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What Is the 80/20 Diet Rule? Things That Your Favorite Influencers Don’t Tell You

Published 04/02/2024, 7:45 AM EDT

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Have you ever heard about the 80/20 diet rule? It’s been making rounds on social media, endorsed by your favorite influencers, promising a simple way to achieve your dream body without giving up your favorite foods entirely. Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, there’s more to this dieting mantra than meets the eye.

The 80/20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, suggests that roughly 80% of outcomes come from 20% of causes. It’s a concept used in various fields like business, economics, and time management, and now the fitness industry has adopted this formula. Fitness professionals and enthusiasts recognize the efficiency and effectiveness of focusing on key exercises and diets that deliver the most significant results.

But how does the 80/20 rule work in the fitness industry?

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The 80/20 diet rule suggests that you eat healthily 80% of the time and indulge in your favorite treats 20% of the time. It’s all about balance and flexibility, allowing you to enjoy your meals without feeling guilty. Sounds pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? But here’s the catch: while the 80/20 rule can be a useful guideline, it’s not a magical solution to weight loss or maintaining a healthy lifestyle.

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One thing influencers may not emphasize enough is the importance of calorie intake. Sure, you can enjoy that slice of pizza or scoop of ice cream during your 20% indulgence time, but if you’re consuming more calories than your body needs overall, you won’t see the results you desire. Calories still matter, even when following the 80/20 rule.

That being said, there are benefits to adopting a flexible dieting approach like the 80/20 rule. For starters, it allows for greater dietary freedom, making it easier to stick to your healthy eating plan in the long run. By allowing yourself occasional treats, you’re less likely to feel deprived and more likely to maintain your motivation. This seemed to be working for some people, at least. Let us see what Fitness YouTuber Mario Tomic has to say about the 80/20 rule.

Mario Tomic banks on the 80/20 rule

Fitness fanatic and YouTuber Mario Tomic emphasized the importance of applying the 80/20 principle in dieting, stating, “What this means is what are the 20% of things that you should be focusing on to get the 80% of the results.” He highlighted that many individuals often focus on the wrong aspects of their diet, such as supplements, meal timing, and specific food sources, rather than mastering the basics.

Tomic outlined that the fundamental elements contributing to 80% of the results are “calories in, calories out, and ratios of macronutrients.” He stressed the significance of tracking calorie intake and expenditure, adjusting intake based on goals, and distributing calories into appropriate ratios of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates.

He further elaborated on personalizing macronutrient ratios based on individual preferences and goals, stating, “For myself, I try to stick to a high protein, high carbohydrate diet and keeping my fat as low as possible.” He encouraged experimentation to determine the most suitable macronutrient balance for one’s needs and lifestyle. However, Tomic cautioned against prioritizing secondary factors like meal timing or supplementation before mastering the basics, asserting, “If you do not handle these first two things, then you’re basically wasting your time and you’re not gonna get those results that you really want to get.”

Additionally, flexible dieting can help foster a healthier relationship with food. Instead of labeling certain foods as “good” or “bad,” you learn to view food as fuel for your body, allowing you to enjoy a variety of foods without guilt or restriction. However, it isn’t the same for everyone.

Experts caution against the potential drawbacks of the 80/20 diet

For some people, the 80/20 rule can lead to overindulgence during the 20% of the time allocated for treats. Without proper portion control and mindful eating practices, it’s easy to go overboard and sabotage your progress. In an interview with Healthline, dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick pointed out that sticking to the 80/20 diet can be tricky due to time and money constraints.

According to her, time and money can be a negative factor in following the 80/20 diet. Fresh foods and lean proteins can cost more than packaged or fast food options, requiring a flexible budget. Additionally, meal preparation requires organization and time commitment. She cautioned against miscalculations, stating, “Not doing the calculations correctly could also be a drawback.” She further explained, “If 20 percent turns into 40 percent and the healthy items only fall into 60 percent range, then you run into problems. This is about small amounts of things.”

Kirkpatrick advised starting small and avoiding larger portions or unhealthy foods. She emphasized, “If starting small turns into larger portions and unhealthy foods, this is not the right plan for you.” Furthermore, relying too heavily on the 80/20 rule may lead to neglecting essential nutrients in your diet. While it’s okay to enjoy treats occasionally, it’s crucial to prioritize nutrient-dense foods that nourish your body and support your overall health and well-being.

Earlier, 22-year-old fitness influencer Sam Sulek had also chimed in on the 80/20 diet. Let us see what he had to say.

Sam Sulek seems skeptical of the fad

Even the 22-year-old bodybuilding sensation Sam Sulek also opined upon the 80/20 rule in a video posted by EverythingMotivation to their YouTube channel. He remarked, “For every solid piece of information, I’d say there’s at least five pieces of absolutely ludicrous BS which sounds reputable.” This implies a sense of frustration or disbelief regarding the prevalence of misinformation masquerading as credible.

Drawing upon the 80/20 rule, he illustrates how a small portion of data or resources often disproportionately influences outcomes, such as “20% of your carpet gets 80% of the foot travel in your house” or “20% of the machines in the gym get 80% of the use.” Sulek’s comparison suggests that the majority of information encountered may be unreliable or misleading, highlighting the challenge of discerning truth from falsehood in various aspects of life.

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It’s essential to approach advice regarding such diets with caution and understand that what works for some may not work for everyone. The 80/20 rule can indeed be a helpful tool for some people, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. By adopting a balanced approach that prioritizes nutrient-dense foods and mindful eating practices, you can find a sustainable way to nourish your body and achieve long-term success.

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Written by:

Arpita Shrivastava

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Arpita Shrivastava is a bodybuilding writer at EssentiallySports who specializes in tracking the lifestyles of bodybuilders. A master’s degree holder in Mass Communication, Arpita is a frequent contributor to coverage about her idols Ronnie Coleman and Jay Cutler. She likes going behind the scenes to understand the nitty-gritty of building a shredded physique.
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Edited by:

Abhishek Manikandan