The Difference Between Weight Loss and Body Recomposition

Hey Angels and Alphas,

When you’re thinking about weight loss, it’s always important to remember stepping on the scale is just one of the many ways you can track your progress. It’s absolutely normal for weight to fluctuate due to countless reasons, including how much water you have (or hadn’t) had to drink, your stress and anxiety levels, your hormones, electrolyte balance, time of the day, and more. However, stepping on a scale once a day or once a week and looking at the trends can be a good variable you can track that will help you determine whether you’re making progress or not. 

While weight loss focuses on burning off fat stores and seeing the number on the scale trend downward, body recomposition refers to creating changes in the body’s fat to muscle ratio. 

This involves reducing fat tissue while simultaneously building and leaning out muscle. In doing so, your weight will remain largely the same throughout the process, since muscle weighs more than fat. 

Is there really a healthy body composition?

Unlike body weight, body composition is much more difficult to measure and it’s not directly tied to any number or variable. A bodybuilder may register as “overweight” when asked about their weight, and someone who clocks in at “underweight” may actually have an unhealthy amount of fat mass. You have DEXA scans, bioelectrical sales, bod pods, hydrostatic weighing, and all of these other methods of measuring body composition. That being said, they’re not only expensive, but sometimes they’re difficult to access and even inaccurate.

Instead, what we recommend in terms of telling whether or not you’re successfully building muscle and losing fat is to just look in the mirror. You might notice some changes in the contour, shape, and different parts of your body and muscles. Your clothes might also begin to feel a little different. You can also take regular progress photos to track small changes that might not usually be noticeable at first. 

How do all your macros fit in?

Whether your goal is to lose weight or achieve a better body composition, both of these will require healthy eating and exercise. If you’re already counting macros, you’re likely familiar with the process of breaking down your total calorie budget into a ratio of protein, carbs, and fat.

  • If your goal is to lose weight, you should lower your target carbohydrate intake by 5–10%
  • If your goal is to build muscle, you should prioritize protein by lowering your carbohydrate and fat ratios by 7–10%

As you progress, you will start noticing that you need tweaks in your ratio, which is something a dietitian can really help you with.

How does exercise play a role?

For weight loss, 150 minutes of moderate-to-intense physical activity is vital and this could be as simple as adding more steps/walking more throughout your day.  

If you’re trying to focus on body recomposition, prioritizing strength training will be the most important factor of your success.

As you begin losing weight and/or gaining muscle, you will notice you have a more difficult time keeping up with the momentum you used to have when you initially began working on that goal. But you shouldn’t get discouraged. Plateaus are just a part of the process. If you’re not seeing the results you expect, you should consider changing up your strength-training routine or incorporating new moves and experimenting with new training methods.

The bottom line is…

Whether you’re someone who is looking to lose fat or you’re someone who wants to build muscle as they’re losing fat, both approaches will require consuming quality whole-food sources that include lots of protein, fat and carbs. By nourishing your body consistently and proactively for better performance and adding regular exercise to your day, you naturally improve your health, strength, and mood, which goes beyond the number on the scale or a simple body composition scan.