The 80/20 Nutrition Rule

Far too often, people assume that if they would just start going to the gym, then they would finally get the body that they've always wanted. However, the reality is that only 20% of overall physical health (body size, image, performance, etc) is going to come from time spent at the gym. The other 80% is from our diet and nutrition. So for all of you who say "if I just had more time" or "it is too hard to get into the gym"…. that doesn't have to be your excuse anymore! You can make a big difference in your fitness and/or weight loss goals just by making healthy choices about how you fuel your body, and that even doesn't involve taking a step into the gym. So if you retain only one piece of information from this post, let it be this: your nutritional habits will have a far greater impact on your body composition and physique goals than any other fitness component.

Let's step back from the fitness industry, pop culture, or scientific debates and think about it logically. Let's say you perform four weight training sessions and five cardio sessions a week – a typical fitness protocol. That’s a total of nine training sessions per week. That’s nine chances to make a difference and change your body in a positive way.

Now, lets also say you eat three square meals a day. Or better yet, as a fitness athlete you know about the advantages of meal spacing and eat five meals/snacks a day. That’s 21-35 opportunities a week to directly impact your muscle building and fat burning goals in order to get the body that you've always wanted. If we spend 9-15 hours per week in the gym working out really hard, but then go home and eat pizza, cookies, chips or other processed foods, then all that time you just spent in the gym is wasted. Just because you workout hard does not mean that you can then eat like crap. If you do that, you will not reach your fitness goals. You will perhaps keep the current body you have, but you will not lose weight, get stronger, or be as healthy as you could be if you were fueling your body with the healthy nutrients it needs.

While working out at the gym is exhausting and a lot of work, as I always tell my clients, the real work takes place in the kitchen. It takes a lot of willpower, persistence, and determination to thoughtfully choose the right foods for your body. At first, it will seem extremely difficult, but with patience and persistence, this lifestyle change can become the constant. And once it is, you will be amazed at how wonderful you will feel.

A common question in the fitness industry is, “what percentage of my physique goals will be a result of exercise, and what percentage will be a result of my diet?” And the answer that most people don't want to hear is that diet will always have a bigger impact on your physique goals than training.

In our above example of 9 training sessions and 35 meals/snacks geared toward body composition improvement a week, that works out to about 20% accounted to physical activity and 80% accounted to diet. I’d say that’s a pretty accurate assessment of the physique enhancement process. If you want to meet your fitness goals, 80% of your results are determined by the food that you eat.

When you hear tales of dramatic weight loss or great body transformations, diet/nutrition is always at the forefront of the discussion. “How did you lose the weight?” friends will ask. “Oh, I went on such and such diet” or “I read this or that nutrition book.” People can and do make drastic changes in their physique with just diet alone.

The moral of the story is you can’t change your body just by exercising. As a matter of fact, I’d say you are wasting your time in the gym until you clean up your diet and implement a sound and nutritious food regiment. It would be nice if we could work off last night’s junk meal with some extra cardio, but unfortunately that's just not how it works.

When you are about to cheat and eat that slice of pizza or bowl of ice cream, remember the Fitness Nutrition 80:20 rule. What goes into your mouth accounts for 80% of how you look.