Nuts & Bolts of Losing Fat and Gaining Muscle at the Same Time
Nutrition plays a key role in a successful body transformation (losing fat and gaining muscle simultaneously). At the same time, the importance of an appropriate training program and rightly dosed strength work can’t be undermined. In fact, for really great results from a body recomposition phase, correct training is as much important as right diet. Like Dorian Yates once said, Training is 100%, Nutrition is 100%, Recovery is 100%.
Nutrition and Body Recomposition
Nutrition wise, you need to make sure that you ingest right nutrients at the right times, so as to promote anabolism as well as cut body fat. Calorically, it means that you need to stay at your maintenance* level or slightly below it.
Maintenance* level of calories is the minimum amount of calories your body requires to sustain your current body mass and activity level.
If you don’t know about your maintenance level of calories just multiply your body weight in Kg (or Lean Body Mass in Kg, if you’re over 20% body fat) by 33. You can also use any of the available free online calculators to do the job. Example, if your weight is 70 Kg, then your maintenance is around 70 X 33 = 2310 calories.
The number you get is a rough estimate. It can vary from person to person depending upon age, lifestyle/activity level, sex, and genetics. You may need to tinker up or down this number to individualize and find your exact maintenance level. Individualization shouldn’t be news to you if you’re a regular reader of ISST. We had always stressed upon the need for individualization to optimize training as well as nutrition.
Case of Aamir Khan
Actor Aamir Khan during his epic Dangal transformation utilized a roughly 1500-1800 calorie diet for the first 3 weeks during his training at Canyon Ranch. At that time his body weight was about 97 Kg with a roughly 35 percent body fat. So his maintenance turns out to be: 97 X (1 - 0.35) X 33 = 2080 0r 2000 calories So Aamir Khan was eating slightly below maintenance, but he created a huge calorie deficit by training 6 to 8 hours every day which helped him lose 6 Kg of fat in that 3 week period. For rest of his transformation, he utilized a calorie cycling approach undulating his calories between 1800 to 2200 calories.
Aamir Khan's Dangal movie transformation
Next, fixate your protein intake at 1.75 to 2.2 gram per Kg of body weight, and fat intake at 20% of your maintenance calorie intake. For a 70 Kg individual with a maintenance of 2310 calories, it means between 122 gm (1.75 X 70) and 154 gm (2.2 X 70) of protein daily, and about 462 calories from fat* (2310 X 0.20) or 51 gm (462 ÷ 9) of fat.
Calories from Fat*: 1 gm of Fat provides 9 calories, and 1 gram of Protein or Carbohydrates provides 4 calories.
Timely assessment and appraisal of your body re-composition progress are crucial for a successful body transformation. The below points based on the scientific method of investigation will make your journey easier and stress-free.
- Every couple of weeks assess your fat loss and make changes accordingly. You should be losing 0.5 Kg fat per week and no more.
- If after 2 weeks you haven’t lost any weight, subtract 250 calories from your diet. Reduce your calories from the carbs initially, and only after your carbs reach at a minimally acceptable level reduce calories from fats and proteins.
- If still, you haven’t lost any fat further, up your activity level by 1 hour total each week. At least half of this activity should come from high-intensity training.
For eg, if you’re doing 2 weekly high-intensity cardio sessions lasting 15 mins each, then up the frequency to 3 weekly sessions lasting 20 mins each session along with a 30 min session of low-intensity cardio or any sport of your choice.
- The lowest level to which you should decrease your calories is body weight (Kg) X 22 and no further. Cutting calories further than this is not conducive for recomposition.
- Also, make a judicious use of targeted carbs intake through proper nutrient timing. Put your carb containing meals in the breakfast and/or around your training when your insulin sensitivity is higher. This will assist in lean muscle growth.
Role of Training
Regarding training, keep the intensity of your training high-ish, around 5 to 8 rep-max range. Don’t bother much about your max or absolute strength unless you’re a powerlifter/weightlifter. The truth is relative strength and rate of force development are the primary goals of the majority of athletes to improve their performances. Unfortunately, a majority of coaches do not bother to consider the application of relative strength methods for the training of their athletes.
You should work hard to improve your relative strength and try to increase it to a higher level. Not only will this prevent the frustrations of strength losses, but it’s the best goal-oriented approach to make progress which is compatible with the whole body-recomposition process.
Following relative strength goals are good numbers to shoot for: Bench Press/Barbell Row: 1.6 times body weight for 5 to 8 reps Strict Overhead Press: body weight for 5 to 8 reps Squats: 2 times bodyweight for 5 to 8 reps Pull-ups: bodyweight + 60% of bodyweight attached for 5 to 8 reps
A heady use of both the high intensity and low-intensity cardio is warranted to expedite your results. But don’t try to overkill it with the cardio, rather keep it sane. Excessive cardio saps the recovery from strength work and makes it difficult to progress thus negatively affecting the process of muscle growth which is crucial for a successful body recomposition.
In the final part, we'll discuss the advanced body recomposition methods. Read Part 1 here.