Re-Thinking Nutrition Without Counting Macros – The “Recomper”
Written by Fritz Nugent
Many people I talk to don’t know how to count calories, and don’t understand the concept of macros. Sometimes, this scares them away from trying to tackle their nutrition. If you are one of these people, have no fear! There are other ways to leverage nutrition to move towards your performance and body composition goals! Before we get into the weeds with the “how” on this, I want to start with some basics.
Nutrition, in its simplest form, must match us. If our bodies require a certain amount of energy to work, then we must match that amount with food and liquid. Our bodies are happy that way. A happy body is one that is not too stressed, and not under-stressed, either. This is called homeostasis. The formula to optimize homeostasis looks like this:
Intake of Food = Energy Expended
Now let’s get a little more complex. There are three types of people:
#1 – The Recomper – the person who wants to stay the same weight while gaining muscle and losing fat. This is called “re-composition”, or recomp for short.
#2 – Fat Loss – the person who wants to lose body weight. No one wants to lose muscle mass, so let’s assume that this person really wants to lose body fat (a loss in muscle mass = a loss in energy expended, from our simple formula above).
#3 – Lean gain – the person who wants to gain weight. Similar to the weight loss client, most people who want to gain weight don’t want that mass to come from body fat and desire a lean gain, or mostly lean, which means that some of the weight gained will be muscle mass, and some from body fat gain.
Now that we have our avatars set, let’s look at what affects each type of person.
When a person loses body fat and gains muscle mass while staying at one body weight, they become leaner! Body fat percentage drops, and that translates to an increase in expended energy at rest during the day (imagine the simple formula from above is still balanced, i.e. food = energy used)! This is a great thing and means this person can eat MORE food than before and have their homeostasis formula balanced. The person who wants to “lean out” or “get toned” fits into this category. For them to be successful, they must first do these things well:
- sleep 8 hours a night
- minimize life stress beyond what is essential to meet life goals
- optimize movement opportunities (training, walks, hikes, etc.)
Once sleep, stress, and movement are under control, then changes to nutrition will have a large magnitude of effect on body composition change. If you are super-stressed and not sleeping well, changing your nutrition up could be a waste of time. Get your life under control first, then add in nutrition changes.
Nutritionally, without counting macros, this person must begin to track their food somehow. It is very difficult to make changes to the quantity of food that someone consumes without tracking that quantity. If they don’t want to weigh and measure all of their food, they must begin to utilize hand portion sizes along with simple counting.
For example, if at breakfast I eat two eggs, a fingertip amount of butter, a fist-sized serving of oatmeal, and a cupped hand of berries, then I now have a way to compare today’s breakfast with tomorrow’s breakfast.
Now, if you tracked everything you ate like this for 3-5 days, we would get an idea of your average amount of food that you eat each day! Still no macros needed. From here, we can make adjustments. If this amount of food is keeping you at your current body weight, then we can change the amount of each food that you eat, and sometimes the time of day at which you eat it. If we decrease your food, you will most likely lose body weight, and for a recomper, this is NOT ideal.They want to keep their current mass and lose fat while gaining muscle. So instead, we look at how much fat, carbohydrates, and protein are in each food you eat and would push you to move towards an optimal ratio of those foods to induce fat loss and muscle gain. Usually what I see most frequently is poor food choices and people consuming too many fatty foods. Once we replace fatty foods with more protein and carbs, the body fat begins to drop off. The best part is that people sometimes can’t believe how much food they MUST eat to stay at their current weight!
Have nutrition questions?! Fire away! We’d be happy to feature your question (anonymous, of course) in one of our future blog posts.
Next time, I’ll go over the fat loss client. Stay tuned…and thanks for reading!