There’s bulking (building muscle mass), cutting (losing fat mass) and recomping. The latter stands for body recomposition and means that you build muscle mass and lose fat mass at the same time, something that we natural bodybuilders want all too much. However, recompensing is not so easy. In this article we discuss which conditions you must meet in order to be able to recomp and what your diet will look like.
Although bulking-cutting is a proven method of getting ripped, most evidence-based coaches now agree that body recomposition is also possible. In other words: it is possible to build muscle mass while you are in an energy deficit. The advantage of recomping is that you do everything in one go, straight to your goal.
However, recompensation is not for everyone. It is only a realistic goal in the following three situations.
1. YOU ARE A BEGINNER
The training stimulus that you get when your body is not yet used to training is enormous. As a result, beginners can build muscle mass relatively easily, even without a decent training schedule and even without being in a calorie surplus.
The beginner stage lasts up to about a year. Gradually you will reach a plateau and you will have to create new growth stimuli through training and nutrition. It therefore becomes increasingly difficult to recomp. At some point in your training career, you will need to bulk up to gain muscle mass.
2. YOU ARE GOING TO PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR DIET FOR THE FIRST TIME
Your training can still be in order, if you don’t pay attention to your nutrition, you will eventually lose gains. Many natural bodybuilders therefore experience that they start growing again if they optimize their diet: calories, macros, timing and nutritional composition. The new anabolic stimulus means that you can also build muscle mass with a calorie deficit.
In this article you can read everything about how to tailor your diet to muscle growth.
3. AFTER A BREAK
If you have not trained and/or have not followed a diet for a while, you can build muscle in the near future if you have an energy deficit. This in combination with muscle memory can ensure that you quickly return to your old level, perhaps even leaner than before the break.
These three situations show that the more experienced you are in terms of training and nutrition, the harder it is to recomp.
From a certain point, recomping is almost impossible and then you can better spend your time on lean bulking and cutting.
Okay, you decide to start recomping. What should your diet look like then? According to coach, author and podcaster Eric Texler, there are two things to keep in mind.
Your calorie intake should be low enough to facilitate fat loss and high enough to facilitate muscle growth. Research suggests that you should not go higher than an energy deficit of 500 kcal. Aim with your deficit at 200-300 kcal. A calorie app is indispensable here.
Whether you’re bulking, cutting or recomposing, your protein intake should always be high. In bulk, the rule applies 1.6 to 2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. According to Texler, you can also use it in the recomp.
You have to take into account that the 1.6 g/kg/d is based on a research population of mainly young people, with an average body composition. If you are at the extremes of the average body fat percentage, it can pay off as a rule to use 2 to 2.75 grams per kilogram of lean body mass. The disadvantage is that you then have to know your fat percentage fairly accurately.
Body recomposition is indeed possible, as an alternative to bulking-cutting. However, it only pays to recomp if your training and/or nutrition are ‘new’ and therefore provide such a strong anabolic stimulus that you can build muscle mass even with an energy deficiency.
To recomp, eat slightly less than your maintenance level (200-300 kcal) and continue to eat enough protein (1.6-2.2 g/kg/d).