Losing fat and gaining muscle simultaneously
The ‘numero uno’ goal of the majority of male lifters worldwide is to pull strings with the body recomposition (losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time), and somehow gain an appreciable amount of muscle with Nuff fat loss.
If you succeed in achieving this goal, not only you’ll save a considerable amount of time, energy, and frustration while trying to achieve fat loss and muscle gain separately, but, you’ll be able to achieve your dream physique right away.
However, it’s easier said than done.
Think about it realistically for a moment. Do you actually have anyone in your known who’d pulled this trick ‘naturally’? (See the featured pic above for reference) Probably not! Then why do you keep believing that it’s possible for you to it attain through some obscure dietary combination & training permutation?
Well, you may respond that Pro-athletes and movie stars are to be blamed who ‘inspire’ you through their jaw-dropping overnight physique transformations. Notably, given the circumstances, this sub-section of lifters consider all means of achieving success to be fair. You may not likely want to go to the same extreme extents.
Does this mean that losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time is just a hogwash, and will always be off-limits for you?
Listen to what your body has to say about achieving this goal of yours.
Physiology and Body-Recomposition
Losing fat and gaining muscle are opposite goals by nature. Losing fat requires a calorie deficit so that your body may turn to stored fat as a source of fuel. Gaining muscle on the other depends upon the caloric surplus, so that your body may be in a situation to utilize extra energy for protein synthesis and lean mass building. But the way your body works is even more complicated than any energy balance equation based on thermodynamics.
Your natural capacity to recompose (lose fat and gain muscle) at any given time is dictated by your physiological hormonal balance. If your hormones are out of whack, you’ll have a hell of a time trying to recompose. This is one of the big reasons why steroid users get such great results, they’re not only able to bypass the hormone-balance equation but they put their physiology in a ‘turbo’ mode regarding anabolism.
So, not only it would be foolish and pointless to try to emulate the same results as a steroid user, it may also be counterproductive to imitate the methods of a juicer.
The results that a natural lifter achieves from a properly planned & executed body recomposition phase are not that extreme, but they’re still significant and measurable.
Major hormones that play a key role in a natural body transformation are Testosterone, Growth Hormone, IGF-1, Cortisol, Insulin, Thyroid (TSH, T3 & T4), Leptin, Ghrelin, and Adrenaline. The hormonal equilibrium in your body is affected by the changes in caloric intake and expenditure in order to maintain homeostasis. Hence, it is critical to strike a somewhat balance in the regulation of these hormones through suitable dietary and training interventions.
Selection of Appropriate Diet
Many bodybuilders like to go the ‘low fat-moderate carbs’ diet route for a body recomposition phase. The thinking behind employing this method is that a moderate amount of carbs is needed to be ingested to fuel training & performance. Also, carbs are protein sparing and insulinogenic (stimulates the production of insulin). And insulin is a key anabolic hormone which promotes protein synthesis (muscle building) through various mechanisms. Moreover, carbs are also anti-catabolic and lead to lower level of stress hormones which typically arise during a hypocaloric diet and intense training. It really looks like a win-win situation.
The major shortcoming of such a diet is that reducing calories, mainly from fats, hamper the production of sex hormones, primarily testosterone. As it’s well known that testosterone hormone is decisive for the maintenance and growth of muscle mass, and the lowered levels of this hormone lead to muscular atrophy. The primary reason why steroid users are able to gain substantial amounts of muscle even on a lowered caloric intake is due to augmented levels of this hormone and its anabolic derivatives. Nevermind, the steroid users overlook the importance of fats in their diet.
Are You Eligible for Body Recomposition?
It is paramount to assert your eligibility for a successful body recomposition. Not everyone is in the suitable situation to exhibit great visual results from it. Typically, beginners and people with body fat percentage on a little higher side are in favorable position to pull it successfully.
The reason with beginners is that they’re so far-off from their natural growth potential that any training stimulus provides them an opportunity to accumulate muscle mass even when calories are not surplus. This enables a beginner to gain a good amount of lean mass while cutting some fat causing the total body weight to stay at nearly the same level while the overall appearance changes dramatically.
A little higher body fat levels lend themselves as energy resources for the synthesizing of muscle in a slight caloric deficit. This allows a lifter to cut a lot of body fat while gaining some muscle causing the overall weight to go down but with striking visual changes in the look of physique. But if the calorie deficit is too high this effect wanes.
You can see in the above situations that either you’re able to maintain body weight or it goes down, but what certainly doesn’t happen is the decrease in body fat percentage accompanied by weight gain. You potentially need something ‘extra’ to achieve it.
If your body fat is too high, then your physiology and hormones are already in a compromised position and you don’t reap desired outcomes. It’s better for you to first cut an appreciable amount of body fat before embarking on any such intervention. This will improve your insulin sensitivity and will put you in a favorable position to gain lean mass while still reducing fat. The sweet spot for initiating a body recomposition phase is about 20% body fat level or just below.
Also, if you are already a lean person, say, 9-10% body-fat, and want to get shredded to a 6% body fat level; body recomposition method is not advisable to you. At this level a person requires extreme measures to achieve further leanness and muscle loss is inevitable for a natural lifter in this situation.
Part 2 will cover nutrition and training strategies to accomplish a successful body recomposition, and Part 3 will cover advanced body recomposition methods.
- Dulloo, Abdul G., J. Jacquet, and Lucien Girardier. “Autoregulation of body composition during weight recovery in human: the Minnesota Experiment revisited.” International journal of obesity and related metabolic disorders: journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity 20.5 (1996): 393-405.
- Hulmi, Juha J., et al. “The effects of intensive weight reduction on body composition and serum hormones in female fitness competitors.” Frontiers in Physiology 7 (2017): 689.
- Keys, Ancel, et al. “The biology of human starvation.(2 vols).” (1950).