The 80/20 Experiment

Okay everyone, I’ve got a rather nerdy question for you. Get ready for it, Excel freaks are going to love this.

What do the following all have in common?


2013-02-18 at 9.57.09 PM

Those who are into MS Office will recognize these as Excel formulas. I frickin’ love Excel. It’s my favorite toy. You know how little kids have that favorite doll or action figure they love to play with and ignore all other toys in its favor? Well, that’s me and Excel. Spreadsheets are my bff.


The answer to my question about all that jumble of letters, symbols and numbers is this: all are going to help me test something. You often hear people who adopt the Paleo lifestyle say they try to stick to it 80/20. 80% of the time they’re ever so well behaved, and 20% of the time they’re eating M&M’s like they may never ever see a bag again.

Guilty as charged on that whole M&M’s thing.

So, as I sit here cruising along at 608mph, 37,007 feet in the sky (those are exact figures taken from the monitor in the seat back in front of me), I decided to open up Max the MacBook and fill the time from LAX to DTW developing an interesting way for me to track if I really am as 80/20 as I think I am, or is it time to face the fact that the numbers don’t lie. If you don’t work out and don’t eat right, then your score sucks.

[Geography Update: I am currently somewhere over Kansas, in case anyone is interested.]

Score? Yes. I’m not calling it a challenge, but how I eat and work out from now on is going to generate a numerical value at the end of the day. Starting using the model from the Lurong Living Paleo Challenge (the culprit for all this paleo stuff in the first place), I began with the following categories:

  • Breakfast – Have I mentioned lately that I love breakfast? Today was a veggie omelet from Iron Chef Morimoto’s joint in LAX. $18 for an omelet and a bottle of water. *choke* Thank goodness for per diem.
  • Snack – If you eat breakfasts as large as I do, this category is probably null for you too.
  • Lunch – Don’t the final 30 minutes before your lunch break always go by the slowest of any minutes during the day?
  • Snack – This is where the trusty canister of almonds & cashews that I always keep on my desk comes in. Cue Snack Mix-a-Lot!
  • Dinner – This is where all the fresh-cooked magic happens. Aka – I make a mess in my kitchen, take a ton of pictures of the end result and post it up here for you to see. Unless it’s terrible. Pina colada bite flashback, anyone?
  • Late Night – Did you know… February 18th is National Drink Wine Day? Bottoms up!

Now, one may think that keeping a running tally is a tedious thing and I’ll never update this daily, but the fact of the matter is that I’ve been keeping a worksheet of every workout I’ve done for the past year. Ask me any day dating back to this time last year, and I can tell you what I did. Yoga, CrossFit, Dragon boat racing? You name it, it’s on there.


A perfect score is 100 points. You can earn 100 points by eating clean all day long, and going to CrossFit/getting in a workout that day.

6 meals valued at 12 points each = 72 points

CrossFit/Other Workout = 28 points

Now… it doesn’t stop there. If you cheat and still want to stay in good shape, you should be upping the ante on your workout to burn off those extra calories, right? I tried to come up with simple moves that don’t take much space, for what I like to call the Redemption WOD. Ok, it’s really a mini WOD. All body weight stuff you can do in your living room, so no excuses not to git ‘er done before the end of the day!

It’s a ladder. So, if you cheat 3x in a day, you need to do the first 3 items on the list.


(Aka… The Redemption WOD)

1 minute Plank
20 Air Squats
30 Push-ups
40sec Wall Sit
5 Burpees
60 Situps

See? Not that terrible. All can be done easily inside in a small footprint. To any tall readers out there, watch out for ceiling fans if you’ve misbehaved enough to get to the burpees.

What do you get out of all this? Points, of course. By completing the Redemption Ladder, you earn back a number of points equivalent to how many cheats you committed. If you cheat twice in a day, doing the plank and squats will earn you back 2 lost points.

[Geography Update: Now I’m square over Kansas. Before, I was barely out of Colorado. Shoot, I may be into Missouri’s airspace within the next paragraph or two.]


Time for the magic formula. Let’s say I eat vegetables and steak all day long. I go to CrossFit. YAY ME! Perfect score. 100 points.

Oh no! Ice cream social in the conference room at work. You heard the “pfffft” of the Redi-Wip can and couldn’t resist. 1 cheat. 5 clean meals on the day plus a Crossfit WOD? (5*12)+28 = 88 points. Did you do your plank at the end of the day? Yes? Cool. 89 points for you. Not bad!

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere, and you already gave in to the pink sprinkle donut at DD this morning. Crap. 2 cheats plus a WOD and no time for redemption. (4*12)+28=76 points.

REST DAY! I know, someone is going to yell at me for this. We all need at least one or two rest days per week. Eat perfectly but don’t work out? Your score gets set back to 72. This is why you take an average score for the week. Those 100’s you earn for being so well-behaved on WOD days will pull your average over the goal of 80 points, no problem.

Think you’ve got it all figured out? Probably not. I’m sitting here feeling like Marshall Ericsson trying to explain Marshgammon to the crew on How I Met Your Mother. Way too many words, and not sure this will make sense to anyone else but me.

I think it will be interesting if I can keep training and exceed that goal mark of an 80-point average each week.

Anyone else want in on this craziness? A quick few YES/NO and CLEAN/CHEAT entries, and I’ve got a spreadsheet that automatically calculates your score.

[Geography Update: Hi there, Missouri! I say in 20ish minutes or so we’re barely going to swipe the bottom right corner of Iowa before cutting through Illinois. Oh time zone change, you’re gonna be fun. Max Macbook thinks it’s 12:02pm. I have 1 hour 14 minutes left in the air. I land at 4:30ish. YEAH JET LAG]

I can’t wait to land and post this. Like… do not pass go do not collect $200 kind of can’t wait. I told you… I really, really love spreadsheets.

UPDATE: WOW I’m really slow. I’m sorry. CLICK HERE to download your own copy of the 80/20 Experiment calculator!


  1. I love this! I haven’t done anything as organised with paleo, but a couple of years ago, I tracked workouts and my measurements (taken monthly) for a year and it was really interesting to see how much of which types of exercise made the biggest difference.

    My main take-away from that experience was that rest days were vital both for performance and fat loss.


    • Thank you! I plan on posting a cleaned up template soon so others can get in on the fun. I was traveling last week for work, and sadly averaged somewhere in the 30’s. Whoops! Stupid M&M’s.


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