Key Strategies for Body Recomposition

We’ve been told for decades that it’s impossible to target fat loss and muscle gain at the same time (also known as body recomposition), but that’s not entirely accurate. Rather than focusing on just your weight, you need to know what that weight is made up. If you’re tired of the weight-loss roller coaster and ready for a more effective strategy, this episode is for you.

Today, we delve into the critical role of protein, why lowering your sugar impact is essential, and the importance of movement, including resistance and HIIT training. Plus, I share my husband’s jaw-dropping transformation as a testament to the power of these strategies. So, if you’re looking to make a lasting change to your body composition, you won’t want to miss this episode!


00:01:02 Explaining the difference between body recomposition and weight loss

00:01:38 Why protein is important for muscle growth, and how to determine your ideal daily intake

00:04:05 Lowering sugar impact: The negative effects of sugar on body composition 

00:06:13 How to tailor your caloric restriction strategy to your specific body composition goals

00:08:11 The importance of non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) and increasing daily movement for better metabolism.

00:09:37 How to increase the intensity of your walks

00:10:40 The dangers of visceral fat and methods to monitor it

00:11:40 The role of stress management and high-intensity interval training (HIIT) in reducing visceral fat.

00:13:20 The importance of resistance training for muscle growth and metabolic boost, including the best exercises to do

00:14:47 Additional resources for beginners, including a video on creating a resistance training routine and a downloadable cheat sheet.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

7-Day Eat Protein First Challenge

Track your protein & macros with Cronometer

Download my FREE Protein Cheat Sheet

Renpho Bioimpedance Scale

Download my free Resistance Training Cheat Sheet

Sugar Impact Diet

Tape Measure

TRX Resistance Training Equipment: Free Shipping on all orders $99+

Walking Pad

Study: Is the goal of 12,000 steps per day sufficient for improving body composition and metabolic syndrome? The necessity of combining exercise intensity: a randomized controlled trial

Click Here To Read Transcript

[00:00:00] JJ: I’m JJ Virgin, PhD dropout, sorry mom, turned four time New York Times bestselling author. Yes, I’m a certified nutrition specialist, fitness hall of famer, and I speak at health conferences and trainings around the globe, but I’m driven by my insatiable [00:00:20] curiosity and love of science to keep asking questions.

[00:00:22] JJ: Digging for answers and sharing the information I uncover with as many people as I can. And that’s why I created the Well Beyond 40 podcast to synthesize and simplify the science of health into actionable strategies to help you thrive. In each episode, we’ll talk about [00:00:40] what’s working in the world of wellness, from personalized nutrition and healing your metabolism, to healthy aging and prescriptive fitness.

[00:00:47] JJ: Join me on the journey to better health so you can love how you look and feel right now and have the energy to play full out at 100.[00:01:00]

[00:01:02] JJ: You can burn fat and build muscle at the same time. It’s a long standing myth that you can’t work towards both these goals at once, which has led to decades of misguided advice. It’s not weight you should be focusing on after all, it’s the weight, it’s what that weight’s made up of, and [00:01:20] that’s called your body composition.

[00:01:22] JJ: Now, re comping, losing fat and putting on muscle is different than weight loss and it’s a much more effective approach than what you’ve probably been doing your whole life. And when you do it this way, you get off that crazy roller coaster of losing weight, then gaining weight, then losing weight. All right?

[00:01:38] JJ: So, first thing that I [00:01:40] want you to do when you focus on re comping, which again is we’re going to focus on losing fat and holding on to or putting on muscle, same time, is to Protein. And I like to say, eat protein first. Now, you’re going to want to be on the higher end of your protein range. I basically tell people to eat 0.

[00:01:59] JJ: [00:02:00] 7 to 1 gram per pound of target body weight, but I want you to go on the higher end, 1 gram per pound of target body weight. And I’ve created a simple little cheat sheet so that it’s really easy for you to get that protein in, at least 30 grams at each meal. 40 to 50 is better and at least a hundred grams overall.

[00:02:18] JJ: But again, one gram per pound of [00:02:20] target body weight. So you can get that at jjvirgin. com forward slash protein cheat sheet. So why do I want you to eat more protein? Well, it was interesting. I had Dr. Bill Campbell over to do a podcast and he mentioned to me that anyone he saw that tends to be very lean for as a female, Always ate on the higher end of the protein levels.

[00:02:39] JJ: And what we know [00:02:40] about that is people who are eating more protein, especially when they are in a caloric deficit, and we’re going to talk about caloric restriction here in a moment, and it’s not an evil word. Um, they tended to hold onto or even build muscle as they lost fat. So that’s the first thing is we know that if you’re eating protein, especially eating protein first, because then we know.[00:03:00]

[00:03:00] JJ: That’s why I tell people to eat protein first. I want to make sure you don’t fill up on other stuff before you got your protein in, is that you are more satiated and more satisfied. You’re going to make better food choices. You’re going to have a bigger thermic effect from the protein, and you’re going to give your muscles the building blocks they need.

[00:03:17] JJ: First of all, the leucine to trigger muscle protein [00:03:20] synthesis, and then the essential amino acids they need to build muscle and to avoid being catabolic, breaking down muscle. That’s the very first one is making sure that you’re optimizing that protein. And there’s been a ton of studies literally showing that when you’re eating more protein in a caloric deficit, it can minimize or negate the [00:03:40] loss of muscle mass.

[00:03:41] JJ: And that’s what we’re really trying to do here is minimize that muscle mass or help you put on muscle as you’re losing fat. Over the past eight months, my husband lost 27 pounds of fat and put on 24 pounds of muscle. And he did that eating one gram per pound of [00:04:00] target body weight of his protein and then doing the other things that I’m about to talk about.

[00:04:05] JJ: And the next one was lowering sugar impact. Now, I was just with Dr. Rick Johnson and he wrote Nature Wants Us to Be Fat and he showed some research where, with mice, where they didn’t lose weight. [00:04:20] He kept all calories controlled. He had one group of mice on a high sugar diet and one group of mice on a regular feed diet.

[00:04:30] JJ: And on the high sugar diet, these mice gained fat and lost muscle and especially gained more visceral adipose tissue. So you [00:04:40] can change your body composition So, I’m going to talk to you today about how you can lose weight in a good way or a bad way without losing any weight whatsoever, based on your macronutrients.

[00:04:49] JJ: If you eat a higher sugar diet, and especially a higher fructose diet, you will tend to have higher visceral fat, and higher fat overall, and lower muscle mass. So, one [00:05:00] of the things that I would love you to do is lower your sugar impact. I wrote a book called The Sugar Impact Diet. And it is where I rated foods based on their sugar impact.

[00:05:09] JJ: They were either high, medium, or low sugar impact. Low sugar impact foods, I’ll give you an example of a high sugar impact food, would be a raisin. Basically dried food is candy. [00:05:20] A medium sugar impact food would be a grape. It’s a medium sugar fruit. And a low sugar impact food would be a blueberry. So that is an example.

[00:05:30] JJ: Or, a high sugar impact food, a sweet potato fry, a medium sugar impact food, sweet potato, a low sugar impact food, butternut squash. So I rated the [00:05:40] foods, and what’s interesting was when Tim, my husband, found out he was 25 percent body fat and went on this program, that’s one of the things we did was we started to look at his sugar impact.

[00:05:50] JJ: Impact. And he was eating things like STE chips, which, okay, a couple of those is fine, but he was kind of going a little overboard on some of these things. So what we did was we lowered his [00:06:00] sugar impact as one of the things that he did, and that’s going to help. So I would highly recommend if you have not really done a deep dive into how many carbs you’re eating and where they’re coming from to check out the Sugar Impact Diet.

[00:06:13] JJ: Now the next thing is caloric restriction. And in order for you to lose. Now you can [00:06:20] lose body fat and put on muscle, um, and shift some of that without much caloric restriction if you’re trying to keep your weight the same. But if you want to drop overall weight, you’re going to need to be in caloric restriction.

[00:06:31] JJ: And if you want to lose body fat, it’s going to be a little easier to be slightly in caloric restriction, right? While you’re putting on muscle, if you want to lose more [00:06:40] body fat, You’re going to increase the caloric restriction. Now I really like the research that Dr. Bill Campbell has been doing where he’s found that if you want to hold onto or build muscle while losing body fat, that you do cycling caloric restriction.

[00:06:53] JJ: What does that mean? That means five days a week, you are going to do 25 percent caloric restriction. Two days a [00:07:00] week, you’re going to eat your maintenance calories. How do you know what this is? Well, the single best way to figure out your maintenance calories is to track what you’re eating for one week.

[00:07:08] JJ: Do a macro audit. I love to use the Cronometer app, and if you go to jjvirgin. com forward slash Cronometer, that’s where you can access that free app. And I like to [00:07:20] use that app just for a week, just to get an average over the week of how many calories I need a day to maintain my weight. Then take 75 percent of those calories and eat that much, making sure that you’re getting the optimal protein.

[00:07:32] JJ: Don’t take it away from the protein, right? Make sure you’re getting the optimal amount of protein for five days, and then two days eat [00:07:40] normally. This does not mean, you know, go off on a binge. Just eat your maintenance calories, and then rotate it five days on. Two days maintenance, five days caloric restriction, two days maintenance.

[00:07:51] JJ: What he found by doing that is people actually could sustain the diet way better, but they were able to put on some muscle [00:08:00] mass by doing that. So I really love cycling caloric restriction. Also find it just makes it kind of easy, especially if you do theoric restriction during the week. And then kind of live life on the weekends.

[00:08:11] JJ: Now, next one that’s going to help here is moving more. So when you look at your overall total daily energy expenditure, about [00:08:20] 15 to 30 percent of your total daily energy expenditure is from moving activity. And when I think of activity, I think of both exercise and non exercise activity thermogenesis.

[00:08:30] JJ: So all activity. Now you might exercise, it might account for 5 to 10 percent of your daily activity expenditure. And there’s only so much exercise you [00:08:40] can do before you just aren’t recovering well, and you’re just flat out tired. So where you have room is in moving more. And this has a way bigger impact on our metabolism than people realize.

[00:08:53] JJ: In fact, there was a study done where they had people just make sure they were walking 12, 000 steps a day. And then one of the [00:09:00] groups pushed and did faster walking three days a week and had significant shifts, their body composition and their cardiovascular benefits. So what I have people do is number one, start tracking what you’re, how much you’re moving.

[00:09:13] JJ: So track your steps. Then increase your steps about 10 percent every couple days until you get to 8 to 12, 000 [00:09:20] steps. 12, 000 better, but 8, 000 is your bare minimum each day. Oh, and one of the ways you can get your 000 steps in a day, I am at a stand up desk right now, and just below me is a walking pad. So now I can have my meetings walking on a walking pad, Or I can go outside and walk.

[00:09:37] JJ: So it’s an easy way to make sure you’re getting your steps in. [00:09:40] Now, beyond just getting your steps in, add some intensity, because again, that’s going to help with bigger improvements in body composition. You’ll still be taking the same amount of steps, but you just added intensity. There’s three ways you can do this.

[00:09:51] JJ: Number one, go faster. Number two, add some hills. Well, I live in Florida, so there are no hills. You can add hills. You can add [00:10:00] stairs, right? But the third one. is to add a weighted vest. It’s called a rucking vest. And I think this is one of the easiest things that we can do is just get yourself a vest that goes from 4 to 10 pounds to start.

[00:10:12] JJ: Just start with 5 pounds. Keep it easy. But then you can add in 1 pound weights until you get to 10 pounds. And just try adding that in for [00:10:20] part of your walk every day. And bonus points if you can do that one after dinner. Now, Another thing that can make a big shift here, because we’re not just looking at changing your body composition, because it’s not just body fat.

[00:10:33] JJ: It’s where that body fat’s located, right? And there’s subcutaneous fat that’s fat just below your skin, and it’s the inches you [00:10:40] can pinch. But truthfully, it’s the inches you can’t pinch that are the bigger problem. And that’s something called your visceral adipose tissue. You can monitor this visceral adipose tissue through DEXA scans.

[00:10:51] JJ: Through some of the bio impedance scales, which are just going to make, um, a prediction. It’s not super accurate. But the way I really like to monitor at home is with [00:11:00] a tape measure. And there’s one called Renpho. That’s a Bluetooth tape measure. I’ll put it in the notes that will read into your phone. So it’s easy for you to track.

[00:11:08] JJ: And that’s one you want to do every week. It’s do a waist to hip and waist to height tape measure, because if you’re losing weight, but not losing your waist, you could be making yourself worse, not better. We want to make sure that The fat you’re losing that you’re really [00:11:20] focusing on losing that visceral adipose tissue.

[00:11:21] JJ: ’cause you really literally want this visceral, adipose tissue to be as l close to zero as possible. No more than 10% of your overall body fat, but it’s close to zero as possible. And we know one of the ways you can lose that visceral adipose tissue is by lowering that sugar impact and especially getting the fructose out, helping with [00:11:40] stress.

[00:11:40] JJ: Stress is another big one. Cortisol. We have a lot of cortisol receptors around our belly that causes us to lose belly fat. Hormone replacement therapy, especially estrogen, because we start to produce estrogen through our belly fat. But another one that can help us here is something called high intensity interval training.

[00:11:58] JJ: And so you’re going to want to be [00:12:00] doing some cardio every week. We’ll talk resistance training next. But when you’re doing your cardio training, see if there’s something You can do that cardio training as high intensity interval training. And what that means is let’s say that you started out on a bike, you would pedal and then you would pedal super hard for 30 to 60 seconds.

[00:12:18] JJ: Then you recover for twice as long by [00:12:20] just pedaling. And then you hit it hard again. And you do this to accumulate four to eight total minutes of heart. You can do this in a variety of different phases. You can do that Tabata training of 10 seconds. Um, on 20 seconds off, I think it’s 10 and 10. You can do one minute hard, one minute easy, but it’s just really hard and recover [00:12:40] and hard and recover is the idea of high intensity interval training.

[00:12:43] JJ: And when I say hard, I’m talking hard. Like you should feel like at the end of that segment, you can’t go again. And then you recover till your breath comes back to normal. And when you’re recovering, you’re actually using that lactate that you’ve built as a fuel source. And then you recover [00:13:00] and then you push it again.

[00:13:02] JJ: Next up, beyond HIIT training, is resistance training. Now, resistance training is absolutely critical here because if you are doing caloric restriction, you want to make sure that you hold on to or build muscle. You’ve got to be stimulating the muscles. There’s two ways that [00:13:20] we trigger muscle protein synthesis.

[00:13:21] JJ: Resistance training, and And protein. Now of course we need the amino acids to be able to build the muscle, but we also need the stimulus to build the muscle, and that’s resistance training. And resistance training means we’re going to lift weights and do more than what our body’s used to, so our body has to recover while we sleep, right, so that we [00:13:40] can do this.

[00:13:40] JJ: Now, When I think of resistance training, I think of working in, um, full body compound movements as much as possible because it has a bigger metabolic cost. And again, when I think of that, I also know that when I’m training, I’m training to get better at life, not to get better at working out in the gym.

[00:13:57] JJ: And so I’m talking about things like [00:14:00] squats and overhead presses and push ups and pull ups and bent over rows. I’ll share how you can get more information on that in a minute. You’re You’re going to do multiple sets, you’re going to do repetitions. Probably anywhere from six to 30 reps of multiple sets with about a minute to three minutes rest break in between.[00:14:20]

[00:14:20] JJ: And for hypertrophy, that’s the best range to build muscle. And when we build muscle, you improve insulin sensitivity. You have carbohydrates a place to land rather than on your belly fat. They’re going to go into your muscles to be stored for energy for next time. It is the The fastest way that can we can start to restore that insulin [00:14:40] sensitivity and you’re going to have a bigger metabolic cost from doing that workout because your body now has to recover from it.

[00:14:47] JJ: So if you are new to resistance training, do not worry. I did a whole video on this where I break down exactly what you need to do to create a routine. With targeted strength training exercises [00:15:00] that focus on upper body pushing, upper body pulling, hips and thigh, and how to pull in your power core, all designed to improve your health, your strength, and help you lose fat as well.

[00:15:10] JJ: So check out the next resistance training video, and you’ll also be able to download my resistance training cheat sheet.[00:15:20]

[00:15:20] JJ: Be sure to join me next time for more tools, tips, and techniques you can incorporate into everyday life to ensure you look and feel great. And more importantly, that you’re built to last. And check me out on Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and my website, jjvirgin. com. And make sure to follow my podcast so you don’t miss a single episode at [00:15:40] subscribetojj.

[00:15:41] JJ: com. See you next time.

[00:15:53] JJ: Hey, JJ here. And just a reminder that the Well Beyond 40 podcast offers health, wellness, fitness, and nutritional information that’s [00:16:00] designed for educational and entertainment purposes only. You should not rely on this information as a substitute for, nor does it replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

[00:16:10] JJ: If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional. Make sure that you do not disregard, avoid, or delay obtaining [00:16:20] medical or health related advice from your healthcare professional because of something you may have heard on this show or read in our show notes.

[00:16:26] JJ: The use of any information provided on this show is solely at your own risk.
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