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Confused on how to recomp

Zara_PiZara_Pi Posts: 141Member, Premium Member Posts: 141Member, Premium Member
Hi everyone

I’m 33yrs old, 5 1”, currently weigh 108lbs.
My goal is to lose some body fat and gain muscle.

I’m looking to do a recomp as I’m at a good weight but still have quite a bit of fat on me and very minimal muscle mass due to lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle over the last 8 years. (And also a very, very bad diet consisting mostly of junk carbs and low protein).

I have started weight lifting last month and do 1 hour strength training on Mon, Wed and Fri. And 60 mins cardio on Tue & Wed (mostly treadmill & rowing machine). Sat and Sun are rest days.

My maintenance calories (without any exercise) is between 1350-1500. So I have taken 1400 cals as my maintenance level.

I’m confused on how much calories I should have when I am working out and whether to eat back my exercise calories or not.

So my question is if I am working out, say doing cardio for 1 hour, I burn about 400 calories.
Do I then eat that back the exercise calories to stay at the 1400 so would eat 1400+ 400? Or do I stick to 1400?

And how much protein should I be having? I usually have about 80-90g a day.

Replies

  • psuLemonpsuLemon Posts: 35,693Member, MFP Moderator, Greeter, Premium MFP Moderator Posts: 35,693Member, MFP Moderator, Greeter, Premium MFP Moderator
    If anything run a TDEE calculator and eat that same amount daily and adjust based on the results over a 2-4 week period. I wouldn't recommend playing the "Eat exercise calories back" game while you are recomping there is no way to accurately know how many calories you are burning. Protein isn't too bad. Personally, I would run 1g per lb but you aren't in a bad position and I wouldn't stress it if you are hitting at least 85g per day.

    The bigger thing is having a well structure lifting routine, consistency and time.
  • snowflake954snowflake954 Posts: 4,367Member Member Posts: 4,367Member Member
    There's a great, long, thread on recomp running by usmcp. It should give you all the info you need. It's basically eat at maintenance and exercise, especially lifting or strength training. It's a long process, but looking at the photos on the thread very worth it.
  • Zara_PiZara_Pi Posts: 141Member, Premium Member Posts: 141Member, Premium Member
    Thanks for the replies. I worry that if I have too big a deficit due to exercise, I will be burning muscle which I don’t want to do.
    For example I did my strength training yesterday which according to my Garmin watch I burnt 250 calories. And I did some cardio in the morning which according to Garmin I burnt 400 calories, and rowing for 20mins where I burnt 100cals. So that’s 750cals burnt in total yesterday.

    Is a deficit of 400-500 calories (30-35% of my maintenance) too big a deficit and could make me lose muscle? Or will I be burning fat? Should I eat more to make up the calories?

    I’ve looked at the recomp thread but couldn’t see anything about exercise calories and whether to eat them back or not in order to be at maintenance calories overall.
  • slbbwslbbw Posts: 307Member Member Posts: 307Member Member
    Your maintenance calories should include the your exercise levels as well. Rough guess based on the information you have provided would Say 400 calories burned *2, +200(estimate of calories burned from weight training) *3/7 =200+1400 =1600. I would aim for 1600 calories daily and monitor weight over a 1-2 month time to track whether it is increasing or decreasing and adjust from there. Women who still maintain their cycles need at least a full cycle usually in order to monitor small fluctuations. Recomp takes time so plan to revaluate your lifting program after several months to determine if you are moving in the right direction.
  • snowflake954snowflake954 Posts: 4,367Member Member Posts: 4,367Member Member
    Zara_Pi wrote: »
    Thanks for the replies. I worry that if I have too big a deficit due to exercise, I will be burning muscle which I don’t want to do.
    For example I did my strength training yesterday which according to my Garmin watch I burnt 250 calories. And I did some cardio in the morning which according to Garmin I burnt 400 calories, and rowing for 20mins where I burnt 100cals. So that’s 750cals burnt in total yesterday.

    Is a deficit of 400-500 calories (30-35% of my maintenance) too big a deficit and could make me lose muscle? Or will I be burning fat? Should I eat more to make up the calories?

    I’ve looked at the recomp thread but couldn’t see anything about exercise calories and whether to eat them back or not in order to be at maintenance calories overall.

    Then I'd suggest you get on that thread and ask because there are so many people following it and it's more probable that you'll get the answer you need than on this one. Any new question will pop up to hundreds of users and some are very knowlegable.
  • slbbwslbbw Posts: 307Member Member Posts: 307Member Member
    Is a deficit of 400-500 calories (30-35% of my maintenance) too big a deficit and could make me lose muscle? Or will I be burning fat? Should I eat more to make up the calories?


    You do not want to be in a deficit to recomp. You want to be eating at maintenance. If you trust your garmin, for calorie counts then go by what it says. I find mine over estimates by a bit so I know a fe hundred calories off that. For recomp, which is a long term thing TDEE method of calorie counting where you eat the same calorie level daily will likely be more helpful.

    You should be eating your exercise calories back.
  • cupcakesandproteinshakescupcakesandproteinshakes Posts: 474Member Member Posts: 474Member Member
    Recomp is maintaining the same weight while following a structured lifting programme.

    Keep protein high. That’s all you need to know really.

    You don’t want to be in a deficit if you are recomping. So either work out tdee or eat back yr exercise cals.
  • mom23mangosmom23mangos Posts: 2,936Member Member Posts: 2,936Member Member
    You are almost the exact same place I was when I started here. 1600 is a great place to start and others mentioned, monitor your weight for a few weeks or even months and see if it is dropping, rising or staying the same. You are doing everything right. Just give it plenty of time.
  • sijomialsijomial Posts: 15,983Member Member Posts: 15,983Member Member
    Eat at maintenance not a deficit - as you say yourself you are at a good weight. And you aren't likely to be eating at maintenance levels if you don't account for your exercise somehow.

    How you account for your exercise burns is personal but as long as your weight remains stable either method works - logging after the event ( the MyFitnessPal method) at least gets the duration right (unlike TDEE calculators which guess up front).

    You can get a rough estimate by logging your strength training duration in the cardio part of the diary.

    But it's your training that drives the process so optimise the efficicency of your workout.
    edited February 9
  • cwolfman13cwolfman13 Posts: 37,599Member Member Posts: 37,599Member Member
    Zara_Pi wrote: »
    Hi everyone

    I’m 33yrs old, 5 1”, currently weigh 108lbs.
    My goal is to lose some body fat and gain muscle.

    I’m looking to do a recomp as I’m at a good weight but still have quite a bit of fat on me and very minimal muscle mass due to lack of exercise and a sedentary lifestyle over the last 8 years. (And also a very, very bad diet consisting mostly of junk carbs and low protein).

    I have started weight lifting last month and do 1 hour strength training on Mon, Wed and Fri. And 60 mins cardio on Tue & Wed (mostly treadmill & rowing machine). Sat and Sun are rest days.

    My maintenance calories (without any exercise) is between 1350-1500. So I have taken 1400 cals as my maintenance level.

    I’m confused on how much calories I should have when I am working out and whether to eat back my exercise calories or not.

    So my question is if I am working out, say doing cardio for 1 hour, I burn about 400 calories.
    Do I then eat that back the exercise calories to stay at the 1400 so would eat 1400+ 400? Or do I stick to 1400?

    And how much protein should I be having? I usually have about 80-90g a day.

    For re-comp (ie getting in shape) you eat at maintenance....obviously maintenance would have to include your exercise. If you eat non exercise maintenance (NEAT) you would be creating a calorie deficit by exercising and not accounting for that activity as you would obviously be burning more calories than your NEAT maintenance. Exercise calories aren't some kind of special or different calorie...they're the same as any calories you are burning through being alive and going about your day to day. You have to account for them in maintenance.
  • cwolfman13cwolfman13 Posts: 37,599Member Member Posts: 37,599Member Member
    Zara_Pi wrote: »
    Thanks for the replies. I worry that if I have too big a deficit due to exercise, I will be burning muscle which I don’t want to do.
    For example I did my strength training yesterday which according to my Garmin watch I burnt 250 calories. And I did some cardio in the morning which according to Garmin I burnt 400 calories, and rowing for 20mins where I burnt 100cals. So that’s 750cals burnt in total yesterday.

    Is a deficit of 400-500 calories (30-35% of my maintenance) too big a deficit and could make me lose muscle? Or will I be burning fat? Should I eat more to make up the calories?

    I’ve looked at the recomp thread but couldn’t see anything about exercise calories and whether to eat them back or not in order to be at maintenance calories overall.

    If you have a deficit, you are dieting...you will lose weight and you don't gain muscle on a deficit of calories. A deficit is for weight loss whereby you lose both muscle and fat.
  • kel_108kel_108 Posts: 1Member Member Posts: 1Member Member
    You can build muscle in a slight deficit. There is a difference between weight loss and fat loss. On my training days I eat above maintenance level by around 250(ish) calories. On non training days i eat below maintenance, but only slightly because my days are less active so I don't need the extra food (I reduce the carbs and keep the protein high) Look on google at carb cycling, you need the carbs on training days as this is where your body gets the energy from to power through your sessions. My advice, which others will disagree with (and that's fine), is to scale back to cardio to a max of 45 mins per session. You don't have to do cardio, if you enjoy it then keep it in but if it feel as though you hate it but think you have to do it then you really don't. Too much cardio will eat into the muscle gains. I lift weights Monday, Wednesday and Friday for around 45 minutes then on the weekend I do a kettlebell work out (following a Joe Wicks video i saw on YouTube). I have a desk job so i spend a lot of time sat down but i try and keep my step count to 5500 a day, i go for a 20 minute walk on my lunch break weather permitting.
  • ScottgriesserScottgriesser Posts: 168Member Member Posts: 168Member Member
    Eat back any calories burned. Protein helps retain/build new muscle so that should be prioritized. 80-90g is enough for a 108lb person, but you could go a little higher if you want to. Strength training with a progressive overload plan. Basically, you got it all already, now you just gotta do it.
  • heybalesheybales Posts: 17,262Member Member Posts: 17,262Member Member
    Zara_Pi wrote: »
    Thanks for the replies. I worry that if I have too big a deficit due to exercise, I will be burning muscle which I don’t want to do.
    For example I did my strength training yesterday which according to my Garmin watch I burnt 250 calories. And I did some cardio in the morning which according to Garmin I burnt 400 calories, and rowing for 20mins where I burnt 100cals. So that’s 750cals burnt in total yesterday.

    Is a deficit of 400-500 calories (30-35% of my maintenance) too big a deficit and could make me lose muscle? Or will I be burning fat? Should I eat more to make up the calories?

    I’ve looked at the recomp thread but couldn’t see anything about exercise calories and whether to eat them back or not in order to be at maintenance calories overall.

    Studies have shown that with a reasonable deficit, enough protein, and resistance training - there doesn't need to be any muscle loss.

    Too big a deficit doesn't matter if from exercise, or no exercise and too big a deficit when not doing the other 2 things.

    But you are talking recomp - so why talk about a deficit?

    And you aren't strictly burning muscle - some muscle is broken down daily - in the face of too big a deficit and not enough protein and no usage - the body decides nutrients are needed for other more required things and the muscle is just not built back up.

    Reread the first page of the recomp thread - you likely missed some other important points.
    You have a misunderstanding what maintenance means so the principle didn't come across.
  • GaryRunsGaryRuns Posts: 330Member, Premium Member Posts: 330Member, Premium Member
    If I were in your shoes I'd start with a TDEE calculation with sedentary then take about 50% of the calories my device(s) told me I was burning during cardio and use that as a starting point. I wouldn't bother using estimates of calories burned for strength training. I'd eat the level of calories calculated from that consistently for two weeks and then, using a trending weight app like trendweight or Libra I'd assess whether I was gaining weight, in which case I would reduce my calories by 10-15%; losing weight, in which case I'd increase my calories by 10-15%; or hitting my goal and staying the same weight, in which case I'd keep my calories exactly as they are.

    The other two things you must do while recomping are make sure you get sufficient protein, 0.8-1.0 grams per pound of body weight per day, and performing a well structured, progressive, lifting program like the ones referenced in here:

    https://community.myfitnesspal.com/en/discussion/10332083/which-lifting-program-is-the-best-for-you/p1
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