So, to come full circle, let’s go back to the goal: you want to
be toned lose fat and/or gain lean mass. Ideally, most people would like to lose fat AND gain a little muscle. Is this possible? This is a question that millions of you into fitness wonder. I’ve wondered myself and sought answers from coaches, pored over every internet article that I could find, tried out various training methodologies and eating strategies.
Many people say no. It’s common knowledge that you need to be in a caloric deficit in order to achieve fat loss and a caloric surplus to gain lean mass. Intuitively, we know that a focus on one is more efficient than producing sub-optimal results in both. If you look at how athletes prepare for bodybuilding competitions, they have an off-season focused on making gainz and an in-season focused on shredding the fluff.
My short answer is yes, it is possible.
The long answer is: yes, it is possible. However, it is generally slower than focusing on primarily fat loss or muscle gain. Some people will make significant strides in both camps at the same time, but that is temporary or s/he is genetically fortunate.
For men, this is a no-brainer. Most men have no problem following this schedule of a clean bulk in the winter and shred in the summer. Women, on the other hand, are under constant societal pressure to remain lean, so those of us who want to shape their body wonder if it’s worth it. There are countless women who experience anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and mood swings to the moon and back when they notice some fat that accompany their muscle. Coming from a background of body image and eating disorders, I get that there are some serious emotions to wrestle with.
Let me digress for a second and show you typical fitspo pictures and the range in leanness and muscularity that the majority of women strive to achieve:
The most important thing to keep in mind is that you will always be YOU and not any one of these women. You have your own genetic makeup and your own strengths and weaknesses, so although these pictures may serve as great motivation to train hard and eat well, to compare yourself and want to look like these women is foolish.
Through optimal training and nutrition, you are guaranteed to see results and you’ll become the best you. Success breeds success, and the positive changes you see in your body composition will carry over to all other aspects of your lifeâ€”I promise.
SO, getting back to the topic here. How do you know if it’s worth trying to achieve both at the same time (i.e body recomposition)? What should you be focusing on and how should you be training and eating? Here are my recommendations (remember, these are general guidelines):
If you’re a beginner in the gym AND/OR your body fat is below 17% for women and 13% for men AND/OR your dominant body type is ectomorph:
If your body fat level is above 23% for women and above 19% for men AND/OR your dominant body type is endomorph:
If you’re an intermediate or advanced lifter AND/OR your body fat is 17 -23% for women and 13-19% for men AND/OR your dominant body type is mesomorph: Up to you. I would let personal preference / lifestyle dictate what you want to do.
Some guidelines if you’re looking to achieve body recomposition:
– 70% strength training / 30% hypertrophy training
– 3-5x HIIT cardio for about 20 mins (or 5 rounds of all-out, balls to the wall sprints)
– Your calorie intake can range from 15% below or above your maintenance level. Just listen to your body and eat when you’re hungry
– Most carbs will come from fruits and vegetables
– Time carbs around training
– 100% dedication
FYIâ€”special advice for short people does not exist. The principles of training and nutrition are the same regardless if you’re short or tall. It’s your genetic makeup / body type / metabolic response that you should take into consideration instead. A taller person can eat more (and should be eating more) because s/he has a higher BMR. I’ve heard people say that a taller person is fortunate to have extra â€œwiggle roomâ€, but don’t think this way. If this taller person had to eat 1300 calories, s/he would be in trouble and doing themselves a disservice.
You’re unique, and you should work with someone who will provide you with a plan that’s tailored specifically to your individual needs. It might not be easy, but through this process you will become acutely aware of just how much control you have over your health, and that is very empowering.