Did you know twenty percent of the food we eat generates eighty percent of our energy? Would you be surprised to learn that eighty percent of your grocery bill comes from twenty percent of items purchased? Have you ever heard that eighty percent of our healthcare resources are gobbled up by twenty percent of patients?
It’s called Pareto’s Law and it applies to almost every aspect of life. So much so that it is often referred to as the “golden rule” of business because eighty percent of results come from twenty percent of our efforts.
While believing this may be a tough pill to swallow, it is a tried and true part of life so we might as well aim to choke down the right pills.
So how can we apply Pareto to our fitness plan to maximize our output?
Let’s brainstorm some practical ways to use the “golden rule” for diet, exercise, fat loss, and muscle growth.
How to Apply the Golden Rule to Diet?
All good brainstorming exercises start with a question, so let’s start there.
What twenty percent of food and beverage consumption do you believe to be the biggest hindrance to your energy, fitness goals, and health? Now make a list.
Next, analyze the list and ask yourself, “Which of these items do I confidently believe I can cut from my diet first?”
When doing this use a less is more approach. Focus on items you know are bad, but you believe you can cut.
Now, with these in hand, it's time to implore the “want” power from last week's tip. Meaning, if you “want” to change or cut these items from your diet then it’s best to understand fully all the motivating reasons you should.
Start from a standpoint of curiosity instead of a requirement. Research and learn what sugar, alcohol, unrefined carbs, etc do to your body. Focus on what you stand to lose by not changing and build a list of possible positive replacements. Lastly, practice and reward yourself every single time you achieve success in new healthy ways.
How to Apply the Golden Rule to Exercise?
What twenty percent of my exercise routine might produce eighty percent of the result I’m looking for? Where and when can I add twenty percent more effort, reps, or weight?
Applying the Pareto principle to exercise is a little tougher because it requires an understanding of the fundamentals of fat loss and muscle gain. Since not everyone has the same goal, let’s break the discussion of exercise down into two groups: fat loss, and muscle gain.
How to Apply the Golden Rule to Fat Loss?
Cutting fat requires heat, sweat, breath, and recovery.
If you are stagnant in your results, then aim to produce twenty percent more heat, sweat, and breath in your workouts. Or another option might be to add one workout a week that you’ve avoided, but know will produce this desired effect.
Lastly, create a new focus on recovery. Make sure your efforts aren’t futile as a result of a lack of rest or the energy required to produce that extra twenty percent effort.
How to Apply the Golden Rule to Muscle Gain?
Muscle gain is much more difficult and far less understood than fat loss. Two principles however consistently rise to the top regarding muscle growth (hypertrophy).
The first principle of muscle growth is the creation of micro-tears in the muscle via stress-induced progressive overload. The second is repair. New muscle doesn't actually form without the fusion and growth of tiny fibers at the site of the microtears.
Principle #1 – Muscle Damage – Micro-tears
How can I safely increase the frequency or stress my muscles are under by twenty percent?
There are a few options here and since skeletal muscle is highly adaptable it’s often good to cycle an increase in frequency with an increase in weight.
Try creating a pushup, pullup, or dip challenge over the course of a month that you do in addition to your normal strength training. Start small and over the course of the month progressively increase your repetitions each day.
Then next month challenge yourself to increase the weight you’re lifting by twenty percent over 30 days. Just make sure you gradually increase and use proper mechanics.
Principle #2 – Muscle Repair
How can I increase the nutrients my body needs for muscle health by twenty percent?
Research the supplements, foods, and vitamins that aid in muscle growth and repair. Focus on the areas in your research where you feel you might be deficient. Then pick one or two items to increase over the course of the next 30 days.
How can I increase my sleep or improve my recovery by twenty percent?
Start paying attention to the times you go into Monday’s workout feeling the strongest. What might have been the cause of this result? Did you get good sleep? Did you give yourself an extra day of recovery? Maybe you did yoga or increased your stretching.
Whatever the case may be, your goal is to replicate this week in and week out.
Why? Because now you know this is one of those twenty percent items worth your time and attention. Remember this whole exercise is about focus!
Let’s Recap and Finish with a Call to Action!
As is the case with almost everything in life, it’s not how much you do, but what you do that is important.
When it comes to health and wellness, we waste a lot of time half-assing our way thru diet and exercise. Understanding that twenty percent of efforts produce eighty percent of our results helps generate focused planning.
While at first it might seem like we are only adding to our plate by removing twenty percent of the items, this is short-term pain for a long-term gain.
Over time, with a renewed focus, we start to realize the eighty percent of futile food and effortless exercise that doesn’t produce. What is left is pure gold courtesy of the Pareto Principle!
If this makes sense to you, then decide what fitness goal you find yourself coming up short on and use the 80/20 rule to find your renewed focus. Write down the factors that are most important in changing. Get curious about what these changes might do to improve your health and wellness. Implore “want power” over “will power” and create new rewards for your efforts. With the right focus and properly executed practice, we can achieve almost anything we want!