Bodybuilding Diet, Bad Idea

Diet Blog asks the question, Is Your Bodybuilding Diet Plain Stupid? Here’s a taste:

Bodybuilding diets are stupid because of the underlying motivation. Bodybuilders are concerned with getting big and getting big quickly. If its not about getting big then it is about getting cut and getting cut quickly. Both of these bodybuilding goals fail to address the scared little guy in the corner - your health.

My many years in the martial arts and bodybuilding gyms have shown me that bodybuilders will almost always put their muscle gains ahead of their health. They will try supplements without knowing the side effects, they will use fat burners without understanding how it works and so on.

If you are sitting there saying: "No, no, no... that's not me" then ask yourself this question: "What negative effects does all that protein you are eating have on your body?"

Can you answer it?

Probably not.

I’m inclined to agree. The concept of “getting big” is dangerous. Take power-lifters and linebackers for example. Dr. Fuhrman explains:

Bulking up is dangerous to one's longevity and power lifters and football linebackers often eat in a way that radically shortens their lives. If you were a weightlifter, for instance, you might improve your chances of muscle growth with more animal products then I recommend, certainly. But my point is too much animal products is not conducive to longevity. But if size is your only goal, go for it.

And that’s the point—I’ve seen it first hand—people living to get big are protein obsessed! From hefty amounts of meat to nonsensical protein shakes. More from Dr. Fuhrman:

Unfortunately, most trainers and bodybuilders are influenced by what they read in exercise and bodybuilding magazines. This is worse than getting nutritional information from comic books. Look through any current bodybuilding magazine; what are the vast majority of advertisements selling? Supplements! Most of the pages in these magazines are devoted to pushing worthless powders and pills. Supplement companies slant the opinions of the magazine article writers. The articles in the magazines are geared to support their advertisers.

Our entire society is on a protein binge, brainwashed with misinformation that we have been hearing since childhood. The educational materials used in most schools have been provided free by the meat, dairy, and egg industries for more than seventy years. These industries have successfully lobbied the government, resulting in favorable laws, subsidies, and advertising propaganda that promote corporate profits at the expense of national health. As a result, Americans have been programmed with dangerous information.

Also, eating too much animal products isn’t any better. The risks of consuming too much animal protein and meat are well documented. Dr. Fuhrman again:

For example, Inuit Greenlanders, who historically have had limited access to fruits and vegetables, have the worst longevity statistics in North America. Research from the past and present shows that they die on the average about 10 years younger and have a higher rate of cancer than the overall Canadian population.1

Similar statistics are available for the high meat-consuming Maasai in Kenya. They eat a diet high in wild hunted meats and have the worst life expectancy in the modern world. Life expectancy is 45 years for women and 42 years for men. African researchers report that, historically, Maasai rarely lived beyond age 60. Adult mortality figures on the Kenyan Maasai show that they have a 50% chance of dying before the age of 59.2

Now, the caveman response to all this is, “Ugh! What about complete protein? Me need beef.” It’s a myth. Jeff Novick, MS, RD discusses the Complementary Protein Myth:

The “incomplete protein” myth was inadvertently promoted in the 1971 book, Diet for a Small Planet, by Frances Moore Lappe. In it, the author stated that plant foods do not contain all the essential amino acids, so in order to be a healthy vegetarian, you needed to eat a combination of certain plant foods in order to get all of the essential amino acids. It was called the theory of “protein complementing.”

Frances Moore Lappe certainly meant no harm, and her mistake was somewhat understandable. She was not a nutritionist, physiologist, or medical doctor. She was a sociologist trying to end world hunger. She realized that there was a lot of waste in converting vegetable protein into animal protein, and she calculated that if people just ate the plant protein, many more people could be fed. In a later edition of her book (1991), she retracted her statement and basically said that in trying to end one myth—the unsolvable inevitability of world hunger, she created a second one—the myth of the need for “protein complementing.”

In these later editions, she corrects her earlier mistake and clearly states that all plant foods typically consumed as sources of protein contain all the essential amino acids, and that humans are virtually certain of getting enough protein from plant sources if they consume sufficient calories.

If you put in the time and do the research, you’ll find that plant sources are the optimal and safest sources of protein. Here’s Dr. Fuhrman’s chart from Nutrient Density of Green Vegetables:

It’s really sad. At my gym, on any given day there at least a few gorillas stuttering around, grunting, and sucking down hype drinks and shakes. Crazy!

1. Iburg KM, Bronnum-Hansen H, Bjerregaard P. Health expectancy in Greenland. Scand J Public Health 2001;29(1):5-12. Choinere R. Mortality among the Baffin Inuit in the mid-80s. Arctive Med Res 1992;51 (2):87-93.


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Comments (20) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Melody - January 17, 2008 12:20 PM

Take a look at Tom Venuto's website; Burn the fat, feed muscle. And read his e-book. He's a body builder. He outlines a sane diet plan for the rest of us. Not entirely in line with Dr. Fuhrman, but still very good. He's not big on the supplements and shakes either. Emphasis is on real food.

Tracy - January 17, 2008 12:41 PM

That chart is awesome! Thanks!

Like animals?
Wanna lose weight?
Care about the environment?

Gerry Pugliese - January 17, 2008 1:32 PM

Hey Melody-

Cool, I'll check it out. I'm always up for reading new stuff.


Angel - January 17, 2008 5:21 PM

I think sometimes people hurt themselves more on their diets than help themselves simply because they deprive themselves of healthy nutrition and nutrients. Then they cave in and eat the worst food for your body. The best and most healthy thing one can do is eat right and not eat crap. Nutritional shakes are great because they include so much good stuff. Go to your drug store and see what you can find. I get mine from made by Herbalife because they taste great and have great ingredients to help keep us healthy

Nic - January 17, 2008 8:46 PM

I think the thought of gaining muscle by only eating animal products is a bit outdated. There are plenty vegans bodybuilders now promoting their diet (not saying if they are any healthier though).

I also don't see the problem with protein shakes. Low calorie and low in fat, and you can even get egg, whey, soy or hemp. If you are interested in gaining any muscle (for which you don't have to be a bodybuilder), it is a relatively easy and cheap supplement, especially for someone on a tight schedule that can't grab a good meal for a few hours after the gym.

I also think that chart is misleading because 100 Cal of broccoli is an awfully large quantity.

LLouise - January 18, 2008 2:52 AM

Some of the worst are Veg bodybuilders. They spout the mantra that since they are meat free, they are healthy. Meanwhile, stuffing themselves with protein powders, supplements, creatine, etc., claiming they are "natural" body building and healthy!! Insanity. They believe themselves more emphatically than some meatheads. And are harder to convince that their diets are unhealthy in many cases. Too dogmatic. Sadly, they do their cause more harm than good. :(

Gerry Pugliese - January 18, 2008 7:42 AM

Hey Nic-

I think you're missing the point. Yes that chart suggests eating a lot of greens, but, thats the point! Eating lots and lots of green veggies is great for you. Certainly better than drinking hype-shakes and hype-drinks.


Gerry Pugliese - January 18, 2008 7:46 AM

Hey Llouise-

Interesting. I actually haven't met any veggie bodybuilders, but I see where you're getting at.

Thats one gripe I have about some vegetarians and vegans. Some of them have a holier than thou are attitude. Its sad. Thats why I Eat to Live! No attitude, no labels, just healthy eating and living. You know?


Jayson - January 18, 2008 9:39 AM

On the chart above that is less than a pound of broccoli, very easy to consume that in a day (or one meal).

Simple to make shakes, smoothies, et al using a blender or magic bullet. Great thing with fruits and veggies is its easy to blend the different flavors together. Additionally you know its fresh and additive free !

ryan jacobs - January 19, 2008 1:58 AM

It's pretty irresponsible to equate kenya's(not the masai) mortality rates with their diet. Aids, malaria, and t.b. have nothing to do with diet, and are largely responsible for the low life expectancy. Many regional diets(french,okinawan) that are high in animal protein have provided excellent health. More science please

Gerry Pugliese - January 19, 2008 7:32 AM

Hey Ryan-

For starters. Where is your science? Now, just check DiseaseProof's diet myths category:

Or the research category:

And you'll clearly see, that consuming large of amounts of animal products is a one way ticket to premature death and disease.


Janna - January 20, 2008 1:46 PM

To Ryan Jacobs:

According to facts discussed in John Robbins' book "Healthy at 100," Okinawans (at least the elder Okinawans famous for living to be 100 and who do not suffer from the diseases that the elderly in "westernized" nations suffer from) rarely eat animal products. Younger Okinawans are now on a more Western diet and having the same health problems as all other nations who eat diets high in animal products.

And the French, while they do consume animal products, they do not consume as much as Americans and they also eat A LOT more vegetables than we do as a group.

Ryan Jacobs - January 20, 2008 9:47 PM

I just thought the sources didn't support the author's conclusions. correlation doesn't equal causation and all that. I'm probably barking up the wrong tree, but........
Not close to eattolive, but some common themes

Jacob Park - May 25, 2008 4:55 PM

Saying that vegan bodybuilders are usually as bad as standard bodybuilders is an pretty uninformed statement to make. Check out this site:

That is the URL to the profiles section, where you can find what some of them consume. They are not all bodybuilders, it is also a site for vegan athletes of any kind. The forums will also give you some good information.

You will find that the majority focus on whole foods, either not taking processed protein powders at all or only after a workout. Other than that, most get their protein from an abundance of green vegetables and legumes.

This may not be the perfect ETL diet since it probably contains too many legumes (despite the fact that these are supposed to be unlimited and that vegetables eclipse legume consumption by weight and mass in most of their (our) diets.

We do try to put on mass, but most of us stay quite lean while doing it because that is the nature of a whole foods vegan diet.

I myself only consume processed protein powder after a workout, in the form of pea protein. I do use hemp protein, but that is every bit as much of a whole food as nut milk, soy milk, tofu, TVP, etcetera. Actually, even more so because the only thing taken from it is a bunch of the fat.

While this isn't an entirely "ideal" lifestyle, lifting weights and getting stronger is a passion for some people and some passions can be stronger than one for eeking out a slightly longer life.

James S - October 23, 2009 12:42 AM

While I do it for looks primarily, I can attest to the fact that living a bodybuilding lifestyle has improved my health immensely.

I've gone from being a skinny 53kg fully grown male at approx 12% bodyfat with no energy, weakness, tiredness, headaches, sinus, constipation, heart burn and more, to a nice 70kg 7% bodyfat with abundant energy and none of the above symptoms. I cant even remember the last time I had the common cold.

Add to this the immeasurable psychological benefits of being in better shape than 99% of the population. I cant stress enough how great I feel in both body and mind.

Oh and my diet is about 40% meat.. so ya, I dont agree with much of this article.

James - January 10, 2010 3:17 PM

We must not forget that bodybuilders of today are largely a result of steroids. Before the age of steroids bodybuilders looked big and strong. But they still looked quite human. Now flip through any modern bodybuilding magazine and you are besieged with over muscled 250 pound plus behemoths. If anyone thinks they can achieve these kinds of results by using the newest strength training program, over eating, taking special supplements, or eating special types of foods are only fooling themselves. That being said I don't know whether it is the intention of the article or whether it is just my interpretation. But this article gave me the impression that power lifting or building muscle is unhealthy. I don't think they are unhealthy. I think what is unhealthy is the diet that usually accompanies them. I don't see anything wrong with power lifting for example as it concerns your health. But if you balloon up to over 300 pounds then yes of course your going to risk having some underlying health issues.

Tanhar - October 29, 2010 12:49 AM

I agree that this is a very good suggestion for bodybuilders. Green vegetables has no alternative indeed. I usually take blackseeds oid as a food suppliment in addition to other diets and have got very good response in times of workout exercise. Is there actualy any good side for bodybuilders of taking blackseed oils?

protein shakes - December 4, 2010 8:26 AM

good article, great information !

piyushtrivedi - April 3, 2011 12:40 PM

does there any fedration in the world which train the up comeing bodybuilders/weightlifters at minimal price.

max - November 25, 2011 3:46 AM

Where is all of your proof only idiots that take steroids and dont watch there intakes are the wrong bodybuilders. I just think people shouldn turn someone away from bodybuilders because some people dont do it properly. aslong as u keep your vitamins up and fruit and vegies and your right thats what i believe anyway. Cause i take boosters and pre-workouts and i get regular check up at the doctors and they say im healthy, you should aim more at the people taking the wrong diet plans more then just aimming at bodybuilders

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