Elimination Diets or 80/20? I’m So Confused!

We’re 2-weeks into January, how’s your New Year’s resolution of gaining more weight and to start smoking going?

I kid I kid.

But for real – are you sticking to your game plan? More importantly, do you even have a plan?

In regards to your nutrition specifically –

Are you the “go all in” mindset and stay 100% on point for a set period of days type?

Or are you the more gradual, 80/20 kinda cat? You’re on point for 80% of the time with your caloric allotment, and then the other 20% you throw caution to the wind and smash on your 2-pints of B&J’s on the weekends (it was only $7 for 2 pints! I couldn’t just buy 1!)

They both have their benefits and downsides. Neither is more right than the other, and I recommend that you do both to find out which style of nutritional planning works best for you.

Here’s the skinny when trying to decide which option will work best for you –


Elimination Diets (All in game plans)

Now going “all in” and not cheating on your nutritional plan doesn’t mean it’s an elimination diet. You can be 100% adherent to a nutrition plan that doesn’t eliminate any particular food from your diet.


To be successful on an Elimination Diet, however, you can’t cheat. You have to start the entire process over for it to be successful. The purpose of an elimination diet is to remove particular food groups from your diet (traditionally grains, dairy, processed sugar, soy, eggs, nuts, legumes, preservatives, corn, etc) for a set amount of days (normally 30) and then reintroduce each group of foods that were eliminated 1 by 1 over a set period of days. (ie. Alcohol on day 31, grains on day 34, sugar on day 37 etc.)

The Benefits –

  • Identify which food groups you have a sensitivity too and should either completely avoid, or eat sparingly
  • Increased energy
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Improved recovery times
  • Better sleep
  • Better sex drive
  • Body fat % decline
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Re-development of palette sensitization
  • Clearer skin
  • The opportunity to flex your “will power muscle” aka the pre-frontal cortex of your brain.
  • Increased confidence due to all of the positive benefits above plus you have proven to yourself that you can follow a plan that’s difficult to stick to
  • In most elimination diets you don’t have any caloric restrictions – just eat the foods that are on the list.

The Downside –

  • It’s fuckin hard (especially the first week – which tends to be brutal if you’re not used to it)
  • It’s easy to have a “fixed mindset” with this plan because it is of a “all or nothing” nature due to the fact if you consume something on the do not eat list you have essentially failed to comply to the guidelines. It’s a pass or fail class.
  • It’s easy to yo-yo on and off and on and off again with this type of plan/mindset – possibly leading to a host of metabolic dysfunction down the road
  • It’s easy to under eat. You have possibly cut out many of the foods you eat on a normal basis. If you don’t prep your food in advance, you’ll go hungry – because it’s hard to find food on the go that doesn’t have one of the eliminated ingredients.
  • All the other “negatives” have to do with the restrictiveness and lack of flexibility of the diet. That’s why these diets are usually for a set period of time. (Sure, we all have that one friend who eats like this all the time. Power to them – but at the same time you’re a pain in the ass. No one likes going out to eat with you.)

Personally, I enjoy the mental rigor of practicing discipline in my life for the sake of practicing discipline. It’s more about the process for me than anything else – the results are an additional benefit.

I’ve got it pretty easy, so I try and force a little bit of uncomfortableness into my life as a regular challenge to toughen me up.

I can go on a tangent about how spoiled we are and take for granted how easy everything is in our lives (has anyone read or scene The Revenant yet?) WE HAVE GOT IT SO EASY!

After being attacked by a grizzly bear and being left for dead – if one man can literally crawl and limp through a Rocky Mountain winter storm for weeks while being chased by Native Americans AND SURVIVE– than I can follow a damn nutrition plan.

So a diet like this appeals to me – for a set period of time. After that – I’ll go back to my normal 80/20 style of eating.


80/20 – The Lifestyle diet

This is just common sense. 80% of the time you adhere to a nutritional lifestyle that fills your body with healthy, nutrient dense food (green veggies, healthy fats, clean carbs, nutrient dense protein sources) that provides you with awesome energy and a healthy gut. You eat foods that you have zero intolerances to and generally contribute to your greater sense of being. The other 20% of the time you say “fuck it” and throw down on a half Buffalo Soldier and half Forager large pizza from Zeeks.

The Benefits –

  • Relative to an Elimination Diet, it’s easy to stick to
  • It’s a lifestyle more so than a diet – so you can have your cake and eat it too
  • Piggy-backing off of the last benefit – you can go out on a Friday night and have a piece of pizza and a beer and it’s no sweat.
  • If fat loss is your goal, you have the potential to see results if:
    • You really are eating 80% of the time on point
    • On your “re-fuel/ cheat” meals you aren’t eating any foods that you have a particular sensitivity to that will bog down your progress
  • Slow and steady wins the race mentality, therefor it’s easier to stick to

The Downsides –

  • If you’re trying to lean out/decrease your body fat percentage, you need to be on point with your caloric allotment. Here’s some math for someone who is consuming 2,000 calories a day on average
    • 2,000 calories a day x 7 days a week = 14,000 calories
    • 20% of 14,000 = 2,800 calories of eat whatever you want foods

Whether you divide that 2,800 so you can eat 400 calories a day of pudding pops and bagels or save it for one big meal on a Saturday night – it doesn’t matter. What does is being aware of the actual amount of calories you’re consuming.

If you’re just trying to maintain and are happy with your current physical state of health, than no need to count calories. Just base it off of how you’re feeling. If you start to notice some extra-unwanted pounds being packed on, it’s time to start dialing it in again.

  • It takes longer than an elimination diet. (That can be a benefit to some people, depends on your style). The adage “The quicker you lose the weight the quicker you put it back on” is generally true. But for those who want to see rapid results – this is not the game plan for you.

Recognize that 80/20 can also be tightened up to a 90/10. This is many people’s favorite way to lean out. 90% of the time they’re dialed in, and still have there DQ Reeses’ peanut butter cup Blizzard + cookie dough (I’ll pay 50 cents for an additional topping all day) to look forward to at the end of a solid week of clean eating.

So which type of person are you?

You know yourself better than anyone.

You are ultimately in control of what food you throw down your gullet.

You also know that you are capable of achieving great things when you commit to them. You just need to make sure that the plan you have established for yourself is conducive to your lifestyle and personality.

And now you know both sides of the story in regards to two very popular dieting methods.

And interestingly enough – as I was writing this I saw an add for a new TV show on ABC titled “My Diet is Better than Yours”.

I hope this show creates more clarity than confusion for viewers – which the fitness industry tends to do more often than not.

Remember – keep it simple fam, have fun, and move the chains!

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