The 80/20 Rule for Better Fitness, Health, and Energy


written by:

Today at a Glance

the 80/20 rule, the 80% rule, the 80/20 rule for better fitness

Carl Lewis, the legendary 9-time Olympic gold medalist, was known for his ability to finish strong despite starting races in second to last place.

Surprisingly, he wasn’t giving it his all at full throttle. He was operating at 80% the entire time.

But why does this strategy work?

When we perform at our best, we’re not exerting ourselves to the maximum.

Sometimes, we’re not even trying at all.

We enter a state of flow where our abilities meet just the right level of intensity to bring out our peak performance.

On the other hand, pushing ourselves to the limit at 100% all the time is a surefire way to burn out quickly.

It’s unrealistic and doesn’t allow for optimization.

However, aiming for 80% effort allows us to relax, focus on our form, and find our flow most effectively.

The 80% rule is all about consistency, pacing, and finishing strong.

By not constantly striving and straining at the very limits of our abilities, we create room to think, focus, and adapt to any situation that comes our way.

"The 80/20 Principle states that in any area, a few factors (the vital few) are responsible for the majority of results (the trivial many)."

But today we will twist it a bit.

What is the 80/20 Rule?

The 80/20 rule emerged from a field that has nothing to do with fitness, health, and energy.

The 80/20 rule was introduced in 1906 by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. According to legend, he observed that only 20% of the pea pods in his garden were responsible for 80% of the peas.

He then investigated this principle further and applied it to macroeconomics.

Today it is widely used in various fields.

The 80/20 rule refers to the generalized phenomenon that 80% of results (outputs) will come from just 20% of the action (inputs).

Now let’s apply it to fitness, health, and energy in three specific cases:

The 80/20 Rule for Better Workouts

How to get stronger, faster:

Aiming for 80% intensity allows you to focus on your form and keep yourself injury-free.

We always follow the rule of keeping 1-2 reps in the tank when lifting, doing body-weight workouts, or strength-based mobility work. And aiming for 80% fits perfectly with that.

Here are the keys to the 80/20 rule:

  1. Relax
  2. Focus on form
  3. Lower expectations by 20%
  4. Push yourself just below your absolute max
  5. Stop when you’re feeling close to 100% of your capacity

Instead of pressuring yourself to go all-out at 100%, try aiming for 80% today.

It might just be the key to unlocking new levels of performance!

The 80/20 Rule to Lose Weight

How to get lean, and maintain it:

In “The 80/20 Diet,” Australian nutritionist, chef, and personal trainer Teresa Cutter explains that you can get lean if you eat nutritiously 80% of the time and allow yourself to indulge in less healthy food for the remaining 20% of your meals.

When Cutter talks about nutritious foods, she means whole, unprocessed, or minimally processed foods, plenty of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and of course, drinking lots of water.

But here’s the catch: what Cutter considers as less healthy foods might not align with your own definition.

You might have been envisioning a strict diet where you stick to wholesome, good-for-you meals from Monday to Friday and then treat yourself to pizza and beer over the weekend.

Well, hold on a second. This approach does not permit binge eating.

Let’s break it down:

Breakfast, lunch, and dinner for a week equals 21 meals, so 80% would be 17 healthy meals.

That leaves four indulgent opportunities, but Cutter admits that if you gorge on pizza, fries, and cheeseburgers for those four meals, you’ve just undone all the good work of the 80 percent.

So, remember to strike a balance and make mindful choices.

The 80/20 Rule for More Energy

How we finally kicked the afternoon slump:

We get up early but have always struggled with a rough afternoon slump.

We’d feel energized and focused all morning — knock out a workout, focus work, and time with clients — but inevitably, after lunch, we felt drained.

The window from 1-3 pm was like a dead zone in our day: Tired, unfocused, and grazing lazily across low-value tasks.

But we finally found a system that works to kick the afternoon slump: The 80% Rule.

The Okinawans of Japan were made famous by Dan Buettner’s Blue Zones research for their incredible longevity. We talked about that in former issues.

One of the principles of that longevity was an ancient Japanese principle called Hara hachi bun me, which translates to “Eat until you are eight parts full.”

Background: Eating causes the body to move blood and energy towards the digestive system. By eating a big lunch while sitting down at the desk (a staple of our old routine), we were basically triggering our bodies to go into digestive recovery mode.

This explained our terrible afternoon slump.

A new afternoon system that worked wonders in our lives:

  • Lighter lunch focused on protein, veggies, and healthy fats (light on carbohydrates, and no meat which makes us sleepy).
  • 15-30 minute walk right after eating to promote digestion and mental clarity.
  • Lightly caffeinated beverage (green tea) if in need of a boost.
  • At least 16 ounces of water after the walk.

Following the 80% Rule at lunch has been a game-changer for us. Instead of pushing through the afternoon slump, we’re now firing on all cylinders. We feel more awake, focused, and ready to tackle those crucial tasks that actually move the needle. It’s been a real game-changer for our productivity!

If you ever struggle with the afternoon slump, give this system a shot. You won’t regret it.

That’s it for today.

Hope that helps. Good luck.

What’s going on in our world

We just finished the first week of a new project aimed at challenging employees of a French start-up to improve their energy levels for better performance and well-being, while working high-demanding jobs.

The “Engineering Energy Challenge” is a pilot B2B project designed to assist purpose-driven optimizers in increasing their energy levels and, consequently, their return on life and business.

If you like us to elevate the energy of your employees simply book a strategy call and let’s talk.

As always, stay fit, stay active, and enjoy your life.

Ketty & Markus

Some more ways we can help you

Free Ressources

Quit Sugar — live better

Ditch sugar, take back control of your health, and start living your best life.

Ultimate Posture Guide

Don’t let bad posture ruin your sleep. Self-check and start realigning immediately.

1-on-1 Coaching

Upright with ease
in 12 weeks

Create alignment to confidently sit and walk upright without back pain.

Transform your lifestyle 360°

Unleash your full potential and experience optimal performance & well-being.

Shed 10-15 lbs 
in 12 weeks

Lose weight and maximize energy, performance, and wellness long-term.

Delivering actionable advice for fitness, health & personal growth to your inbox

Join 1,100+ curious minds who receive The Energy Explorer every Saturday to boost their energy and create long-lasting results.

Not a subscriber? Join 1,100+ optimizers who receive The Energy Explorer every week.