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The Vertical Diet Pros and Cons (Quick Look At Both Sides)

Jaime Alnassim

Online Coaching | Strength & Conditioning

July 25, 2021

One of my favorite performance-based diets for athletes is The Vertical Diet from Damon McCune and Stan Efferding. Full discloser, while the diet is easy to follow, that is not the biggest plus on this one. Because it is limited in the variety of foods, low in fiber, and for people who don’t like red meat, hard to follow. The diet was founded by Stan Efferding (on a side note I have met him and been able to chat with him through friends, the guy is impressive) and based around red meat and white rice. The name ‘Vertical Diet’ comes from once you have all your daily needs of macros, the only thing you can do is add to them. Hence vertical or to stack more (protein, carbs, and/or fats) to your macros that day. And “Unlike traditional “horizontal” diets that emphasize dietary variety across numerous food groups, the Vertical Diet focuses on a limited number of high-quality, nutrient-rich foods” (10). The diet was designed to work with almost any other style of diet (high carb, low-carb, intermittent fasting, paleo diet, and more).

Red meat and white rice make up a huge amount of the Vertical Diet, their signature dish, ‘The Monster Mash’ is based on ground beef and white rice. However, it is important to add that Spinach for Magnesium & Potassium and Chicken stock/Bone Broth for gut health are also required. Anything else added can be optional but bell peppers are also common. 

“Red meat is a nutrient-dense food that is an important source of complete protein with all essential amino acids, highly bioavailable iron, zinc, selenium, and B vitamins, especially vitamin B12 in the diet” (Klurfeld 2018). Stan is known for not using protein supplements and instead of telling his followers to eat red meat. This brings up talk of anti-red meat on social media and his pages. Stand is quick to defend why he picked red meat saying it is safe and going into details. “…moderate consumption of lean red meat as part of a balanced diet is unlikely to increase the risk for CVD or colon cancer, but may positively influence nutrient intakes and fatty acid profiles, thereby impacting positively on long-term health” (McAfee 2009). And “the conclusion is that there is no good evidence that red- or processed meat consumption is linked to cancer, but that does not mean eating any amount of meat is compatible with good health (Klurfeld 2018). While both of these quotes can be used to defend the eating of red meat, the amount of red meat within the Vertical Diet is higher than ‘moderate consumption. This is where the lack of variety of foods could hurt the diet. Being on a ‘diet and trying to lose weight, helps that protein is filling than carbs (Westerterp-Plantenga 2003).

White rice is used within the diet because the cost is so low and that it digests quickly. Users of the diet will also try to gain weight, so eating many meals though how the day can be important. “Simple carbohydrates, such as plain rice, pasta or simple sugars, average between 30 and 60 minutes in the stomach (4). I have seen people on social talk about how the Japanese diet is a lot of white rice, therefore it is okay to eat a lot of white rice. They leave out that “the Japanese traditional diet (Washoku), which is characterized by high consumption of fish and soybean products and low consumption of animal fat and meat” (Gabriel 2018). Simple carbohydrates have a bad name because of the link with obesity (Skop-Lewandowska 2017). However, with the Vertical Diet, it is important to add that Calories tracking is super important (Lichtman 1992). 

There are a few food restrictions within the Vertical Diet. “These include vegetables that may cause bloating and gas, such as broccoli and cauliflower, which are high in FODMAPs, as well as onion and garlic. Legumes, brown rice, and other grains are also curbed because they contain lectins and phytic acid, which may limit your absorption of certain nutrients” (10). 

Overall, the Vertical Diet can be a good diet for sports performance and diet. This ‘diet’ is designed for Bodybuilders, powerlifters, and other athletes looking to gain muscle mass. It is also marketed for losing weight and to help fix difficulty digesting FODMAPs. With the food choices during the diet, it makes sense how this would be. Even though for lean weight gain, calorie surplus is important, the vertical diet keeps the food extremely healthier choices. This can help keep the weight gained not fat, High protein diets, in general, can have many health effects including decreases food Intake, decreases liver fat deposition, and improves markers of muscle metabolism (French 2017). Lastly, the diet is huge on increasing your carb intake, because, as Stand will talk about, can help boost muscle mass (Figueiredo 2013) and improved net protein balance after resistance exercise (Børsheim  2013). 

For sports, the Vertical Diet is designed for, bodybuilders and powerlifters I personally feel it fits the needs. One look online and you will see countless articles on high protein and powerlifting and bodybuilding. Both carbohydrates and proteins play have a massive impact on Athletic Performance (Kloby 2020). The type 2 muscle fiber and phosphagen (adenosine triphosphate and creatine phosphate) energy system needs high storage of glucose (a complex carbohydrate) to be able to perform optimally and with a high protein, intake recovery can happen (with adequate sleep and diet). 

However even with all of the positives, because of the limits on food and the high commission of just a few foods, it is hard to recommend to everyone. I do like the base of the diet and that is what I use it for. I have done the diet 100% (ish) and I got amazing results. But with that, it was hard to eat the same foods all the time and it did drag on after a while. Now, I will modify it to add other meats after eating enough red meat per day and use other carbs besides white rice. After doing the vertical diet I still don’t like to make white rice. The vertical diet is perfect for the ‘bodybuilding diet’ person who can eat the same foods every day and make sure that they get all the nutritional needs that they need. 

REFERENCES 

 

  1. Børsheim E, Cree MG, Tipton KD, Elliott TA, Aarsland A, Wolfe RR. Effect of carbohydrate intake on net muscle protein synthesis during recovery from resistance exercise. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2004 Feb;96(2):674-8. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00333.2003. Epub 2003 Oct 31. PMID: 14594866.
  2. Klurfeld D. M. (2018). What is the role of meat in a healthy diet?. Animal frontiers: the review magazine of animal agriculture, 8(3), 5–10. https://doi.org/10.1093/af/vfy009
  3. Gabriel, A. S., Ninomiya, K., & Uneyama, H. (2018). The Role of the Japanese Traditional Diet in Healthy and Sustainable Dietary Patterns around the World. Nutrients, 10(2), 173. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10020173
  4. Gilmerm. “How Long Does It Take to Digest Food.” Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, Health Essentials from Cleveland Clinic, 16 Apr. 2021, health.clevelandclinic.org/how-long-does-it-take-to-digest-food/.
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  6. French WW, Dridi S, Shouse SA, Wu H, Hawley A, Lee SO, Gu X, Baum JI. A High-Protein Diet Reduces Weight Gain, Decreases Food Intake, Decreases Liver Fat Deposition, and Improves Markers of Muscle Metabolism in Obese Zucker Rats. Nutrients. 2017 Jun 8;9(6):587. doi: 10.3390/nu9060587. PMID: 28594375; PMCID: PMC5490566.
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  8. Lichtman SW, Pisarska K, Berman ER, Pestone M, Dowling H, Offenbacher E, Weisel H, Heshka S, Matthews DE, Heymsfield SB. Discrepancy between self-reported and actual caloric intake and exercise in obese subjects. N Engl J Med. 1992 Dec 31;327(27):1893-8. doi: 10.1056/NEJM199212313272701. PMID: 1454084.
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  10. McGrane, Kelli. “The Vertical Diet Review: Benefits, Downsides, and Meal Plan.” Healthline, Healthline Media, 8 Oct. 2019, www.healthline.com/nutrition/vertical-diet-review.
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  12. Westerterp-Plantenga MS. The significance of protein in food intake and body weight regulation. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2003 Nov;6(6):635-8. doi: 10.1097/00075197-200311000-00005. PMID: 14557793.

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