What to eat, what to avoid and should you try the Vertical Diet? We'll tell you.

Brierley Horton, M.S., R.D.
February 10, 2020

If you want to look like a bodybuilder, Stan Efferding's diet might be appealing to you. Known as "The Rhino," Efferding is a bodybuilder and holds the title as the World's Strongest Bodybuilder. He's also the creator of the Vertical Diet. But is this trendy diet a way to eat healthier or bulk up the right way? here we explain more about what the Vertical diet is, what foods you can and can't eat and if we recommend giving it a try.

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What is the Vertical Diet?

The Vertical Diet is a way of eating designed to help high-level athletes take in the large amount of calories they need to gain weight, increase muscle mass and strength, and maximize workouts.

The central premise of the diet is to eat foods that your body likes—i.e., are easily digestible and don't aggravate your GI system. Doing so, according to the Vertical Diet, will help you actually absorb the nutrients you're eating (because sometimes they just pass through your body and leave as waste). Also, when you limit your diet variety, Efferding says your body will become more efficient at digesting and absorbing nutrients. They also sell their own meals and proteins, like chicken and beef, that you can have delivered right to your house.

Vertical Diet followers include Camille LeBlanc, Crossfit Champion and former "fittest woman on the planet," Hafthor Bjornsson, who played "The Mountain" on Game of Thrones, and Lane Johnson, Offensive Lineman for the Philadelphia Eagles.

What Foods You Can Eat on the Vertical Diet

The two most commonly eaten foods on this diet are red meat and white rice. White rice because it's incredibly easy and fast to digest (think: quick energy). Red meat for its iron, zinc, selenium, and B vitamins, as well as its muscle-building potential. (Low-FODMAP foods also are addressed. Read more about the what foods you can and can't eat on a low-FODMAP diet.)

  • Red meat, preferably grass-fed bison and beef. Skip pre-ground beef as its usually made from scraps, according to Vertical Diet advocates.
  • Hormone-free chicken
  • Beef tallow and other "unprocessed" fats
  • Line-caught salmon
  • Eggs
  • Full-fat dairy
  • Low-gas vegetables, as defined by FODMAP, such as spinach, cucumbers, and bell peppers
  • All fruits, with a focus on low-FODMAP ones
  • Sprouted or soaked legumes and oats, but only in small quantities

What Foods You Can't Eat on the Vertical Diet

  • Brown rice and other grains
  • Processed vegetable oils (which is essentially any vegetable oil)
  • Legumes, including soy
  • Onions and garlic
  • Coffee
  • Added sugar and sugar alcohols
  • High-FODMAP vegetables, also referred to as high-raffinose or gas-causing vegetables

The Pros of the Vertical Diet

The Cons of the Vertical Diet

  • It can get pricey since you're encouraged to buy premium proteins.
  • It's low in fiber because it limits grains and vegetables—two key sources of fiber in our diet (here are 5 easy ways to add more fiber to your diet).
  • The limited variety could lead to nutrient deficiencies.

The Bottom Line

There's isn't scientific research to support, or deny, the purported benefits of the Vertical Diet. We do know that restrictive diets can often backfire and that fiber is really, really good for us.

Will it help you gain weight? Probably. If you find yourself hungry between meals, Vertical Diet proponents advise that you up your red meat and white rice portions, or you add another meal to your day. Will it help you lose weight? Possibly, thanks to monotony and it being lower in carbs. For any other benefits—particularly if you're using the Vertical Diet to help with exercise recovery—all we have to go on are anecdotal stories.

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