The 80/20 Rule for Healthy Living

There is a well-known theory in the world of entrepreneurship called Pareto’s Principle, or the 80/20. Made popular by life-hackers such as Tim Ferriss, Pareto’s principle is a rule that can affect all areas of life, not just business. 

The idea behind the 80/20 rule, called Pareto’s principle after an Italian economist, is that 80% of your success comes from 20% of your efforts. In business, where we commonly see it, 80% of your profit comes from the 20% of your customers. 

What does this mean for us? In fitness, 80% of your results comes from 20% of your actions – we’re going to take a look at what I feel are the essential 20% you should be pursuing. We will look at essential components for each category, and then the extra “fluff” – things that may be useful to give you a boost in your results, but the stuff you want to skip if you’re a minimalist, or have very limited time. 

For the general exercise enthusiast, these tips will take you a long way. If you want to do a photoshoot or compete in a bodybuilding contest, you’ll have to dial things in a bit more, but if you just want to feel and look better, these are for you. 


Essential Component #1: The Pursuit of Strength

I believe strength should always be the foundation of your training. Get strong at compound movements – horizontal pressing and pulling variations, pull ups, squat and deadlift variations, core stability, and get strong at moving in multiple directions. This will carryover to just about any goal you may have. If you only have a little bit of time in the gym, train a compound lift.

Unnecessary fluff: High-rep isolation movements, complex single-leg balance challenges on a Bosu ball, lightweight tricep kickbacks, and so on. Can be useful for sure, but if you’re short on time, cut these first.

Essential Component #2: Nutrient-Dense Whole Foods 80% of the Time

Sure, flexible dieters can eat anything for the most part, but you want to eat lots of vegetables, and other whole food sources, to ensure you get your micronutrients in. 

If your diet is made up of natural protein sources, fruits, vegetables, and starchy carbs such as potatoes and rice, you’re probably going to be getting most of the nutrients you need. If you can’t track macros, or find yourself in a pinch while traveling or out to eat, stick with the basics, and you’ll be good to go. 

Don’t want to track anything or stress about the perfect meal plan? Eat protein, veggies, and a little healthy fat with each meal. Before and after you train, eat starchy carbs. Drink water all day. Too easy. 

Unnecessary fluff: Obsessing over macros, obsessing over only eating gluten-free/hormone free/organic health food, worrying about how much olive oil ended up on your salad at a restaurant, being harsh on yourself for slipping up here and there… you get it. Nail the basics.

Essential Component #3: Protein, Fish Oil, Vitamin D, Creatine, Done. 

Supplements. Everyone loves them, many don’t need them, most don’t work. I think most people would benefit from fish oil, vitamin D if you don’t get much sun, and maybe a greens supplement to cover your micronutrient bases. Protein powder is great to hit your numbers, but ultimately just another food source. Creatine monohydrate is one of the most researched supplements out there, and if you want a little boost in strength and performance, take 5g a day, whenever you want. 

Anything outside of that is not at all needed, heck even the things I mentioned aren’t necessary if your diet is well rounded. Look, we all like pre-workouts and the idea of fat burners and all that, but most likely it’s not doing what you think, especially not for the price. 

Unnecessary Fluff: Fat-burners, pre-workout powder, expensive forms of creatine, fancy colored intra-workout drinks, testosterone boosters, and most other supplements. (For a detailed guide of all supplements and the relevant research, check out, the best site around).

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