SS 275 – Body Recomposition How-To

Episode 275 Show Notes


Grant and Heavey talk about body recomposition, specifically simultaneously losing fat and gaining muscle. What level of body fat do you need to transition from recomposition to a dedicated bulking phase or cutting phase? What are the guidelines for calorie cuts? All these and more on today’s episode!

[02:00] Nuts Have Fewer Calories Than You Think!

The FDA recently conducted research focused on retesting nuts with more scientific methods than studies done many years ago. They wanted to see how accurate the 100-year-old Atwater System was for estimating how many calories we’re getting out of these nuts. It’s not how much energy is in the food, but how many we absorb from those foods. 

Surprisingly, there are fewer calories in these whole nuts. Some people don’t eat whole almonds because they are calorically dense. 

The update for the nutrition labels is that they have to show not just the calories per serving size but the calories in the entire bag. 

For instance, a KIND bar is the first product on the market that uses these new scores for nuts. A 200-calorie KIND bar is now reading 180 calories because almonds have 32% fewer calories than previously thought.

People get so confused with calories because there’s tolerance on the numbers of the back of the package. There’s tolerance on top of what we’re learning to be accurate numbers from the get go so people are easily misguided.

For example, a serving of cashews has 137 calories. In one person, they observed 105 calories which were 30% less. Another person got 150 calories. 

Therefore, we have natural inaccuracies combined with these huge variations. Compound that with how people estimate how many calories they’re burning using their own formula or an imprecise watch.

[06:55] Only Use This as a Starting Point

If you’re trying to change your weight, you can use those numbers as a starting point. But in order to tailor them to what your body needs, only use it as a starting point. You have to do some level of experimentation. Track how many calories are on the label and then see how your body responds on the scale. Make adjustments based upon that.

You may consume 500 calories more than you’re actually absorbing so there are so many possible errors in all of this so it makes sense as to why people get confused.

[08:20] Recomposition vs Bulking and Cutting Phases

Recomposition is the holy grail for getting leaner. Although some people argue that you can’t really do entire body recomposition, but instead must do dedicated bulking phases and dedicated cutting phases.

If that is so, then at what level of body fat should you transition from recomposition to a dedicated bulking or cutting phases?

People tend to read advice tailored for those seeking the highest level of performance, squeezing out every last gain when what they need is advice that’s more structured for their needs in where they are currently.

[11:40] A Study on Recomposition

A study called Effect of Two Different Weight Loss Rates on Body Composition and Strength and Power-Related Performance on Elite Athletes. 

They had a study of elite athletes that lost 5.5% of their body weight. One group had a weight of 0.7% per week and the other group was 1.4% per week. This corresponded to 19% and 30% caloric deficits respectively.

At the end of the study, both lost the same amount of weight by design. Those on the less aggressive plan lost about 50% more fat and gained more muscle, more strength, and more power along the way.

The group that was on the more aggressive cut lost the same amount of weight but they were not able to add more muscle during that period.

The rate at which you lose weight can factor into what type of weight you lose. 

[13:30] When to Do the Focused Phases

One’s ability to do recomposition exists on a sliding scale. The more advanced a lifter you are and the leaner you are, the more likely you’ll be better off with the approach of focused phases. 

Male lifters with a body fat percentage of high single digits and female lifters with body fat percentage of mid to upper teens might want to stick with dedicated phases if they want to get even leaner. But those people are honestly quite lean already. They may be pursuing additional leanness for competitive purposes. 

For extreme bodybuilders, they have the top thresholds for the highest level of leanness. For men, slightly below 1% percent is very extreme. 

[17:24] Calorie Recommendations

For a dedicated cutting phase, you can start at around a 20% caloric deficit. This is roughly what those elite athletes did when they were losing about 0.7% of body fat per week. 0.7% a reasonable percentage for people that aren’t ultra-lean and don’t want to shed a lot of lean mass along with fat mass as their losing weight. If you want to bulk up, on the other hand, about 15% is a good starting point for people. 

For recomposition, start at about a 5% deficit. 5%-10% deficit is reasonable. It’s great to lose weight while you’re doing recomposition. Some people want to maintain their weight but continue to get leaner. They trade fat for muscle mass. If you want to lose weight while doing it, then 10% is a good starting point.

Extreme calorie cut with high levels of cardio, which is how a lot of people try to shed weight, is probably not the best because it leads to muscle wasting. You will lose weight, but a large percentage of that weight will come from your lean mass which is not ideal if you want to maintain muscle mass while shedding fat.

[20:35] Maximizing Hypertrophy

The traditional recommended rep range for people focusing on building muscle (hypertrophy) is 8-12 reps. You can gain muscle in that rep range but recent research doesn’t suggest it’s a strict requirement.

That being said, you can gain just as much muscle at lower reps with higher weights. On the other hand, if you’re focused on strength gains, then you probably want to focus more on the lower rep work. 

But for muscle gains, you can work all over the spectrum. This is probably actually the best approach to not just focus on one rep range but working in multiple rep ranges for maximum muscle growth. 

If you’re looking to lose fat, don’t exceed a 50/50 split in doing cardio and weight training. The highest percentage of cardio you could do for workout time would be 50%. The extra lift will help preserve the muscle mass you already have

If you’re looking to bulk up, forget the cardio stuff and go 100% on weight training. Additionally, people use bulking as an excuse to put on weight. If at all, you’re only making your cutting phase much harder. You’re not getting any extra benefit from the weight you put on and you end up having to take off more fat.

But if you really want to focus on building lean mass, you have to understand that you can’t gain 10 pounds of muscle in a month. At most, you’re probably gaining 1-2 pounds of muscle per month. If you’re gaining more than 2 pounds per month in a bulking phase, then you’re putting on more fat than you need to be.

[24:12] Track Your Progress

These numbers are not magic. They have a lot of individual variations. Check your progress to make sure that it’s working. In your cutting phase and in your recomposition phase, don’t lose more than 1% of your weight per week. Stop there, otherwise, you’re cannibalizing muscle mass as part of your weight loss.

Track your weight loss using regular body weight measurements. Avoid most body fat measurements, better yet, ignore them altogether. Just stick to the weight from the scale. Use pictures that you check in with every 6 or so weeks. Then you’ll be able to measure differences over that period if your body composition is changing. If not, then go back and assess what’s not working.

[26:17] The Decision Tree: Your Next Steps

If you’re trying to cut weight but you’re not losing weight, adjust your calories down by 100-200 calories per day. Then see what happens over the course of another week.

If you’re trying to cut and you’re losing weight, then it’s working. You’re probably going to lose more than 0.5% to 1% of your weight per week. Otherwise, you risk losing muscle.

If you’re trying to bulk and you’re not gaining weight, then adjust that by 100-200 calories for another week and see what happens.

If you’re trying to bulk and you’re gaining weight, good job! Just make sure you’re not gaining more than about 2 pounds per month.

If you’re trying to recomp and your bodyweight stays roughly the same, be sure to check in with pictures and make sure you’re looking tighter. Your bodyweight might stay roughly the same but you should be seeing some visual difference to know that progress is being made.

Note that over time, anything that starts working will cease to work at some point. Your body is going to adapt and you’re going to need to make modifications. Start as it’s working. Lean into that. And when it stops working or when it slows down, work through the decision tree mentioned above.Take the right path and keep rolling!

[28:30] Time is a Powerful Tool: Be Patient, Folks!

The best progress is there in the mirror. That being said, patience is one of the hardest for a lot of people.

Don’t expect crazy results. It takes time to change body composition. Be patient and let time do its thing because it’s a powerful tool we have for any of these interventions.



Nuts Don’t Have as Many Calories than You Think

Effect of Two Different Weight-Loss Rates on Body Composition and Strength and Power-Related Performance on Elite Athletes

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