The 80/20 Rule

Do you know the 80/20 rule? Or the Pareto principle?

It started in 1896 when Vilfredo Pareto discovered that 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the people.

Soon other analysts saw how this rule played out in business: 20% of your customers lead to 80% of your sales. And it has been proven to be true in economics, science, business, safety, software, sports, health, language learning…

  • For weight loss, 80% of the results are determined by your efforts in the kitchen. 80% of weight control can be attributed to controlling blood sugar levels through carbs choices.
  • For weight training, the principle applies to what exercises you do. You should prefer compound exercises like dead-lifts, squats, presses and pull-ups. There are thousands of exercises, but 20% of these compound exercises will give you better results than the rest of all the exercises combined.
  • In endurance training, athletes will perform the hard efforts for only 20% of the time (high intensity, but short exercises in order to raise their anaerobic threshold). The remaining 80% of the training should be spent on “easy” and long lasting efforts.

What we recommend

When it comes to health and getting fit, we recommend flipping this rule and focusing on 80% of healthy choices.

Losing fat, getting fitter and healthier won’t be a quick fix. It’s the accumulation of your daily choices.

Concretely, this is an easy lifestyle rule that you can use for both exercising and eating:

  • Stick to your diet 80% of the time, but you can go crazy 20% of the time (social events, romantic dinner, professional dinner, travel…). If you can eat clean 80% of the time, you are going to see a difference in your body and in how you feel!
  • Working out during 80% of the weekdays (5/6 days per week) and get some rest the other days.
  • And when you do workout, stick to your workout program 80% of the time, but have some fun workouts for the other 20% (racquetball, swimming, cycling, baseball, soccer, football…)

Just strive to have at least 80% of your choices be healthy.


With diets, people are either on or off. With the 80/20 rule, it is more like a “way of eating”. You aren’t on it or off it. You’re just doing something sustainable that you can keep doing all the time and that is not frustrating like a regular diet. You don’t have to be perfect all the time, you can enjoy your life 20% of the time (have this beer and this pizza slice at the baseball game!). And with time, you will probably like better (and enjoy life!) the 80% part because this is the one that will give you more energy. You’ll also get used to delicious unprocessed food and won’t regret disgusting fast foods.

However, let the 80/20 rule give you permission to sometimes just enjoy the things you enjoy! Don’t have any guilt and remorse with this ice cream. It falls into your 20 percent and it’s fine!

Eat these donuts in the morning with your colleagues but go to gym after work and eat healthy the rest of the day and skip that beer tonight. See how it works?

We guarantee you that if you exercise on most days and eat clean most of the time, it will work. This 80/20 principle is something totally doable and sustainable!

The goal

The goal would be to have the perfect lifestyle. What we mean by this is:

  • Having hobbies (hiking, skiing, tennis, dancing…). Usually done during weekends and vacation time. This represents 20% of the time.
  • Loving physical activities but not be a “fitness freak”. Workouts are seen as a way to improve body shape, health and also skills/strength/balance that are required to perform these hobbies at the best. Being able to pick up new physical skills quickly (let’s say climbing) because of this training during the week. Workouts are efficient and time spent in the gym is less than one hour, 30 minutes ideally. These physical activities are usually done during busy workdays. This represents 80% of the time.
  • Loving eating healthy, nutritious, and  unprocessed tasty foods: eat a well balanced diet that comes from natural foods. This represents 80% of the time.
  • Do not feel guilty when social occasions come on the way. Eat whatever you want and still maintain that perfect physique (because only done 20% of the time).

The goal would be to have a balanced approach to life and to not been seen as an extremist.

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