T Nation

Body Recomposition - Which Way?


Decided to throw this out here for folks to jaw-jaw on.

For most people who've been through body recomposition/transformation, the norm is to see a scrawny fella who gained 50 lbs while staying lean or for a big dude with high BF% to lose 50 lbs and become insanely shredded.

I am examining options for someone who is looking to recompose the body such that the weight remains about the same at the end i.e.

Now: 190 lbs, 20% BF
After: 180 - 190 lbs, 10%
** 12 - 24 months timeframe

I am interested in what you guys think about the following:

1) Cut to lose more fat than LBM until single BF%, then slowly add LBM
2) Bulk to add more LBM than FAT, then cut
3) Mini cut and bulk cycles , say every 5/6 months
4) Eat and train smart and let body slowly recompose itself
5) Any other

Please draw from your experience/knowledge and if there is any thread on here or elsewhere where similar issues have been addressed please post links.

Thanks a lot!


I'd say 3 would be the worst option. 1 or 2 would be fine, although how tall are you?


If this person has not been training, then as a newb they can probably eat at slightly above maintenance, but cleanly (i.e. no empyt calories from soft drinks, refined carbs, etc.) with a lot of protein and their body will show improvements in composition during the first 2 months.

Then, if they are up a bit in weight and around 17%, I would suggest they get lean while lifting and end up around 10-12% BF, then maintain for a bit while focusing on strenght, then focus on "bulking".

We need more info, and I'm sure many will jump on me for my post, but I think that you can do both for a bit, but that when you have little muscle and are around 15-20% BF it's better in the long run to get lean and build back up than bulking at that point.


This 'person' is me. more info below:

--35 yo, 5'9"
--about 3.5yrs cumulative lifting experience, intelligently only last few months
--Training style has been primarily for strength
--Estimated Bench:255, Squat:275, Dead:455
**Squat # low 'cos I never did them until recently
--Weighed 190lbs, 20%(hydrostatic) last October. Since lost at least 7 lbs while getting stronger so I suspect my BF is slightly lower now.
--My emphasis will remain getting stronger but I also want to 'replace' fat with muscle so finding an optimal strategy that accounts for both is crucial.

Let me know if anything is missing. Thanks!


It's really up to you, (almost) any strategy will work, just pick one and stick with it.


While there are some here who think that continuing bulking would be in order, I am not of that cult. When you're at 20%, you over did it.

I think that if you started to do a slower cut until you hit the 12-15% you could reasses your goals and see what you want. You could start to more aggresively cut towards 10% and below, but you wouldn't end up within that 180-190 range.

Right now, you're telling us you have about 150-155lbs of LBM. You'd have to gain 30lbs more muscle to reach your goal.

I think you need to figure out what I want. Do you want to be in the 165-175lb range with 10%bf or do you want that extra 15lbs of muscle.

If I were you, I'd keep doing what your doing but drop calories below maitainance so that you're losing 1-2lbs a week. Then once you find yourself at the point of going either way - bulking, cutting or maintainance - choose what you want. Do you want do to lactic acid training and/or lots of cardio or do you want to go at a much slower pace and make a long transformation?

Good luck


Thanks Trench...but so you don't misunderstand:

I didn't intentionally bulked up to 20%. That was just what my lifestyle in the past left me with. I have been between 180-190 the last ten years without any major effort at watching my diet plus with a sedentary lifestyle for the most part.

I had about 151 lbs of LBM when I did BF test last Oct, assuming most of that is intact, I need to gain 20 lbs of muscle. Still not easy but easier than trying to gain 30.

I am not leaning towards bulking, at least not any bulk that involves more than 10 lbs (less excess bloat).


Honestly it depends on how your body responds to training, your frame, etc.
We can't tell your bodytype and frame without pictures - merely throwing a weight and bf% doesn't cut it.
If you're a lanky guy with a bad frame who's been training a year and gotten to 190 soft at normal height your results will likely be less than spectacular trying to add mass whens soft. If you have the right body frame to add size things will be different.

No matter what you decide to do, your ability to progressively force (yes FORCE. not wait for) strength gains between sessions in selected movements while going up in weight will for the most part determine your lean gains. And that depends very strongly on your "mindset" while training.
Put up some pictures and I'll be happy to add my comments if you want.


I have basically been doing your #4 approach with some success. I'm 5'7" and 46 years old, started going to the gym at 155 lbs, about 16% fat. For about 6 months, my weight didn't change at all, but bf dropped to about 11%. Then my bf stayed steady and my weight went slowly up to 165 over about a year. Hopefully that will continue.

I'm sure this was not the best I could have done, but it's enough to keep me motivated, and startle people who know me. During the simultaneous fat loss + muscle gain phase, I was a total newbie. You aren't, so that might not happen for you. Prior to starting at the gym, I had dieted off 15 lbs of fat.

Anyway, my experience seems like a mini version of what you want to do, FYI. Others probably know a better way, though.


There have been some good responses so far.

I kind of was in your shoes when I first started (still going through the "body recomp") but I started at around 160lbs at around 15% bodyfat and after about 1.5 years got up to 225lbs at probably 17-18% bf (pictures on my profile). Currently, I'm dieting down to single digit bf which will likely leave me between 190 and 195 (at 205 right now).

So I think you should get your bodyfat down to an acceptable level and then gain as much muscle as possible and accepting some fat gain and realize you may not look so good towards the end of your gaining phase, and THEN do a "cut" to get to where you want to be. You could probably get this done in 2 years.

good luck man.


circa Dec 7, 2008


Thanks for your inputs.

Above pic was taken about 1.5 months ago when I weighed 187 lbs. I have since lost about 4 lbs, and 1.25 inches from the waist(navel). But this pic is still good representation of how I look.

Waist(navel) 34.25(?)

All measurements are still within .25" inch range except for waist as mentioned above.


Well, considering that you've said that you only have been lifting intelligently for a few months, I think that if you choose a program with higher volume (if you're conditioned for it), it would be beneficial for you.

I don't know if you have time to do separate cardio and lifting sessions. The higher volume will create more microtrauma requiring more calories to repair. Also, it will help improve insulin sensitivity, which will certainly help you on your quest.

However, don't cut calories too drastically if you're doing higher volume. A little below maintainance will probably do the trick.

Also, I don't know if you're interested in purchasing programs, but Waterbury's 10/10 methodology is something designed to rectify the exact situation you're in (keep same weight but change composition). I'm not that big a fan of Waterbury, but I do know of some people who have had good success with it.

Diet is going to be a big thing, here, too. But I think you already know that if you've worked yourself up to a 455 deadlift. Sorry if I'm repeating anything you're already familiar with.



I think if he's never followed any structured, periodized plan, he will see results with anything - that includes CW's 10/10 plan. Even CT's new Get Jacked eBook sounds promising; lots of people have picked it up apparently and the plans for diet and supplementation and recovery seem to be well laid out.


Going by what Trenchant is saying - to eat slightly below maintenance - I would figure your maintenance at 15XLBM and subtract 10% (or simply use 13.5 x LBM). If you're under 15% or less, use BW and not LBM.

Leave room in the week for increasing physical activity, meaning don't go all out and have fasted cardio every morning; leave some room for manipulation so you can address plateaus.

Maybe start out with having carbs only PWO, then add them in pre-workout, then in the mornings. You'll have to learn to read your body on this.

Write out a sample menu for yourself for lifting days and off days. Learn to prep meals. It'll take you a few weeks to get a rhythm down and the same amount of time for your metabolism to fall inline with your physical activity.


Read Berardi's G-flux articles. I believe it works.


I'd go with 2 because with the extra LBM you'll be burning more calories at rest. Therefore it will then be easier to burn the access fat. Where if you do number 1 and cut first your going to lose some LBM (its almost inevitable) and slow down your metabolism. Just my .02cents


you DONT need to be cutting or bulking.

Just clean up your diet and start training with higher volumes and more sets to failure.

Look into carb cycling, CKD's or some other form of low carb dieting.

Your doing ok on strength, so from now on, dont rest longer than 45-60 secodns for 90% of your workouts. Once in a while go longer if you want to focus on strength.