The Steak And Eggs Diet And Why It Works
Written by Dr. Carlos Cassano, aka The Golden Era Bookworm
The Steak and Eggs Diet was first praised by Vince Gironda during the Golden Era of Bodybuilding after he tried it on himself of course in preparation for the 1962 NABBA Mr. Universe which led to an extraordinary transformation. According to his client and staff member Stephen Downs, who watched Vince prepare for the Universe contest, Vince had followed the Steak and Eggs Diet, which was essentially an early form of the ketogenic diet, in combination with the 8 x 8 routine for 9 months, in which Vince achieved the greatest condition of his life (see photos below).
These iconic photos demonstrate why since then, so many millions of men have followed Vince’s advice, including yours truly. In the previous photo, it is obvious that Vince had an aesthetic physique, but it was nowhere near as hard, defined, or muscular as what he achieved on this extremely anabolic diet. As many state, the effects are steroid-like due to the ketogenic effect created inside the body, which spares muscle tissue and burns fat very efficiently…..but more on the science later.
Vince Gironda revealed his great secret to the world in his publications Definition and Vince Gironda’s Blueprint for the Bodybuilder as he only believed in publishing and promoting diets and training programs he had himself tried.
The First Versions of the Steak and Eggs Diet
Definition was most likely the first publication whereby Vince introduced the Steak and Eggs Diet, in which he called it the Maximum Definition Diet after the successful results he obtained from following this early form of a ketogenic diet. In this publication, Vince states the following in regards to the Steak and Eggs Diet:
“To begin with, all carbohydrates must be removed from a maximum definition diet. This means – all fruit, all vegetables, all salad greens, and all milk products. The only milk products that can be used are butter and cream. Any kind of meat, fish, or fowl and eggs are the only foods permissible. You must, however, eat some carbohydrates every four or five days because you will find that you will smooth out and veins and cuts will disappear. You will find also that you are not getting the pump you should and your strength will decrease. This is because a zero carbohydrate diet drains all the stored glycogen from the liver, and only carbohydrates will replenish it. But don’t try to eat a small amount of carbohydrates each day. You will only find that you are smoothing out”.
WOW! That is quite a bit of concentrated information to take in! In essence, Vince outlines some very basic rules regarding the Steak and Eggs Diet.
- You can eat Animal proteins
- You are not allowed to eat starchy carbs every day
- You are not allowed to eat fruit or vegetables, ie fibrous carbs
- You are not allowed to eat milk products except for butter and cream
- You can eat carbohydrates every 4 or 5 days
Admittedly, although the rules to this diet are concise, they seem a little vague, to begin with. Let's have a look at his initial outline in Definition for a menu for the Steak and Eggs Diet:
- Breakfast: Eggs no Limit, Meat no limit
- Lunch: Same as breakfast
- Dinner: Same as lunch
In this first mention of the Steak and Eggs Diet, there are basically no limits on what you can eat, as long as you eat Meat and Eggs. Simple. However, Vince never addressed how many carbohydrates you were allowed on your “cheat day”. This, as well as a more restricted menu, are described in his second mention of the Steak and Eggs Diet in his publication Vince Gironda’s Blueprint for the Bodybuilder:
“This has always been a strong man's favorite meal. No other meal combination produces the feeling of strength and energy (phosphorus in meat). Hamburger does not compete. The process of chopping up the meat destroys enzymes due to oxidation and other nutrients known and unknown. Beef and eggs sustain blood-sugar levels for six hours making lunch unnecessary. 3/4 pound of steak and 3-4 eggs supply 103 grams of first class protein fast, and is easy to digest. I personally achieved the best shape of my career on this diet. I used this diet for nine months, taking no supplements and with no adverse effects. I might add that after nine months of Definition Contest Training I found that I was growing - not just maintaining maximum condition. At this point, I can hear some of you complaining that this is not a balanced diet”.
Vince goes on to state: “Protein and carbohydrate are not compatible…..This is the reason I advise a spaghetti dinner (with tomato sauce only) every 72 hours on my Maximum Definition Diet”.
In Vince’s revised Steak and Eggs Diet, the menu looks like this:
- Breakfast: 375gm Steak, 3-4 Eggs
- Dinner: Same as Breakfast
- Every 72 hrs have a meal of Spaghetti with sauce only
Vince basically ate only twice a day, stating that lunch was unnecessary, as the high-fat high protein diet that is the Steak and Eggs Diet would sustain his blood sugar levels, and therefore he would feel satiated until dinner time. Vince also reveals that he would recommend eating a pasta meal every 72 hrs for dinner, instead of a Steak and Eggs dinner. In my own opinion, this particular menu would satiate anyone. Imagen eating two enormous steaks every day with 3-4 eggs on the side!
The Science behind the Steak and Eggs Diet
The Steak and Eggs Diet is essentially a primitive form of a ketogenic diet. If you look up Wikipedia and type in ketogenic diet, this is what you get:
“The ketogenic diet is a high-fat, adequate-protein, low-carbohydrate diet that in medicine is used mainly to treat hard-to-control (refractory) epilepsy in children. The diet forces the body to burn fats rather than carbohydrates.
Normally carbohydrates in food are converted into glucose, which is then transported around the body and is important in fueling brain function. But if little carbohydrate remains in the diet, the liver converts fat into fatty acids and ketone bodies, the latter passing into the brain and replacing glucose as an energy source”.
Vince Gironda was very smart in the design of the Steak and Eggs Diet. I believe that seeing that Vince’s nutritional principles were heavily influenced by Vilhjalmur Stefanson who wrote on the high-fat high protein diet of the Eskimos in his book “Not By Bread Alone” and from nutritionists from the past such as Rheo H Blair, he most likely devised the Steak and Eggs Diet from a variation or advancement of the Eskimo Diet which in many ways was similar to Blair’s Meat and Water Diet, which was an extreme diet which consisted of just meat, and used by bodybuilders in the Silver and Golden Era’s as a grueling but effective way of stripping fat prior to showtime. Ketogenic diets such as the Meat and Water Diet or the Steak and Eggs Diet work because these diets force the body to burn fats as an energy source to fuel the body, hence stripping subcutaneous fat in the process, making them obvious choices for pre-contest cutting.
One cannot however call the Steak and Eggs Diet a strictly ketogenic diet because of the inclusion of one large carbohydrate meal every 72 hrs. Instead, it is what we now call a Cyclic Ketogenic Diet! Type in Cyclic Ketogenic Diet into Google and you will see that in this diet, you are supposed to adhere to a ketogenic diet for 5 days and follow it with a high carb meal or day on the 5th day, just as Vince Gironda prescribed with the Steak and Eggs Diet. Vince truly was a genius. He found that with experience, many bodybuilders including himself suffered from “the keto flu” by following Rheo H Blair’s Meat and Water Diet. It was simply too extreme. So he came up with a more moderate version, which allowed for a carbohydrate meal every few days. I’ll say it again…GENIUS!
This form of carb-cycling as it is now called has many benefits as listed:
- Satisfies carb cravings, so it’s easier to follow the keto diet long-term
- Keeps you lean
- Improves sleep
- Better immune function
- Healthier balance of gut bacteria (which influences your health and your mood)
Full ketosis isn’t for everyone, and adding clean carbs like sweet potatoes, squash, and white rice one day a week keeps your body systems that need some amount of carbs functioning properly. Your brain, your body, and your joints will all benefit from cyclical ketosis.
Q and A
Now it’s time for some Q and A. Here are some common questions and answers related to the Steak and Eggs Diet that I would like to address:
Who should go on the steak and eggs diet?
Anyone want who wants to lose fat and lose it fast. If you want to lose those annoying love handles say bye because they are going to melt in a hurry. Also, this diet is good for anyone looking to detox, especially for all you heavy carb eaters. Being absent of carbs will regulate your blood sugar and lower your inflammation, your joints and tendons will feel much better. If you want to obtain a ripped physique this diet is definitely for you, as long as you are hitting the weights often during your diet, which is what Vince would have recommended.
Is The Steak And Eggs Diet Healthy?
In short, it depends. The steak and eggs diet can be a great way to lose some extra fat because it puts your body into a state of ketosis. This means your body will burn fat very rapidly, so it can be a great diet if you're trying to lose weight. However, if you have high cholesterol, you may want to monitor this while on the steak and eggs diet. While studies have shown that this diet is great for losing weight, some evidence suggests it may temporarily increase cholesterol levels. Elevated cholesterol levels should however balance out after a few days. People that should be concerned are those with hereditary cholesterol, which leads to high cholesterol due to their genetics, and for this group of people, this diet would not be recommended. If you do not have hereditary cholesterol or a family history of cardiac disease, then being on this diet for a short period of time should not adversely affect your health, and in fact, you may find it beneficial.
Does The Steak And Eggs Diet Boost Testosterone?
Absolutely. Saturated fat is one of the major precursors to creating testosterone, and the steak and eggs diet is chock full of saturated fat. This means that, while on this diet, your body will produce far more testosterone, and thus more muscle mass.
Is The Steak And Eggs Diet Good For Bodybuilding?
It depends. If you're a hard gainer and have a difficult time building muscle, the steak and eggs diet is probably not the best option. Hard gainers need a lot of carbohydrates to bulk up, so trying a more conventional bodybuilding diet is a better idea. If, however, you're trying to lose weight and get shredded, the steak and eggs diet is a great way to do this. It not only boosts fat burning but also increases testosterone, so you'll maintain more of your muscle on a cut. Having said all this, it is important to note that some people find that when they are on this study for a long period of time, they actually begin to make muscular gains. One example of this was of course Vince Gironda, as stated above.
Why is the steak and eggs diet so effective for losing fat?
The number 1 reason why it is so effective for losing fat is that consuming no carbohydrates will put your body in a state of ketosis. Your body normally uses the carbs you eat as its primary fuel source, however, when you are in ketosis your body will use your fat reserves (love handles) as its fuel source. Also, your diet will consist of lots of protein which is known to speed up your metabolism. A faster metabolism allows you to burn more calories throughout the day.
But won't eating a lot of fat make me fat?
Negative, eating a diet high in fat does the opposite. It is only when you eat lots of carbs alongside lots of fat will you gain fat. Remember, it is safe to eat a diet that is either high in protein and high in carbs, or high in protein and high in fat. Just remember fats and carbs don’t go together, and this is something that Vince would constantly preach about.
Will I be deficient in any vitamins or minerals eating only steak and eggs?
You will not, or at least you should not. Steak and eggs are superfoods. They both are loaded in essential minerals and vitamins. Take a look at their nutritional value (obtained from Nutrition Advance).
Vitamins and Minerals in 100g Steak (% RDA)
- Vitamin B12: 63%
- Zinc: 50%
- Selenium: 28%
- Phosphorus: 24%
- Niacin: 19%
- Iron: 16%
- Vitamin B6: 16%
- Vitamin B2: 11%
- Potassium: 8%
- Vitamin B1: 6%
- Magnesium: 6%
Vitamins and Minerals in Three Eggs (% RDA)
- Selenium: 66%
- Vitamin B2: 42%
- Vitamin B12: 33%
- Phosphorus: 30%
- Vitamin A: 21%
- Folate: 18%
- Iron: 15%
- Zinc: 12%
- Vitamin B6: 12%
- Vitamin D: 12%
- Calcium: 9%
If you worry about the lack of vitamin C, don’t. vitamin C is only needed by the body when you eat carbs, which you won’t on steak and eggs diet. As you can see, these superfoods have everything that you need, so you should worry. If you are still paranoid and just can’t stop thinking that you lacking in nutrition, take some of NSP nutrition’s Athletes Mega-One Daily Multivitamin.
Isn’t the Steak and Eggs Diet boring?
As expected, with such strict rules, the diet was filling and tasty (at least at first), but I’m sure that others would find it repetitive and quite bland, and I would not be disappointed if you thought it was just plain boring! Since then, of course, most understand that the addition of green salads with good quality oils with vinegar or lemon juice as dressing, consuming cruciferous vegetables, and low sugar fruits such as berries would make the Steak and Eggs Diet quite palatable and healthy. A modern approach to the Steak and Eggs Diet could look something like this:
- Breakfast: Eggs any way, mixed berries
- Lunch: Large 375 gm Steak, green leafy salad
- Snack: Protein Shake using NSP nutrition 92% Milk and Egg Protein Powder
- Dinner: Steak and Eggs, steamed cruciferous vegetables
Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? It of course is not the same as Vince’s 2-Meal a day version of the Steak and Eggs Diet, which brings me to another point. If you really want to take Vince’s Steak and Eggs Diet to the ultimate level, then eating twice a day is essentially following a ketogenic diet combined with intermittent fasting! A modern Steak and Eggs Diet that incorporates intermittent fasting would be as follows:
- Breakfast: No breakfast
- Lunch: Large Steak and 3-4 eggs, green salad
- Dinner: Large Steak and 3-4 eggs, steamed cruciferous vegetables
There are many benefits of incorporating intermittent fasting to the Steak and Eggs Diet:
- Intermittent fasting makes your day simpler, especially if incorporated into a ketogenic diet.
Intermittent fasting provides additional simplicity to life that makes life less stressful, and that is something we could all do with a little more of. Upon waking, you have to worry about breakfast. Just grab a glass of water and start your day! If you enjoy eating and don't mind cooking, eating three meals a day is probably never a hassle. However, intermittent fasting allows one to eat one less meal, which also means planning one less meal, cooking one less meal, and stressing about one less meal. It makes life a bit simpler. Further, because you will only be cooking steak and eggs, you don’t really have to worry about varying the menu…well, maybe just a little.
- Intermittent fasting helps you live longer.
Scientists have long known that restricting calories is a way of lengthening life. From a logical standpoint, this makes sense. When you’re starving, your body finds ways to extend your life. There’s just one problem: nobody wants to starve themselves in the name of living longer! The good news is that intermittent fasting activates many of the same mechanisms for extending life as calorie restriction. In other words, you get the benefits of a longer life without the hassle of starving. Way back in 1945 it was discovered that intermittent fasting extended life in mice. (Here's the study.) More recently, this study found that alternate day intermittent fasting led to longer lifespans.
- Intermittent fasting and ketogenic diets may reduce the risk of cancer.
This one is up for debate because there hasn’t been a lot of research and experimentation done on the relationship between cancer and fasting. Early reports, however, look positive. This study of 10 cancer patients suggests that the side effects of chemotherapy may be diminished by fasting before treatment. This finding is also supported by another study that used alternate day fasting with cancer patients and concluded that fasting before chemotherapy would result in better cure rates and fewer deaths. Finally, this comprehensive study shows that ketogenic diets also have an anti-tumor effect, which may increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy-treatments to cancer, brilliant!
- Intermittent fasting is much easier than dieting.
The reason most diets fail isn’t that we switch to the wrong foods, it’s because we don’t actually follow the diet over the long term. It's not a nutrition problem, it's a behavior change problem. This is where intermittent fasting shines because it's remarkably easy to implement once you get over the idea that you need to eat all the time. For example, this study found that intermittent fasting was an effective strategy for weight loss in obese adults and concluded that “subjects quickly adapt” to an intermittent fasting routine. Now combine a ketogenic diet with intermittent fasting, and you’ve got a winner!
To get started on the Steak and Eggs Diet, you will need a grocery list…..hahaha, just kidding. It really can't get any simpler. Because you are eating basic steak and eggs, and if you really are keen, low sugar fruits and vegetables, you’re shopping list can’t get any easier. So in summary, although it has been around for decades, the Steak and Eggs Diet is great for anyone trying to build muscle and lose fat. Give it a go and let us know how you go!
- Fasting study: https://academic.oup.com/jn/article-abstract/31/3/363/4725632?redirectedFrom=PDF
- Fasting and long life https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0306987706000892
- Fasting and cancer: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2815756/
- Fasting and chemotherapy: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19135806/
- Ketogenic diets and cancer: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5842847/
- Weight loss ketogenic diet: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20815899/