When you are making any kind of change to your nutrition for the purposes of improving your health or how you look, it can be difficult to know where to start.
The Pyramid of Nutrition Priorities.
Start by viewing your food intake as a pyramid, then focus on the base of your pyramid first, each layer thereafter becomes less important with the top layer being the least important.
At the base of your pyramid is your adherence, how well you can stick to something is the underlying foundation of any diet, nutrition programme, habits, in fact anything you try to build.
If you don’t think about this layer first, you are going to set yourself up for failure. Just as if you were to build a house on sand It would not last very long. It would have really poor foundations.
The first thing then, that you need to consider before you start anything is how well are you actually going to be able to stick to this approach?
Also, what are you going to do afterwards? This is key as well. What are you going to do after this ‘cut’ is over or after this bulk is over – whichever phase you may be in.
Consider the question; Is this going to be a sustainable approach for you for the long term?
The very next layer in the pyramid is your total calorie intake. We will cover how food quality can affect your calorie intake, but total calories is definitely the next thing.
The reason for this is that no matter how high quality your food is, whether it’s all 100% “natural”, whether it’s all unprocessed Whole Foods. If you are trying to lose body fat and you overeat these foods in terms of the overall energy, you will not lose weight.
This was a mistake that I made for years and years in my past, thinking I was eating high quality food, so why wasn’t I seeing the results that I wanted?
Another problem with this ‘eat only whole or clean food’ idea is that it can often be quite restrictive for a lot of people.
It can lead you to have cheat days or cheat weekends or even cheat weeks where you’re eating anything and everything you can put your hands on. Including plenty of junk food into the bargain.
This then means you consume a lot of calories and feel really crappy about yourself, your physique. You are not really getting anywhere, so then start that restrictive cycle again.
When doing anything with regards to body composition and your health, your calorie intake comes first, because you want a good mixture of foods.
You want to make sure you’re eating the right amount of total energy to sustain your body weight for health, to put on a bit of bodyweight for muscle gain and to lose a bit of body weight if your goal is weight loss.
After calorie intake, the next layer of your pyramid is your macronutrient profile. Macros are protein, carbohydrates and fat and I will write more about macros tomorrow.
These are the next in the list of priorities. We need to be getting the right amount of protein in for maintaining and building muscle tissue.
Then we need to make sure we’re getting enough fats in for health and enough carbohydrates for energy.
The next layer is your food quality. When you are looking to make changes in body composition, the quality of your food can affect the quantity of your food.
If you eat a lot of low quality junk food, you won’t feel as full and you’re not going to get in the right amount of nutrients for your body.
Therefore you’re going to eat more calories overall, because you’re going to crave more calories and you’re not going to fulfil your body’s needs.
We all need to get a good balance of high quality food and junk food. With my clients and everyone I give advice to, I recommend an 80/20 split with regards to that food quality.
Make Whole Foods around 80% of your diet and then junk food around 20%. With nothing being ‘banned’, you’re much more likely to stick to your plan.
The next layer of this pyramid is your timing. How and when do you eat your food? Are you having three meals a day? Are you having six meals a day?
Are you perhaps eating most of your food in the morning, or most at night? The reason this layer is so high up is because, if you get the calorie intake right, your food timing matters very little.
When thinking about food timing, we should think of it as in how it helps the adherence layer. For example, when do you enjoy your food?
How does eating at particular times help you to actually stick to the approach that you’re looking at?
The very top layer is supplements. These always come last. If you want to know more about supplements please look back to the blogs and podcasts from the week before last.
There is more information on what you should buy, what supplements to avoid, what works and what really doesn’t. To help you make some educated decisions.
Supplements always come last, these are the last things you want to pay attention to. They are the icing on the cup cake, or the flag on top of the pyramid!
The pyramid then, stacks up like this. The very base is adherence. The next layer up, is your overall energy intake, your calorie intake through food and drink. Above that are your macronutrients, most notably protein.
Above that, is the quality of your food in terms of nutrient density. The next layer is when you eat those foods and how many meals you eat a day.
Then the very icing on the cake are your supplements. I will go into more detail on the other layers, in the other blogs this week as well as talking about it on the podcast.
If you want to get more detail then please go to the link in my Instagram bio and click muscle and strength pyramids.
You can buy the muscle and strength, nutrition and training pyramids that were designed by Andy Morgan, Eric Helms and Andrea Valdez.
These books are absolutely fantastic resources to teach you everything you need to know about designing your own nutrition plan and designing your own training plan as well.
I’ve read both of those books, they’ve influenced a lot of my programming, my nutrition coaching and now they are available for you to buy as well.