What Is The 80/20 Rule?

Find Your Balance is one of our favourite mottos at Sweet Sweat, particularly following our collab with “Suga” Sean O’Malley. We encourage athletes to move with the ebbs and flows of the Sport of Life, and one of the best ways to achieve this is by mastering something called the “80/20 rule.” 

What is the 80/20 rule?

The 80/20 rule started as an economic principle stating that 80 percent of outcomes derive from just 20 percent of the input. It can also mean that 100 percent of success is not based on putting in 100 percent effort. Perfectionism, therefore, can cause diminishing returns.


It gained popularity for being an alternative to a strict diet culture. In practice, it encourages an individual to consume healthy, nutritious, well-rounded meals 80 percent of the time. The other 20 percent allows for indulgences—the slice of chocolate cake, the glass of red wine, the two pieces of bacon on the side of your egg white omelet.


Why does it work?

As more of a food philosophy than a formal diet, followers of the 80/20 rule are likelier to maintain this lifestyle than those taking an all-or-nothing approach. In the latter case, “nothing” can quickly become the default to overcoming the stress of maintaining the “all.” 

Rather than expecting perfection from ourselves, which can lead to feeling deprived, binging, or quitting healthy habits altogether—the 80/20 rule encourages us to maintain a healthy, balanced lifestyle. One in which life can be enjoyed, not just abided by. 


The 80/20 Rule in the Sport of Life


You can apply this rule to practically every aspect of your life. In fitness, this may be dedicating 80 percent of your time to workouts and 20 percent to recovery. Oddly enough, If you tally up the fitness posts on our Sports Research blog, you’ll find that approximately 80 percent are workout-themed, while the other 20 percent are about rest and recovery. Coincidence, huh?

For any goal you may have, accept the “imperfections” as part of the plan. Here are some more examples of how the 80/20 rule may apply to your daily life:

  • If you’re after muscle growth, you may notice that 20 percent of lifts are compound movements (such as squats and bench presses), which provide 80 percent of gains. You may wish to hack this by focusing more energy on compound movements and less on accessories.

  • If you’re studying for a class or learning a new skill— you’ll only need to retain about 20 percent of the content to understand 80 percent of the skill. This mentality can help relieve stress around trying to comprehend a complex topic.

  • If you want to gain more value out of relationships, invest in those 20 percent of people who bring you 80 percent of your happiness.


Find comfort in knowing that, mathematically speaking, the most natural state of being isn’t perfection. It’s about variety, balance, and enjoying the little things within the big picture. 


1. Hernandez M (2017) 80/20 Diet Efficacy in Regard to Physiology and Psychosocial Factors. J Obes Weight Loss Ther 7: 357. DOI: 10.4172/2165-7904. 1000357