Jeff R wrote:
What I want is to know what to realistically to expect. I have no problem with dropping the weight first and then working on body composition, or doing it the other way round. Somehow I expected that by doing this by exercise, instead of diet, that it might happen concurrently.
I think that 140-145 at 14% is a realistic goal and can be obtained by concentrating on fat loss while minimizing muscle loss. Afterwards, like Tim says, you can always add more muscle if you want.
You need to wrap your mind around what exactly your goal is and what it means to get there. You say that you're at about 152lbs, 20% bf and want to get to 145lbs, 14% bf. So let's break down the numbers:
At 152lbs, 20% bf, you have:
a) 30lbs of fat
b) 121lbs of lean mass (muscle, bones, water, brains, etc.)
At your goal of 145lbs, 14% bf your composition would be:
a) 20lbs of fat
b) 124lbs of lean mass
So from the numbers we see that to get to your goal you need to primarily concentrate on "fat loss", not just weight loss, while maintaining your lean mass.
I find that confusing. Why would muscle be metabolized before fat? Isn't that what fat is for? I thought that the activity level I'm maintaining would keep a high enough demand on my muscles to preserve them. (I'm not trying to be argumentative, but it seems counter-intuitive!)
Yeah, it's insanely complex. But there are times when stored fat isn't the most efficient source of energy. Consumed carbohydrates are usually the first to be used. When those are insufficient the body may use consumed proteins for energy, or break down muscle tissue for those needs.
First thing, with the exercise you're doing (especially the resistance training, which you should maintain), you're going to be breaking down a lot of muscle tissue -- which is fine. But rebuilding that tissue requires sufficient protein intake. If your protein intake is limited, the tissue won't rebuild.
Second, if much of the protein you are ingesting is being used for energy because your overall caloric intake is too low, then you might end up not having enough protein to even maintain your current level of muscle mass, which could result in atrophy.
Third, stored fat is typically catabolized with oxygen (somebody correct me), which is why aerobic exercise helps to burn fat. (And anaerobic exercise like HIIT and weight lifting can do the same; and some studies show it might be more effective.) Your oxygen levels are going to be primarily raised during and after exercise. At other times of the day, stored fat might not be the body's best source of energy.
Therefore I think the best approach for fat loss is to consume a good amount of protein and create only a minor caloric deficit (don't starve yourself), keep the resistance training, and do some cardio or HIIT. If you do choose the cardio, don't go gorilla with it and you should be okay.
A good target is about 1-2lbs of fat loss per week. Anything substantially more than that should raise some eyebrows.