“To lose weight and tone up” is one of the most frequent responses when someone asks you what your health and fitness goals are.
But, what do we mean by “to lose weight and tone up”? Losing weight in this scenario typically means reducing our body fat. Toning up is more about building muscle and emphasizing our muscle definition.
Essentially, “losing weight and toning up” means we want to change our overall body composition.
As discussed, body composition ultimately comes down to two things; losing weight and building muscle.
It’s all good talking through body recomposition, but how exactly do we do it? Here are our top 10 tips for body recomposition.
Top 10 Tips for Body Recomposition
1) Lift Weights
Strength training, such as lifting weights, will help grow your muscles and thus create a sculpted look many of us strive for.
Hypertrophy-style training is most appropriate for building muscle. What do we mean by hypertrophy training? Well, essentially hypertrophy is a fancy way of saying growing our skeletal muscles.
Aim for 6-12 reps of 3-5 sets, with a 60-90 second rest between sets. When planning your sessions, start each workout with a compound exercise such as a squat, bench press, or deadlift. Followed by 3-4 isolation exercises such as bicep curls, quad extensions, or sit-ups.
Based on our goal of body composition, 2-3 full-body strength training sessions per week should suffice.
2) Eat in a Calorie Deficit
Weight loss occurs when we burn more calories than we consume, i.e. we’re in a calorie deficit. There are two things we can do to ensure we’re in a calorie deficit; eat less and move more. Ideally, we want to do a bit of both.
One of the best ways to ensure we’re in a calorie deficit is to track the number of calories we’re consuming each day. You can try the old-school method of writing everything down or using something much simpler like calorie-counting apps.
Then there’s the question as to how many calories you should be eating! Our calorie expenditure is naturally going to differ from day-to-day. But, we can estimate our daily calorie expenditure using online calculators or formulas such as the Harris-Benedict Equation.
Aiming for a calorie deficit of 500 calories per day is a good starting point. We wouldn’t advise to drop below a 500 calorie deficit as this may lead to unwanted muscle loss and fatigue.
3) Consume Enough Protein
Protein is the building block of our skeletal muscles. Muscle growth occurs when our skeletal muscles are broken down (by strength training) and rebuilt (using protein). Therefore, to build muscle, we need to eat enough protein.
Evidence suggests we should be eating 1.6-2.2g/kg of protein per day to support muscle growth1. Again, tracking our food intake is the best way to ensure we’re hitting our goals. But, if that doesn’t take your fancy, ensure you’re consuming a piece of protein with every meal.
High protein sources include meat, eggs, beans, tofu, and protein supplements.
Protein also makes us feel less hungry, which is perfect for when we’re in a calorie deficit.
4) Fill Up on Fruit and Vegetables
We all know fruit and vegetables are incredibly good for us. They’re full of vitamins and minerals that help our bodies perform properly.
Fruit and vegetables are also typically low in calories while being high volume. This means we feel like we’re eating a lot of food without worrying about going into a calorie surplus.
Fruit and vegetables are also packed with fiber. Fiber helps keep us full so we can resist those future cravings.
All fruit and vegetables are good for you, just remember to keep an eye on the quantity of root vegetables and avocados we’re eating, as they’re typically a bit higher in calories than other fruits and vegetables.
5) Incorporate Movement in Your Day to Day Life
When it comes to increasing exercise, most of us think about structured exercise such as going to the gym or going on a run. What most of us don’t consider is increasing our general activity throughout the day such as walking or taking the stairs.
Like we’ve mentioned, we want to burn more calories than we consume to "recomp" our bodies. Moving more throughout the day will raise our calorie expenditure without having to do any extra cardio sessions, or finding time to go to the gym for the hundredth time this month.
The simplest way to add more movement to your day is to walk more. That might mean walking to work, getting out at lunchtime, or simply walking over to your colleague rather than ringing them.
Assess your day-to-day routine and identify where you can fit in some more movement.
6) Get Enough Sleep
Recovery is just as important as exercise and nutrition. During sleep, your body produces most of its testosterone and does a lot of its recovery. Those 8 hours are essential if you want to progress in your body recomposition.
With busy lifestyles, a good night's sleep isn’t always viable. If you're struggling to get enough sleep, focus on quality as a compromise. Think about getting blackout blinds, sleeping in a cool room, and switching off blue light when you’re in bed.
7) Perform Cardio
Cardio is a great tool for increasing calorie burn while improving our cardiovascular fitness. Low-intensity steady-state (LISS) cardio and high-intensity cardio are both great forms of cardio.
If we could recommend one form of cardio it would have to be LISS.
LISS is the preferred option as you’re working at a lower intensity for a longer period. Thus, you have the potential to burn more calories, without putting too much stress on your muscles. Too much muscular strain can delay recovery and thus force you to move less in the following days.
However, LISS can also be time-consuming. If you have time constraints, high-intensity cardio is your friend. If you are performing high-intensity cardio just remember to factor in enough recovery time between sets and workouts.
8) Look After Your Mental Health
Stress can lead to increased secretion of stress hormones, including cortisol. Cortisol can trigger the release of your body's energy stores. If stress continues over long periods, this can lead to weight gain or make weight loss harder.
Regular exercise is a great way to improve your mental health. Other activities such as mindfulness and journaling can also help reduce stress in high-stress situations.
9) Record Your Progress
Keep measurements of your weight and body fat to ensure you are following the correct methods. If you're not seeing much progress over a couple of weeks, you may have to increase your exercise or reduce your calorie intake.
Recording your progress will also aid motivation and adherence when you feel like you’re making no significant progress.
10) Make Your Journey Fun
Consistency is key. We can all stick to something for a week or so, but very few of us can make a healthy lifestyle a lifelong habit. The key to consistency is creating an enjoyable routine.
If you’re enjoying your journey, chances are you’re going to want to stick to it. Try getting a friend, family member, or partner involved in your journey. Try activities that interest you. If something makes you happy, keep doing that.
Losing weight and toning up is essentially body recomposition - building muscle while losing weight.
Put simply, the aim is to eat in a calorie deficit, eat enough protein, lift some weights, and move more. If we do these four things, your body composition will change.
Need a little help shedding fat and aiding muscle growth? Burn Lab Pro, the world's most advanced fat loss support, can help you achieve your goals quicker and easier with the cleanest, safest and most effective cutting tool ever created!
- Wall, Benjamin Toby et al. “Aging Is Accompanied by a Blunted Muscle Protein Synthetic Response to Protein Ingestion.” PloS one vol. 10,11 e0140903. 4 Nov. 2015, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0140903