The Hierarchy of Fat-loss

July 15, 2022| Current Issue, Editorial

Christine Sciberras, Founder and Head Coach at Melita Fitness

When it comes to losing weight, or more specifically losing fat, exercise gets a lot of attention. It tends to be the first thing we do.

You’ll see it all over fitness magazine too: “5 exercises for fat loss” or “20 minutes to your bikini body”. As a personal trainer, you might be surprised to hear that exercise is not the first thing I recommend for women (or anyone really) wanting to lose fat. In fact it’s not even the second thing! So let me share with you my Hierarchy for Fat Loss.

The MOST important thing for fat loss is NUTRITION. It is absolutely fundamental because whichever way you look at it: you cannot out-exercise a poor diet.

Getting nutrition right is key: This means getting adequate portions of protein, fats, carbs and veg. It also means maintaining a calorie deficit. But not too much of a deficit that it causes us to overeat in 2, 5, 7 days’ time.

Think of it like this: if you only have one free hour, what should you do? The most effective thing that you can do, is sort out your nutrition for the next few days: plan your meals, get your food shop organised, or prep your food by, for example, cooking up a batch of protein and veggies.

How many of us do this consistently? Because in my experience, we are more likely to think a workout is more important. We carve out an extra hour and go to a class or run. But then we wing the nutrition bit, because we haven’t got enough time to prepare something nutritious. Well, that’s doing it backwards. Because let me say it again: you can’t ever out-exercise a bad diet.

The second most important aspect is SLEEP and recovery! Yes, sleep is more important than exercise. Why? Because lack of sleep messes up your hunger hormones causing you to want to eat more (and particularly making you want to eat more junk food). It also elevates your stress hormones, which makes it harder to lose weight!

So prioritising sleep is super important. This means having a regular bedtime routine: avoid phones in the evening, avoid eating late, limit caffeine in the afternoon and so on.

The most effective thing that you can do, is sort out your nutrition for the next few days.

It’s only at the third level, that we finally get to EXERCISE, once we have nailed nutrition and sleep. Because if you’re not rested and recovered, then your workout will be sub-optimal.

It’s not just any exercise. It’s about Lifting Heavy Stuff. Workouts should be 3-4 times a week and ideally around 45 minutes long. Any longer and you’re probably not working out hard enough. Any more frequent and you’re probably not recovered between workouts.

At the next level up, it’s about Activity Levels. This is non-exercise activity like walking, gardening, hoovering… 10,000 steps is a good target for most of us!

Finally, right at the top, is everything else. All the things that confuse and obfuscate fat loss. And that many of us don’t need to worry about. Things like meal timings, supplements, which superfood is ‘the best’ or which 5 exercises are ‘the best’. Yes, ironically these are often the things you read most about in magazines!

But for most of us, these things don’t really matter. And focusing on the lower levels Nutrition, Sleep and Lifting Heavy Stuff consistently is what is really required.

If you’ve struggled with achieving consistent fat-loss and would like some help, please get in touch: chris@melitafitness.co.uk