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The Vertical Diet: A Diet For High Performance Athletes


The vertical diet is quite infamous as many athletes are unaware about its existence. Yet, the diet is considered praise worthy and effective. Though it is not backed by science, as many diets are not, it is backed by some serious powerlifters and athletes including Hafthor “The Mountain” Bjornsson from The Game Of Thrones.

The creator of this diet Stan Efferding, known as “The White Rhino”, is no lightweight in the world of fitness. From Mr. Olympia competitor, raw powerlifting record holder and IFBB pro bodybuilder created the Vertical Diet as his personal approach to eating food.

This performance based nutritional plan claims to optimize gut health, balance hormones, increase energy, and reduce the recovery time in athletes. These are all secondary to the main purpose of the vertical diet which is to consume plenty of calories to build strength and bulky muscle mass.

Just by checking out The White Rhino’s and The Mountain’s insanely brawny body, the vertical diet might just be effective even if it isn’t backed by science. This blog covers everything you need to know about this high performance diet.

What Is The Vertical Diet?

The vertical diet is divided into two parts: the macro and the micro. Efferding says “it is a performance based nutritional framework that starts with a solid foundation of highly available micronutrients.”  These micronutrients are then coupled with macronutrients that are easily digestible.


It’s called vertical diet because of its vertical structure. The difference between a vertical diet and horizontal diet is that the latter has a wide variety of foods to choose from. Whereas, the vertical diet is limited to a number of foods chosen by Stan Efferding.

Efferding claims that limiting the variety of foods consumed can help the body efficiently digest the food. This allows for better absorption of the nutrients and to eat greater quantities of food throughout the day. Efferding has chosen white rice and potatoes for carbs and red meat as the only source of protein.

As stated above, the diet is divided into two parts. The macros and the micros. These nutrients consist solely of red meat and white rice. The vertical part of the diet are the macros and the horizontal part includes macronutrients. There is a bit more variety in this section but again the foods are limited to help your body digest quickly.

The micronutrients consist of foods that are nutrient dense. The goal in mind is to consume only what is required and no more. Efferding says, “your body doesn’t use all of the nutrients you consume. Some micronutrients pass through and go to waste due the fact your body can’t assimilate them”. So here, less is more. The focus is on consuming macronutrients in large quantities while eating micronutrients in just enough quantities.

Vertical Diet Primary Foods


The primary foods of the vertical diet are red meat and white rice. Efferding chose red meat because it is a high quality source of protein, iron, vitamin B and zinc. Whereas, white rice was chosen because it is a carbohydrate that doesn’t take long to digest. This quick digestion allows athletes to consume more throughout the day.

The combination of red meat and white rice is the cornerstone of the vertical diet which is responsible for muscle growth and testosterone production. However, not all of your micronutrients can be met with these two foods. Therefore, foods that are nutrient rich and easily digestible foods like eggs, yogurt and vegetables are also a part of this diet.

This is a list of foods you can eat to consume your micronutrients:

          Vegetables: carrots, celery, white potatoes, cucumber, spinach, and eggplant

          Fruits: all fruits are allowed

          Seafood: Salmon

          Poultry: Chicken and turkey


          Oils: extra-virgin, avocado, and coconut oil

          Dairy: full cream milk, high fat yogurt, and cheese

          Sodium: broth of bones and chicken stock

          Oats: only if they have been soaked and fermented

Check out the Monster Mash

This is a meal created by Stan Efferding. It is made with ground bison, white rice, peppers, spinach and cooked in bone broth. He says it is delicious and easy for your stomach to digest.

Vertical Diet Food Restrictions


Stan Efferding has not published a list of foods that are not allowed. He states “I don’t eat foods I like, I eat foods that like me”. Meaning, each body reacts differently to foods. What might be difficult and heavy on someone’s stomach, can be light and easy to digest for others.

The goal is to make digestion as easy as possible in order to consume more. Regardless of how healthy some of these foods might be, the focus is on digestibility. Here are a few foods that are either excluded or consumed in minor quantities:

          Grains: wheat, bread, pasta and breakfast cereal

          Oats: Not to be consumed unless they have been soaked and fermented

          Processed vegetable oil: canola, soybean and corn

          Sugar: should be consumed in very minute amounts

          Brown rice




          High Raffinose vegetables


Vertical Diet Positives:


With all of the concepts and rigidity of the vertical diet, it is safe to assume that it may definitely enhance performance and gains.

Less bloating:

Because the diet emphasizes consuming low-FODMAP foods, the vertical diet can significantly help reduce constipation, bloating and diarrhea.

Consume Food In Higher Volumes:

This is certainly the entire point of the diet. By consuming foods that are easy to digest, you can eat more. One of the greatest problems athletes face is consuming enough calories because they eat nutrient-dense food. This feeling of being full can hamper weight gain.

Simple and Consistent:

The greater the variety, the greater the choices and variables at play. This can make it harder to keep track of how many calories and nutrients you are consuming. Whereas, on the vertical diet you know exactly what is going in.

With 4 to 5 meals per day, you can easily be in a calorie surplus to quickly add weight and build brawny muscle.

Vertical Diet Negatives

It Can Be Expensive:

Red meat, the main component, is more expensive than most sources of protein. The reason red meat is preferred over white meat is because it is higher in nutrients. A cheaper fix to consuming just red meat, is to consume some white meat as well. If you are consuming iron, zinc and vitamin B in adequate quantities, consuming just white meat in place of red meat has no downsides. This switch would also not affect the goals of the diet.

Red Meat and Health:

Current studies suggest that we do not need to limit red meat in contrast to professional advice that says red meat should not be excessively consumed. Some health professionals do suggest a link between excessive red meat consumption and bowel cancer.

Another example of red meat and its notorious effects is that people who eat red meat are more likely to commit behaviors with negative health effects vs. people who follow plant-based diet.

Again, the research on red meat points in both directions, the good and the bad.

Key Takeaway

 There are numerous diets available on the internet alone to make you wonder which one is the right one for you. Each diet comes with its pro’s and con’s. Also, each diet was created to achieve a certain weight goal.

While it’s true “you are what you eat”, emphasis on working out is just as important. The right combination of diet and exercise is the optimal solution to attain any weight goal and shape.  


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