Do you know what would be terrible?
Deciding you want to lose body fat and transform your life, embarking on that new and arduous challenge, but ending up focusing on the wrong things.
Imagine directing all your time, energy and money on things that deliver minimal results or on things that really don’t matter in the long run.
Imagine making things harder for yourself, before you’ve even started.
All that effort, for nothing.
When it comes to fat loss, understanding what the most important strategies to conquer first are, and what to leave to the very end, are vital in achieving and maintaining success.
Behold the Hierarchy of Fat Loss; your complete guide to the priorities of fat loss.
Undoubtedly the number one goal and foundation to any fat loss programme is adherence. Unfortunately it’s the piece of the pyramid that is always forgotten about and always disregarded for quick-fix, short-term results, that do little to represent sustainability and practicality in the real world.
Any pyramid lacking in a solid foundation will quickly collapse.
If a programme, diet or change is too hard, too involved and ultimately not enjoyable, devotion to the cause will unquestionably be diminished. Despondency will creep in and before you know it compliance will be non-existent. This definitely won’t lead to long-term change.
Whenever undertaking a new diet or training programme, I always get people to ask themselves: ‘Can I see myself maintaining these changes 3, 6 and 12 months down the line?’ If you can, you know you’re on the right track.
If you can’t wait to finish the diet or programme you’re currently undertaking, through boredom, difficulty or any other factors, then it probably isn’t going to get you any results.
This is why extreme calorie restricted diets or incredibly intense exercise regimes fail. Adherence quickly ceases, due to the evident lack of sustainability, and people end up back where they started, sometimes even worse off.
Make adherence the number one priority when it comes to fat loss and you’ll be off to a winning start.
Nutrition is possibly the most over analysed and over scrutinised aspect of the fat loss process and yet time and time again people consistently get it wrong; which is a shame, considering its immense importance when wanting to change.
You will have heard the phrase ‘you can’t out train a bad diet’; while this is a potentially crude way of putting it, this universalism holds a large amount of truth. No amount of intense training and work in the gym will be able to form the best results if your nutrition and eating habits aren’t in conjunction with your other efforts.
With so many factors relating to the outlook on nutrition, please feast your eyes on the Hierarchy of Nutrition.
· Nutritional Habits
People wanting to lose body fat and change their body shape are usually stuck in a long rut of unhealthy, unhelpful and perpetual habits that have slowly contributed to the current situation they find themselves in.
For long-lasting fat loss changes to occur, changing these old, negative habits into new, positive ones takes precedence over anything above it.
Perfecting habits such as planning meals for the week, preparing meals for the week, going on weekly shops and keeping a food diary will invariably lead to lifelong changes that will ensure fat loss continues well beyond an initial ‘four-week blast’.
In an era where every weight loss company, nutritional brand and supplement business are constantly trying to jump on the general public’s overriding vulnerability to any quick-fix fat loss option out there, everyone seems to have forgotten the number one factor pertaining to fat loss – calories.
‘Control your calories’ is boring; it doesn’t sell. Trying to argue with the laws of thermodynamics, however, is a bit like trying to argue with your mum – you ‘ain’t gonna win.
Wherever fat loss is concerned, consistently putting yourself in a calorie deficit (consuming less energy/calories than you expend) over time will force the body to pull energy from fat stores. This is the number one factor when trying to achieve fat loss.
In the fat loss war, calories matter.
The three main macronutrients – proteins, carbohydrates and fats – are all important. Not as important as overall calorie intake let’s not forget, but being able to manipulate the ratios of these three food groups will contribute to further progress when it comes to fat loss.
Because of the support protein can lend to your fat loss efforts, prioritising the intake of this macronutrient often means it’s superior to the other two, but carbohydrates and fats both play an integral role in the dietary requirements for fat loss to occur.
I’ve grouped everything from supplements to meal timing to meal frequency to micronutrients to pretty much everything else when it comes to nutrition in the top part of the pyramid, given the broad nature of this article.
Focusing on meal timing may well have more benefits than focusing on supplements, for example, but focusing all your energy on perfecting nutritional habits, controlling calories and manipulating macronutrients will always play a much larger and more important role than focusing on the minutiae everyone so proudly loves to fuss over.
Until you’ve mastered the first three layers on the pyramid, don’t spend any time agonising over the intricacies of fat loss. You’re just wasting your time.
Once you start to prioritise making changes to your nutrition, it is possible to delve into the realms of exercise and training; again, a concept that is often misunderstood and misjudged when it comes to achieving successful and long lasting fat loss results.
In order to promote the caloric deficit required for fat loss to occur, adding in exercise protocols that enhance this will be able to maximise the efficiency of the fat loss process. Whilst the concept of training is not as significant as refining and perfecting your nutrition, specifically that calorie deficit, remember, making sure your time spent in the gym is as useful and efficient as possible is imperative for fat loss to occur.
Let me present to you, the Hierarchy of Training:
· Resistance Training
For fat loss to occur, the bulk of your training should centre around promoting and maintaining as much muscle mass as possible. (That was important, read it again). More muscle will ultimately help elevate your metabolic rate – a significant indicator as to how many calories you can burn at rest.
Adding the concept of strength and hypertrophy training into your fat loss programmes will ensure your muscles are continually forced to work and grow, as well as contributing to an elevated metabolic rate. Furthermore, the more muscle you can hold on to the greater chance you have of displaying a lean and defined figure.
· Metabolic Conditioning
A similar concept to resistance training, metabolic conditioning will not only preserve muscle mass but will optimise the amount of fat burnt during a workout as well as keeping your metabolism elevated long after you’ve stopped exercising.
This is primarily due to a phenomenon known as EPOC (Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption) – also labelled the ‘after-burn’. The higher intensity, metabolic disturbance aspect of this type of training won’t necessarily help increase muscle mass, but will go a long way in helping to burn those desired extra calories.
· High Intensity Interval Training
HIIT, the ‘in-thing’ in the fat loss world right now, has its benefits. It’s certainly not as beneficial as the two types of training that precede it, given its distinct lack of ability to build muscle, but its body fat reducing capabilities are clear to see.
High intensity intervals can improve endurance and burn calories long after you’ve finished exercising and while it certainly shouldn’t be prioritised as your main fat loss tool, incorporating some form of HIIT into your programme can pay significant dividends.
· Low Intensity Steady State Cardio
Despite this being at the top of the training hierarchy pyramid, many seem intent on placing it at the bottom. Archaic scientific information still rings true across gyms up and down the country as steady state cardio appears to be the cornerstone of many people’s fat loss training programmes.
Yes it can burn body fat and yes it has benefits, but placing any more emphasis on steady state cardio than ‘the icing on the cake’ (yes, its gluten-free don’t worry) will lead to significant plateaus and minimal long lasting results.
The goal of fat loss is to burn as much fuel as possible; meaning you want your body to be as fuel inefficient as possible. The more cardio you do, the better you get at it and the more efficient you become with. Not ideal when wanting to lose fat.
The last and least important segment of the fat loss hierarchy, yet the one people spend the most time in is ‘everything else’! The idea of majoring in the minors often excites people, purely because they can spend more time worrying about the minutiae than actually doing the essential work required.
The essentials are the most basic, yet the hardest; which scares people. Focusing on things like which supplements to take, when to take supplements, when to eat, how many times a day to eat, whether to train five or six times a week, when to add in cardio and many other intricacies means they can avoid the basics and continually supply excuses as to why they’re not getting results.
Perfecting the bottom three foundations of the pyramid are of far more immediate concern and while ‘everything else’ does have a role to play later down the line, for you to be worrying about the complexities of fat loss is unnecessary.
It’s clear to see how things can quite easily get muddled up. Aspects of fat loss that are often considerably fussed over are often the things that matter the least.
People continually forget the importance of the simple things and will do everything to skip the foundations to focus on the trivia.
If you’re every struggling for results, always refer back to the three pyramids and make sure you’re working through things in the right order. It’s better than wasting all that time for nothing.
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