Body recomposition: Losing fat and building muscle mass is possible
Body recomposition is the holy grail for many. 
Written by
Dan Cable
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Last updated
March 19, 2024
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Losing fat while gaining muscle, also known as body recomposition, is the holy grail for many. 

Previously a myth based on the prevailing theory that muscle gain was not possible unless you’re in a significant calorie surplus, however, this was recently debunked [1].

So, is it possible after all? Well, Compound members who have gone through a quarterly cycle of our program have done just that — you can see a bit more about Joe's results here.

With this in mind, let's look at how you can approach losing body fat, gaining muscle and achieving body recomposition.

What is body recomposition?

Body composition refers to your bone, muscle and body fat percentage and it is generally influenced by a number of factors including one's environment, genetics and lifestyle.

Body composition is often assessed in order to ascertain certain health risks; for example, those with a higher body fat percentage usually have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes [2].

Body recomposition, on the other hand, refers to losing fat and building muscle at the same time, which is often achieved with progressive resistance training and evidence-based nutritional strategies [3].

Is body recomposition achievable?

Recent evidence is demonstrating that body recomposition is indeed possible. While those who are overweight and/or are training irregularly appear to have the greatest potential to achieve body recomposition, it can also be possible in well-trained individuals [3].

When it comes to exercise for body recomposition, combining both resistance training and aerobic exercise can be effective to help you lose weight, gain muscle and optimise body recomposition [3].

The other factor is your calorie intake. A calorie deficit is required to lose significant fat but the key to building muscle at the same time is optimising resistance training for hypertrophy (muscle growth) and consuming a high-protein diet [4][5]. 

Protein intake and body recomposition

Achieving body recomposition will require a higher protein diet than many are accustomed to, however, optimal protein intake depends on many conditions and is often poorly understood. The mainstream positioning that the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) of 0.8g of protein per kg body weight is adequate is fundamentally flawed [6].

Though body recomposition is possible, there’s still an inherent trade-off between fat loss and muscle gain and it appears that calorie deficits greater than 500 kcal/day may result in sub-optimal outcomes to lean body mass as the body breaks down muscle mass into glucose (via gluconeogenesis) [7]. 

There’s a lot to learn from natural bodybuilders and their preparation for competitions — often involving calorie deficits near 500 kcal/day — with one study suggesting 2.3-3.1g protein per kg lean mass (not total body weight) is optimal to preserve muscle during aggressive fat loss [8]. This roughly aligns with other studies evaluating protein targets to preserve muscle mass during significant calorie deficits [9][10].

Protein does not need to be as high if you’re not shredding; the optimal target for more incremental changes in body composition is around 1.6g/kg body mass [9][10]. 

There’s a lot to deep dive into protein — how to cut through the myths surrounding this essential macronutrient — as well as hypertrophy training and optimising load and time under tension but let’s save that for another time.

Body recomposition goes beyond your diet

To manage expectations, achieving a body composition is not as simple as a calorie deficit with adequate resistance training plus protein. We must strip away common barriers: alcohol, excessive simple carbs (bread, pasta, dessert, etc.), poor quality sleep, and chronic stress.

It’s not about idolising bodybuilders; we focus on high-ROI approaches to achieving a leaner, healthier, stronger body composition that will sustain our performance well into middle age and beyond. We believe our best years are still ahead of us.

Achieve body recomposition with Compound

Compound is a digital clinic for performance health, for men. Once the exclusive domain of billionaires and Hollywood stars, we're on a mission to make premium concierge care accessible to every man who wants more.

We are integrating diagnostics (bloodwork, scans, etc), treatment (medication, supplementation), performance programming, and support (coaching, accountability, care) — wrapped around a growth mindset.

We use data to help maximise your potential and create a personalised action plan for your performance. Lose fat and gain muscle mass with our program.

This post contains general information about health and wellness practices. It is not intended as medical advice and should not be treated as such. Please consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new health regimen. This information is provided without any representations or warranties, express or implied.

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