysical ActivityBody Recomposition for Women: Lose Fat and Gain Muscle at the Same Time

Body Recomposition for Women: Lose Fat and Gain Muscle at the Same Time

Mariia Roza
Written by Mariia Roza on April 30, 2021

Table of contents

Body recomposition that is also known as gaining muscle and losing fat at the same time, is extremely popular among men who want to improve their physique and offensively underestimated by female dieters. Here are some basics on body recomposition and some quick explanations why you shouldn’t neglect this opportunity to become leaner and stronger at the same time!

Three main benefits of body recomposition for women

First of all, just in case you might have thought of it, let’s bust one myth. Fat doesn’t transform into muscle during body recomposition. These are two different tissues and they metabolize differently. However, if you have excess body fat and want to build muscle, your body can metabolize fat into energy and fuel your muscle even if you’re in a caloric deficit. With this being said, here are three main benefits of body recomposition.

1. You can eat more staying on a slight caloric deficit

You can eat up to 200 calories more every day while on a body recomposition meal plan. The thing is, an average calorie restriction diet offers you to cut off 20-25% of your calorie intake which is usually about 500 calories to lose weight. 

In case of body recomposition, you should stay near your maintenance level. Your daily calorie intake will vary from day to day but over a week you will be approximately at your maintenance level.

2. You can increase your calorie maintenance level in the long run

Lean mass needs more energy(1) than body fat. This means that by increasing your muscle mass and decreasing your body fat percentage, you will be able to increase your metabolism as your body will burn more energy to fuel every additional pound of muscle you’ve built instead of fat. This means that in the long run, you will be able to eat slightly more calories than the person of your height and weight but with a lower lean mass percentage.

3. You become stronger and obtain muscle definition

Fashion on feminine physique changes every decade. Today, these are toned fitness models with defined glutes, hands, and abs. As for me, it looks damn good! What’s more, seeing how you become stronger day after day, lifting heavier weights, gives you the feeling of self-confidence we all need.

Lifting weights helps building muscles | Unsplash
Lifting weights helps building muscles | Unsplash

Who will benefit from body recomposition the most?

According to the 2020 study(2), there are three main groups of people who can see the results of body recomposition. Fortunately, this is the largest part of people going to the gyms or thinking about their nutrition.

The beginners

If you’ve never lifted weights before or if you’ve never pushed yourself hard enough in the gym, you will be astonished at how fast you will make progress at the beginning of your body recomposition.

Beginners can start body recomposition faster | Unsplash
Beginners can start body recomposition faster | Unsplash

What’s specifically interesting, you can be an elite football player or dancer, but when you change your workout routine and switch to weight lifting, you can see the results of body recomposition even if you’re not a newbie.

Re-starters

If you had to take a pause in your training, restarting it again might be a great point to try body recomposition. If you had a pause of several weeks or months, your muscle memory(3) will help you hit new heights while you’re restarting your workout routine.

Overweight and obese people

If you have a lot of fat tissue, your body will always have a source of energy it can burn to fuel muscle.

Nutrition for body recomposition

Even though the exact number of calories and macronutrient proportions will depend on your weight and body fat percentage, we can surely say that the calorie deficit during the body recomposition should be much smaller than during the average restrictive diet.

Calorie cycling

To stay in a caloric deficit to lose body fat and to get enough calories for proper performance in the gym, calorie cycling is applied. This approach means that you should stay in a small calorie deficit of about 10% during your “rest days” and add 15% to your maintenance calories during “workout days.” 

Workout days are only those when you’ve actively lifted weights and followed your workout program. During your resting days, you can add to your schedule some cardio, like long walks or biking. Refrain from marathon runs or high-intensity interval training during your off days, otherwise, your body will have no time to recover.

Protein is important

On the one hand, studies state that you don’t need more than 0,8 g of protein per kg if you want to gain muscle, however other research(4) shows that people who succeeded(5) in body recomposition consumed 2.4 to 3.4 g of protein per kg a day.

While planning your meals, remember that your body can’t utilize(6) the large portion of protein at once, so it’s better to eat your protein with all meals throughout the day and not in one sitting.

Some studies(7) also show that too high protein intake can lead to kidney stones and other health problems, so consult your doctor before you opt for a high-protein diet. Your gastrointestinal tract can also be distressed by higher levels of protein in your diet, so always analyze how you feel and never harm your body for the sake of a more slender physique.

Let’s put it on my example

I’m 5’3” (162 cm) weighing 132 pounds (60 kg). I haven’t worked out for almost two months because of the lockdown restrictions and a lot of stress I’ve been through during these months.

  • My maintenance level according to the Mifflin-St Jeor formula is 1550 calories per day.
  • In days of training, I will have to add 15% to this number, which will equal 1780 calories.
  • In days of rest, I will have to subtract 10% from my maintenance, which will equal 1395 calories.

Now, let’s get to my macros.

Protein

As a person who wants to build muscle and lose fat at the same time, I will follow scientifically-based recommendations and consume 2.4 g of protein per 1 kg of my bodyweight. This will be 144 of protein per day which will compose 32% of my training days calorie intake and 37% of my resting day’s calories.

Fat

Females are recommended to eat 0.8-1 g of fat per 1 kg of body weight a day. I choose the lower value of the range as I want to add more carbs to my diet. So, daily I will consume 48 g of fat which will compose 24% of my training days’ calorie intake and 28% of my resting day’s calories. This might sound too much, but practice shows that my body reacts badly to low-fat diets.

Carbs

This means that I can take the rest of 40% of my calories from carbs. Carbs will help me boost the efficiency of my training sessions and hopefully will help me become stronger.

What’s in total?

A 32-year old woman with about 25% of body fat, 5’3’’ tall, who weighs 132 pounds will need for a body recomposition:

On training days: 

  • Calories: 1780
  • Proteins: 144 grams or 32%
  • Fats: 48 grams or 24%
  • Carbs: 193 grams or 44% of total daily calorie intake.

On resting days: 

  • Calories: 1395
  • Proteins: 144 grams or 41% of total intake
  • Fats: 48 grams or 31% of total intake
  • Carbs: 97 grams or 28% of total daily calorie intake.

Remember that the correct diet is always a key to your body changes.

Working out for body recomposition

For a successful body recomposition, you will need a weight-lifting program. Hire a trainer if you’re a novice to make sure that you do some basic movements the right way. All in all, what’s required for muscle growth is progressive overload intensity training, when you increase reps or weight lifted week by week. If you don’t feel like lifting weights is something you want to do, try out some other activities that make your body work!

Cross-fit is quite efficient for body recomposition | Unsplash
Cross-fit is quite efficient for body recomposition | Unsplash

For example, you can try out cross-fit. These are strength and conditioning fitness regimens that will fit you both if you’ve just started working out and if you’ve been years into fitness. Another great workout plan is Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. This is a martial art that develops your muscles and makes you stronger. Whatever program you choose, just remember pushing yourself a bit harder while aiming at simultaneously losing fat and building muscle. On the contrary, cardio is not that necessary during the body recomposition workout protocol.

1. Using scales

It’s more difficult to track your progress as your weight might not change. Use tape measurement at the same spots and take photos of your progress. And of course, enjoy the new strength you develop!

2. Insufficient sleep

When building muscle and losing fat at the same time, your body makes tremendous efforts! It needs at least some good amount of sleep to recover. The connection between reduced sleep and weight gain is proven(8) by science, so if you’re serious about body recomposition, try to have at least eight hours of sleep per day.

3. Too harsh restrictions

Body recomposition is not an average diet. If you want to move faster, just cut your calories and add cardio to your regimen. However, by choosing this path, you won’t be able to build a nicely toned muscle frame that makes all the difference when it comes to how your body looks and not how much it weights. Remember that 10% caloric deficit on your resting days is enough for steady recomposition.

4. Protein powder instead of natural protein sources

There are multiple supplements popular in the fitness industry and protein powder is one of the best studies, namely there are studies showing that protein supplements can boost(9) muscle growth. On the other hand, there are also canned tuna, chicken breasts, and egg whites that are more than a quarter of protein and also make you feel full and satiated for longer. Just don’t make protein shakes your main source of protein.

5. Setting too high expectations

Body recomposition takes time. Deal with it and get ready for a marathon, not a sprint. We can’t emphasize enough the importance of consistency. Stay true to your workout and nutrition plan, and in ten to twelve weeks you will see amazing results.

Summing up

Body recomposition is a restrictive eating and workout regimen. To make it happen, you have to count calories rigidly and push yourself hard in the gym. This is not a sustainable way of healthy eating but a regimen restricted in time. As it is high in protein and includes intense physical activity, you should consult your doctor before you try following it.

Sources

  • McPherron A. C., Guo T., Bond N. D., Gavrilova O. (2013, April 1). Increasing muscle mass to improve metabolism. Adipocyte. DOI: 10.4161/adip.22500
  • Barakat C., Pearson J., Escalante G., Campbell B. (2020, August). Body Recomposition: Can Trained Individuals Build Muscle and Lose Fat at the Same Time? Strength and Conditioning Journal. DOI:10.1519/SSC.0000000000000584
  • Gundersen K. (2016, January). Muscle memory and a new cellular model for muscle atrophy and hypertrophy. The Journal of Experimental Biology. DOI: 10.1242/jeb.124495
  • Longland T. M., Oikawa S. Y., Mitchell C. J., et al. (2016, March). Higher Compared with Lower Dietary Protein during an Energy Deficit Combined with Intense Exercise Promotes Greater Lean Mass Gain and Fat Mass Loss: A Randomized Trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. DOI: 10.3945/ajcn.115.119339
  • Campbell B. I., Aguilar D.., Conlin L. (2018, November). Effects of High Versus Low Protein Intake on Body Composition and Maximal Strength in Aspiring Female Physique Athletes Engaging in an 8-Week Resistance Training Program. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism. DOI: 10.1123/ijsnem.2017-0389
  • Yasuda J., Tomita T., Arimitsu T. (2020, April 22). Evenly Distributed Protein Intake over 3 Meals Augments Resistance Exercise-Induced Muscle Hypertrophy in Healthy Young Men. The Journal of Nutrition. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxaa101
  • Ko G. J., Obi Y., Tortoricci A. R., et al. (2017, January). Dietary Protein Intake and Chronic Kidney Disease. Current Opinion on Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care. DOI: 10.1097/MCO.0000000000000342
  • Patel S. R., Malhotra A. White D. P., et al. (2006, November 15). Association between Reduced Sleep and Weight Gain in Women. American Journal of Epidemiology. https://doi.org/10.1093/aje/kwj280
  • Cintineo H. P., Arent M. A., Antonio J., et al. (2018, September). Effects of Protein Supplementation on Performance and Recovery in Resistance and Endurance Training. Frontiers in Nutrition. DOI: 10.3389/fnut.2018.00083