Simplify your diet and training for better results.

The 95/5 Rule: Simplify Everything For Better Results

Written by Russ Howe PTI, and most recently updated 1 day ago.

6 min read

It’s easy to get lost as fuck with fitness and nutrition, so in this article I’d like to a little trick to keep things straightforward.

I call it my 95/5 rule.

You see, despite the fact that many people obsess over every little aspect of their training and diet, science shows us that the vast majority of your results (about 95%) will come from doing a set of very simple things over and over again.

I want you to focus on these things (more on them below), and everything else (like the minutiae of fancy new exercises, complex nutritional strategies, and supplements which come with a ton of hype) falls under the remaining 5%.

Let’s break it down.

Table of Contents

how to simplify your diet for better results

For the purpose of this article, let’s say your main goal is fat loss.

We’ve all done a fat loss diet which has us focusing on the things that don’t really matter, like trying to cut out bread, or trying to trying cram 10-scoops of whey protein per day, or trying to follow intermittent fasting.

And what usually happens is that the diet becomes unsustainable fairly early on, because we get stressed at trying to do all of the little things.

The good news is that this approach is fucking bullshit, and there’s an easier way.

Because when we get down to the real nitty gritty of fat loss, research shows us that it’s a relatively simple process once we put a couple of rules in place. The first thing we must do is control your total calorie intake (because this governs whether you will lose/gain weight), and the second thing is to make sure you’re eating at least 1g protein per lb of target body weight (because this will help you build and retain muscle tissue while in a fat loss phase). (1, 2)

That’s it.

Those two rules will be responsible for unlocking 95% of your results in the long-term, so if you want to make your diet as simple as possible and focus only on these two things, then go for it!

Sure, other nutritional strategies like intermittent fasting and carb cycling can be effective, but ultimately any success they achieve is because they helped you implement the two rules I’ve already mentioned (e.g. following intermittent fasting often helps people control their calories). (3, 4)


Russ Howe PTI: The 95/5 Rule

Now let’s look at how we can apply the same strategy to your training.

Just like with our diets, most of us get caught up in the minutiae in the gym, performing needless exercises which don’t really hit the mark, and hitting small muscle groups with too much junk volume, and using ineffective techniques which someone has said you “must do” if you want to see great results.

All of that combines to give you a program which is not as effective as it could be.

For some people, getting lost in all of the minutiae stops them from training entirely, because they enter a state of paralysis analysis when trying to fit all of that clutter into their sessions and it feels overwhelming.

So fuck that.

When we get down to the nitty gritty of training to build muscle and burn fat, there are two things which stand above everything else. The first is that you must train with intensity (this determines how hard you are working in each session). If you are training with intensity on a regular basis you will achieve a good transformation even if your training program is pretty basic – but when you combine intensity with a well-designed program results will go to another level entirely!

The second thing is proper exercise selection. Yeah, that twisting cable pulldown might’ve looked great on social media, but if you’re trying to build a muscular back then you want to stick to movements like barbell rows and deadlifts.

The meat and potatoes of your training program should be the exercises which will provide you with the biggest bang for your buck (squats, rows, deadlifts, etc), and doing these (with intensity) on a consistent basis will create progressive overload, which will trigger muscle growth.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love a crazy 100 rep dropset as much as anyone, but that stuff should be kept until after you’ve checked the big boxes. See below:

I’m known for creating horrible methods like this, particularly on leg day. This type of stuff was one of the things which my PT clients looked forward to the most (while also being slightly terrified).

But your entire workout can’t be like that, because those type of things are 5% stuff.


simple diet plan that works

The goal of the 95/5 rule is to increase your consistency.

By cutting out the minutiae which most people get bogged down in, we can create a training program and diet plan which helps you be consistent for long enough to see results.

When I originally put this technique together for my clients I did so as a starting measure. People would begin by just focusing on the 95% stuff, and then once they’d put in the necessary time to build sustainable habits they began playing with 5% stuff as well, and it was much more manageable.

However, I have also known some clients get all the way to their goal just by using the 95% stuff.

At the end of the day, the 95% stuff is responsible for 95% of the results they got, so they never made it any more complex than that, because the sense of freedom they felt from simplifying their fitness program and diet was the most important factor in helping them to stay consistent.

References:

  1. Howell S., et al. “Calories in, calories out” and macronutrient intake: the hope, hype, and science of calories. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab (2017).
  2. Morton R. W., et al. A systematic review, meta-analysis and meta-regression of the effect of protein supplementation on resistance training-induced gains in muscle mass and strength in healthy adults. Br J Sports Med (2018).
  3. Pilegaard H., et al. Effect of short-term fasting and refeeding on transcriptional regulation of metabolic genes in human skeletal muscle. Diabetes (2003).
  4. Moore D. R., et al. Daytime Pattern Of Post-Exercise Protein Intake Affects Whole-Body Protein Turnover In Resistance-Trained Males. Nutr Metab (Lond) (2012).

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I’m Russ. I’ve been a personal trainer since 2002, and I own russhowepti.com.

My job is to simplify fitness for my readers.

I send out free fitness tips to over 100,000 men and women every week, all in the same no-nonsense style as the article you’ve just read, so if you enjoyed reading it be sure to jump on my email list below.

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