Is Diet or Exercise More Important for Weight Loss & Health? Why We Hate "80/20 Diet/Exercise"

Which is more important when trying to get a healthy, lean body; diet, or exercise?

Here's my honest overall take on this; every time I hear the saying that being or looking fit is "80 percent diet and 20 percent exercise", I cringe. Is diet incredibly important to fat loss, weight loss, and/or a healthy body? Yes. Is working out essential to fat loss, weight loss, and a healthy body? Yes; completely. Both are absolutely necessary for a strong, healthy, good-looking body; there's no reason to diminish the immensely important role of exercise in order to highlight the value of nutrition.

In our collective personal opinions, the minimization of the value of workouts is an over simplified, overly dramatic response to the incorrect assumption that you can out-exercise a bad diet.

To minimize the importance of exercise in the equation is to completely ignore the fact that working out has the capacity to strengthen your heart and your immune system, increase bone density, ward diabetes, cancer and heart disease, increase your lung capacity, and more. For this reason, we think it's irresponsible to downplay the role of exercise in both weight loss and health.

There is a big difference in weight loss via diet, and weight loss via diet and exercise; the method that uses both is significantly more healthy, and leads to a body that is capable, and strong. Lose weight from diet alone and you're going to be frail, and your health will suffer.

It's true that it's much easier (and some would argue it's also more fun) to devour a significant number of calories that would be very difficult or maybe even possible to burn off through exercise. For example, let's take a hypothetical huge holiday cheat for example, where a person has consumed upwards of 7000 calories. How likely is it that they have the endurance or the time (or will) to burn off that many calories? This even rings true on a much less dramatic, day-by-day example, if you eat lousily and over your maintenance calories by 400 calories a day, for example. Eventually, it adds up to weight gain.

Without exercise, a person will be forced to maintain a very low calorie diet, which is not particularly pleasant, reasonable, or healthy. Additionally, unless a person is being 100% on point with their food choices, it also lessens the likelihood that a person is easily able to get all of the vitamins and nutrients that they need.

For anyone who's still standing by the idea of diet being so much more important, remember that weight loss, bodyweight, and/or "having abs" (I hate that saying, too - everyone has abs) is not the end-all sign of a healthy body.

Diet-dominate weight loss also puts the focus on deprivation from food, instead of the growth and increase in strength and endurance that comes with exercise. Exercise increases self efficacy and confidence, which in turn can increase the likelihood that a person makes smart food choices.

Regarding the "abs are made in the kitchen" saying, I still disagree. Abs are made in the gym; the fat the covers them is burnt off via strength training, cardio, and maintaining a healthy diet that includes an appropriate amount of caloric intake.  

In closing, we definitely, 100% believe that diet is enormously important to fitness, weight loss, and health. However, we don't see why the value of exercise needs to be dragged through the mud to prove this point. Both are important, it's not one or the other and what percentage each counts towards your end goal is a moot point. This is our opinion; you're welcome to disagree.



04/30/16 5:32pm

Love this! Fantastic information!


02/01/16 10:00am

When I first started losing weight I basically restricted myself to 1200 cals and no working out. Then it was 800 net cals with working out. I now eat 1600-2000 calories WITH working out (fb fit 2 atm and walking) and I am still losing 1-2 lbs a week. I am still at a high enough weight that calories take a lot of my attention. However I am smaller now even weighing more than before with diet and exercise then just diet alone. I really feel its 50/50 not 80/20 or any junk like that. You need to eat and eat well to power up your workouts and you need to workout to increase the amount you can eat even when your happy with your size or scale number or whatever it is. Plus I love feeling strong and full of energy with diet and exercise vs tired and weak with just diet!

08/14/15 7:25am

The way I feel about the 80/20 diet/exercise is... confused! I've been trying to wrap my head around this for awhile now. Knowing from both personal experience and that of others, it is obvious that exercise alone does not a thin person make! However, exercise is more important than just the benefits it provides because it also has built-in incentives for dieting; you feel better in doing exercise when you are not overeating. Another thing about exercise is, a little goes a long way. For me, owning an electric bicycle has helped me get outdoors and active in a way that the gym totally failed. I can pedal away outdoors in a way that would not be possible without my Pedego, whereas in the gym pedaling was so boring plus so uncomfortable that I couldn't sustain it. With the Pedego I can travel many miles with wonderful scenery, pedaling all the way. No worries about not being able to make it back, and being outdoors and about makes you want to eat better and lose weight. So, for me, the 20% -- while possibly true! -- is still misleading because exercise is an incentive to dieting as well as a means to fitness.


06/12/15 7:09am

could some one give me advice on calorie in take? as of now I don't eat more then 1320 calories a day even when i have exercise programs on that day i just spread out my calories to make sure i have enough for pre and post workout.. should i bee eating more even if i am not hungry.. or maybe less?


06/11/15 7:34pm

Great information, thanks for share

Best 3 weeks diet -


05/02/15 9:02am

Just competed week 1 of the 4 Week Core training. I love this training!!

I'm in fair shape for my age and know from experience that this video is "spot on"!!

Thank you for providing tools and guidence to help us maintain good fitness and health!


02/20/15 3:09pm

This is a great video. I am glad you pointed out the benefit of both exercise and diet!


02/02/15 5:42pm

I totally agree with you guys! Diet alone can make you lose weight but it makes you fragile and depressed because of food deprivation. I know this because I went through this stage and when I stopped dieting I gained a lot of weight.

Thank you for providing us free infos and exercise videos.


06/18/14 1:13pm

This is the best comment ever. I wish somebody had told me this stuff when I was an obese teenager, so I applaud you sharing this with your daughters!
Also, Daniel and Kelli, thanks for this, every time I read about this 80/20 rule it pisses me off, because it makes me feel like all my efforts and progress and explosive strength I've gained is pretty much useless. From experience, I can definitely say it's both, and it's more like finding a reasonable balance of both diet and exercise that works for your body to achieve results.

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