Why RDs Aren’t Fans of the Vertical Diet

Brittany Risher
by Brittany Risher
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Why RDs Aren’t Fans of the Vertical Diet

Yet another new diet is circulating gyms, and for once it’s not about losing weight — this one’s all about making gains.

The vertical diet was created by Stan “The Rhino” Efferding, an IFBB professional bodybuilder, for other bodybuilders and powerlifters. The name comes from the idea that the more training you do, the higher (or more vertical) your caloric needs.

The diet focuses on “highly bioavailable micronutrients” and “easily digestible macronutrients,” and claims to be based on optimizing gut health, correcting nutrient and hormone deficiencies, improving energy, stamina, endurance and recovery and building a sustainable lifestyle.

But, although the website says it’s also for weight loss, registered dietitians say it’s specifically for those in the bodybuilding world — not the average person going to the gym.


The main staples of the diet are white rice and grass-fed red meat. These provide easily digestible carbs, iron, zinc, selenium and B vitamins. Other foods such as chicken, salmon, eggs and low-gas vegetables such as butternut squash, spinach, bell peppers, celery, parsley, zucchini, cucumber, carrots, eggplant and steamed potatoes are thought to cover your micronutrient needs.

The diet recommends avoiding high-starch carbohydrates such as wheat, beans, oats and brown rice as well as vegetable oils, garlic, sugar, coffee, vegetables high in the natural sugar raffinose (broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower) and alkaline water, which Efferding says raises pH and isn’t conducive to digestion.


“It’s refreshing to see a diet not demonizing carbs,” says Dana Angelo White, a certified athletic trainer and registered dietitian. “From a basic sports nutrition standpoint, carbs are really important. But I recommend a variety of carbs.”

Although she says white rice before a workout might be good since pre-workout is the time for easily digestible carbs, “some of the healthiest carbs are those highest in fiber,” she says. “White rice isn’t a bad food by any means, but you don’t want to get rid of more nutrient-dense carbs altogether.”

Variety also matters when it comes to protein. “I wouldn’t recommend more than 1–2 servings of lean cuts of red meat a week,” Dana Angelo White says. And although grass-fed beef tends to be more nutritious than corn-fed beef, not everyone likes the taste and it tends to be more expensive.

You may also lack micronutrients on this plan. “The vertical diet recommends restricting most vegetables as much as possible to avoid slowing down athletic performance, yet the MyPlate guidelines recommend at least 3 cups of vegetables per day for the average person and a variety of vegetables in order to meet all nutrient needs,” explains Jim White, RDN, an exercise physiologist and owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios. Athletes and those training hard most likely have higher micronutrient needs and would benefit from more variety, he adds.


“Overall, the vertical diet is a mere nutrition philosophy that does not include scientific evidence backing up any of its claims,” says Jim White.

People who find fiber hard to digest may experience better digestion, Dana Angelo White says, however, you’re eliminating nutrient-dense foods such as legumes. Plus, “some scientifically proven ways to improve gut health include eating a wide variety of foods; consuming a large amount of legumes, vegetables and fruit; consuming prebiotics from foods such as asparagus, onions and bananas; eating whole grains and eating a plant-based diet,” Jim White says. “The vertical diet restricts all of these.”

Claims the diet corrects nutrient and hormone deficiencies lack evidence and are confusing. “How do you know what people are deficient in? And what hormones are we talking about?” Dana Angelo White asks. “As this diet requires such a high level of restrictions from some of the most healthful foods, it’s most likely not correcting nutrient deficiencies but rather causing them,” Jim White adds.

Lastly, white rice may help improve energy and red meat may help with recovery. However, it’s unclear if this benefit would be strictly because of this combination of foods or more so because the diet is high in calories and “one of the biggest issues you see with athletes is that they under-fuel,” Dana Angelo White says.


The vertical diet cuts back on processed foods and is more balanced than some, but it’s too restrictive and too hard to follow for most people, Dana Angelo White says.

“For optimal performance results, nutrition should focus on two things: Everything in moderation and variety. Although all nutrients are great for the body, too much of anything is never a good thing,” Jim White adds. Whatever your goals, the vertical diet is most likely not the way to reach them.

About the Author

Brittany Risher
Brittany Risher

Brittany is a writer, editor and digital strategist specializing in health and lifestyle content. She loves experimenting with new vegan recipes and believes hummus is a food group. To stay sane from working too hard, she turns to yoga, strength training, meditation and scotch. Connect with her on TwitterInstagram, and Google+.


9 responses to “Why RDs Aren’t Fans of the Vertical Diet”

  1. Avatar Daniel White says:

    I just read your article discussing Stan Efferding’s vertical diet. I was wondering if you did any research before you wrote it? If you go to the vertical diet website you can read that he finds out what nutrients you are deficient in through a blood test. He then specifically puts in foods that brings your nutrient levels back to normal. He also states that the hormones he is talking about are testosterone and estrogen. Also in your article you shared a quote that says the diet restricts most vegetables, however at the beginning you named off 10 vegetables clearly in the diet. Not only does Efferding stress the importance of “veggies”, he recommends 2-4 servings of them with every meal. You claim a person might lack micronutrients on this plan?? This entire program is planned to meet micronutrient needs first. I just wish you would research for a few minutes before you wrote your articles. I hope your end comment doesn’t make a single person over look or at least learn the truth about this diet. You can watch a 15 minute YouTube video and learn a lot about Stan and his meal plan.

    I did have a few questions for you.
    What is your educational background in nutrition?
    What is your fitness background?
    Do you have any personal training or coaching certification?
    What was your purpose for writing this article?
    Why did you proclaim this diet was not for people trying to reach their goals?

  2. Avatar anthony says:

    U did no research and have no idea what you are talking about.

  3. Avatar Deuce says:

    Wow…. the vertical diets #1 priority is to get your micro-nutrients and improve digestion. Secondly you fill up remaining calories with red meat (as it is super high in nutrients) and white rice (as it is easy to digest) however these only come into the equation after you have satisfied your daily micro-nutrients.

    How do you know what micros you are deficient in? As per the vertical diet’s protocols, you get blood tests and adjust those foods for targeting the micros

    Did you even read anything about the vertical diet before writing this?
    Are you publishers and proof readers not doing research?

    Your claims are wildly wrong and improperly shaming Stan and his work.

    Shame on you MyFitnessPal… shame on you.

  4. Avatar Shane says:

    Here’s the problem with eating brown rice, legumes, beans and all the other stuff you suggest in your article – some or all of these contain lectin and and phytic acid. Both of these things are harmful for digestion and nutrient absorption.

  5. Avatar Ray says:

    While I am not on the Vertical Diet I have researched the Vertical Diet for maybe 75 minutes total. All I can say is this article is completely inaccurate, misleading and a poor synopsis of the Vertical Diet.

    If RD’s cannot at least watch a youtube video with Efferding discussing the science behind this diet (yes medical science and research) they should at lest be able to read the diet and understand what he is advocating.

    I am not an Efferding fan boy but respect his methodology and discipline towards professional power-lifting and the fact that much of this started in his 40’s (he is also a world record holder). I wish RD’s and professional writers had anywhere close to this level of discipline and research in their fields.

    To set the record straight before starting the diet he states to get the following blood panels… The vegetables, protein sources and vitamins will be determined based on measurable results i.e. medical science.

    Lipid Profile: Cholesterol, total; high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol; low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (calculation); triglycerides; very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) cholesterol (calculation).
    Complete Blood Count (CBC) with Differential: (Hematocrit; hemoglobin; mean corpuscular volume (MCV); mean corpuscular hemoglobin (MCH); mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration (MCHC); red cell distribution width (RDW); percentage and absolute differential counts; platelet count; red cell count; white blood cell count; immature granulocytes)
    Estradiol, Sensitive
    Hemoglobin (Hgb) A1c
    C-Reactive Protein (CRP), High Sensitivity (Cardiac Risk Assessment)
    Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH)
    Gamma Glutamyl Transpeptidase (GGT)
    Insulin, Fasting
    Comprehensive Metabolic Profile (CMP) (includes eGFR): (A:G ratio; albumin, serum; alkaline phosphatase, serum; ALT (SGPT); AST (SGOT); bilirubin, total; BUN; BUN:creatinine ratio; calcium, serum; carbon dioxide, total; chloride, serum; creatinine, serum; globulin, total; glucose, serum; potassium, serum; protein, total, serum; sodium, serum.)
    Luteinizing Hormone(LH)
    Testosterone, Free (Direct), Serum With Total Testosterone
    Sex Hormone binding Globulin, Serum (SHBG)
    Urinalysis, Routine Profile: Color, appearance, specific gravity, pH, protein, glucose, ketones, occult blood, leukocyte esterase, nitrite, bilirubin, and urobilinogen. These tests are done on all routine urinalysis ordered and if protein, leukocyte, occult blood, nitrite, and turbidity are all negative, microscopic examination is not performed; just the above parameters are reported. (If results are abnormal test will reflex to include microscopic examination).
    Follicle-Stimulating Hormone (FSH)
    Magnesium, Serum
    Thyroxine Free, Direct (FT4)
    Ferritin, Serum
    Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA)
    Iron, Serum w/TIBC: Percent of saturation; serum iron; total iron binding capacity; unsaturated iron binding capacity
    Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate (DHEA-S)
    Tri-iodothyronine Free (FT3)

    oh yea and a Vitamin D, 25 hydroxy test to the above for good measure.


    My question, why aren’t RD’s a fan of a diet based on a clients unique metabolic, physiological and training requirements?

  6. Avatar JacqD says:

    This is abhorrent. The writing is not only lackluster, but incorrectly punctuated and poorly researched. If you’re going to attempt to provide guidance to other people, you need to prioritize accuracy and academic level research.

  7. Avatar Shawn says:

    It’s clear Brittany you did not do research on this diet. This is not a fair assesment of the diet which is evidenced by the lack of accuracy.

  8. Avatar More info please says:

    “Overall, the vertical diet is a mere nutrition philosophy that does not include scientific evidence backing up any of its claims,” That’s funny…. Obviously hasn’t looked much into it then. It’s easy to throw darts as a lawn chair quarterback, let’s see some of the success examples from the critics in the article.

  9. Avatar Josh says:

    So… your best arguments are “grass-fed beef tends to be more nutritious than corn-fed beef, not everyone likes the taste and it tends to be more expensive” and “too hard to follow for most people”? Why not give people a few other reasons not to try or succeed in attaining their fitness goals? In other words, the diet works but you don’t want to do it. Fine but, don’t put a negative spin on a diet that definitely has merit and positive results.

    You also quote Jim White, whom you work for.

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