The Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance: Introduction
This post will be an introduction to the Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance.
When organizing a meal plan, you’ll want to start in the right place. By beginning at the proper place, a strong foundation can be built from which steady progress can be made. The Nutritional Hierarchy of Importance is a prioritized system that can help you determine where to begin your journey and where to go next. The system has 5 key components which have a clear order of priority.
The idea is to focus on the bottom of the pyramid – building a foundation with a significant and overarching payoff – and then work your way up once competency has been developed at the current priority level.
Priority #1: Calories … Energy Balance (Calories In vs. Calories Out)
This is by far the most important facet of nutrition, no matter your body composition goal. Often people and athletes alike get caught up in the complexities of meal timing and/or supplementation before ever taking a look at the number of calories they’re consuming – and burning, for that matter. This often leads to dead ends.
Calories represent energy, plain and simple. The amount of calories you will need to consume depends on many factors, like most things. These include the persons’ individual goals, body type, exercise and nutritional habits, sleep, and daily activity.
You could do everything else right, but without the right amount of calories coming in, you may never achieve what you desire.
For a deeper dive into energy flux and how to achieve energy balance for gaining weight and building muscle mass, check out this post here.
Priority #2: Macronutrients & Fiber
Next comes macronutrients – carbs, fats, and proteins – and fiber.
A balanced profile of macros is crucial to ensure your energy supply is coming from the right places and is serving your lifestyle. There is a multitude of variables to be considered; however, three common ones include:
The need to supply energy for demanding activities such as sport and exercise.
Your current body composition goals (gain weight, maintain, or lose weight).
The need to acquire adequate amounts of protein for your size and activity levels.
Fiber is an essential nutrient because it promotes a healthy gut by assisting in the absorption of nutrients and maintaining the gut lining.
Priority #3: Micronutrients & Water
Micronutrients include vitamins and minerals essential to the functioning of our organs, muscles, and much, much more. Examples include magnesium, potassium, calcium, omega 3’s, and Vitamin D.
Despite most everyone saying they know how important it is to drink adequate amounts of water every day, few live it. Once the previous priorities are handled well and maintained, dialing in one’s water intake becomes an important player in not only hydration but also gut health, neuromuscular function, cognition, and more.
Priority #4: Meal Frequency & Timing
All too often, this is where people begin, with meal frequency and timing, as well as supplementation (Priority #5). I see this especially in young athletes.
Meal Frequency can allow someone to consume more or less calories in a day by giving themselves varying opportunities to consume calories. Every person has a different approach to food intake, some liking to eat mounds of food in fewer sittings and others needing smaller but a higher amount meals, and finding how many meals is the best fit for them to achieve their goals is of high importance.
Timing comes down to taking charge of one’s schedule and eating at beneficial parts of the day. As an example, for an athlete looking to gain weight, eating first thing in the morning and late-night before bed is of more importance than for a person looking to lose weight. Across the board, eating post-workout offers many benefits.
Priority #5: Supplementation
As stated before, people can get sucked into the allure of supplementation. This can be largely due to the marketing and messaging behind supplement brands making false promises and pumping dirty ingredients into their product for added flavor. To put it bluntly, supplementation isn’t magic.
However, supplements can play a major role in helping someone achieve their body composition goals, keep energy levels balanced, and supply essential micronutrients for the body when other means aren’t available. For these reasons, I only recommend supplements I use myself and know have the scientific backing to achieve the desired result.
So there you have it, the top 5 priorities for achieving an optimized nutrition regimen.
#2: Macro’s & Fiber
#3: Micro’s & Water
#4: Meal Frequency & Timing
There is much more to share regarding each of these topics, and I will be sharing a post of each down the road. Fittingly with priority #1.