Re: Lower body fat, then add muscle?
For the average person, it is impossible to gain muscle and lose fat at the same time. Like you said, one requires a caloric surplus while the other requires a caloric deficit. You will no doubt run into people claiming you can achieve both goals at the same time. Ignore them. Unless you're one of the genetically gifted, you will have to focus on one goal at a time. If you're carrying a significant amount of body fat, it's better to lose the fat before you try to gain muscle. When a person is trying to lose fat, they will lose some muscle too since they're taking in fewer calories than their body needs. When a person is trying to gain muscle, they will gain some body fat too since they're taking in more calories than their body needs. The trick is to minimize the muscle loss or fat gain. This is why it's especially important to track your body fat and muscle mass every week. That way, you can see where your weight loss/gain is coming from and make adjustments to your diet and exercise plan immediately. If I see that I'm losing muscle, I don't scale back on the cardio, I just eat more. If you're losing muscle, it's more likely because you're taking in too few calories than doing too much cardio. Don't be afraid to do cardio. There's a lot of paranoia out there about cardio causing muscle loss, but at one time I managed to shed 20 pounds of fat and only lost 1 pound of muscle despite doing 2 hours of cardio a day.
Another thing to keep in mind is that whatever plan you come up with has to be suited to you and only you. Someone may tell you that you're doing too much cardio but only you can know if it's too much by listening to your body and tracking your body fat and muscle measurements. In order to lose fat, I have to do 1 hour of cardio every morning but someone else may have a body that responds better to cardio and so they only need to do it 3-4 times a week. Also remember that most people tend to overestimate the number of calories they burn. Chances are you're not burning nearly as much as you think you are. But cardio is the best way to get rid of body fat. Diet manipulation can speed up your metabolism and weight training can help preserve muscle mass, but it's cardio that works directly on body fat.