Blog Weight Loss 80 Diet 20 Exercise Theory: What It Means, And How To Use It

80 Diet 20 Exercise Theory: What It Means, And How To Use It

diet and exercise plan

Nutrition and exercise are both crucial parts of losing fat and gaining strength. It’s just that most people prefer focusing on either strategy. And this is the crux of the problem: weight loss requires some form of diet and exercise. But which one works better than the other? And what is 80 diet 20 exercise theory?


If you’re stuck at a crossroads when deciding which weight loss plan to follow, there are a few ways of looking at it. But first, you need to understand how weight loss works. 

How Does Weight Loss Work?

To lose weight, you must burn calories. These calories can be burned in two ways: eating less and allowing your body to use up stored fat for daily activities or exercising to increase the energy demand and lead your body to use up stored fat for energy (8). 

To shed one pound, you need to burn 3500 calories (3). You can decide to achieve this by cutting out calories through diet. That means you’ll calculate your daily calorie needs and consume about 500 calories less than what you burn.

The other method is to exercise (or train, as we call it) enough so that your body taps into stored fat reserves for energy. To burn 500 calories, for example, through running, you’ll need to run at least 10 miles each day. 

A simple explanation of the 80 diet 20 exercise theory is based on the amount of effort required for each of the weight loss strategies.

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Read More: 4-Week Workout Plan For Weight Loss: How To Stay Consistent And See Progress

nutrition and exercise

What Is The 80/20 Rule?

The 80/20 rule states that maximum weight loss is the result of a combination of nutrition and exercise. According to this, if your weight loss plan includes 80% focus on nutrition and 20% focus on exercise, you’ll be able to burn those calories and achieve your goal weight without the frustration many have encountered. 

Why 80 and 20? Is there a scientific basis for these numbers? No. It’s not clear where these numbers originated. However, the message is clear: nutrition is the number one strategy for weight loss, and combining it with exercise can help you achieve your weight loss goals faster (12). 

How To Apply The 80/20 Rule For Results?

According to the 80/20 rule, mastering a healthy nutrition plan plays the most important role in reaching your ideal weight. An exercising program is also essential. However, weight loss is more complicated because these other factors play a role:

nutrition and exercise

  • Genetics. Your genes and your lifestyle affect how you will look in the end. That means a person with a family history of obesity is more prone to gain weight than someone who has healthy genetics (6). 
  • Sleep and Stress. Sleep and stress play an important role in weight loss (7). Both of these factors affect your hormone levels and consequently affect what you eat and how much you exercise. Ensuring that you get enough sleep every night and that stress isn’t affecting your daily life can help prevent overeating and snacking, therefore, giving you more energy to dedicate to a fitness program.
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Thus, taking all these factors into account is the best way to lose weight successfully. Here are some helpful tips on applying the 80/20 rule and getting results:

nutrition and exercise

Choose A Diet That Works

Not every diet is good for you. Some are too restrictive and bound to fail or only give short-term results. Furthermore, whether a diet will work for you or not can come down to your body type (4): 

  • Ectomorph. This body type (often referred to as thin) is naturally skinny. It takes a lot of work just to gain weight due to the high metabolism. This body type should be on a balanced diet, with almost equal portions of all macros. 
  • Mesomorph. This body type has medium to large bone structure, muscular build, and strong joints.
  • Endomorph.  This body type stores fat easily (and often). So, a low-carb diet may be your best option. Carbs are to be restricted to 25 grams per day, with the rest being proteins and fats.
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What you should take from this is that everybody has different macro needs over another when it comes to losing weight. Some diets may work better for certain body types than others.

nutrition and exercise

Choose Exercise Wisely: Cardio Vs. Strength Training

The goal of any exercise program is to improve your health status while also improving body composition. Most well-designed programs will use both cardio and resistance training as part of the overall approach to achieving these goals. 

But if you’re looking to lose weight, which type of exercises should you do? 

Cardio is very effective for improving your cardiovascular system, which means it can help you breathe easier, improve blood flow to all tissues in the body (including muscle), lower cholesterol levels, and more (2). Resistance training works by helping maintain or build lean body mass (muscles) that support health; it also helps strengthen bones, making them less likely to fracture (9). 

If you’re looking to lose weight, there is no question that cardio exercise burns more calories than strength training. However, building muscle through resistance training has long-term effects on your metabolism. This is because muscle burns more calories at rest and will result in continued fat burn long after you’ve left the gym (5).

Read More: 2-Week Liquid Diet For Weight Loss: Is There A Catch?

nutrition and exercise

Lifestyle Changes

As we mentioned before, stress and sleep can both affect your weight loss efforts. Therefore, making these lifestyle changes can also help you reach your goals faster:

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Get 7-8 Hours Of Sleep Each Night

If you are not getting enough sleep, your body produces more of the hunger hormones ghrelin and leptin, which increase appetite (10). Not only that, but lack of sleep also creates cravings for sugary carbs.


Stress is also associated with changes in the hunger hormones, making you more likely to overeat (11). To calm your mind and body, try meditation, yoga, or deep breathing.

Make Little Changes

Do not try to make drastic lifestyle changes at once. Instead, start small by making daily changes that can add up over time, like replacing the chips with fruits or vegetables when snacking (you could even get some fruit dipped in chocolate!)

Lean and toned up body isn’t just a far-fetched fantasy. Check out the BetterMe app and watch it propel your weight loss journey into high gear!

Consider The Psychological Aspect Of Weight Loss

It is not a simple task to lose weight and keep it off. It takes an overhaul of your life, which may include evaluating your triggers for unhealthy habits and learning how to avoid them. In the long run, weight management is a result of making lifestyle changes (1). 

Reward Yourself

Reward yourself for accomplishing small goals such as going to the gym three days in a row or sticking to your diet for one week straight. Sometimes positive reinforcement is all it takes!

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Losing Inches Not Weight: Swaying Your Dieting Mindset Into The Right Direction

The Bottom Line

Weight loss can be complicated. But if you understand the principles (such as the 80/20 rule) and apply them to your personal situation, you will greatly increase your chances of success.



This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!


  1. Best Way To Lose Weight (n.d,
  2. Cardiovascular Effects and Benefits of Exercise (
  3. Counting calories: Get back to weight-loss basics (2020,
  4. Counting Macros: A Reliable Way To Lose Weight? (n.d.,
  5. Effect of an acute period of resistance exercise on excess post-exercise oxygen consumption: implications for body mass management (2002,
  7. Interaction of sleep quality and psychosocial stress on obesity in African Americans: the Cardiovascular Health Epidemiology Study (CHES) – BMC Public Health (2010,
  8. Physical Activity for a Healthy Weight | Healthy Weight, Nutrition, and Physical Activity (2020,
  9. Resistance Training is Medicine: Effects of Strength… : Current Sports Medicine Reports (2012,
  10. Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index (2004,
  11. Stress and Eating Behaviors (2014,
  12. Weight-Loss and Maintenance Strategies – Weight Management – NCBI Bookshelf (2003,
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