Recomp > Dieting/ 'Cutting'
Body recomposition (recomp) favors improving strength & work capacity over just “weight loss”. A focus on building strength will increase muscle. Therefore, more muscle at the same maintained body weight is a very good thing. It doesn’t seem like it to someone trying to lose weight, but “losing weight” with the only measure being the number on the scale is not always the best indicator of improvement, and certainly not always healthier both physically, or mentally. More muscle means an increase in resting metabolic rate over time (improved metabolism)- the amount of energy you require, and burn just to go about your daily routine without the inclusion of exercise. The more, the merrier in this case, because over a longer period of time the body will have an easier time burning off what’s potentially in excess---stored body fat.
Exercising, or training hard for the sole purpose of losing weight is a very negative approach in my opinion because people often make it something they feel they have to do, as if it’s a responsibility, or a punishment. Training shouldn’t be something that you feel takes you away from other things you’d rather be doing, and it shouldn’t feel like a burden. It often will if the only goal is to lose weight, and eventually you'll get sick of that burden. ‘Recomp’ I feel, shifts the focus to training/ exercise being something you prioritize because you CAN, because you enjoy the process of getting stronger, and celebrating your achievements. Mentally, this is much more sustainable, and rewarding approach that helps to improve your mindset, and adherence.
Recomp can often be done by not really changing much about your current diet, other than just focusing on a few variables. Constantly tracking, measuring, and weighing food can tend to become overly consuming for many, and potentially create further problems along the lines of disordered eating habits. Too often, we see people trying to both “lose weight” AND improve their physical performance, such as strength. “Cutting” or dieting while also trying to make measurable improvements in the bigger, compound lifts usually doesn’t work. Performance-based programs such as Olympic weightlifting, or CrossFit don’t tend to mesh well if there are BOTH goals of “weight loss” AND increased performance. Unless you are brand new to resistance training, these are often opposing approaches. What will tend to happen by “dieting” or “cutting” on a performance-based program, is strength numbers that begin to stagnate, or even decrease along with the weight loss. Nagging aches and pains become more prominent, with a decrease in performance at higher intensities. Results on both sides in this case (body composition & performance) may plateau simply because you don’t have the energy to put into meaningful workouts that will measurably improve your performance-based results. The weights begin to always feel ‘heavy’ and drive & motivation start to fade as a result.
So, how do you “recomp”? Shift your focus away from “weight loss” to measurably improving your strength numbers. Place more value on the numbers you put up with your lifts than the number on the scale. Take a three to six month period and focus solely on three things:
Quality (not quantity) training, consistently.
Get enough protein.
Training quality is often overshadowed by quantity. More, doesn’t always mean better results. It often leads to increased stress, and fatigue which will stall results due to lack of proper recovery. Workouts then become mediocre. In many cases, “Do less, better” will yield far better results. Favor the “long game” with a priority on progressive resistance training over the “fun” high-intensity circuits.
Protein is essential for building muscle and recovery. Whether you choose to get your protein from animals, or plant-based sources, or both (recommended) doesn’t matter nearly as much as just getting enough of it to begin with. As a general rule, active individuals involved with routine resistance training will greatly benefit from the old school bodybuilding recommendation of 1g per pound of lean, or target bodyweight. To date, this recommendation has only shown to improve overall health, and body composition even in non-active individuals. Once you’ve got a handle on protein, and it’s almost become second-nature, then you can begin to look at other areas of your diet that can be improved. Protein intake in this case can be looked at two ways. One, those who don’t eat enough food in general will be increasing their overall intake in a positive way through protein. Two, those who are looking to “lose weight” will likely be replacing some of the less favorable, ultra-processed, high calorie food choices with more satiating, lower calorie proteins.
Sleep is one of the most important points mentioned above. This is where the body is best able to recover, and repair. Stress, fatigue, symptoms of depression, high blood pressure, compromised immunity, and decreased metabolism to name a few, all become prominent issues associated with the lack of sleep. If you don’t get 6-8 hours (with an emphasis on closer to 8) of good sleep a night, then even the best nutrition and training program still won’t work to your expectations no matter how much “hard work” you’re putting in.
Doing the above properly may not take away much on the scale, but it can drastically change your appearance and look like you’ve “lost weight” which is what most with a weight loss goal really want anyways. This approach just shifts the focus more on the positive, rather than the negative. A difference of only 5lbs on the scale in this case can appear to be 15-20lbs in the mirror.