The 90% rule for eating well and enjoying your food | Precision Nutrition

The 90% rule for eating well and enjoying your food

Day 2: Nutrition Course for Athletes

You may have cringed at some of the nutrition rules I outlined yesterday. (Don’t worry, I’m not offended). But here’s a bit of a break. 10% of the time, you can eat whatever you want.

Yes, you read that right. 100% nutritional discipline is never really needed to completely change your body. The difference between sticking to the rules 90% of the time and sticking to them 100% of the time is minor, really.

And that extra 10% means you can feel free to eat the food you like.

Follow the rules 90% of the time. The other 10%? Eat anything you want.

I’m not kidding around here. I actively encourage people to eat any food they like, because the reality is that good food can be one of the great joys of life.

But being overweight, unhealthy and lethargic are not. And certain foods eaten too frequently or in too large an amount will quickly make you all three of those things.

So Precision Nutrition clients are given a simple instruction: eat any food you like, in up to 10% of your meals; in the other 90% of your meals, eat the foods that will fuel your body to success.

That ratio will give you the body you want AND allow to enjoy the food you love.

But make sure you do the math.

But here’s the catch: make sure you do the math and determine what 10% of the time really means.

For example, if you’re eating 4 meals/snacks per day for 7 days of the week – that’s 28 meals. 10% of 28 meals is about 3 meals. Therefore you’re allowed to “break the rules” 3 meals each week.

Note: some athletes can get away with even more leeway. It all depends on their results. For example, one my UFC clients eats one fast food meal every day. Provided, of course, he eats all his healthy, recovery-promoting food first. And only goes for fast food if he’s still hungry.

Just make sure to start at 10% and adjust from there.

Don’t binge — schedule!

A caveat: your 10% meals shouldn’t include downing an entire pizza, followed by a full box of Krispy Kreme donuts. Binge eating can rapidly destroy your progress and make you feel like crap, let’s be clear on that. A day long binge is not the equivalent of “one cheat meal.”

Rather, your 10% meals should include some foods, in reasonable quantities, that might not normally fit into your plan.

This might include a couple slices of pizza on a Saturday evening, a piece of cheesecake after dinner on Sunday, a beer or glass of wine after work on Wednesday, or some chocolate on Monday morning.

And the best way to make sure you don’t go overboard is to schedule your 10% meals.

Pick a day and a meal and schedule it just like you’ll be scheduling your exercise days. This will keep you committed to your eating plan as well as have you looking forward to something different.

Of course, if you simply must have one of your 10% meals outside of its regularly scheduled time, go for it. Just to make sure you don’t double up, cross it off your schedule.

Even better: learn how to incorporate the food you love into your 90% meals.

With a little expertise and ingenuity in the kitchen, you can often turn your favorite meals into healthy options that meet the criteria for a 90% meal.

For example, in the Gourmet Nutrition cookbook, our expert chefs show you how to make delicious pizzas, snacks — even desserts, like cheesecake. All without breaking the rules of good nutrition.

It’s often as simple as learning a few tricks. Many clients are shocked when they learn how easy it is, and are so satisfied by the plan that they deviate even less than 10% of the time.

In fact, on our private member forum, the cooking discussions are often the liveliest, and for good reason: once you can make good food taste great, reaching your goal is as easy as picking up a fork and spoon.


You can eat anything you like — but only a portion of the time. The rest of the time, eat to fuel a healthy body. But don’t forget that with a little cooking experience, that fuel can taste better than anything you’re eating right now.

Tomorrow’s lesson

How writing a few sentences can propel you to the results you’ve been looking for. See you then!

Extra reading

In the Precision Nutrition System, you’ll find a host of awesome recipes that you’re sure to enjoy. We’re food lovers too, so we pay plenty of attention to taste.

Click here for more about the Precision Nutrition System.