Intro: Nutrition 80/20

Posted on July 20 2015

“Nutrition is 80% of the way you look.”


“Abs are made in the kitchen.”


“You can’t out exercise a bad diet.”


   You’ve probably heard these clichés about a thousand times before but, maybe you don’t know exactly where to start or what to change in terms of where your diet is concerned. Before I began my health journey, I heard those phrases but it wasn’t until I understood why food is important and what each food group does for my body that these phrases and their meanings all really clicked.

   This is the first in a series of about a dozen blogs dedicated to nutrition. I want you to understand why what you're putting into your body directly reflects the results you see out of your hard work. By the end of these nutrition blogs, I hope that you’ll not only have a better understanding, but that

you’ll learn how to apply it to your daily life.



   Lets think of the human body as a car. Just like a car needs gasoline to run, the human body requires food. Also like a car, the body’s performance is a direct reflection of the quality of food, or gasoline, that we put into it. When you go to the body shop and get new rims or upgraded leather seats, you are improving the quality of your car, but no matter how much work you put into it, it will not run properly without gasoline. Similarly, working out is important, but can be fruitless if we’re not consuming the proper nutrition.

   It’s also important to remember that gasoline comes in different qualities just like our food. If your car calls for the premium gasoline and you opt to put the lower grade gas in, the car’s performance will be affected. The human body responds the same way when we feed it with low nutritional content or foods that are overly processed.

   The 20% we're left with is made up of sleep, exercise, stress levels, and our hygiene. These four things are undoubtedly important, but with an 80/20 split, there’s no argument that nutrition should be your prime focus when you’re working at meeting a goal.


What’s my point?

Before you even think about starting an exercise program,
first focus on your diet. Getting your nutrition on point
before you start squatting will mean maximizing your 
in the gym and will get you seeing those results quicker.



What’s the recipe for an eight pack?

   The phrase should really be “Abs are created in the gym, and revealed in the kitchen.” One of the most common questions I get is how to work out the stomach to lose belly fat. Well, working out the core is important, but just like any muscle, the abdominals will grow if they’re worked out frequently; and if you’re growing your abdominals but the belly fat isn’t going anywhere, it may actually seem that you’re gaining weight and bulkiness in the midsection.

   The focus for shedding belly fat should always start in the kitchen and end around HIIT workouts, like sprinting. I also like to incorporate plank variations into my workouts to strengthen the core without adding bulk.

What’s my point?

If losing belly fat is at the top of your goals list, examine your intake before you start doing a million crunches. Incorporate three days consisting of high intensity interval workouts with plank sets every week. 



I workout so I can eat whatever I want.

   I remember living my life with this mentality and naturally, I was never satisfied with the results that I would see. Actually, when I ate whatever I wanted, I was training 7days a week, with cardio after each weight training session, and I still didn’t look the way I do today. Today, I work out 3-5 times a week for an hour each day. I do 1-2 hours of HIIT cardio a week and work out each muscle group at least once. The difference in the way I look today versus three years ago is the emphasis that I place on nutrition. If I have the option to eat properly or go train, I will prioritize by eating first.

   My rule of thumb:

Because nutrition makes up 80% of the way we look and feel, I recommend sticking to healthy “clean” food for 80% of your weekly meals. The other 20%, you can cheat or be a bit more lenient, but for the majority of your intake, you will stay consistent and because of that, you will see more permanent results. Keep in mind that this practice is for a maintenance approach to meeting your goals, so if you have a certain deadline, or event that you want to meet a goal by, you can apply a stricter split to your meals. Snacks do not count in this breakdown and they should always be kept to meet your body’s needs.


For example: I eat 4 meals/day x 7 days = 28 meals

28 meals = 100%

14 meals = 50%

  7 meals = 25%

5-6 meals = 20%

When I have a photo shoot that I need to prep for, I try to stick to 2-3 meals each week where I eat more leniently.

 This approach is realistic and won’t deprive you from the foods you love. Just like one day of healthy eating can’t undo the damage done by a poor diet, a few cheat meals every week won’t set you back either!

What’s my point?

Apply a healthy eating regimen to 80% of your weekly meals. This approach is an easy way to begin a healthy lifestyle and it can be adjusted to meet specific deadlines by increasing the amount of healthy meals you have. Because snacks are eaten to provide the body with added nutrition and energy, they should always be kept healthy and should never be cheats.


  • Jessica: August 10, 2015

    Hey Kate,
    HIIT is considered cardio as well as circuit training. By keeping your circuits quick but intense, you are still in line with the concept. Hope that helps :)

    Hygiene is very much a personal preference however, we find that when we know we stankkk or look disheveled, we are a tad more self conscious opposed to smelling like roses and turning heads for a good reason! LOL
    Literally being cleaner will not contribute to your nutrition but, it will add to the 20% of you looking and feeling better. Confidence aside, washing away bacteria, oil, and dirt that accumulates on your body throughout the day will benefit your overall health.

    Will power is the hardest to conquer but, you got this!!

  • Yannique: August 05, 2015

    This was very helpful. I’m a stay at home Mom, just finished college and I’m looking for a job?My sons in daycare every other week until I get a job. And he’ll be three in November. Point is- I work out 7 days a week with The work out dvd Insanity and I stopped binge eating for two-three weeks now. But I still had cookies and cakes as snacks. Now I know that’s not smart&I think its a great idea to eat clean everyday and on Fridays and Saturdays il eat a slice of pizza/salad for lunch, a burger(no fries) with a yellow plum for lunch. Lol bye everyone ??

  • Lola: July 31, 2015

    I understand how sleep, exercise, & stress contribute to weight loss…but hygiene? I’m not comprehending lol. Not saying that I’m unhygienic but how is that a factor

  • Kate: July 29, 2015

    great article Nicole! Just a little confused about when you said you do 1-2 hours of HIIT cardio a week. Arent cardio sessions supposed to be short and intense?

  • Jessica: July 24, 2015

    Hey Yanni!
    We’re working on an ebook for you! Otherwise, honestly, fixing your diet and getting active daily will help you shed the weight. Incorporate sprints to your routine and you’ll for sure see a big difference!

    Daisy, isn’t that “eureka” moment amazing? LOL :)

    Ello Bianca,
    macro’s are what contain the calories; we focus on meeting our macro count over counting calories.
    -It is more important to meet the correct ratio of macros (according to your personal goals) than consuming your total calorie intake. For example, you can have a 2000 calorie intake/day which you can fulfill by only consuming fruits and grains, without a single bite of protein. Protein is ESSENTIAL. So count your macros, not your calories :)

    we plan on sharing more recipes (especially protein based) to help you wrap your head around this concept. However, as I mentioned to Bianca, it is essential to count your macros not calories. Meet your macros for the day and save your cheat meal for whatever you want. If it’s broccoli and chicken, more power to ya!! HAHA (I’m on the pasta dish cheat meal tip thooo)

    Hope this helps! :)

  • Hillary: July 23, 2015

    This is great advice and great information. It would be helpful to have examples of the 80% clean eating and 20% more lenient eating. A cheat meal to one person might be adding brown rice to their regular chicken and broccoli; while it might mean a 2,000 calorie pasta dish to another person. Again, great information but we’d love to hear some specific examples as beginners! Thanks :)

  • Bianca: July 22, 2015

    I love this! I’ve been looking forward to hear about nutrition from you! One question would be about calories. Do you focus on a specific calorie goal each day or count macros?

  • Daisy Rubang: July 22, 2015

    Thanks for sharing this Nicole. It makes complete sense and it’s taken me years to grasp this. For so many years I was working out 6-7 days a week whether it was training for a race, gym workouts, plyometric videos and more recently daily burn. I had the mentality of ‘i eat whatever i want because i work out.’ i didn’t want to change my eating habits and felt that it was enough to do my daily work outs. I never wanted to say that it was because of my diet that I wasn’t reaching my goals. Somehow, it finally sunk in. It wasn’t until December of last year that I finally started to embrace the fact that I really need to eat clean if I wanted results…and happy to say that I’m finally, finally seeing changes with my body. I get it now. It really truly does starts in the kitchen.

  • Yanni: July 22, 2015

    Hey Nicole!! Wow this was great :) I love this but can u give out a couple of examples or workout routine to do everyday to get a flat belly and to lose back fat . I’m 18 years old I am 5’5 I weigh 140 lbs . I’m not fat but I certainly have belly fat and back fat and I want to get rid of it but I’m stuck on what my workout routine should consist of :) please help , love you xoxo

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