At the end of the day, losing fat is a matter of creating a slight (notice the word SLIGHT) caloric deficit in order to start losing weight in the form of fat. This caloric deficit can be created through either an increase of activity, a decrease in caloric intake or both. My strategy to save muscle as I go down is to do the minimum amount of cardiovascular activity that I can get away with at the time while keeping the calories as high as possible. When I plateau, then I either reduce calories slightly again or increase the cardio a bit more to get things rolling once more.
Best times to perform cardio are first thing in the morning on an empty stomach and right after the workout as at both of these times glycogen (stored carbohydrates) levels are low in the body. While I have read many articles recently disputing that this is not really a good idea as it can lead to muscle loss, I have found that this is only true if the person has an unusually fast metabolism (a hardgainer). Everyone else will be fine, especially if supplements like creatine and glutamine are taken which help preserve muscle tissue.
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