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I've been going to gym for about 3-4 month now. In my diet I tried to eat 2g of protein per 1kg of body mass, ~0.5g of fat per 1kg of body mass, and keep my calories intake >= calories burned overall. I gained some mass (both muscle and fat presumably).

The training program was mainly 4 sets of 8-12 reps, with following exercises(3 days a week):

1) bench press, incline bench press, crossover chest, 
   pec machine, dumbbell shoulder raises, barbell shoulder raises, 
   biceps curls

2) wide grip pull-ups, bent over barbell row, 
   wide grip lat pull down, seated machine row, 
   seated cable row, dips (triceps version),  
   cable rope overhead triceps, one arm dumbbell triceps

3) barbell squat, leg press, seated leg curl, 
   lying leg curls, calves raises, various abs exercises

I increased weights somewhere about when I could do 4х10 with current weights.

Now I'm going to go for caloric deficit (~300-500kcal) (with same 2g of protein and ~0.5g of fat per 1kg of body mass, but less carbs) to reduce body fat and keep as much strength and volume as possible. How should I approach my workout routine in this period? I suppose adding weight is not a good idea on caloric deficit? (I do realize my routine was not ideal from the start)

  • Dropping 300 to 500 calories per day should not be a big burden on your training. I wouldn't worry too much about it. I would, however, change the routine if you've been doing the same thing for several weeks. – rrirower Sep 17 '15 at 13:03
  • Note that adding weight when in a caloric deficit isn't inherently a good or a bad thing. Two rules of thumb are: a) if your energy levels go down (i.e. you can't maintain reps at weight, etc), then increase calories b) if body fat is increasing then decrease calories. If you can increase the weight at your current calorie intake, then do so. – casperOne Oct 5 '15 at 14:49
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Keep doing what you're doing if it's working for you.

You don't need to lift heavier (in fact, you'll probably have a pretty hard time doing that on a deficit), just keep your routine in order to tell your body "Hey, see these muscles I've been using for a while? Don't get rid of them, I still need them".

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Think of dieting as just another stressor on the system that is your body. There are two stressors you care about: dieting, which makes your body adapt by being leaner, and lifting, which makes your body hold on to lean mass rather than fat.

If you take this view (dieting as just another stressor), then the course of action becomes obvious:

  • It your training is working, keep doing it. Focus on reducing the other stressors from everyday life, i.e. enhance your recovery, by eating well (have enough protein), sleeping well (sleeping is even more important when you are in a deficit), relaxing, etc. This article from Dr. Mike Israetel should give you some clues on how to dial in your recovery. Keep the caloric deficit as small as possible in order to reduce that stressor and you might not even have anything else to do. Similarly, the same way that you would take a light week to recover from a high volume training cycle, take some "light diet weeks" (i.e. eating at maintenance) now and then to take a break and recover from your dieting.

  • If despite having perfect sleep, being relaxed, etc. you begin stalling, feeling broken down, then it means that you are not recovering well enough. It's time to modify something else, in that case your training. We know from the scientific literature that what causes the most stress is volume, i.e. sets x reps x weight, and that intensity, i.e. % of your 1RM, is enough to signal your body that you want to keep your muscle mass. That means that in order to conserve lean mass, you will have to reduce volume and keep intensity the same (or higher).

  • If despite all of that, you are still feeling broken down, it will be time to reduce the frequency. If you are lifting 4 times a week, maybe lifting 3 times a week will allow for more time for your body to recover.

  • If all that fails, it's time to take a break from your diet and let your body recover from the stress.

  • Very sound advice. Having trained for a few months on a moderate caloric deficit (~1 lb/week) I didn't have to change much at all. I worked with a coach, so he was able to balance everything for me but I was able to continue to get stronger and put more weight on the bar as I lost pounds and inches. – Berin Loritsch Sep 17 '15 at 16:21

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