Every single man who has ever stepped into a gym, who has dreamed of achieving that Greek God physique, has wished for only two things in life:
1. To be able to eat whatever he lays his eyes on without getting fat.
2. To replace every gram of body fat with the same amount of muscle mass.
While there’s very little anyone can do to achieve the first goal in the list, there might be a few ways through which the second one can be achieved.
Let me begin with the bad news. Not everyone can achieve body recomposition. If you are an intermediate or an advanced level trainee, there’s very little chance that you will put on any muscle while losing fat. A common theory that gets thrown around a lot is that, when you eat at maintenance or slightly below maintenance ( around 100-200kcals below), you tend to use the excess body fat as a part of the “surplus” energy required to put on muscle. While there might be some truth to that, it is also important to not forget the fact that an advanced level trainee is fairly closer to his genetic limit and the closer you get to your genetic limit of muscle mass, the harder it is to put on muscle even if you eat a surplus amount of calories, let alone eating at maintenance.
One section of trainees who can almost ALWAYS manage to achieve a ‘recomp’ is that of the obese beginners. Beginners have the easiest time putting on muscle mass. To top that, the obese trainees usually suffer from a certain degree of insulin resistance. This also means that the fat cells will resist the storage of any more free fatty acids or glucose. As a result, there will always be excess nutrients floating around in the blood. With consistent strength training, as the stored glycogen and fatty acids start getting depleted from the muscles, the ones from the blood stream get utilized to replenish the muscles. However, the rate of muscle gain and fat loss will gradually decrease as the trainee becomes leaner and muscular. Just hitting the daily protein requirement while eating at or slightly below maintenance will definitely do the trick.
But then there is the case of beginners who aren’t obese. These trainees will have to employ some slightly sophisticated methods. One of them would be to try cycling the calories between the workout days and rest days. Increasing the volume of the workout while eating at maintenance or slightly above maintenance might help put on some mass. Eating on a small deficit on the rest days might help lose some of the fat. Also, keeping the workout days to around 4 days a week and resting (or doing low intensity cardio) for around 3 days might help. Gradually, the changes might become visible across a certain number of weeks.
The intermediate and advanced level trainees won’t have such an easy time achieving
the same results. Most of the time, it won’t even be possible for advanced level trainees to
achieve a ‘recomp’ without grinding hard for a few years while eating at maintenance. This is because putting on muscle mass is a difficult and a slow process. The more experienced you are, the slower and harder will it be to achieve the same gains. Eating on a surplus tends to make the conditions ideal for building some amount of mass. Even then, an advanced lifter will see a slow rate of gain. Same applies to an intermediate lifter, albeit at a smaller degree. In these cases, the lifter can follow the calorie cycling protocol specific to the body part they train. While training the lagging body parts, they can keep the volume and intensity at a high level and eat slightly above maintenance, and while training the rest of the body, they can lift heavy while keeping the volume low and eating on a small deficit..
Finally there will be this rare section of advanced lifters who can gain muscle and lose equal amount of fat at the same time. This is possible when a lifter comes back from a sabbatical or returns from an injury. There have been cases where the lifter has achieved ‘recomp’ in a surplus.
Regardless of which category you fit into as a lifter, it is a given that your protein intake needs to be on point and training should be done consistently.
So go have your protein shake. Cheers!
Author credits – Nachiketh Shetty