Vertical Diet – Better than Keto for Muscle Building?
Although I live a low carb lifestyle, not everyone in my family wants a long, lean physique. Both of my kids are athletes and both want to build muscle and strength. While there’s nothing about the keto lifestyle that prevents building muscle, it’s much harder to add size without carbs. That said, not all carbs are equal and including the wrong ones can undermine any health goals. That’s what attracted me to the Vertical Diet, it had all the healthy aspects of keto with a few carbs for building muscle.
My son has always struggled to gain weight. As a tall kid and a year-round athlete, he could eat anything and stay lean. This time last year he was 6’9″ and weighed only 210 lbs, at 17 years old. He was invited to an elite prep school for basketball where he received top-notch strength training. He also had access to an unlimited meal plan, snacks, and extra food in his room at all times.
At first, with the extra strength training, he was gaining weight. He added about 10 lbs of muscle and his body transformed. The only thing more shocking than the weight gain was how much he was eating. His coach called one day and said he’s never seen a basketball player eat that much! I think his insatiable hunger was due to his naturally fast metabolism and rigorous training schedule. Either way, he was happy to gain the weight.
By about the third month, he just couldn’t eat any more meals or cram down any more calories to continue gaining. At that point, he stopped adding muscle despite how hard he trained.
It was at that point I realized that we needed to look to an expert in building muscle and gaining weight for athletes like him. I did some research and came across Stan “Rhino” Efferding and the Vertical Diet.
Stan “Rino” Efferding – Vertical Diet
At first, I thought Stan Efferding was just another bodybuilder. It turns out that Stan is somewhat of a celebrity in the bodybuilding and powerlifting world. He holds several titles, including the World’s Strongest Bodybuilder. Beyond his personal accomplishments, he has a reputation for training some of the top athletes in the world and he’s known for helping elite athletes get stronger and add muscle while staying lean.
What stood out to me was that he was obviously a huge guy, with a lot of muscle but he is also really lean. He doesn’t look bloated like a lot of bodybuilders. This was exactly what my son wanted, more size but not bloating or extra weight that would slow him down or reduce his jumping ability. This is where the vertical diet really stood apart from other meal plans.
The Vertical Diet focuses on nutrient-dense foods that are easy to digest and help drive muscle hypertrophy. Of course, this diet is meant to be used in combination with a solid strength program. It’s limited to mostly red meat, salmon, and eggs as protein. White rice and potatoes are the main sources of carbs with orange juice and cranberry juice also contributing carbohydrates.
Other foods like carrots, oranges, spinach, peppers, and orange juice are included for their vitamin profiles and ease of digestion. High-quality Kerigold butter, Redmonds Real salt, and chicken stock add other nutrients and healthy fats.
Stan says he selected these foods for the nutrient density, ease of digestion, and low likelihood of triggering bloating or gas. That explains the lean, not ‘bloated’ look. Stan explains the Vertical Diet in detail in his ebook.
The diet builds upon a solid foundation of highly bioavailable micronutrients to enhance metabolism and overall digestive health. This foundation of micronutrients supports a structure of easily digestible macronutrients that can be adjusted specifically to meet your body’s demands.Stanefferding.com
High-Quality Foods in Vertical Diet
Stan emphasizes the quality of these foods, especially the meat and eggs. With the Vertical Diet or any other diet for that matter, you should be looking for grass-fed meats, free-range and pasture-raised eggs and organic dairy, fruits, and vegetables.
The reason for the emphasis on grass-fed and pasture-raised it that the vitamin profile and bioavailability of these foods can vary drastically. An animal that consumes grain, soy, and corn will not have the nutrient profile as a pasture-raised animal eating grasses. It’s not a subtle difference, it’s a drastic difference in nutrients.
Stan isn’t alone in his love affair with red meat. Besides Stan’s vocal support of the nutritional superiority of red meat vs. chicken and pork, there are several other adamant supporters. Dr. Paul Saladino and Dr. Shawn Baker, among others, have been advocating the benefits of red meat and challenging the science that vilified it in the first place.
It’s an interesting conversation. On a personal level, I eat a lot of grass-fed and grass-finished red meat, but you should do the research and draw your own conclusions. A great book to check out on the topic is the Carnivore Code by Dr. Salidono. I’m scared to read it to be honest because I’m on the verge of going mostly carnivore myself and I’m worried it might push me over the edge, lol.
Who Can Benefit
Although Stan’s website emphasizes that anyone can benefit from the Vertical Diet, I think it’s really designed for people who want to add muscle. That means it may not be your diet if you’re trying to lose weight. But, it might be an ideal diet for someone in your life who’s trying to add muscle and strength. Especially athletes. The additional carbs in the Vertical Diet can make weight gain and muscle building easier.
That said, most bodybuilders go through building and cutting phases. It’s a myth that you can both build and lean out simultaneously. You can, but one process or the other gets compromised until you get near your maintenance weight.
Bottom line, if you’re really struggling to build muscle mass, it might be worth trying the Vertical Diet to build some muscle, then going back to something like the keto diet to lean back out. If you’re new to strength training, check out the Lazy Biohacker Workout to learn more about how to start a strength program.
Prepared Meal Delivery
One of the main be benefits of the Vertical Diet is the meal delivery option. For my son, adding another meal every day of high-quality food was what helped him gain the weight he wanted. We had tried adding peanut butter sandwiches, chicken and rice, and shakes, but nothing worked like these meals. I ordered him 7 meals at a time and had them shipped to him at school. They arrived frozen and went right into a mini freezer in his room. He’d eat one every night before bed and over the course of a few months, he was able to gain about 10 pounds of muscle.
By the way, you can totally cook the food yourself, Stan will tell you that himself. Unfortunately, my son doesn’t know how to cook and didn’t have access to a kitchen so it wasn’t an option for us. That said, having frozen meals you can use in a pinch is helpful.
The meals are sold on the Excelev8 website. There is also a Vertical Diet cookbook and handbook you can purchase on the same site. For the record… I have zero financial affiliation with Stan Efferding or the Vertical Diet Meals or books. This article is purely based on my experience helping my son gain muscle.
Other Efferding Tips
- 10 Minute Walks – Stan evangelizes the benefits of 10 minute walks throughout the day, and post meals.
- Sleep – If you’re struggling with your sleep, check out this article I wrote about Bioacking your Sleep.
- Spinach – Keep your bag or box of spinach in the freezer to keep it from spoiling and it blends up better in smoothies.
- Costco – Has great deals on all Vertical diet ingredients, especially high-quality red meat.
- Ground Bison – I was skeptical about this, but I found it at Publix and Costco and really like it.
- On the go – Stan recommends using a thermos to take meals on the go.
- Orange Yogurt Drink – Stan mixes orange juice and yogurt together and describes it as taking like an orange creamsicle… let me know if you try it:)
- Monster Mash – See the recipe below…