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After enjoying the wonderful treats and indulgences that the holiday season has to offer, many of us resolve to lose weight once the new year comes around.

But all too often, those well-meaning resolutions tend to peter out after a couple of weeks, especially when they involve unsatisfying diets or extreme exercise routines that are just too hard to stick to. 

The good news is that there’s a better way to approach your New Year’s resolutions this year. Forget about weight loss — here’s why you should focus on your body composition goals in 2024 instead. 

Why losing weight isn’t always the best goal 

Someone weighs themselves.

A number of different factors contribute to your weight, but ultimately, weight loss comes down to one thing: an energy deficit. 

Your body uses energy in the form of calories, which come from the foods that you eat. If you eat the same number of calories that your body burns every day, your weight is maintained.

However, if you eat fewer calories than you burn, this can lead to weight loss as your body burns through the energy that it has stored. 

As a result, traditional weight loss goals often focus solely on calorie deficits. Unfortunately, focusing purely on the calories you take in versus the calories you use does not always work out in everyone’s favor, nor is it the healthiest way to approach every health goal.  

For example, if you are only focusing on being in a calorie deficit, you might not just lose body fat — you might also lose some muscle mass in the process. 

Focusing solely on weight loss can even lead to weight regain, especially if you aren’t establishing long-term habits that extend beyond the few weeks that you’re following your diet and/or workout regimen.  

Finally, many diet and exercise plans that are designed for New Year’s resolutions and fast results often depend on extreme or unrealistic calorie deficits. 

These so-called “crash diets” are notorious for promoting unhealthy habits and can even lead to an unhealthy mentality around your relationship with food and exercise. 

A Better Resolution for the New Year: Improving Your Body Composition

A man lifts weights outdoors.

This year, don’t look at your weight alone: instead, look at the components that make up your weight! 

Your body composition is the measurement of how much of your body is made up of muscle (also known as Skeletal Muscle Mass) versus your body fat (Body Fat Mass). 

Along with bones and fluids, or body water, these two different kinds of tissues contribute to your total body weight, but they play wildly different roles within your body. 

Setting goals around your body composition (sometimes referred to as body recomposition)  involves making specific goals for improving both your muscle mass and your body fat

For example, a reasonable 2024 fitness goal might include gaining or maintaining lean muscle mass while reducing your body fat percentage. 

By focusing on these factors rather than weight alone, you’re setting a goal that is a healthier, more holistic way to improve your body and overall health

Why Body Composition Should Be Your Focus in 2024 

Focuses on fitness 

The first big benefit of improving your body composition is that it can put you on a better track to fitness than focusing on weight loss alone.  

If you are only focusing on lowering your body weight, it masks the importance of your lean muscle mass. In fact, you might even find that you’re losing muscle as a result of your calorie deficit. 

However, when you make goals that are based on fat loss, not total weight loss, you can also work on preserving or gaining muscle.  

Muscle mass is hugely important for any health goal you might have. Aesthetically speaking, it’s denser than body fat, which means that a pound of muscle is going to visually be much smaller than a pound of fat. 

Maintaining or growing your muscle mass is also important for building strength and improving your metabolism, both of which can further support you on your fitness journey. 

What’s more, making sure that you’re keeping your muscle mass up during your fitness journey can also support your health as a whole. 

For example, losing muscle mass can increase the risk of sarcopenia, or an age-related loss of muscle and muscle function as you age. 

Working on body recomposition and preserving your muscle mass with the right diet and exercise routine can be a healthier approach than just running a calorie deficit, as it helps preserve physical function. 

Promotes a better mentality around your fitness goals 

Body recomposition is also a better choice for you if you want to make long-lasting healthy changes rather than seeing short-term, temporary results. 

Body recomposition is not a quick goal. You can’t take shortcuts like following extreme diets or doing short-term exercise challenges if you want to make meaningful changes to your muscle mass and body fat percentage. 

However, the sustainable lifestyle changes you make when setting body recomposition goals have the potential to change how you look and feel all year round.

Rather than focusing purely on a calorie deficit, which can be unsatisfying and even detrimental to your health, body recomposition requires a more holistic understanding of your body mechanics and the roles that proper exercise and nutrition play. 

You’ll need to have a deeper knowledge of the importance of nutrients like protein and calories for your body, as well as understanding the different kinds of exercise you’ll require to reach a more balanced body composition. 

Because of this, body composition goals can teach you so much about your body and health, which are lessons you can take with you through the rest of your life.  

Better overall health 

Finally, body recomposition is a better goal than pure weight loss since it addresses the real underlying issues that affect your body.

Weight alone is not always the best indicator of your health. For example, some people have a body type called “skinny fat”. 

These people may technically be at a healthy weight by Body Mass Index (BMI) standards; however, they are still at risk for other health problems because they have more fat mass than is necessarily safe.

Or vice versa, some people may weigh in as “overweight” or “obese” by BMI standards but be perfectly healthy since much of that weight is due to muscle tissue rather than fat. This is especially common in athletes. 

The purpose of body recomposition is to reduce fat tissue, which is the real reason why obesity increases your health risks

Rather than potentially leading to muscle loss or masking underlying health risks, like weight loss does, improving your body composition directly improves your health as a whole. 

How to measure your body composition 

Exercise equipment, including weights, a scale, a yoga ball, and gym shoes.

BIA scale

One of the easiest and most accurate ways to keep track of your body composition is with a bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA) scale. These devices send a gentle electric current through your body which measures your muscle mass, body fat, body water, and other metrics, such as your basal metabolic rate. 

Unlike a traditional body weight scale, a BIA scale can break down your weight into its separate parts and give you a more accurate picture of your fitness progress

Having these numbers can also help you identify how your diet and exercise are impacting your health. 

For example, if you notice that you are not making much progress in gaining muscle mass, you might try adding more protein to your diet and heavy resistance training to your workout plan. 

Take caliper measurements 

Taking measurements of your body fat with body fat calipers is another good way to monitor how your physique is changing throughout your fitness journey. 

It’s also a good tool for identifying areas of your body that you may want to focus on during your resistance training. 

Quick tips for improving your body composition

A woman does a bicep curl.

Know your caloric needs

When working on your body composition, you will need to think about your caloric needs in a different way than you might be used to. 

Weight loss ultimately comes down to lowering your calorie intake, but to hit your body composition goals, you may have higher calorie requirements, depending on how much muscle mass you want to gain. 

For example, most people approach a weight loss goal knowing that they need to be in a calorie deficit. However, a major calorie deficit isn’t appropriate if you’re looking to improve your muscle mass at the same time. 

In fact, one of the biggest nutrition mistakes people make when trying to preserve muscle is to run a calorie deficit of more than 500 calories per day. 

Your caloric needs can also vary widely based on your current age, height, and activity level. 

Because of this, knowing how many calories your body burns on a daily basis and mapping out your specific muscle mass goals can help you determine the correct number of calories to consume

Diversify your exercise routine

You’ll need to include a variety of workouts in your exercise routine if you want to improve both your muscle mass and total body weight. 

Resistance training, like weightlifting, is key if you want to preserve or grow your muscle mass. 

However, you may need to add more cardio to your routine if you’re also trying to lose body fat at the same time, since it is an effective way to burn more calories. 

To reap the full body recomposition rewards of exercise, make room in your week for several kinds of workouts.

Make sure you’re eating plenty of protein

Protein is often referred to as the “building block” of our muscles, since it helps muscles recover and repair after a big workout. So, whether you’re trying to gain muscle or simply preserve it, protein is a major key. 

Eating an adequate amount of protein is especially important when you’re trying to cut down on body fat at the same time. 

In one clinical trial that evaluated the effects of protein on a calorie deficit, participants who ate more protein saw more improvements in lean body mass and fat loss when compared to participants who ate less protein.

Conclusion  

There’s a better way to approach the “New Year, New You” mentality than focusing purely on being in a calorie deficit.

 This year, focus on improving your body composition instead! 

It’s a more involved goal than just losing weight, which means that it requires dedication and knowledge to do correctly, but the results will pay off far more — and for longer — than losing the pounds alone. 

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