@MinotaurXXX: I am definitely at the crossroads here, as I’ve been at this game now for well over 20 years. I can most certainly relate to much of what you are saying. At different stages of our training life we have different priorities, goals, obligations and preferences, and with time - including the very time that is available to train with in the first place - objectives and variables do change for everyone.
Having said that, the benefit that I’ve found to getting well into single digit body fat is that, with the diet unchecked and the dietary reigns loosened up, it will take a couple of years for me to creep back up to the body fat level I had before trimming down (that is, if the diet constitutes a mostly wholesome meal plan and the total daily calories are kept under control, and with respect to the current activity level). I find that this super lean weight for me is around 180 lbs, and it’s a level of leanness that doesn’t compromise strength to a significant degree and only improves overall athletic performance and endurance (in activities like running, swimming. etc.).
A previous set plan that I had used as an alternative to this strategy was to allow a window of 10-15 lbs from my ideal bodyweight, and “cut” regardless if I reached the upper threshold of this ceiling weight. So if I hit 190-195 lbs, it was time to start cutting back calories and increasing the overall activity level, until I got back to my super lean weight. It worked for the most part, though I found it tricky to stick with, especially during certain times of the year (such as this one).
As I did with recomp. Glad recomp works for you, but I only had real success going all in or all out with regards to diet and objective, and perhaps this is largely a psychological thing. In other words, if I know my #1 goal is to hit my ideal fight weight, at the leanest attainable composition naturally, then it’s easier for me to put that in the cross hairs and focus just on that particular goal.
Of course with a kid now my new strategy, due to time constraints, has changed somewhat. While I still want partly visible abs (at least) the best compromise I can see is to just keep total calories and intake less than what I have in the past, as I still can maintain lean body mass with this approach and not impact strength and performance. Besides, lifting for over two decades has pretty much put the maximum amount of lean body mass on my frame as I’m naturally ever going to have anyway (unless I ever go on TRT, but that’s a potential future story), so there is no need to go on a miss guided attempt to “bulk” for the sake of supposed added muscle gain.
Anyway, that’s where I’m at, though some of this is subject to change depending on how I feel in the next several months.[/quote]
It definitely sounds like you considered all the angles on this issue.
So far, you’ve heard from natties such as Pwnisher, Shadow, and myself. And you’ve heard from guys who are open about using such as Reed and Flip.
I still believe that, once a lifter passes the newbie phase, some of us - especially the natties - simply must let those abs fade several months out of the year if we’re to continue making gains in strength and lbm. We just can’t use that as carte blanche to put on excessive chub. But that’s where the discipline kicks in; this game ain’t easy, as you already know.
Since you’ve got 20 years gym time with all the natural lbm you can attain, have goals which are more endurance-sports oriented (you mentioned running and swimming), and change in lifestyle (congrats on the child) - the decision has practically been made for you.
Take consistent measurements using the same method. Photos can certainly help. Keep a close eye on performance to make sure there aren’t substantial drops (although some occasional regression is perfectly normal for any human being).
Once you pass the learning curve, you’ll be able to locate that sweet spot in which performance is improving - or at least not suffering - and you’re content with how you look and feel. In time, you should be able to adjust caloric intake to focus on one aspect or the other. Then, as priorties shift, you can make compensatory adjustments the other way.