The 90% Rule

Posted on 04. Mar, 2009 by in Nutrition

Lately, I have been reading in other blogs and forum threads about nutrition mishaps – meaning that they either binged or just made some bad food choices. Just like them, I also have a bit of trouble in this deparment (don’t we all?) and so as one of my strategies in approaching this issue is to closely monitor my “cheat meals” by following the 90% rule.

What is the 90% rule?

I originally heard of the 90% rule from Dr. John Berardi, creator of Precision Nutrition. The rule states that you can still have amazing results if you follow a good nutrition plan 90% of the time. To be more specific, I’ll give you my example.

On the nutrition stand point

I routinely eat 5 meals a day (on the days that I’m not fasting – that is) which give me a total of 35 (5 meals/day x 7 days) meals per week. I just use this number even on the days that I fast. So, this means that I can eat 3.5 (35 x .1 or 10%) cheat meals and still get great results! The idea is the 10% leeway will not affect your results heavily because you are in 90% compliance anyway. Isn’t that great news? I mean even the most disciplined person in the world needs a little wiggle room every once in awhile right? So, why do it 100% when you can still get the same results at 90%? The one problem with this though is that some people will take this 10% and make it into 20% or even 50%. This is one reason why I want to track my meals in some way (more on this later).

From the workouts stand point

The 90% rule applies to your workouts as well. Since I go to the gym 3x a week and follow a specific program for 4 weeks, I can miss one workout and still see some nice changes. Now, working out and eating are two totally different creatures for me. I love working out – I like the high that I get from it. I see it as a way for me to keep the stress levels down as well. Even on some days when I’m just feeling blah and not really motivated to get my butt to the gym – I still end up going because I look forward to that feeling after a great workout. Now, if you talk to me about the nutrition side of things – that’s totally different story, my friend.

So why did I bring up the 90% rule?

Partly because, I really want to start actually marking off my meal chart with my cheat meals so that I’ll know that I’m really in 90% compliance and not 85% or 75%. I got a chart from my Precision Nutrition purchase but if you want a poor man’s (or woman’s) version, Maggie Wang, created one here. You’d have scroll to the bottom of the post to download the pdf file. I need a chart like this because I have a hard time remembering what I eat/ate unless I write it down or track it in some way (can’t imagine how sharp I would be several years down the road…lol). It may sound tedious but it really isn’t. Think of it as a way to see your progress just as you would your % body fat or other measurements.

Before I conclude, I’d like to add that the 90% rule is helpful in terms of eating healthy and not thinking of fat loss in terms of “dieting.” Incorporate the 90% rule all the time and not just when you’re trying to lose weight. This way of thinking makes it a longer term plan instead of having the “yo-yo dieting” mindset. Remember that losing the weight is just as difficult as maintaining it so keep the rewards forever – you already worked hard for it, you might as well keep it.

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