Recomposition: The Secret to a Full Body Transformation

shazam transformation

Recomposition: The Secret to a Full Body Transformation

By: Julio Hannibal Canario

shazam transformationBy a show of hands who wants to burn fat?

Now who wants to build muscle?

Now who wants to do both at the same time?

I imagine everyone raising their hands way up high. (I don’t really expect you to be raising your hands but if you are then extra points for you)

“But is it really possible to lose fat and gain muscle simultaneously?”

If we were to hop into our DeLorean and travel back in time a few years, younger me would tell you that accomplishing this was not possible. That such a transformation is like a lost relic that was never meant to be found.

I would obviously then proceed to slap younger me back into reality and drop some knowledge.

You see, the truth  is that losing fat while gaining muscle is indeed possible. The problem is that we have all been going about it the wrong way.

In this article I will share with you the secrets of a full body transformation through a process called recomposition.


Recomposition is the process of losing fat and gaining muscle simultaneously. Many actually refer to this process as the Holy Grail of fitness.

Why the Holy Grail?

Well, the name “the Holy Grail” is used in tangent with recomposition simply because gaining muscle while either losing or maintaining your current body fat is the sought out prize for many. It’s the gold at the end of the rainbow.

Along with this prize come increased strength, increased stamina, and increased focus. As mentioned above, if you were to ask anyone what their fitness goals are most likely they would say to lose fat and get stronger which is code for……..teach me how to recomp.

“So if recomposition is so amazing, then why haven’t I heard of it before?”

Body recomposition has been around for a long time, however, it does have its share of misconceptions such as the big one which is that gaining muscle and losing fat simultaneously is not possible.

Yes, many people feel that doing both is not achievable by us mere mortals.

They say that you can’t kill two birds with one stone. Well, they obviously did not use the correct stone.

Such disbelief has prevented others from attempting recomp or worse, caused them to not even be aware of its existence in the fitness world.

Up until a few years ago I too fell into that same bucket of those who did not believe that such a transformation was obtainable. I mean, this is what I constantly heard from others including several popular publications.

So I was stuck with the notion that you either lose fat or gain muscle. Don’t waste your time doing both.

It wasn’t until a few years later when I used a certain program from my soon to be mentor that I then understood that this so called unobtainable goal was actually within my grasp.

In fact it was mind blowing when I dropped 4% body fat and gained 4% of lean body mass in return. Yes, this might seem like a minor accomplishment but for someone who has been struggling for years the feeling which I felt after making such a transformation was amazing.


Mario Bro Question BoxAs the name implies it involves manipulating your overall body composition.

Your body composition refers to all the good stuff that your body is made up of such as protein, fat, water and minerals. The body can also be divided into two components:

  • Fat Components (Storage Fat)
  • Fat Free Components (Essential Fat)

Fat components represent all the fat on your body. For health benefits, it is important to hold on to some fat as it provides cushioning for your organs. However, having too high of a fat percentage can lead to health issues such as heart disease and diabetes. It is recommended to keep track of your body fat in order to tell if you are making progress and losing fat as opposed to losing muscle. How to measure your body fat percentage will be the topic of a future article post.

In the meantime here’s a quick look at body fat percentages between males and females:

Body Fat Chart

Fat free components represent your bones, skin, muscle, organs and even water. It is anything that is not fat on your body. Increasing fat free percentage is a good thing. This means that you are lowering your total body fat percentage which is ultimately your goal.


With a name such as “the Holy Grail of Fitness” you can see why for many people this type of body transformation might seem unobtainable. In fact, the two main reasons why many individuals either fail at body recomposition or never start their transformation in the first place are:

  • Time
  • Misguided approaches

Rome was not built in a day

Going through a body recomposition varies from person to person.

Now, while some may finish there recomp in a short time frame, it is not a thirty day challenge which anyone could just pick up and be done with in no time.

You are aiming to maximize strength, performance, endurance, speed and health. You are basically aiming to achieve superhero status.

Do you think that Bruce Wayne reached his physical condition in simply thirty days?

Of course not, it took time and dedication and as you can see, the payoff was well worth it.

You’re doing it all wrong

It might SOUND logical that in order to recomp you would lift heavy to gain muscle and perform cardiovascular activities to lose fat and this is absolutely valid. However, simply doing a few bicep curls and any kind of cardio will not get you the results that you are aiming for.

So what is the proper way?

When training for recomp, you should be focusing on compound movements such as deadlifts, squats and presses. These kinds of movements work multiple muscle groups and encourage muscle growth. This is in contrast to isolation movements.

As for cardio, you want to focus less on long duration cardio and more on high intensity cardio or as I like to call it, fun cardio. We will cover this in more detail shortly.

What about nutrition? Well, how you eat plays a HUGE role in recomposition. That’s right; I didn’t say anything about what you eat but HOW you eat. More on this further down.


Indiana Jones Holy Grail

The three steps for achieving recomposition are:

  • Determine your target weight and target body fat
  • Cycle your calories and macronutrients
  • Maximize training

Determine your target weight and body fat

Deciding what your target weight is might be difficult for some. An approach to take is selecting a range and narrowing it down further as you see results.

We will use the example of someone who is 205lbs and above 20% bf. An ideal weight (target weight) for someone at this starting point would be in the 180-185lbs and 13-15% bf range. Within this range you would have lost a significant amount of fat but also replaced some of this fat with muscle. Pretty sweet!

Cycle your calories and macronutrients

So now that you know what you’re aiming for; time to take action.

At first you might think, “well I’ll just eat very little and watch the weight disappear”. While controlling your caloric intake is the first step, simply eating less means that you’re not accounting for muscle gain.

What happens in this scenario is that your body will start looking for a place to feed from and guess where it will look to for nutrients? That’s right, your muscles – Not Good.

Remember, the overall goal of body recomp is NOT to lose muscle while dropping the fat.

Instead, what you want to do is lower your caloric intake on days when you do not train or on days where you perform cardio activity.

On top of being in a caloric deficit you also want to lower your macronutrient intake. Macronutrients are foods which are required in any diet which consist of protein, carbohydrates and fat. So on a caloric deficit day you will have a decline in macronutrients as well.

Now on the other end of the spectrum, training days will require a caloric and macronutrient surplus (Eat More).

In a future article I will discuss formulas that will get you to those magical calorie and macronutrient numbers which you will need to hit in order to reach your goal so stay tuned. In the meantime though you could sign up below for my newsletter and receive the free Heroes in Training Book which provides those calculations.

Training for recomp

As previously mentioned, you want to train with heavy compound movements. Of course if you are new to training you do not want to begin too heavy but adjust according to your overall strength. Just make sure that you practice the movement first so that you are able to perform the exercise correctly.

It is more valuable to do one perfect rep then to do ten wrong ones.

Next up is high intensity interval training  or HIIT.

If you want a fun, fast and more effective form of cardio than look no further than HITT.

While long duration cardio is very repetitive, long and personally speaking very boring, HITT makes things interesting.

For example, instead of doing a 30-40 min treadmill jog, you would perform a 15-20min jog where you alternate between 30-40sec sprints. It’s a nice little challenge to spice up your workout.


So there you have it; the secret (or not so secret anymore) method of a full body transformation. Yes, changing your body composition is something that will not happen overnight but the end results will have you feeling confident, healthier and stronger.

Now it’s your turn.

Have you had any difficulties losing fat while gaining muscle? Please share in the comments below.

Until next time; you have chosen wisely.


Photos: Comic Vine, Mario Question Box, Legendary Motivation, Rob Gillespie

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Julio Hannibal Canario
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Julio Hannibal Canario

Web Programmer by day, fitness vigilante by night and lover of all things geek. When I'm not helping others to restart their bodies and health through proper fitness strategies, you can find me obsessing over 80's films, time travel, and superheroes, all while saving a puppy's life.
Julio Hannibal Canario
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