I thought I was ripped ten years ago, but I’m more ripped now and used far less effort to get to here this time. Looking back, it’s clear that it was due to my lack of understanding about the different approaches required by each one of the goals listed below. My approach then was to basically throw everything at the wall and hope it would stick. After much reading about how to get ripped, it became clear that I would have to do one of the following:
Focus on mainly fat loss first while hopefully maintaining muscle and strength.
Losing fat quickly requires a larger caloric deficit, which also creates conditions more conducive to muscle loss… and grumpiness in my experience.
Focus on developing strength and muscle first while maintaining body fat percentage.
If the primary focus is building strength quickly, a caloric surplus is required, which is not as conducive to fat loss. In 2005, I put on 13 pounds of muscle eating at a surplus and lifting heavy, but fat loss stopped and reversed.
In my experience, the above two goals cannot be accomplished simultaneously (i.e. losing fat quickly and gaining muscle quickly); the approach each requires tends to conflict with the other more than it harmonizes.
Focus on losing fat slowly while building strength and muscle slowly.
Losing fat slowly while building some strength and muscle slowly is often referred to as a recomposition. Some trainers who I know believe that a recomposition is only possible for people with little to no lifting experience. Although I have been lifting fairly steadily for 17 years, I hadn’t done so for the eight months prior to relearning how to get ripped this time. So it might be more accurate to say that a recomposition is likely to be more pronounced for individuals who are either new to lifting or who are experienced lifters coming off of a layoff. At any rate, a recomposition was the right choice for me because one of my prerequisites for getting ripped and staying ripped was that it had to be easy and comfortable. Losing fat slowly requires only a modest caloric deficit. The modest energy deficit I maintained was also conducive to some strength and muscle gains so long as I maintained the right anabolic conditions (like lifting with intensity).