Damon Hayhow is a strength and physique trainer based in Australia who bills himself quite rightly as a body recomp specialist. He is the founder of Recomp HQ, Australia’s premier body recomposition coaching and dieting facility.
When he talks about body recomposition, it’s a good idea to listen.
In this article, I’ll run through his theory on body recomposition in its basics, to give you a good idea of how an expert coach would program the process for his athletes.
The formula for body recomposition
Whilst it’s not easy to achieve body composition, the theory behind it is relatively simple. For Damon Hayhow, there are three aspects of your physiology that need to be correctly manipulated in order to recomp:
- Strength: this determines your lean muscle mass
- Diet: this will determine your total weight
- Bodyfat: this makes up the difference between your lean mass and your total weight. The less you have, the leaner you will be.
Because of this, there are only two elements that need to be controlled when looking to alter body composition: your diet and your strength. There is no such thing as a fat burning exercise, according to Hayhow. There is only maintaining a caloric surplus and maintaining and growing strength and musculature.
Exercise for ‘fat loss’
According to Hayhow, the fact that any given activity increases the body’s usage of a given substrate over a short period (think of burpees or sprints for ‘fat burning’) is irrelevant. Your body is not the machine you might like it to be, he says: rather, it’s a highly adaptive organism. Thus, using it to perform mechanical tasks like jogging or cycling ignores its prime function: to adapt.
Your body fat percentage is ALWAYS the percentage of your weight not made of lean (muscle) mass.
It’s incredibly hard to burn off two hundred and fifty extra calories through cardio. It would take me approximately half an hour of light jogging. Those two hundred and fifty calories make up an average chocolate bar.
Thus, a finite activity’s calorie burn is irrelevant. Far better to achieve the results through a combination of two things.
These two things have already been mentioned, of course: diet and strength.
The efficient method is therefore to forgo the chocolate bar, save my energy, and use that half hour for something constructive like heavy weight training.
On top of this is nutrient usage. Hayhow says that ‘where your body sends all the calories that you eat as a result of the adaptations you induced is what counts. And the treadmill never provided the body with a convincing argument to send more nutrients to your pecs and biceps!’
To be as lean as possible, given the above formula, you need to be as muscular as possible at any bodyweight. Training for the positive alteration of body composition (lowered body fat with increased muscle mass) therefore puts the lie to the idea that there is such a thing as fat burning exercises, on Hayhow’s view. Instead, you need to focus your efforts on maximising strength and muscle mass.
Couple this with a caloric deficit where you need to be in order to lose excess body fat, and you’ll be on a mathematically certain course for a correct, efficient and healthy recomp.