Putting First Things First – With Food & Fitness

Prioritize What Matters Most

Anyone that’s cracked open a self-help book on productivity should understand the concept of putting their first order, or most important task (MIT) before anything else.  Given that, completing this task will give us the results we’re looking, and in many cases, remove the need to complete some of the other items on our list.


Which isn’t to say it’s easy, and isn’t to say that everyone does it effectively.  But it is to say that this is what the best in the world do.  So realistically, if you want to be the best in the world, this is what you should be doing too.

And I’m not just talking about work, as clearly this concept can be applied to all areas of your life – with food and fitness being my favourite examples (for obvious reasons).

The interesting part being, that the same things preventing people from putting first things first with their career, are the same things preventing people from succeeding with their health.  And in both cases, it extends well beyond deciding to do work or not do work, and eat right or not eat right.


The reason people don’t get the results they’re looking for is because they waste their time doing the wrong things.  Either because they’ve been misled to believe it’s the most important (ex: cardio), they’ve set their sights on the wrong objective (ex: scale weight), or they’re distracted by short-term gains instead of looking at the big picture and playing the long game.

With fitness this means spending the limited amount of time you have to train on building strength and muscle.  Since this is your biggest return on investment – whether we’re talking about physique goals and fat loss, or healthy aging and disease prevention.

First of all, because the more muscle you have the more energy you burn at rest (i.e. higher metabolic rate).  Meaning, every workout spent building muscle is an investment in your future ability to burn calories without exercising.


And second of all, because the more muscle you have the less you’ll fall victim to the biological deterioration process:

  • Insulin resistance
  • Strength reduction
  • Metabolic slowdown

Which is responsible for both the metabolic dysfunction and physical degeneration that send grannie and gramps to an early grave (regardless of what the marathon monkeys will try to tell you about aerobic capacity).  

“The greater your muscle mass, the lower your risk of death…rather than worrying about weight…we should be trying to maximize and maintain muscle mass.” ― Dr. Arun Karlamangla



With respect to food, there should be no surprises.  As protein does the same thing for your health and body composition as resistance training.  The difference being, you eat 3+ times a day, and only train 3+ times per week.  So there’s at least a 7x greater risk of screwing that up!

Especially when you throw in all the convenient sugary crap you could eat instead!!

This is why, just like resistance training, you need to put protein first.  And not just when looking at each day, but when looking at each meal.  Since, realistically, we can only eat so much, and if you’re not careful, your protein can be displaced by other foods.  Just like your email inbox, twitter account, and chatty Cathy coworkers can suck-up your MIT time.

This means sitting down and finishing that whole steak before moving onto anything else.  Which is outlined nicely in the picture below from the Blog of Mike Sheridan (one of my old students): 5 Small Nutrition Tweaks That Make a BIG Difference



Keeping in mind that protein is going to do just as much for your waistline, as it is for your ability to build and maintain that metabolically-active, life-extending muscle.  Since eating it makes us burn more energy at rest (not only through more muscle but because of something called the Thermic Effect of Food or TEF), and eating it keeps our stomach satisfied, and blood sugar stabilized.  Meaning, we’ll have less room for crap, and less desire to eat like crap!

For more information on Putting First Things First, and making time for your MIT, I recommend The One Thing by Garry Keller, and 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by (the late great) Stephen Covey.


In health,

Coach Charles R. Poliquin