Some people start working out with the goal of building muscle. They want to bulk up and may want to get bigger arms, bigger leg muscles, and pecs and lats that pop.
Other people start working out with the goal of losing body fat. They want to lean out and may want to lose belly fat, slim down their thighs or butt, or lose excess fat off the upper arms.
But, what if you want to do both at the same time? What if you want to build muscle and lose fat?
This is the process of body recomposition. What does body recomposition mean? How long does body recomposition take?
Keep reading to learn what body recomposition means, how long body recomposition takes, and tips for body recomposition.
We will cover:
- What Is Body Recomposition?
- How Do You Do Body Recomposition?
- How Long Does Body Recomposition Take?
Let’s dive in!
What Is Body Recomposition?
So, what does body recomp mean exactly?
Body recomposition, sometimes called body recomp, refers to the process of decreasing your body fat percentage at the same time that you are increasing your lean body mass. This means that you are simultaneously losing fat and gaining muscle.
For some people, body recomposition is accomplished by trying to address both arms in equal measure, meaning that you are trying to lose fat and gain muscle at about the same rate, and your efforts are split evenly between the two.
Other people take a more biased approach to body recomposition by focusing on one arm more than the other but still making strides towards both losing fat and building muscle in some regard.
For example, the cutting phase of bodybuilding is sort of a modified body recomposition process because you are trying to lose body fat and maintain, or slightly gain, muscle mass.
There is also the lean bulking phase, which involves trying to gain a significant amount of muscle without gaining fat, and, again, ideally losing it.
However, most people aiming for body recomposition really are trying to focus on both leaning out in terms of the proportion of the body that is fat mass and bulking up in terms of the proportion of the body that is lean body mass.
How Do You Do Body Recomposition?
If you were to survey most average gym goers looking to get in shape and improve their fitness and what their ideal workout results would be, most people would probably say body recomp, if possible.
Building muscle and losing fat at the same time certainly sounds ideal, and body recomposition is essentially the fast track to a body transformation.
If you don’t have to lose weight and then build muscle or build muscle and then lose fat, but you can do both at once, you’ll be able to get your body from point A to goal point B in much less time.
However, the reality is that body recomposition is difficult to do. It requires a carefully-designed diet and fitness plan and meticulous execution.
Body recomp requires you to be strategic and diligent in what you eat, how much you eat, when you eat, as well as how much you exercise, and the types of workouts you do.
How Long Does Body Recomposition Take?
The most pressing question most people interested in body recomp ask is, “How long does body recomposition take?”
The truth is that there’s no straight answer to that question because the body recomposition process will take different amounts of time depending on numerous factors.
The main factors that influence how long body recomp takes include the following:
#1: Your Body Recomposition Goals
How long body recomposition takes will largely depend on your starting point and end goal.
If you have a lot of body fat to lose and you simultaneously want to increase your lean body mass significantly, it’s certainly going to take a lot longer to achieve your body recomposition goals than for someone who has just a little bit of body fat to cut who is mostly looking to build a bit of muscle.
#2: Your Training Level
Most research has demonstrated that body recomposition abides by the law of diminishing returns, in that beginners are more likely to see significant changes in their body fat percentage and muscle growth, whereas fitter individuals who have been training for longer and are closer to their end goal will see changes occurring more slowly.
For example, there was a study that investigated the potential body recomposition effects of a diet and exercise program on 38 overweight, sedentary, middle-aged police officers with no prior weightlifting experience. The participants all had roughly 27% body fat to start and then embarked on a 12-week intervention.
One group was just placed on a diet that put them in a 20% caloric deficit every day.
A second group followed the same calorie-restrictive diet, plus they did resistance training, and the diet included a high-protein intake (1.5 g/kg/day) using a casein protein supplement.
The third group followed the same diet and exercise protocol as the second group, except they used whey protein instead of casein.
Results revealed that the average weight loss in all three groups was approximately the same (2.5 kg over 12 weeks). However, total body composition results varied between intervention strategies.
In the diet-only group, the average percent body fat decreased from a baseline of 27% to 25%.
With diet, exercise, and casein supplementation, the decrease was from 26% to 18%, and with diet, exercise, and whey protein, the decrease was from 27% to 23%.
The second two groups lost an average of 7.0 and 4.2 kilograms of fat, respectively, and simultaneously put on nearly 4.5 and 2.5 kg (5-10 pounds) of muscle.
These are impressive body recomposition results over just 3 months, but the study also demonstrates how the training and diet both need to be dialed in to maximize your results.
However, while body recomposition is slower and less dramatic for fitter and leaner individuals, studies suggest it is possible even for elite athletes.
#3: Your Diet
Diet plays a significant role in how long body recomposition takes and how successful it is.
If you are consistently consuming more calories than you are burning, you will not lose weight, and if you are in too much of a caloric deficit, you won’t be able to build much muscle.
The composition of your diet also matters. Food quality and macronutrient intake can affect your ability to burn fat and gain lean body mass.
Evidence suggests that the most effective diet to follow when trying to build muscle in a caloric deficit (which is necessary during the cutting phase of bodybuilding) is to consume 2.3-3.1 g/kg of lean body mass per day of protein, 15-30% of your total calories from fat, and the remainder from carbohydrates.
#4: Your Workout Routine
Body recomposition is largely dependent on your exercise routine. Hypertrophy, or muscle growth, requires high-volume resistance training.
Hypertrophy training to increase muscle size is mainly achieved by way of increasing training volume over time (sets and reps), usually using loads that are 65-85% of your 1 RM. Typically, you perform 6–12 repetitions per set, and at least 3 sets per exercise, with 30-60 seconds of rest in between sets.
The exercises you perform matter as well. Focus on compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, lunges, step-ups, bench press, rows, pull-ups, lat pull-downs, etc.
In addition to hypertrophy training, which tackles the muscle-building arm of body recomposition, you can also target the fat-loss arm of body recomposition through aerobic exercise.
Cardio exercises, such as running, cycling, rowing, swimming, elliptical trainer, stair climbing, jumping rope, rebounding, and rollerblading, can help you lose fat by burning calories and generating a greater caloric deficit over the course of the day or week to yield more fat loss.
Therefore, the types of exercise that you do, as well as the frequency, duration, and intensity (known together as the FITT principle of fitness training), will have a major impact on how long body recomposition takes and how much fat loss and lean muscle growth you see.
#5: Your Sex
Men have higher levels of testosterone and human growth hormone, which are both anabolic hormones that promote muscle growth, and because men usually have a higher percentage of lean body mass than women of equal weight, they have a higher basal metabolic rate (BMR).
This makes it easier to lose weight because the more calories you burn in a day, the more easily you can generate a caloric deficit.
For these reasons, men tend to respond more readily to body recomposition efforts, both in terms of building muscle from strength training and losing fat from dieting and exercise.
#6: Your Age
In general, as we age, body recomposition is harder, and it takes longer to see results.
Metabolism tends to slow down (which can increase fat storage), and unless you work hard in the gym, the body tends towards natural muscle loss (sarcopenia).
With that said, age-related sarcopenia doesn’t have to be inevitable; hypertrophy training and the right diet can support the maintenance of muscle mass. Studies even show that even seniors in their 70s and 80s can still build muscle mass with the right strength training programs.
Overall, body recomposition changes can usually be seen after 8-12 weeks, but it can take up to 8 months to a year to achieve your goals, if not more. Your results will vary based on the aforementioned factors.
For some strength training exercises to include in your gym workouts, check out our Complete List Of Compound Exercises.