The vertical diet
We find out what this diet trend is all about
You may have heard your co-workers or gym buddies talking about the vertical diet and wondered whether it could help you reach your weight-loss or fitness goals. We spoke to Georgie Britton, Dietitian and Allied Health Coach at Honeysuckle Health, to find out what this diet trend is all about and whether it’s a sound eating plan.
What is the vertical diet?
The vertical diet was originally developed by professional bodybuilder and powerlifter Stan Efferding to help bodybuilders and other athletes increase their muscle mass and enhance their performance. It has recently been touted as a good way for casual gym-goers to build muscle or even lose weight.
“When pictured graphically, the vertical diet is an upside-down T,” explains Georgie. “The base of the T is represented by ‘micronutrients’, or foods that are rich in vitamins and minerals, and the vertical portion of the T is ‘macronutrients’, which are limited to red meat and white rice.”
What are the benefits of the vertical diet?
The hypothesis behind the vertical diet is that limiting food variety can help improve digestive efficiency and boost metabolism and muscle growth, Georgie says.
“The potential benefit of the vertical diet is that it provides an easy way to eat more food by focusing on easily digestible options,” she explains. “When athletes focus on nutrient-dense options, they can often struggle to consume enough food to maintain or gain weight which can limit their performance capabilities.”
How do you follow the vertical diet?
The diet limits people to eating only certain foods – predominantly red meat and white rice, with limited amounts of eggs, dairy, certain fruits and vegetables, chicken, salmon, oils and fats allowed.
Initially, your kilojoule intake is calculated based on your training goals, and as your body adjusts to the diet, you ‘go vertical’ with more kilojoules.
“The allowed micronutrient foods are generally low-FODMAP, which limits gastrointestinal issues such as bloating that can make it difficult to consume large quantities of food,” Georgie explains.
“The bulk of the kilojoule content then comes from the ‘macronutrient’ component. Red meat was chosen because it’s a rich source of easily absorbed protein that’s also high in nutrients. White rice is the main carbohydrate because it’s easy to consume in large quantities to assist with weight gain. The idea is that you continue to increase your intake of these foods depending on your weight-gain goals.”
Grains, legumes, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, foods with added sugars, coffee and alcohol are all discouraged.
Are there any downsides?
Georgie has a few reservations about the vertical diet – especially for those of us who aren’t elite athletes.
“The vertical diet is overly restrictive, with the justification being that digestion is improved by consuming the same foods, but there’s very limited evidence to support this idea,” she says. “Studies show you can achieve the same performance results without the excessive restrictions.”
She’s also concerned about the emphasis on red meat and the lack of variety in the vertical diet.
“While red meat can be consumed as part of a balanced diet, the volume recommended in the vertical diet can be detrimental to our health and has been linked to bowel cancer. And while the limited variety of low-FODMAP foods might be easier to digest, they’re also low in prebiotics and probiotics. Following a strict low-FODMAP diet in the long term isn’t ideal for gut health.”
Should you try the vertical diet?
Before trying the vertical diet, Georgie recommends consulting an accredited practising dietitian.
“If you’re a serious athlete or a regular gym-goer, you can give the vertical diet a go with modifications to improve variety and reduce potential negative health implications,” she says.
“However, I wouldn’t recommend this diet to the general population because it lacks substantive evidence, it comes with potential health concerns and there are other less restrictive options available that have been shown to achieve the same performance results.”
Please note: The tips throughout this article serve as broad information and should not replace any advice you have been given by your medical practitioner.
Articles you might also like
In partnership with
Georgie Britton is an accredited practicing dietitian with widespread nutrition knowledge across a range of health settings. She is passionate about supporting people to improve their health and wellbeing by giving them the tools they need to make better food choices. Currently, she works at Honeysuckle Health where her role includes nutritional counselling for people with chronic diseases. Not surprisingly, Georgie loves cooking and sharing home-cooked meals with friends and family. Her favourite dish is a bowl of homemade fettucine with crisp sage and roasted pumpkin from her garden, lots of extra virgin olive oil, and a peppery rocket salad, all served with a glass of red wine and finished with some dark chocolate.