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The Nutritional Priorities Pyramid

By 28th August 2016Nutrition

Allow me to introduce the ABC fit nutritional priorities pyramid. When adjusting the diet to support fat loss and muscle gain goals, it’s important we have a logical progression to follow. And here it is! Unfortunately due to people wanting a quick fix, falling for the exaggerated marketing ads or being hooked in by various “supplement salespeople”, the pyramid gets flipped on its head and supplements become a wrongful priority. You may have heard someone say something along the lines of this in the past too “My doctor has told me I’m deficient in B-vitamins, that must explain why I can’t lose weight!”. This is a prime example of placing micronutrients too high up on the priorities list and whilst it may have negative implications for health and fat loss, the real reason that person can’t lose weight is they’ve simply failed to address hydration and energy balance as a priority. For greater understanding, let’s break down each tier of the pyramid and what it means for your goals.

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Hydration
For all body composition goals, ensuring your tissues are optimally hydrated is your first port of call. The formula I generally recommend is as follows:

0.033L X bodyweight in KG = Water goal in Litres per day.

For a 70kg individual this would be 0.033L X 70KG = 2.3L per day

A hydrated body is a happy body. We are made up of over 60% water. It’s needed in the body for many for many important tasks, including:

– Transportation of oxygen and nutrients
– Joint lubrication
– Flushing harmful toxins and body waste, mainly through urination and sweating
– Helping the brain to manufacture hormones and neurotransmitters
– Digestion
– Regulating body temperature
– Organ function
– Fat burning

Energy Balance
Energy balance refers to kcal in versus kcal out. It’s no myth that if you eat more energy than you expend, you’ll gain weight. If you eat an equal amount to the energy you expend, your weight will stay static. And if you eat less energy than you expend, you’ll lose weight. Energy balance is obviously entirely goal specific. Fat loss requires a hypocaloric state, or a state of negative energy balance. Increasing lean muscle mass requires a hypercaloric state, or a state of positive energy balance. This leads us on to the question of – how many calories should you eat per day for your goals? Unfortunately there’s no simple cookie-cutter way of working this number out. You can gain estimates using various BMR calculators and formulas such as the Harris-Benedict formula. But since these BMR calculators are based on lose criteria, with no consideration for current or historical caloric intake, they’re pretty redundant. One thing we can do however, is to simply look at the current caloric intake by using a food diary. Are you gaining weight, losing weight or staying the same? Answering this question will give us a pretty clear understanding of what’s going on.

Macronutrients
Once energy balance demands have been met, we can then start to look at the macronutrient breakdown of the diet. The macronutrients are as follows:

Protein – Essential for growth, repair, immune function, preserving lean body mass and producing essential hormones and enzymes.

Carbohydrates – Your body’s main source of fuel and are easily used in the body for energy.

Fats – Required for cell, nerve, tissue and hormone production. Also needed to absorb various fat-soluble vitamins such as A,D,E and K.

Once again there’s no real cookie-cutter approach to your macro breakdown. It’s entirely individual and goal specific and beyond the scope of this article. Different protocols also require different macro breakdowns (ie. Carb cycling). For most body composition goals a higher protein, moderate carb and moderate fat balance is a great starting point.

Micronutrients
These chemical elements or substances are required in trace amounts for normal growth development and function. They include all vitamins and minerals. Deficiencies of the micronutrients can cause various issues, but you’ll never know for sure unless tests are undertaken. If you suspect you’re deficient in one or more micronutrients consider getting some blood work done by a qualified health practitioner.

Supplements
Last but not least we have supplements. Notice they’re last in our priority pyramid? Supplements are goal specific, for example the goal is lean muscle mass gain so the individual chooses to supplement his or her diet with creatine, whey protein and omega 3’s. Supplements also tie-in with the micronutrients as if any deficiencies are noted, we can supplement the diet with that trace element.

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