Weapon of mass construction: How to lose weight the healthy way?

Body recomposition, where one loses fat while gaining muscle mass, is a fitness approach that health experts are increasingly betting their bottom dollar on

author_img Ayesha Singh Published :  04th September 2022 08:43 PM   |   Published :   |  04th September 2022 08:43 PM
workout_fitness_(Photo | Debadatta Mallick, EPS)

(Photo | Debadatta Mallick, EPS)

Noida-based media professional Raashi Rohatgai found herself at sea when, despite pulling all strings to get fit, strong and toned, she only looked pale and weak. During the first lockdown, she had shed an impressive amount of weight—from 72 to 57  over eight months—by doing home workouts but still found herself far afield from her goal of a shredded look. “I mistook the number on the scale as a marker of my fitness journey. After the kilos dropped, I was left with loose skin on my belly, glutes and thighs, and no amount of workout made it go away. I pushed myself some more, and lost another five kg, only to find my body fat percentage at an unhealthy level of around 17 per cent. 

"I increased my food intake to balance it out but only ended up gaining weight. Nothing seemed to work,” says Rohatgi. When things went to Pete Tong, the 35-year-old spoke to a friend, who introduced her to body recomposition. That was the watershed moment for Rohatgi.

“Being a fitness trainer, he guided me through the process. From my food composition to workouts, I went for a complete overhaul. In the end, the scales showed I had gained three kg, but for the first time, I could see my firmer abs and arms. I felt fit. My body fat was at a healthy 22 per cent. Body recomposition proved to be a more holistic, sustainable approach to becoming fit,” she says.  

What is it?

Body recomposition helps you gain health without losing your mind. For starters, don’t walk into the trap of believing that losing fat while gaining muscle is impossible. It’s a fallacy that stems from the traditional approach of ‘bulking and cutting’, wherein you first gain weight and muscle mass, and then trim body fat, while maintaining muscle. “To keep it simple, body recomposition simply entails maintaining the perfect fat to muscle mass ratio with a combination of specific exercises and nutrition,” says Gurugram-based health coach Uma S Pradhan. Weight loss is only a byproduct, as the regimen focuses on overall fitness.

Get started

Ride the wheels of diet cycling, an effective eating technique that will advance your body's recomposition journey. “Instead of consuming a set number of calories per day, eat more calories when you exercise and fewer when you don’t,” says Noida-based fitness coach Ruby Jaiswal, adding, “This intermittent style of eating aids faster weight loss, as you do not have to remain in a calorie deficit phase for long; this is a common reason why people fall off the dieting radar.

Consuming an inadequate amount of calories makes one excessively hungry, increasing the chances of overeating. Calorific shifting, on the other hand, is a flexible approach to eating that trains your mind to eat optimally for better health.”

For greater results, acquaint yourself with your maintenance calorie count. “Next, aim for a calorie gap. For instance, if you’re looking at a 200-calorie deficit (this number is different for everybody depending on your fitness goal) and burning 2,400 calories, you need to consume 2,200 calories. Don’t get fixated on the numbers. Ballpark is a good starting point,” says Jaiswal.

Next, pack in the protein punch. Include eggs, almonds, cottage cheese, chicken, fish, Greek yoghurt, lentils, milk and Ezekiel bread, while reworking your body’s composition. “Protein helps gain and maintains muscle, in addition to expediting fat loss during periods of calorie restriction. You 
can also try protein supplements such as whey protein. Cut out processed foods from your diet, and reduce carbohydrates substantially. Focus on whole grains and a fibre-rich food,” says Jaiswal.

Workout wonders

Instead of pumping iron or running the belt excessively, strike a balance, as the former builds strength and the latter promotes fat loss. “Doing both back-to-backs is counter-productive,” says Gurugram-based bodybuilder Sanjay Hooda, adding, “It can lead to ‘interference effect’, wherein cardio impedes the effectiveness of strength training by burning up the calories needed for muscle building, repair and maintenance. Try to maintain a 12-hour gap between the two.”

On days allocated for strength training (you can also try high-intensity interval training to speed things up as it burns fat while boosting the metabolic rate faster), your calorific intake should be more 5-10 per cent more than your maintenance calorie numbers. On non-workout days, it should be 5-10 per cent less. “This ensures that calories are not stored as fat; they’re either burned to use as fuel for the body or to build and maintain muscle,” says Hooda.

There’s more to it

Ignoring fundamentals such as quality sleep and stress management will impede your progress. “Sleep promotes muscle health. The brain releases several restorative hormones, including testosterone, which promote tissue growth, ease muscle soreness, and build bone mass, muscle mass and strength. Sleep also aids optimal fat distribution in the body. Stress, on the other hand, creates muscle tension. Cortisol or the stress hormone is known to increase the fat build-up in the body,” says Jaiswal, adding, “And please stop obsessing over those numbers on the weighing scale.”

Top tips

✥ Alternate between strength training and cardio. 

Don’t combine them.

✥ Try HIIT workouts to speed up the process of fat loss and muscle gain
✥ Ensure 1.4 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight 
✥ Include fibre-rich food in your diet
✥ Limit sugar and pre-packaged food

The healthy body fat percentages based on your age are: For people aged 20 to 39, women should aim for 21 per cent to 32 per cent of body fat. Men should have 8 per cent to 19 per cent. For people 40 to 59, women should fall between 23 per cent to 33 per cent and for men, it should fall around 11 per cent to 21 per cent. If you’re aged 60 to 79, women should have 24 per cent to 35 per cent body fat and men should have 13 per cent to 24 per cent. To determine your body composition, a nutritionist may employ anthropometric means such as assessing your weight, height, abdominal girth, and skinfold measurements. There are other ways as well, such as bioelectrical impedance, dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, and total body water estimates. 

Credit: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition