The Pyramid of Priorities for Fat Loss and Muscle Gain

When it comes to changing the physical shape of our bodies most people are at a complete loss as to where to start. I guarantee you I could walk up to anyone on the street right now and ask them ‘how do I lose weight’ and I would get some sort of an answer from them; ‘eat less’, ‘don’t eat carbs’, ‘avoid junk food’, ‘exercise everyday’, ‘eat low fat foods’, ‘drink detox tea’ – you get the idea.

Yes, some answers may be helpful, others not so much (don’t even start me on detox teas) – but how do we sort the useful info from the tripe? And where do we start?

Priority 1: Calories In vs Calories Out
This is the highest priority and the base of the pyramid. To change your body composition the first thing you need to understand is that in order for your body to lose weight it must be in a calorie deficit (meaning it must burn more calories than it takes in). And in order to gain weight it must be in a calorie surplus (meaning it must take in more calories than it burns). This is a simplified version of what happens, but essentially if you are trying to change your body composition the first thing you must look to do is establish how many calories you need on a daily basis to achieve your goal. If you have no clue how to do this please check out the BN Calorie Calculator on the homepage of 

Priority 2: Macronutrients
You might have noticed I didn’t specify what kind of weight (fat or muscle) your body is losing/gaining in the above priority. If you are in a calorie deficit but do not have the right balance of macronutrient intake (carbohydrates/fats/protein) you run the risk of losing muscle rather than fat – and who wants to do that?! The same goes for trying to gain weight in the form of muscle, you may actually end up putting on fat as weight! To ensure you are giving your body the best chance at losing fat and gaining muscle you need to ensure you are eating enough protein in your diet. This will help you retain and build muscle, and also help keep you fuller for longer.

Priority 3: Timing
As we move up the pyramid the other factors become less important when it comes to body composition. The timing of your meals and snacks should be built around what works best for you. This will give you the best chance at sticking to any dietary change. If you don’t like eating breakfast don’t force yourself to (no, breakfast is not the most important meal of the day). If you work night shifts create a schedule that works with your plan. If you find that you consume a lot of calories in the late evening then maybe bring in a rule that you don’t eat after 8pm (eating in the evening DOES NOT affect weight gain/loss – it the AMOUNT and TYPES of food you eat that does). If you are trying to build muscle then regular doses of high quality protein throughout the day will give you the best chance at doing so.

Priority 4: Food Composition
By ‘food composition’ I am referring to the quality of the food. What is it made of? Is it micronutrient (vitamin/minerals) dense? What is the satiety value (how full will it make us)? This is where a lot of people get confused between ‘healthy eating’ and ‘eating for weight loss or muscle gain’. It is vital that you eat a diet rich in vitamins, minerals, and fibre – but will that make you lose weight or gain muscle? The short answer is no. You don’t have to live on salads if you want to lose weight and yes you can gain fat with an very, very healthy diet. Again this is a topic which deserves its own post as there are so many factors to discuss. However when it comes to changing your body composition the fact of the matter is that you can do so whilst enjoying what some would consider ‘unhealthy foods’ (so long as you are in a calorie deficit), and eating a diet full of healthy, nutrient dense foods may not result in fat loss if you have not addressed the first priority (calories). This is where a balanced approach to body composition manipulation is key.

Priority 5: Supplements
Fat burners, detox tea, meal replacements, gainers, BCAA’s, creatine, ketones protein, CLA – the list goes on. Some work, and some absolutely don’t.
Most will burn a hole in your pocket but will burn feck all fat or get you gains. Taking supplements will have the least effect on your body composition compared to the other factors, which is why loading up on supplements should be your last priority. However, if you have successfully addressed the rest of the pyramid you can then look to introduce supplements that have been proven to be effective. You can go and spend a ton of money on all the potions and pills that your (sponsored) PT or health shop worker tell you to – but take my word for it, you won’t achieve your goals without addressing the previous priorities, and all you’ll be left with is some seriously expensive pee.

Like anything in life, you need to do it consistently to see results. Your body won’t change overnight but with the right guidance, nutrition plan, and the ever vital consistency – you will see results. And you can do it. Start at the bottom of the pyramid and work your way up. Combine it with a suitable exercise plan for maximum results and remember to focus on evidence based nutritional information when changing your diet.

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