The following brief nutritional rules to lose fat and build muscle at the same time were written for Men's Fitness magazine's feature on Nick's transformation of Glenn Parker.
1) "Calories in calories out" is the wrong way to look at fat loss, focus on quality macronutrients.
Scientists will argue that "a calorie is a calorie" regardless of where it comes from, but this is pure hogwash as it ignores the hormonal and biochemical impact of macronutrients. 100 calories from cocoa pops is not the same as 100 calories from a boiled egg! So it is protein (1.5-2gms per lb of bodyweight) first, essential fats, and then carbohydrates a distant third if fat loss is the goal.
2) Ignore all the so-called experts who tell you to not count calories.
No, I am not contradicting myself here, I am merely saying that if you look at the world through a straw you will always have a limited vision. Calories do count, they have to, but they count when balanced against macro nutrient intake. If you consume 10,000 calories a day from meat and nuts, you will get fat. I see far too many personal trainers telling their clients that they can eat as much as they want from the right sources. If only this were true. If you want to achieve stellar results, lose fat and build muscle at the same time, and drop below 10% bodyfat then I make no apologies in telling you that you will need to suffer a bit and will have to get used to going to bed a little bit hungry.
3) Learn to cycle your carbohydrate intake to suit your own needs.
There is little wiggle room when it comes to protein intake - you need what you need to maintain / build muscle and going too low will mean you risk losing hard earned muscle mass. Fat intake can be played with a little bit, but you do need essential fats always, and fats as an energy source are often better than carbohydrates as they don't negatively impact blood sugar levels. This leaves carbs, which for at least 80% of you spell disaster when it comes to fat loss. The best nugget of advice I can give when looking to lose fat and build muscle at the same time is to drop all none essential carbs (everything other than leafy green vegetables) for a couple of weeks and then gradually reintroduce them around your workouts in the form or brown rice, yams and sweet potatoes. Observe closely how your body reacts and start to learn the real secret to improving body composition - learning your own very unique body.
4) Emphasise good peri and post workout nutrition.
If you want to build muscle as well as losing fat, a tough but achievable feat, then you need to arrest the catabolism caused by intense training sessions as quickly as possible. You can do this by chugging down 20gms of BCAAs during your workouts (I know its a lot but don't complain, because of my own size I have to take at least 40gms!), and then ensuring you have a decent post workout shake. Ideally this would be 50gms of whey, 10-20gms of glutamine, 5-10gms creatine, some Poliquin Greens powder, and possibly some fast acting carb source such as vitargo if you are lean enough to be able to deal with the blood sugar spike.
5) Eat small amounts frequently.
This is an old and hardly groundbreaking rule for improved body composition and losing fat and building muscle at the same time, but it is also one that is easily ignored with often catastrophic results. If you allow yourself to go hungry your blood sugar will drop, you will start craving all sorts of lovely things that are totally on the banned list (croissants start singing my name when I get hungry) and you may well end up pigging out. The best way to avoid temptation is to not put yourself in harm's way in the first place. I made Glenn eat up to 8 times a day for his transformation, which is one of the reasons why he only every broke his diet when I told him to! Of course that last strategy to lose fat and build muscle is one for another day...