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80% Diet, 20% Exercise?

80% Diet, 20% Exercise?

If you’ve been around the fitness and nutrition world a while, you’ve probably heard it said that in terms of importance it’s 80% diet, 20% exercise.

That’s true. Except when it’s not.

See, pictures like the one below piss me off, because they’re just so wrong….


Fitness is very, very little to do with nutrition. You can be really fit without a perfect or even good diet.

Fitness in achieved with progressive, hard exercise over a long period of time. What you eat doesn’t have a great deal to do with it. I’ve known people who eat a crap diet but are beasts in the gym.

Now, if you are looking to lose weight or compete in a bodybuilding show then yes, it’s probably right – it will be 80% diet, 20% exercise. Your nutrition has to be pretty spot on if you are going to diet down to single digit body fat, or you compete in a weight class sport, but lets not overstate it’s importance to all areas.

Diet is not 80% of the equation when you are trying to achieve a physical goal.

If you want to run a marathon, you can eat fantastically well but if you haven’t done the training, if you haven’t done the work, guess who’s going to struggle?

Yup, you.

You want to deadlift twice your body weight? Get training, sweet cheeks. All of the kale in the world isn’t going to help you with this challenge.

nitric oxide, 80% diet, 20% exercise

So as with many things in fitness, there isn’t an absolute. There are some absolutes in fitness, such as…

  • If you want to improve your strength, you have to lift progressively heavier weight.
  • If you want to improve your flexibility, you have to stretch.
  • If you want to become a better runner, you have to practice running.

And so on.

But for the most part, the 80% diet, 20% exercise rule isn’t one of them. At best, it’s a guideline.

In reality there are very few absolutes when it comes to nutrition alone, because we are all so different and respond differently to certain foods. Even the assumptions that calories in versus calories out (the law of thermodynamics) rules weight loss and gain are being challenged amongst some areas of the nutrition world.

fit for life retreat, 80% diet, 20% exercise

It’s something to bear in mind when it comes to training and nutrition. Much of this world isn’t black and white, there are various shades of grey. Balance your exercise, good nutrition and plenty of recovery and you’ll be in fantastic health, have a great level of fitness and be lean!

Just remember – it’s 80% diet, 20% exercise apart from when it’s not!

If you’d like a little more help on weight loss, read these two posts…

If you subscribe to the Hoyles Fitness mailing list you’ll receive a free eBook containing 101 Health and Fitness Tips, plus offers and news exclusive to Hoyles Fitness subscribers. Click the image below to download…

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Owner of Personal Trainer, Father and fitness copy writer. Working hard making the world fitter and healthier!

2 thoughts on “80% Diet, 20% Exercise?”

  1. Well that largely depends on the context – if you’re looking to lose weight, you’re right. If you’re not bothered about your weight, you don’t need to overly focus on diet.

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