Stop Obsessing Over the Scale and Focus on Achieving Body Recomposition – CNET

If you’re trying to lose weight, you’re certainly not alone. According to marketing research company Ipsos, 45% of people globally are trying to shed a few poundsCommon methods for losing weight include exercise, restricting calories, counting calories and fasting. While some of these strategies can lead to short-term success, you may be more likely to achieve long-term weight loss with body recomposition.

This strategy involves changing the fundamental makeup of your body. Undertaking body recomposition asks you to adopt the mentality that slow and steady wins the race. You’ll work on building muscle and shedding fat instead of obsessing about a number on a scale.

What is body recomposition? 

National Academy Sports Medicine certified personal trainer Victoria Petrella explains that body recomposition “involves increasing muscle density while decreasing body fat.” There are more benefits to the process than you may originally think. Petrella says body recomposition is also “about making the body more efficient at burning fat even when at rest because increased muscle mass burns more calories than fat tissue.”

In short, body recomposition is about a balanced approach over time. It looks beyond using BMI to measure health based only on comparing height and weight. Instead, the goal is to lower your body fat percentage without sacrificing healthy muscle. Many doctors and fitness experts consider this a more holistic approach to achieving your desired physique. 

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Body recomposition focuses on losing fat, not weight

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When many people set out to lose weight, they begin with a number on the scale and consider it a win every time the number gets smaller. In reality, you could be losing healthy muscle and fat, which means you must create the ideal body composition you think you are. Because the body recomposition emphasizes gaining weight, you are less likely to experience muscle loss and instead lose fat.

Petrella sees a lot of clients ignore the need to build muscle density. She says, “From my experience, I’ve observed that many individuals overlook the importance of muscle density in overall body composition.” While muscle density makes you look more toned, it’s not quite that simple. Petrella advises: “This isn’t just about aesthetics; denser muscle fibers contribute to better physical strength and endurance, impacting daily activities and overall health.”

If daily weigh-ins stress you out and leave you feeling defeated, switching to a body recomposition plan may represent an opportunity to leave your scale fatigue behind.

How does body recomposition work?

Body recomposition plans require a variety of body movements to be effective. The Cleveland Clinic says personalized plans often include strength training, cardiovascular exercise (cardio) and flexibility training. Strength training helps you target areas like your chest, back, legs and shoulders to build muscle. Meanwhile, doing cardio can help you burn fat and flexibility training like yoga improves your range of motion.

Body recomposition plans may also require cutting calories, but this should be offset with an ample intake of proteins and other nutrients. Dr. Michael O. McKinney of the Healthy Outlook Medical Weight Loss Center explains: “Normally, a small caloric deficit is recommended for burning fats, but it must also be supported by taking proteins so that muscles are not broken down.”

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On what she tells her clients who are working on body recomposition, Petrella says, “On workout days, I advise increasing caloric intake slightly with a focus on proteins and complex carbohydrates to fuel the body and aid in muscle recovery.” 
While each body will have differing needs, and you should always talk to your doctor if you have questions about changing your diet, there is evidence to support the idea that increasing protein intake preserves lean body mass. A study in the Journal of Nutrition found that maintaining enough protein as you age may help preserve muscle mass and strength, regardless of gender. A separate systematic review and meta-analysis of protein and muscle mass studies also reports a positive relationship between protein and muscle mass. That review concluded that increasing daily protein ingestion results in small gains in lean body mass for training adults.

Long-term perspective on body recomposition 

Body composition is the opposite of a fad diet. It requires patience and time to transform your body. The Mayo Clinic recommends creating SMART goals for yourself. These are milestones that are: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely. Instead of saying you will “eat less,” set a goal to stop eating at 7 p.m. and replace your evening chocolates with grapes. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends losing one to two pounds weekly to achieve sustainable weight loss. Petrella agrees, pointing out, “It’s essential to adopt fitness routines and dietary changes that [somebody] can be maintained in the long run. Quick fixes lead to transient results and potential burnout.”

The lasting effects of maintaining a body recomposition program can include better metabolism, more energy and better overall health. This strategy isn’t about deprivation. One meal won’t make or break your entire goal. Don’t beat yourself up over a cheeseburger because body recomposition is about a bigger pattern and not a single decision.

Implementing calorie cycling for optimal results

Calorie cycling, also called calorie shifting, may help people align their caloric intake with fitness goals. There are a few ways to cycle calories in support of metabolism. Generally speaking, this practice refers not to limiting types of foods but rather paying attention to when you’re eating the most calories. One way to cycle calories is to focus on a deficit and then eat normally for a few days. This can stop your body from starving as you cut calories. 

Calorie cycling may also be informed by your level of activity. McKinney says, “Adjusting the number of calories consumed according to whether one is exercising or resting is important for supporting performance while enabling recovery as part of an overall plan towards body recomposition.” He explains that feeding your body is vital, even if you want to cut overall caloric intake. “During training days, more energy may need to be supplied (through food) so that exercises can be fueled adequately, enhancing muscle repair.”

Starting with a practical plan may be key to your success. Alternate the parts of your body you work on and give yourself rest days as needed. A good general rule for achieving body recomposition is to change your mindset from cardio-only routines to strength training. Begin with strength training with weight machines, free weights squats, and planks at least twice a week, with 48 hours between sessions. Do cardio three days a week, such as jogging or swimming, and give yourself one flexibility session each week. Feed yourself more protein when you’re giving your muscles an intense workout.

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