Body recomposition; an alternative to weight-loss

These days you can barely log onto social media without a sponsored ad from one of the ever-growing number of personal training (PT) providers popping up on your timeline and offering you a total transformation in X amount of time. 

Many of these ads contain a ‘before and after’ picture of an existing client, complete with testimonial and many focus on the amount of weight lost, and the (usually short) amount of time it took to achieve this reduced poundage.

Striving for weight loss is commendable, especially in this age of convenient calories and ‘walk-deprivation’, but often, removing the excess intake (usually starting with sugar) and furiously stepping up the activity for a prescribed amount of time doesn’t really constitute a transformation; rather it’s a temporary period of calorie deficit that can’t fail to show on the scales, but hasn’t addressed the opportunity for long-term life-improvements that the arrival of a ready and willing client presents.

You see, in biological terms we humans are generalist animals – survival machines – that have populated almost every part of our world. We’re so successful as a species partly because we have amazing bodies honed (by evolution) for homeostasis – the inbuilt mechanism to control internal variables and keep our systems stable.

Let’s explain it this way; when you’ve held a certain bodyweight for a constant period –particularly 12 weeks or longer – this weight has become your ‘set point’. You’ve had time to grow all the extra nerves, lymph and capillaries (blood supply) to carry this new tissue (fat or otherwise). On the average weight-loss program, you’ll restrict calories in, less food (less calorie-dense food such as carbs and fats) and increase calories out (via exercise).

This cannot fail to force your survival-machine (body) to use your stored fat and glycogen (an energy source held in muscles and the liver) to preserve your critically-important and energy-costly functions, such as breathing and digestion, and you’ll lose weight.

However, your ‘set point’ is your previous weight. This explains why so many people who undergo rapid weight-loss simply rebound when they revert from a the intensive, PT-guided programme to what they hope will be an easier maintenance routine. 

But, there’s an alternative – body recomposition – and it offers not only an improved appearance but health, longevity and lifestyle benefits far beyond fitting into a wedding or holiday outfit for a while.

Non-injured human tissue is mostly regenerative – for example; every cell in any one of your bones will be totally replaced over a decade, and your skin cells over two weeks. This incredible capability comes with a caveat though… it’s truly ‘use it or lose it’.

Sedentary lifestyles and sitting-down jobs offer little opportunity to use the body as it was evolved to be used. We all know that muscles grow when (reasonably and consistently) over-used, and shrink when under-utilised. The same is true for tendons, ligaments, our lymph and blood delivery networks and even the parts of our brain and nervous system that ‘tell’ the muscles to move. Losing this tissue is known as atrophy, and atrophy is a characteristic of aging. 

So, in this age of MRI scans and scientific research, we know that exercise causes the above tissues and functions to increase, and that when they begin to decrease, we age.

What’s more, bone and especially muscle (and to a lesser extent ligaments and tendons) are metabolically active –  that is, they require energy to maintain – and our energy comes from the food we eat; calories in. 

So, by regularly demanding slightly more of our muscles, bones, ligaments, tendons, brains and nervous systems, we can force them to up-regulate and thus upgrade ourselves. The best way to do this – regardless of who you may be, or what you may do – is to begin a strength and conditioning programme, particularly one that involves compound resistance exercises involving the prime movers of your body; your hips, your thighs and your back and shoulder musculature.

You won’t ‘bulk up’ (unless you really try to), but you’ll change. You probably won’t see dramatic weight loss on the scales, as the increases in muscle and bone (which weigh more than the equivalent volume of fatty tissue) will level this out. What you will see will definitely ‘outweigh’ this, however. Having more muscle, and the support systems for it, can allow you to burn more calories ‘at rest’, meaning less restrictions in your diet.

You’ll also find that your ‘set point’ changes. 

Reawakening the need to produce collagen (to build stronger tendons and ligaments) in your body will improve the function across the board – skin usually improves on well-designed strength programmes. Mental function and balance improve as your body learns new movements and responds accordingly. Last but not least, the movement of blood around the body improves health generally, mood and heart function.

So if you want to make a true transformation, don’t think ‘weight loss’, think ‘body recomposition’, and go and become the strongest version of yourself. You’ll find it’s the healthiest, best ‘you’ you’ve ever known, we guarantee it.