Nutrition: The Hierarchy of Importance

For any nutrition strategy, consistency is the most important aspect to take into consideration. It is crucial to formulate a plan that you can stick to long term. If you find you’re depriving yourself and counting down the days before you can ‘get off this diet,’ then you’re setting yourself up for failure.

Thesecond most important aspect is energy balance – summarised as calories in vs. calories out. This fundamentally dictates body mass gain, loss and maintenance, which is fundamental to achieving your goals. Key to this is understanding roughly how many calories are in various foods, as well as monitoring body mass over time to see if you are indeed in a calorie surplus, deficit, or maintenance.

Macronutrients are made up of protein, carbohydrates and fats, which, along with alcohol, provide energy. Eating the correct amount and type of these is vital not only to in dictating energy balance, and therefore body mass gain/loss, but also determining what mass is gained or lost e.g. ensuring mass losses are coming from fat and not muscle. The correct amount and type are also important in maximising adaptations (benefits) of training, managing blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure.

Micronutrients + Fibre are provided by most foods, but are in particularly high amounts in vegetables, fruits and fibre-complex carbohydrates. In terms of health, it could be argued that these should be lower down the pyramid and therefore of higher importance. By adding more veg you will naturally eat fewer calories as they tend to be more filling but are less energy dense.

Nutrient Timing isquite a vogue topic. For example, should we skip breakfast, should we fast, should we not have carbohydrates before bed, should we have protein after exercise, etc.? In the grand scheme of a diet, and within the hierarchy of importance,this plays a small role. It shouldn’t be considered until points 1, 2, 3 and 4 are optimised.

If nutrient timing is the icing on the cake, then supplements are the cherry on top. Even in the few supplements that have some scientific evidence they probably only provide a 1-2% benefit and in the grand scheme of things are irrelevant in comparison to point 1-4.