Navigating the nutrition & fitness space can sometimes feel like walking through a landmine.
No matter where you step, you’re almost always being sold the “next best fat burner” or this “fat-burning exercise guide” or even the next “best” fad diet that’s the key to all of your success & results.
And more often than not, these claims, diets, or exercise routines are being sold to you based on anecdotes only. Meaning, the people selling them are using their personal experiences or successes to drive their sales. They might have SOME scientific evidence to support their claims, however, most of the time, you’re just buying this product, starting this new diet, or buying this new workout program because this person says you’re going to get results following it or doing the program. Not because the diet or product has merit to it, but because “it worked for them, so it will work for you.”
The problem with this is that you’re not getting all of the information behind what’s actually going on in this person’s life that’s contributing more to generating the results you see. Sure, the workout program they're trying to sell you might help you get abs like theirs, but only if your lifestyle looks EXACTLY like theirs (i.e. you have to eat, sleep, manage your stress, hydrate, & have the same genetic profile as them).
Or maybe you see that “X” diet generated all of this fat loss for the person trying to sell you on it. But what you don’t see is what their training, sleep, stress management routine looks like, or what other areas of their life are suffering because of the diet they’ve chosen (i.e. maybe they feel anxious to eat out with friends because they know they “can’t” have certain foods).
The point is, you don’t get the full picture.
You don’t know what other variables are being controlled alongside this diet, product, or program “so & so” is promoting.
But today we’re going to help you weed through the murky water & learn, at least when it comes to your nutrition, what factors are most important for generating your results, what factors are least important, & why.
Because when we get down to it, improving your nutrition & fitness is usually pretty simple. But simple doesn’t always mean easy nor practical based on where you’re currently at on your journey (this is where the marketing for magic fat loss burners gets you).
In fact, it’s “so simple” that we’ve laid out a hierarchy of nutrition pyramid that shows you what factors within the realm that is your nutrition are more important when seeking results & which factors are least important.
And if you’ve been following along with the Clar-e-ty tribe for a while now, you’ve probably seen this hierarchy before or have at least heard us talk about it in some capacity. However, today we’re going to take a deep dive into each part of the pyramid, why/if it’s important for generating your results, & how each part builds off the others.
Moreover, the purpose of today’s blog is to show you exactly how simple nutrition is & that building better nutrition habits doesn’t require you to make a complete 180 or buy some “magic” supplement or cut out any foods you love. It’s more so about grabbing the “lowest hanging fruit” & instilling habits one to two at a time until you find the right approach & potency for you.
Alright! So let’s start at the bottom of the pyramid with what’s most important for generating results.
Adherence & Consistency
Adherence & consistency kind of go hand in hand. They sound very simple, BUT putting these factors into practice with your nutrition can sometimes be more difficult than they seem.
Before we get into the little nuances behind adherence & consistency, let’s define what these terms mean.
If we look up the definition of consistency here’s what pops up: "conformity in the application of something, typically that which is necessary for the sake of logic, accuracy, or fairness.”
Or one I like better is: "marked by harmony, regularity, or steady continuity: free from variation or contradiction.”
However, it’s easy to confuse being consistent with being perfect. Repetition will ALWAYS be more important than perfection when chasing your goals.
Think about the first time you picked up a barbell & tried to snatch.
Was your technique perfect? Probably not.
It wasn’t until you started putting the reps in that your movement quality became increasingly better over time. You gained confidence picking up the barbell & getting it over head. Your technique didn’t get better because you did a perfect snatch every time you picked up the barbell. Your technique got better because you put in the reps. You got consistent doing the movement well which lead to your comfortability with the movement.
The same goes for any other goal you’ve worked towards.
If you’re trying to shed some body fat, have one bad day, & go completely off track, will it ruin your progress? NO. It’s all about your average intake for the week & 1 day will not throw off your weekly average THAT much.
Individual “failures” have little impact on our long-term success so the quicker we can get back on track when things don’t go our way, or we miss a lift, or we feel like we’ve failed, then the easier it will be to ensure our success. Most importantly, how we rebound from setbacks is more important than the setbacks themselves. Because like it or not, setbacks are going to happen from time to time.
This is why adherence ties into consistency. Adherence is your ability to consistently follow your nutrition plan or stick with your goals even when the going gets tough. Or another way to phrase adherence is: is your diet or nutrition plan sustainable enough that even on “life happens” days, you’re able to follow suit at least partly?
Adherence is so important for success because we could give you the "perfect" nutrition plan that will pretty much guarantee you your results, however, if you can't adhere to the plan because it's not sustainable, it won't work.
Similarly to consistency, adherence DOES NOT require you to be perfect or spot on with your nutrition plan every single day. 80-90% compliance 100% of the time will always lead itself to better results than 100% compliance 50% of the time.
At the end of the day, the diet/nutrition plan you can adhere to & sustain long-term is the one that’s going to give you results.
The next most important factor on the hierarchy of nutrition pyramid is calories. In terms of specific results, calories are king. They’re the driving force behind losing fat, gaining muscle, body recomposition, etc.
Calories need to be in check or within the right ranges for you to get the results you’re seeking.
If you’re trying to lose fat, you need to be in a calorie deficit or expend more energy than what you’re putting into your body.
If you’re trying to gain muscle, you need to be in a calorie surplus or bringing in more energy than your body is expending.
And if you’re trying to maintain your body composition, then you need to be bringing in the same amount of calories your body is expending daily.
Again, simple in theory, but can be very detailed in practice.
This is one of the reasons why certain fad diets work for some & don’t work for others. For example, let’s say you’re trying the keto diet because it worked for your friend & they lost a decent amount of weight doing the keto diet (for more on the keto diet & other trending fad diets click here).
You start cutting out carbs, increasing the amount of fats in your diet, but you’re not controlling your overall calories because, by nature of the keto diet, you don’t have to. However, you notice you’re not getting the same results as your friend.
By increasing the amount of fats in your diet without controlling your overall calories, even though you’re cutting on carbohydrates, you’re more than likely eating your body’s maintenance OR eating in a surplus if you’re not seeing fat loss.
OR maybe you realize you miss having Taco Tuesday with your friends, you miss having white rice instead of cauliflower rice, & you’re not enjoying eating more fats even if you’re calories are in check. Well, then the keto diet probably isn’t sustainable for you & won’t be what you can adhere to long-term which won’t give you the results you seek.
It all comes back full circle. This leads us into the next portion of the hierarchy of nutrition…
Macronutrients are the next most important factor that drives results. The three main macronutrients, protein, carbs, & fats, are how your calories are broken down aka what types of foods make up your total daily intake for the day.
How your calories are distributed amongst the three macronutrients is what’s going to drive specific body composition changes, gym & life performance, overall health markers, etc. This plays into the principle that not all calories are “created equal.”
Meaning, each macronutrient plays a different role in the body based on how it’s broken down. In fact, if you’ve read Coach Clare’s most recent blog post on Boosting Your Metabolism: A Guide, you know that our body uses energy to break down the food we give it.
Protein is very energy costly compared to carbs & fats. Protein uses about 20% of the calories we consume to break it down whereas fats & simple carbs utilize about 0-5% we bring in to break them down. Moreover, protein requires more energy to digest than carbs & fats & can increase your energy expenditure.
Which is why how your macronutrients are distributed amongst your calories is important to note if you’re seeking those specific body comp changes, looking to increase your performance in the gym, build muscle, etc.
BUT again, if overall calories are not in check, then your macro distribution will not make a huge difference no matter what your goals are.
Up next on the hierarchy of nutrition we have micronutrients or all of the vitamins & minerals we get from our food. Most of these vitamins & minerals come from whole food sources like animal products, fruits, veggies, whole grains, beans/legumes, etc.
Although food quality is important, it's not AS important as overall calories & macro distribution when you're trying to achieve body recomp, fat loss, or muscle gain. And just to bring it full circle, let’s say you focus solely on eating fruits & veggies or are trying to incorporate at least one serving of each per day & your goal is fat loss. Even though increasing the amount of fruits & veggies into your day is going to elicit SOME results, eventually, you will have to start paying attention to & being aware of your overall calories as well as the macro distribution of those calories to keep getting the results you seek.
Don’t get us wrong, micronutrients in the proper doses do play a HUGE role in your overall health & longevity. BUT we have to prioritize the other factors below micronutrients on the hierarchy of nutrition when seeking specific results.
Meal Timing & Frequency
Alright, now we’re getting into the super nitty-gritty factors of our nutrition that we LOVE to overcomplicate, but don’t really matter for most of us. One of those factors is meal timing & meal frequency.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone ask me how many meals they should be eating per day to help with fat loss or exactly how many hours post-workout they need to eat to help elicit muscle protein synthesis when in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter.
When & how often you eat isn’t necessarily important as long as you’re consistent, you’re eating enough food to support your needs & goals, & you’ve mastered the quality & quantity of your food.
In fact, you could eat all of your calories for any given day at breakfast every day & not gain fat as long as you’re eating at or below your maintenance calories. Although we HIGHLY discourage this if you want to avoid digestive issues & being ravenous at the end of the day, we’re just reiterating that when & how often you eat really isn’t important if all the other factors below it on the pyramid are in check.
Now, if you’re a high-level athlete or have very specific performance-related goals, then meal timing & frequency might be something you focus more on in conjunction with all the factors listed above to help increase your performance. But for most of us, it’s just not something we need to worry about.
As surprising as it may be to some, supplements are the least important factor to consider when seeking specific results. Supplements as just that...SUPPLEMENTS. They are intended to supplement an already balanced diet. Meaning, if your diet doesn’t already include plenty of variety, nutrient-dense foods, & if you’re not paying attention to your overall calories or consistency, supplements won’t do anything for you.
The supplement industry is a multi-billion dollar industry that puts out a TON of misinformation & preys on our desire for a “quick fix.” Despite what “X” influencer or company is trying to sell you, there is very little research to prove any of those “detox teas,” “fat burners,” “get ripped” pills do anything productive for ya.
However, SOME supplements have merit & we might recommend them to clients that need them. With that said, we always recommend people do their due diligence & only buy their supplements from reputable sources since the supplement industry is very deregulated.
And there you have it, friends!
Hopefully, after reading this blog you have a better understanding of what factors will actually generate your results.
We know your first instinct might be to jump on the next fad diet train or buy that new fat burner, but first, ask yourself if you want a short-term fix or a long-term solution?
Usually, we’re so wrapped up in what will give us 1% better results that we don’t take the time to build the foundational habits or practices that give us 80-90% better results.
These habits might require a bit more hard work & dedication, but as Teddy Roosevelt once said…
“Nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort.”
Resources and Coaching:
Online Coaching here.
[Free] Nutrition Guide here.
Recipe & Macro Guide here.