November 11th, 2012

Brett’s Quintessential Body Recomposition

You’re about to meet the winner of the “Holy Grail award” in the last Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle body transformation challenge. The Holy WHAT, you ask? Allow me to explain… Most people stay focused on one fitness goal at a time: burning fat (cutting) or building muscle (bulking or building). But occasionally, we see something exceptional: Someone gains muscle and loses fat during the same time period (body recomposition). That my friends, is the “Holy Grail” of all fitness goals and today’s post shows you how one man did it…

Body recomposition is known as the “holy grail” because it is the most difficult goal to achieve, and arguably, the most desirable outcome you could ask for.

We’ve learned that by using some specific training and nutrition techniques (usually based on calorie or carb cycling and precision nutrient timing combined with heavy basic weight training and judicious amounts of cardio), it’s possible to greatly increase the odds of deliberately gaining muscle while losing fat.

In this special feature, you’ll hear how Brett – winner of the Burn the Fat Challenge holy grail award – increased his lean body mass from 143 lbs to 151.4 lbs while simultaneously decreasing his body fat from 23.4 lbs to 15.7 lbs. His body fat percentage dropped from over 14% down into the single digits –just over 9%.

It’s not uncommon to see someone gain a pound or two of lean mass over a few months along with a large fat loss. This however, is the quintessential body recomposition because Brett completely transformed his physique even though he weighed almost exactly the same in the after as he did in the before. When he finished, the fat weight he lost was replaced by enough muscle weight that he still weighed within a few tents of a pound of the same 166 lbs he started with.

There are some major lessons here about body composition versus body weight and how the scale alone never gives you the complete picture. Check out the pictures and read what Brett has to say below to learn more…

Hi everyone – Brett here. Thank you Tom for giving the opportunity to write about my experience in the Burn the Fat challenge transformation contest and thank you for choosing me as winner of the Holy Grail award for the best body recomposition. I really enjoyed the challenge and can’t wait for the next one! Here are the strategies I used and the lessons I learned about motivation, training, nutrition and body composition.

Mindset and Motivation

I decided to join the Inner Circle after I had read both of Tom’s ebooks, “Burn the Fat, Feed the muscle (BFFM)” and “The Holy Grail Body Transformation System.” The extensive knowledge I received from reading these books was truly amazing. The most important thing I learned was that you always need to do your own research when you are given information. There are so many bogus claims being made in the fitness industry today, but Tom explained how you can quickly confirm or refute any claim if you know how to do a little bit of your own research, instead of just accepting information blindly as fact. When you’re confident in the program you’re following, your mind is a lot clearer.

Another very important point that was made in BFFM was that just because something works for one person doesn’t mean it will also work for you. You have to customize and you have to experiment. I kept the mindset that if I tried one technique and it didn’t work, it wasn’t a failure, it was just part of the experimentation process. The best thing I did was to measure my results every week (get feedback) and then simply alter my diet or training program slightly the following week, then check results again.

My real motivation for the competition though, started when my wife expressed interest in joining as well. My wife had a baby last year and still had a lot of unwanted baby fat around her belly that she was not happy with. It was great for both of us to be able to compete in the challenge together, especially since we would have 2 chances of winning a trip to Maui! We both started on day one eating the same foods and training together in our basement gym which we had never done before. The feeling of being able to train with a loving partner really made the difference for both of us in the challenge. Her results were exceptional too and she lost over 11% body fat in the 98 days along with building some very nice muscle as well.

Nutrition/ Food

I started off at what I thought was a low calorie intake with my high calorie days at 2600 and my low calorie days at 2100. But after the first 3 weeks, after reading all the blogs in the Burn the Fat Inner Circle, I realized this was too high given my body weight, so I decided to reduce it down to 2058 and 1646 respectively.

At the half way mark (week 7), I realized that I still wasn’t getting the results I wanted, so I reduced my calorie intake down again. It was a big decrease, but it really made the difference for me because in the first 3 weeks my body fat loss was only 0.2% per week compared to the final 7 weeks where I lost more than 0.5% consistently per week.

I began my calorie cycling with a 3 days low intake and then a 1 day high calorie reefed day. This felt pretty good on the higher calorie days, as I didn’t feel hungry at all, but when I dropped the daily calories down in the final 7 weeks of the competition I definitely felt the difference in hunger and energy levels.

After reading an article by Tom that suggested it could be possible to get better (body recomposition) results by having more high calorie days than just a 3:1 ratio, I changed to use one of these Zig Zag cycles. The Cycle I used was 3 high, 2 low, 2 high, 2 low. The article explained that depending on your current body composition, you may get better results by experimenting with different Zig Zag calorie cycles. So along with the reduced calorie intake I believe that the change to this type of Zig Zag dieting made all the difference in my results.


My training consisted of 4 days of weight training and 3 days of cardio with 1 day of complete rest per week, which was normally a Sunday. I structured my weight sessions around the TNB (The New Bodybuilding) program that Tom includes with the Holy Grail system. I was doing 2 upper body and 2 lower body weight sessions per week with 7-8 exercises for each session.

This program focuses primarily on compound large muscle group exercises and secondarily with isolation exercises. This worked well and I was able to vary the exercises to keep it interesting, while continuing to push my muscles each week with heavier weights.

Later during the competition, having read more about the benefits of large muscle group, compound exercises, I decided to change entirely to larger compound exercises like barbell rows, barbell bench presses and dead lifts. My sessions got a lot harder after this and I found that I was completely exhausted at the end of the session after doing these compound exercises which used multiple muscle groups. My heart rate was a lot higher during the sessions which I’m sure provided me with some extra fat burning in the process.

My 3 cardio sessions per week consisted of either a 45 minute run, 20 min HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) session on the cross trainer, 1 hour cycle or a 1 hour swim session. At the same time I was doing the 98 day challenge I was also training for the 14km Sydney City to Surf. I wanted to run at least once a week so that I could comfortably complete the race and not lose too much muscle in the process.

Body Re-composition

At the Burn the Fat Inner Circle, Tom has mentioned how he considers my results to be remarkable in the way I lost fat and gained muscle during the Burn the Fat challenge. Everyone here considers body recomposition to be the “Holy Grail” of fitness goals, so Tom asked me to touch on how I think I was able to achieve this.

My primary goal, which I outlined at the start of the competition, was to lose body fat and get below 9%. My secondary goal was to put on at least 1 kg of lean muscle mass. But by the end of the competition, I had reduced my body fat from 14.1% to 9.4% and had surprisingly put on 4kg (8.7 lbs) of lean muscle mass as well. The end result – which I understand is quite unusual – was that my total bodyweight hardly changed due to the drop in fat with concurrent increase in muscle.

I believe my recomposition results can be mostly credited to two factors: First was the change of exercises from isolation movements to almost all compound movements. That started making a big difference around week 9 of the 14 week challenge, so I actually added the majority of the lean mass I gained in a short period of time near the end of the challenge (which also goes to show that you should always keep experimenting). According to my stats, I put on 3 kg of lean mass in those last 5 weeks.

The second factor was adding more high calorie days. I still took the calories very low on the low days, but I switched over from the 3 days low 1 day high – which was better for fat loss I think – to a greater number of high calorie days in my zig-zag cycle. I give those extra high days a lot of credit for the muscle gains I experienced.

I’m now looking forward to the next challenge. It’s going to be a great one! I’ll see you all there!


burnthefatBurn The Fat, Feed The Muscle – Official Fat Burning System of the Burn the Fat Challenge

Burn The Fat Inner Circle – The Fitness Support Community For Motivation, Inspiration and Transformation




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8 Responses to “Brett’s Quintessential Body Recomposition”

  • Bibi

    I would really be interested in hearing about Brett’s wife’s success. Women’s body react differently to high or low calories (nature and all). Even if she didnt win, I believe hearing what works and didnt helps other women figure out what little tweak can make a hugh difference in training and eating…thanks

    • Tom Venuto

      Hi Bibi. there are dozens of success stories from women at the Burn the Fat Inner Circle there are hundreds (thousands even) of them in the members-only area and the forums. Cheers!


      PS women’s and men’s training is not as different as you might think. The biggest difference on the nutrition side is women typically need fewer calories than men sp they definitely cannot copy the diet programs of most men. short/petite women (who still want to lose more fat) in particular often have a challenging time with keeping their calorie deficit: on the other hand, many women take that to an extreme and are ALWAYS on extremely low calories and that begins to cause some problems after a while, so i think women could also take notes from Brett with regards to not being so scared to take higher calorie re-feed days

  • Congratulations Brett! All your hard work and discipline combined with fact based science and personal experience, has manifest into physical reality with astounding results…You must to be feeling like you could run a 14km Sydney City to Surf?

    I would maybe just like to add one thought about your body composition transformation…Is it possible that you might have more type 1 fiber, (oxidative/slow) shown to be obesity resistant, mitochondria-rich, fatigue-resistant and mainly uses oxidative metabolism for energy? This factor would enable you to burn fat and build muscle, more efficiently than say a person who has more type 2 fiber(glycolytic/fast)thereby making them glucose intolerant and susceptible to obesity and fatigue and mainly uses glucose metabolism…

    I would also like to postulate a theory here…I think it is possible to transform type 2 fiber into type 1 fiber. i think that over a period of time as the metabolism increases, the skeletal muscle shows plasticity and can undergo conversion between different fiber types in response to exercise training or modulation of motor-neuron activity. A training protocol such as the Spartan Training System, involving high intensity training and low intensity cardio…has shown evidence through my experience with clients that this transformation does happen, and the ability to keep the body-fat low and the lean muscle high becomes permanent in those individuals…

  • Norma Haygood

    You don’t know how much I wish I was normal enough to do this. I never understood why I couldn’t walk-excersise-weight train until I got diagnosed with mitochondrial disease. (My muscles don’t get their appropriate units of energy, so they fatigue and burn RIGHT AWAY) If you ever come across a way to get in shape, getting around these insurmountable problems (there’s no cure yet) please let me know.
    I love the stories of success. Kepps my spirits high. Someday…….

  • Andy

    I understand that one would lose body fat by carb cycling, but what about having daily bowel movements? Wouldn’t you need fiber for that? Also, I once went into ketosis with a huge headache, feeling nauseous and irritable all day. Not doing that again. Also, what’s next after getting to your goal? I can’t imagine anybody keeping up this lifestyle longterm.

    • Tom Venuto

      Andy the types of carb cycling I recommend are no where near ketogenic and they are very high in fiber. Also, it is VERY much a lifestyle way of eating, you simply MUST lower calories into a deficit for the fat loss phase. The foods themselves dont change that much which is what makes it lifestyle eating. If one were to demonize/eliminate entire foods groups or macronutrients, that in my view would be what makes it unsustainable as a lifestyle for most people

  • Andy

    Thank you so much for clarifying that! I am subscribed to many newsletters, but yours is by far the most helpful! I love training hard and eating clean. I don’t overeat calories, but I have yet to perfect the right macronutrient balance as every day is different.

    Thanks to Brett’s story I calculated my lean body mass and found out that while I lost 11 pounds of fat, I lost 12 pounds of muscle, which explains the sagginess of my skin. I am grateful that now I know what went wrong and have a better shot at correcting my eating and training. I also lost 2/3 of my hair in the last month which I figured out is due to lack of protein.

    Eat more protein, cycle carbs, do mostly compound movements. Got it!

    I can’t wait to see and feel the results!

    Thanks so much, this has been incredibly helpful.

  • Tracey Kendall

    Simply amazing results. This is a combination of hard work, smart nutrition and genetic superiority. Good for you!

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