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What is the Vertical Diet?

Discover the Vertical Diet, an approach to nutrition that prioritizes gut health and quality over quantity. Fuel optimal performance and improve overall well-being with this nutrient-dense eating plan. Whether you’re an athlete or seeking better health, find out how the Vertical Diet can meet your nutritional needs.

The Vertical Diet is a trending approach to nutrition that emphasizes quality over quantity and aims to optimize gut health for improved overall well-being. This eating plan, designed by professional strongman and nutrition coach Stan Efferding, focuses on consuming nutrient-dense foods that are easy to digest, such as lean proteins, high-quality carbohydrates, and nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables. By prioritizing these key elements, the Vertical Diet aims to support efficient digestion, reduce inflammation, and provide essential nutrients to fuel optimal performance. Whether you’re an athlete seeking to enhance your strength and endurance or simply looking to improve your overall health, the Vertical Diet offers a promising approach to meeting your nutritional needs.

What is the Vertical Diet?

What is the Vertical Diet?

Overview of the Vertical Diet

The Vertical Diet is a nutrition plan developed by professional bodybuilder and powerlifter, Stan Efferding. It is designed to optimize performance, improve health, and support weight loss goals. The diet emphasizes the consumption of nutrient-dense whole foods, with a focus on specific macronutrients and micronutrients. Rather than being a traditional “diet” focused on weight loss, the Vertical Diet is more of a meal planning approach aimed at enhancing athletic performance and overall well-being.

Origins of the Vertical Diet

Stan Efferding developed the Vertical Diet as a result of his own experiences as an athlete and his extensive research on nutrition and performance. Recognizing the importance of a well-rounded, balanced diet in achieving optimal results, Efferding created this plan to simplify the often complex world of nutrition. He derived the name “Vertical Diet” from the idea of vertical integration, where every aspect of the diet is interconnected to form a cohesive eating plan.

Principles of the Vertical Diet

The Vertical Diet focuses on a set of core principles to guide food choices and meal planning. These principles revolve around the consumption of nutrient-dense foods that are easily digestible, promote gut health, and provide essential nutrients. The diet promotes a balance of macronutrients, with an emphasis on high-quality animal proteins and carbohydrates, while also stressing the importance of micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. The Vertical Diet promotes portion control, regular meal timings, and hydration to optimize nutrient absorption and digestion.

Benefits of the Vertical Diet

The Vertical Diet offers several benefits for individuals who follow the plan. Firstly, it provides a solid foundation for improving health and optimizing performance. The diet is rich in essential nutrients, which support overall well-being and strengthen the immune system. By emphasizing nutrient-dense foods, the Vertical Diet can also aid in weight management, as these foods tend to be more satiating, reducing the likelihood of overeating. Additionally, this diet can enhance energy levels, promote faster recovery from exercise, and improve the body’s ability to build and maintain lean muscle mass.

Nutritional Components of the Vertical Diet


The Vertical Diet emphasizes the importance of consuming adequate quantities of macronutrients, namely proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. High-quality animal proteins such as red meat and organ meats are foundational to the Vertical Diet, as they provide essential amino acids necessary for muscle growth and repair. Carbohydrates, primarily sourced from white rice, are a key component of the diet, providing readily available energy for physical activity. Fats, particularly those found in animal products and certain oils, are included in moderate amounts to support hormone production and overall health.


Micronutrients play a crucial role in maintaining optimal health and performance. The Vertical Diet promotes the consumption of fruits and vegetables, which provide a wide array of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients. These micronutrients are essential for various bodily functions, including immune function, energy production, and overall cellular health. By incorporating a diverse range of fruits and vegetables, individuals on the Vertical Diet can ensure they obtain the necessary micronutrients their bodies require.

Digestive Health

Gut health is integral to overall well-being and optimal nutrient absorption. The Vertical Diet encourages the consumption of foods that promote good gut health, such as bone broth. Bone broth contains collagen, gelatin, and amino acids, which support gut lining integrity and aid in digestion. Additionally, the diet advocates for the inclusion of probiotic-rich foods, such as fermented vegetables, to support a healthy gut microbiome.


Adequate hydration is essential for overall health and performance. The Vertical Diet emphasizes the importance of staying hydrated throughout the day, as water is crucial for numerous bodily functions, including digestion, nutrient absorption, and temperature regulation. Proper hydration can enhance exercise performance, mental clarity, and overall energy levels.

Foods Included in the Vertical Diet

Red Meat and Organ Meats

Red meat, such as beef, is a staple in the Vertical Diet due to its high protein content and nutrient density. It is a rich source of essential amino acids, iron, zinc, and B vitamins. Organ meats, such as liver, are also included as they are highly nutritious and provide vitamins A, D, E, and K, as well as various minerals.

White Rice

White rice is the primary carbohydrate source in the Vertical Diet. It is easily digestible, making it an ideal choice for quick energy replenishment before or after physical activity. White rice also provides a steady release of glucose into the bloodstream, helping to stabilize blood sugar levels.

Fruits and Vegetables

The Vertical Diet emphasizes the inclusion of a variety of fruits and vegetables. These provide essential micronutrients, fiber, and antioxidants, which support overall health and well-being. Leafy greens, berries, citrus fruits, and cruciferous vegetables are particularly recommended due to their high nutritional value.


Eggs are a valuable source of protein and healthy fats, making them a suitable option for the Vertical Diet. They are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, including choline, which is important for brain health.

Bone Broth

Bone broth is a popular component of the Vertical Diet, thanks to its numerous health benefits. It is a rich source of collagen, gelatin, and amino acids, which support joint health, gut integrity, and overall digestion.


Proper sodium intake is essential for maintaining hydration and electrolyte balance, especially for athletes and individuals engaged in intense physical activity. The Vertical Diet encourages the use of unprocessed, high-quality salt, such as Himalayan salt, to ensure adequate sodium levels.

What is the Vertical Diet?

Foods to be Avoided on the Vertical Diet

Processed Foods and Sugars

The Vertical Diet discourages the consumption of processed foods and added sugars. These foods are often low in nutrients and high in calories, contributing to weight gain and potential health issues. By avoiding processed foods and sugars, individuals on the Vertical Diet can focus on nutrient-dense alternatives instead.

Industrial Seed Oils

Industrial seed oils, such as soybean oil and corn oil, are high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in omega-3 fatty acids. An imbalance in these essential fatty acids can contribute to inflammation and various health problems. The Vertical Diet recommends reducing or eliminating the consumption of these oils and opting for healthier alternatives such as olive oil or coconut oil.


Legumes, including beans, lentils, and chickpeas, are generally avoided on the Vertical Diet due to their high content of antinutrients such as phytic acid and lectins. These compounds can interfere with nutrient absorption and digestion. However, some individuals may tolerate legumes well and can include them in moderation.

Soy Products

Soy products, such as tofu and soy milk, are excluded from the Vertical Diet due to their potential negative effects on hormone balance. Soy contains phytoestrogens, which can disrupt the body’s natural hormonal regulation. Additionally, it is often genetically modified, which may have further health implications.

Certain Dairy Products

Certain dairy products, such as milk and cheese, are limited on the Vertical Diet. This is because dairy can cause digestive issues in some individuals, particularly those with lactose intolerance or sensitivities. However, some individuals may tolerate dairy well and can include it in their diet.

Meal Planning on the Vertical Diet

Calorie and Portion Control

Calorie and portion control are key aspects of the Vertical Diet. This approach helps individuals maintain a healthy balance between energy intake and expenditure, ensuring they meet their nutritional needs without overeating. By tracking portions and incorporating nutrient-dense foods, individuals can achieve their desired results while still enjoying a diverse range of foods.

Timing of Meals and Snacks

The Vertical Diet encourages regular and consistent meal timings to support metabolism and nutrient absorption. Eating at regular intervals can help stabilize blood sugar levels and provide a steady source of energy throughout the day. It is recommended to have balanced meals and snacks every few hours to maintain a constant supply of nutrients to the body.

Meal Frequency

The Vertical Diet promotes a relatively higher meal frequency, with multiple smaller meals throughout the day, rather than a few large meals. This approach helps support muscle protein synthesis, aids in nutrient absorption, and can prevent excessive hunger or overeating. By spacing meals evenly throughout the day, individuals can maintain stable energy levels and optimize their body’s nutrient utilization.

The Vertical Diet for Performance

Benefits for Athletes and Bodybuilders

The Vertical Diet offers numerous benefits for athletes and bodybuilders. By providing a well-rounded, nutrient-dense approach to eating, the diet supports optimal performance and recovery. The emphasis on high-quality proteins, carbohydrates, and fats ensures athletes have the necessary fuel and building blocks for muscle growth and repair.

Enhancing Muscle Building

With its focus on adequate protein intake and nutrient timing, the Vertical Diet can help individuals maximize their muscle-building potential. By providing the necessary amino acids, energy, and micronutrients, the diet promotes muscle protein synthesis and reduces muscle breakdown, facilitating optimal muscle growth.

Increasing Energy Levels

The Vertical Diet’s emphasis on high-quality carbohydrates, such as white rice, provides a reliable source of energy for athletes and individuals engaged in physical activity. By ensuring sufficient glycogen stores in the muscles and liver, the diet offers sustained energy levels and enhances performance during workouts and competitions.

Improving Recovery

Nutrient-dense foods and proper meal timing play a vital role in post-workout recovery. The Vertical Diet focuses on replenishing glycogen stores, supporting muscle repair, and reducing inflammation through the consumption of specific foods. This approach helps athletes bounce back faster, reducing muscle soreness and promoting overall recovery.

Criticisms and Controversies

Limited Scientific Evidence

One criticism of the Vertical Diet is the lack of extensive scientific evidence supporting its specific claims. While the principles of nutrient-dense foods and balanced macronutrient intake are widely accepted, there is limited research specifically on the Vertical Diet itself. However, many of the principles align with established nutritional guidelines, making it a viable option for individuals seeking a performance-focused eating plan.

Restrictive Nature

Some critics argue that the Vertical Diet can be restrictive and may exclude certain food groups that can provide valuable nutrients. The avoidance of legumes, certain dairy products, and soy, for example, may limit the variety of foods available. However, it is important to note that individual variations and specific dietary needs can be accommodated within the core principles of the Vertical Diet.

Potential Nutrient Imbalances

As with any diet plan, there is a potential for nutrient imbalances if the Vertical Diet is not properly followed. It is important to ensure adequate intake of essential nutrients, vitamins, and minerals by consuming a wide variety of foods. Consulting with a registered dietitian can help individuals tailor the Vertical Diet to their specific needs and prevent any potential nutritional gaps.

Individual Variations

The Vertical Diet provides a general framework, but individual variations and specific dietary needs should be taken into account. Factors such as age, sex, activity level, and underlying health conditions can influence nutrient requirements. It is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian to tailor the Vertical Diet to personal needs and preferences.

Safety and Side Effects

Suitability for Different Individuals

The Vertical Diet can be suitable for a wide range of individuals, including athletes, bodybuilders, and those looking to optimize their health and performance. However, as with any dietary plan, it may not be suitable for everyone. Individuals with specific dietary restrictions, underlying health conditions, or those with certain dietary preferences may need to modify the plan accordingly. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian to ensure the diet aligns with individual needs and goals.

Short-term and Long-term Effects

In the short term, individuals may experience increased energy levels, improved performance, and potentially weight loss or muscle gain, depending on their specific goals. In the long term, adhering to the Vertical Diet can contribute to overall health and well-being if nutrient requirements are met consistently. However, as with any dietary plan, long-term effects can vary depending on individual factors, adherence, and overall lifestyle choices.

Monitoring Nutritional Status

Regular monitoring of nutritional status is important when following any specific diet plan, including the Vertical Diet. Blood tests and consultation with a healthcare professional or registered dietitian can provide insights into nutrient levels, potential deficiencies, and areas for improvement. Monitoring can help individuals make adjustments to their diet or track changes over time, ensuring they are meeting their nutritional needs adequately.

Consulting a Professional

Seeking Guidance from a Registered Dietitian

Individuals considering the Vertical Diet or any other dietary plan should seek guidance from a registered dietitian. Registered dietitians are trained professionals who can provide personalized advice and support, taking into account individual needs, goals, and dietary preferences. They can help navigate any potential challenges, ensure nutritional adequacy, and provide recommendations for implementing the Vertical Diet effectively.

Addressing Individual Nutritional Needs

Everyone has unique nutritional needs based on factors such as age, sex, activity level, and underlying health conditions. It is important to address these individual needs when following the Vertical Diet. Consulting with a registered dietitian can help individuals tailor the diet to their specific requirements, making necessary modifications and ensuring nutritional adequacy.


The Vertical Diet is a comprehensive meal planning approach designed to optimize performance, improve health, and support weight management. By emphasizing nutrient-dense whole foods and balanced macronutrient intake, the diet provides a solid foundation for individuals seeking to enhance their athletic abilities or overall well-being. While the diet’s specific claims may lack extensive scientific evidence, the principles align with established nutritional guidelines and can be tailored to suit individual needs.

Consulting with a registered dietitian is recommended to ensure proper implementation and to address specific dietary concerns or restrictions. With proper guidance and adherence, the Vertical Diet can be a valuable tool for individuals looking to optimize their nutrition and achieve their performance and health goals.

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