In Episode 55: The Weight Loss Hierarchy, we covered the application of this principle. This post is meant to supplement that discussion to enhance your understanding of the Weight Loss Hierarchy.
The first step in achieving your weight loss goal is knowing the chronology of change. I call this principle the weight loss hierarchy and it speaks to the priority that you give the various aspects of a weight loss program.
After I explain the principle, I’ll give you the step-by-step guidelines for utilizing this principle to build the framework for your weight loss program.
What Is Weight Loss Hierarchy?
If you decide to bake a cake, you will first need a recipe. A recipe is not just a list of ingredients, in fact, there are two components to a complete recipe: the ingredients and the instructions for combining those ingredients.
The experienced baker, cook, or chef will tell you that it isn’t enough to know the ingredients; you must also know the chronology of combining the ingredients. In fact, if you have the right ingredients, but combine them in the wrong order, you may end up with something that resembles a cake but tastes like a rubber tire.
When you’re building your weight loss program, you have a number of ingredients available to you; the weight loss hierarchy is the formula for combining those ingredients in the right way.
What Are The Ingredients To A Complete Weight Loss Program?
The main ingredients are as follows:
- Diet & Nutrition
- Muscle Building Exercise
- Non-Muscle Building Exercise
How Should They Be Used & Combined?
Now that we know the main ingredients to a weight loss program, lets talk about how to prioritize these components.
First, diet and nutrition takes precedence over everything else. You simply can’t outrun or outwork a bad diet.
Often my clients report to me that they’re going to the gym 4-5 times a week but just don’t have the time to prepare food. Diet and nutrition are the first component of any weight loss program and they trump all other ingredients.
If you find that time is really limited, take one of the hours that you spend in the gym and dedicate it to preparing food for the next 3-4 days. You will gain much more from that hour of food prep than you will from the hour of exercise.
Next in line is muscle building activity. Most people prioritize non-muscle building activities, such as running, jogging, elliptical, and other aerobic movements over weight training.
This is a HUGE mistake.
Cardio always takes a back seat to resistance training. Why? Because resistance training is essential for keeping your resting metabolic rate burning; it is your resting metabolism that determines your overall metabolism. Most people focus on cardio because you can burn more calories during the workout; although this is true, the after-burn associated with a solid weight-training workout and the long-term benefit of building metabolically expensive muscle trumps the few extra calories you burn during a cardio workout.
Next comes non-muscle building activity. This is where things like walking, running, jogging, playing, cycling, and other non-muscle building activities enter the picture.
According to the research, and depending upon your genetics, cardio may offer no benefit or moderate benefit. My experience is that most people gain little benefit from making cardio the primary form of exercise. That’s not to say that you can’t gain some benefit from incorporating some aerobic exercise…just make muscle-building activity a priority over cardio. I’ll explain in a minute why this is important.
One ingredient not mentioned is NEAT. NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis. It speaks to the energy expended during the course of your day in activities that are not exercise. This includes walking, lifting, taking the trash out, fidgeting, taking stairs instead of the elevator, etc.
This can be an important ingredient to a healthy and fit lifestyle, but because it doesn’t usually impact the other three ingredients, we will not discuss it in the context of the weight loss hierarchy. In other words, adding more NEAT in your day does not typically impact available time for preparing food, building muscle, or going for a jog.
Why You Must Know & Use The Weight Loss Hierarchy
Lack of time is the biggest complaint that people have when trying to implement a weight loss program. They say, “I just don’t have enough time.”
I say bull! We all get the same amount of time, I don’t get a minute more than you! The problem isn’t time; the problem is priorities. You say you are committed to lose 20 pounds in 2 months, but when you should be at the gym, you’re watching your favorite television show. In this circumstance, you prioritized your television show over your goal of losing 20 pounds in two months.
The first step to using the weight loss hierarchy principle is to decide on your goal. As an example, let’s use the 20 pounds in 2 months example.
Now that we have a goal, we decide how much time we’re committed to devote towards the accomplishment of that goal. Let’s say that you check your schedule and commit to 5 hours per week.
The next step is to figure out how much time you will need to prepare food for the week, let’s say that you think about it and are confident that you can prepare food for the week in 2 hours a week. This leaves 3 hours to be distributed between resistance training and non-muscle building activities.
Next you decide that you will need two hours per week to devote to weight training. That leaves one hour left for non-muscle building activity.
With that final hour you decide to do a 1-hour run on the track every Wednesday.
Now the Curve Ball
Ok, so you’ve built your program and you’re going along fine when work calls and demands that you spend an hour a week on an important project for the next month. Where do you pull that hour?
Ideally from some other area of your life like watching your favorite TV show, but for argument’s purposes let’s say that you MUST take an hour away from your weight loss program allotment, what now?
According to the weight loss hierarchy principle, you must pull from your hour of non-muscle building activities. You may say, “but wait, I have two hours of resistance training and only one of running, shouldn’t I split them evenly?”
No! Resistance training trumps cardio, therefore, you keep both hours of resistance training and lose the cardio.
Weight loss hierarchy is the recipe for building your fat loss lifestyle. This framework shows you how to combine the three elements of such a lifestyle: diet, muscle-building activities, and non-muscle building activities.
Start by asking yourself, “How much time do I have to dedicate to my fat loss program each week?” then ask…
“How much time will I need to prepare food for the week?” Subtract that number from the total number of hours you have available for fat loss. Now ask, “How much time will I need to work my muscles out?” Now subtract that from the total remaining time…
Whatever’s left can be applied to aerobic or non-muscle-building activities! If there’s only enough time for food prep and muscle-building activities, then so be it, poor little cardio needs to be left behind. If there’s only enough time for food prep, then you must bench even the muscle-building activity! Try not to let that happen though!
If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below!