I'll start with an anecdote. I've been working with a coach to help me get strong and cut the fat at the same time. I've been working with him for nearly a year now, and I've lost a total of 20 lbs, 22 lbs of which were fat. NOTE: that's not a typo. I've gained 2 lbs of lean mass and lost 22 lbs of fat. I've also lost several inches. During that time, I've also increased my strength steadily. In the first few months I increased my power lifting total 70 lbs while weighing in several pounds lighter (just not enough to get into a new weight class).
The process required two things to work together in concert:
- I had to eat enough to support the training I had to do, but still lose fat.
- I had to work hard enough to keep building strength.
With the guidance of a coach, they can make the adjustments to the plans as necessary over time. For example, my diet has been tweaked about every other month to keep progress moving forward. He also kept an eye on my training to see how I responded and made some adjustments on the fly.
In the absence of a coach, I can give you some general principles to work with:
- You have to eat your protein. While 1 g / lb is easy to remember, you don't need quite that much to keep building strength.
- Keep fat low, but still have it. Fat should make up roughly 20% of your diet.
- You have to eat your carbs. In fact, carbs become even more necessary as that's what fuels your training.
- Use carbs that have a good amount of fiber in them. They keep you satisfied longer, and they tend to minimize inflammation.
- In fact, eat whole foods and foods known to lower systemic inflammation.
Your training will already have some inflammation involved, as that's part of getting stronger and building muscle. However, uncontrolled systemic inflammation from fast food and highly processed foods create a hostile environment and triggers your body to keep storing the fat.
With training, keep in mind the mantra "no junk miles":
- Have your plan for what you do in the gym, and do that plan.
- Don't try to max out in the gym or fatigue your muscles to the point of exhaustion.
- Emphasize recovery--both active and passive.
- Your training plan should allow some wiggle room for having a bad day. They will happen more often when you are losing weight, but if you can get the planned work done even on a bad day you will do well.
The shortcut is to hire a coach and have them do the hard thinking for you. But also keep in mind my progress. I lost on average 1-2 lbs of fat per month, and gained a pound of lean mass every 6 months. The transformation will be slow. Slower than if you pursued either goal wholeheartedly. I'm still not done yet. I personally will continue this route, as I'm very healthy and simply have too much fat. Since I do compete from time to time, performance is more important to me than how I look. That said, I'm very pleased at how my transformation is progressing.