Body recomposition is a hot topic these days. By definition, body recompositioning is the process of gaining lean muscle mass while reducing fat mass. Depending on your goals, your weight may increase, decrease, or stay the same during this process (remember lean muscle is more dense than fat). For an athlete, the biggest challenge lies in improving their body composition without harming their athletic performance.
Everyone wants to know how to lose fat and gain muscle, but it can be challenging if you aren’t eating a well-balanced diet while training hard. You may have heard people say things like “You can’t out-train a bad diet” and “Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym”- they aren’t lying. While it is critical to be working hard in the gym to increase athletic performance, the foods you’re eating play a huge role as well. Making simple dietary changes can help make a noticeable difference in both your physique and athletic performance.
Losing Weight: What NOT to Do
If your goal as an athlete is to lose body fat, it is important to know how to preserve your lean muscle mass in order to maintain your athletic performance. Many athletes believe you need to drastically cut calories (For example, cutting from 2000+ calories to 1200-1300 calories) in order to reduce body fat. This will not only leave you hungry, hinder your athletic performance, and make it difficult to maintain your lean muscle mass, but it can also slow your metabolism and make weight loss even harder by sending your body into starvation mode! It’s important to be getting enough calories to support your training level, maintain muscle mass, and keep you satisfied.
Body recompositioning should be a gradual process. If the weight is easy to lose, it can be easy to gain back. For sustainable and healthy weight loss, make gradual lifestyle changes instead of starting a new fad diet that excludes food groups and cuts calories drastically. Keep in mind, muscle weighs more than fat, so if you see that you are losing a lot of weight quickly that could be a sign that you aren’t getting enough calories to keep up with your training needs and maintain muscle mass.
It is also important to remember that as you’re improving your body composition, your weight may not change much or could increase. If you are training hard in the gym, you will be gaining lean muscle as well as losing fat mass. To truly track body composition changes, have your healthcare provider or exercise specialist perform skinfold testing on you to determine your fat and lean mass rather than relying on the scale.
Body Recompositioning: What to Do
Focus on filling your plate with ¼ carbohydrates from whole grains, ¼ protein, and ½ vegetables. The fiber from vegetables and whole grains will fill you up while also helping lower cholesterol and lose weight.
Eating lean proteins liked chicken, fish, turkey, eggs and lean cuts of beef will reduce calories and excess fat as well. Protein is what helps you preserve and build the lean muscle tissue in your body. Aim for 20-30 grams of protein each meal and snack for optimal absorption and building.
Make it a goal to switch to whole grains such as whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta, oatmeal, etc. Carbohydrates are often the first thing people try to cut out of their diet, but our bodies need carbohydrates for energy! Learning how to manage portion sizes of your carb sources (like pasta, rice, bread, and beans) will help you stay on track with your goals AND provide the essential micronutrients and amino acids that grains give you.
Use fruit as a way to both curb your sweet tooth and provide a simple pre-workout or mid-day snack (combine with string cheese, a hardboiled egg, Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, or a handful of nuts for a balanced snack). The natural sugar content of fruit often scares people away, but it can be packed with healthy antioxidants and fiber that benefit your body.
As a dietitian, I believe in all things in moderation, but there are certain foods that on a regular basis should make up a minimal part of your diet. Reduce your intake of creamy sauces, processed meats like sausage and pepperoni, fried and packaged foods, and baked goods. These items are higher in calories and added sugar, and are not nutrient-dense.
Start meal prepping! The easiest way to start reaching your nutrition goals is to prepare in advance. Set aside an hour on the weekends to prepare containers of meals and snacks that you can easily grab and go.
Optimize Your Workouts
Talk to your Inspired Athletx staff to learn ways you can customize your workouts to reach your performance and weight goals. For me personally, I found that frequently lifting weights and incorporating a few high intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts into my routine (versus my previous routine of long duration cardio from rowing, running, etc.) helped me reduce body fat and start building muscle. Interval training and strength training both increase your metabolism and make it easier for your body to burn fat while building muscle. Make the most of your workouts and make sure to fuel your body properly to start seeing the changes you want!
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