The Vertical Diet: Benefits, Side Effects & Sample Meal Plan 2022

Alexandra Gregg

Updated on - Written by
Medically reviewed by Dr G. Michael DiLeo, MD

vertical diet

The vertical diet is a nutrition plan created to help people build muscle, strength, and weight. It is designed to help athletes consume lots of calories and maximize workouts and muscle mass. A professional bodybuilder and powerlifter developed the program.  

This diet claims to help your digestive system, give you tons of nutrients, and even balance hormone levels. It also claims to provide increased energy and endurance while lessening recovery times.  

Even though it was specifically designed for professional athletes and powerlifters, it can also be used for typical gym-goers. This article will help you understand the vertical diet, what superfoods are included, its benefits and drawbacks, and provide you with a sample menu.  

What Is Vertical Diet?

Typical diets focus on a variety of different foods and food groups. However, the vertical diet focuses on a limited number of nutrient-dense foods that are easy to digest and don’t upset your digestive tract. The belief is that food sometimes isn’t absorbed properly, and thus your body doesn’t utilize it appropriately.  

Another belief on the vertical diet is that by consuming only easily digested foods, your body can fully absorb the nutrients it is provided. For example, a vertical diet breakfast might consist of whole scrambled eggs, spinach, and diced white potatoes. 

The last claim from the vertical diet is that providing your body with a limited variety of foods will enable more efficient digestion. When your body can digest more efficiently, you will be able to uptake more nutrients from your foods and thus improve your 

  • Metabolism
  • Muscle growth
  • Digestive health
  • Recovery time

Unfortunately, none of these claims are scientifically proven or researched. 

Benefits Of Vertical Diet

Certain types of people may find the vertical diet very beneficial. For example, bodybuilders and other serious athletes looking to gain muscle may find the vertical diet a good choice. Additionally, if you suffer from IBS, most of the food items on the vertical diet are low in FODMAPs[1] (fermentable oligo-, di-, and mono-saccharides, and polyols), and you might find some digestive relief with this diet. (Polyols are sugar alcohols.)  

Supports Muscle Growth

To gain muscle, you do need to eat more calories. Therefore, the vertical diet might benefit serious athletes[2] such as bodybuilders and powerlifters.  

The vertical diet also places importance on 

  • Easily digestible foods 
  • Frequent meals
  • High-calorie meals
  • Increased carbohydrate intake

All of these dietary[3] aspects have the potential to boost athletic performance. Additionally, eating meals that are easy to digest and high in carbohydrates can aid muscle[4] growth.  

Aids In Digestive Issues

Following the vertical diet may also help to decrease gut issues in some people. Since it focuses on easily digestible carbs, the vertical diet is low in FODMAPs (specific sugars that can cause intestinal distress). A low FODMAP diet is extremely helpful for those people suffering from irritable bowel syndrome or IBS[5]. It has been shown to decrease a multitude of digestive issues, such as 

  • Constipation
  • Cramps
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea

Of note, if you suffer from IBS, only some of the foods allowed on the vertical diet are FODMAP-friendly. Some foods that are allowed on the vertical diet but high in FODMOPs include

  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Figs
  • Milk
  • Yogurt

Thus, if you suffer from IBS, you should avoid these foods.

Potential Drawbacks

Unfortunately, the vertical diet has multiple drawbacks, such as

Little Variety 

The vertical diet focuses on eating the same foods repeatedly. This means there is little variation[6] in this diet. A limited array of food selections can easily lead to nutritional deficiencies and an unhealthy microbiome. The microbiome[7] is the ecosystem of good and bad bacteria within your gut. If the balance of good and bad bacteria is not in harmony, it can lead to systems such as 

  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Cravings
  • Food intolerances
  • Migraines
  • Mood changes

Also, given the lack of vegetables, grains, and legumes and a focus on red meat consumption, this diet is inappropriate for vegans or vegetarians.  

Lack Of Fiber

Fiber is essential for numerous reasons. Fiber[8] helps to keep you full and satiated, which can help with weight maintenance or loss. It also is necessary for digestive and cardiovascular health. And it can decrease your risk of diabetes and cancer.  

Additionally, fiber is the food for your good gut bacteria. Therefore, without fiber, the good bacteria in your gut will die off and thus break the healthy balance of good and bad gut bacteria leading to a dysbiosis of your microbiome.  

Costly

As stated previously, the vertical diet focuses on red meat in its most natural state, such as grass-fed and organic. The same goes for every category of foods allowed on the vertical diet. For example, eggs should be organic and free-range. Fish should be wild-caught. And all fruits and vegetables should be organic.

All these natural foods bought can take a toll on your grocery bill. Of note, some items are cheaper (white rice), but most of the items on this diet tend to be very expensive. 

High In Red Meat

The vertical diet primarily consists of red meat. Red meat has long been studied[9] for its harmful effects on the body and proven to increase your risk of coronary heart disease and mortality.  

A systematic review[10] in 2019 of more than 4 million participants and 61 studies showed that people who ate less than three servings weekly of red meat had less risk of stroke, diabetes, and heart attacks.  

Additionally, eating red meat can affect your gut microbiome negatively and thus helps to explain why consuming red meat puts you at a higher risk of cardiovascular disease. A 2022 study[11] published in the Journal of Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology (ATVB) states that after ingesting red meat, certain chemicals are yielded in the digestive tract that harm good gut bacteria.  

Previously, red meat was villainized due to its high saturated fat content. But this new study may lead to novel interventions that help define how to understand more about the interactions between red meat and our gut’s ecosystem. All of this may produce new ways to decrease a person’s risk of heart disease.  

Foods To Eat & Avoid

The vertical diet encourages eating generous amounts of red meat and white rice with various other foods that are easy to digest.

Foods allowed on the vertical diet include

  • Red meat: Turkey and chicken are allowed but discouraged
  • White rice
  • Wild Alaskan salmon
  • Whole fat dairy
  • Easily digested veggies: Bell peppers, carrots, celery, cucumber, eggplant, etc. (low FODMAP) 
  • Easily digested veggies 
  • Eggs
  • Soaked and fermented legumes
  • Soaked and fermented oats
  • Cranberry and orange juice
  • Fats and oils
  • Salt

All food items are encouraged to be in their most natural state. For example, red meat should be organic and grass-fed. Eggs should be free-range and organic. And all vegetables and fruits should be organic.  

While on the vertical diet, foods that are considered hard to digest are discouraged, as are highly processed foods, including

  • Added sugar
  • Coffee
  • Grains
  • High FODMAP veggies such as kale, broccoli, sprouts, cauliflower
  • Highly processed vegetable oils (canola, safflower, corn)
  • Onions and garlic
  • Sugar alcohols

Sample Vertical Diet Meal Plan

You can order meals prepared and delivered straight to your doorstep at verticaldiet.com. But if you prefer to prepare vertical diet meals on your own, below is a sample meal plan.

Day 1

  • Breakfast: ground beef, whole scrambled eggs, white rice, spinach, and bell peppers 
  • Lunch: beef medallions, jasmine saffron rice, and green beans
  • Dinner: chicken breast with sweet potatoes and spinach 
  • Snack: whole milk and an apple

Day 2

  • Breakfast: steak and eggs with potatoes
  • Lunch: cheese-stuffed ravioli paired with seared ground bison
  • Dinner: wild-caught salmon, rice, eggplant
  • Snack: salad of spinach and arugula with olive oil

Day 3

  • Breakfast: shredded chicken, eggs, and cheese
  • Lunch: beef brisket, arugula, and butter lettuce 
  • Dinner: white pasta, chicken breast, mozzarella cheese, and herb marinara with a side of green beans
  • Snack: cheese and carrots

Day 4

  • Breakfast: oats with berries and yogurt
  • Lunch: ground beef, white rice, leaf spinach, and bell peppers
  • Dinner: Angus beef, steamed rice, squash, zucchini
  • Snack: banana and bell peppers

Day 5

  • Breakfast: eggs with cheese and diced potatoes
  • Lunch: steak with white rice and sweet potatoes
  • Dinner: turkey, white rice with sautéed red, yellow, and orange bell peppers
  • Snack: greek yogurt and berries

Day 6

  • Breakfast: ground beef, whole scrambled eggs, diced potatoes, and cheese
  • Lunch: venison with white rice, spinach, and oranges
  • Dinner: lamb with white rice and bell peppers
  • Snack: carrots, celery, and whole milk

Summary

In review, the vertical diet is meant to be a short-term solution for bodybuilders, powerlifters, and other serious athletes who are looking to gain muscle and endurance in their workouts.  

It includes foods that are easy to break down and digest. This (though not backed by science) helps your system better uptake nutrients and ease digestive issues such as gassiness and bloating. The vertical diet mainly consists of red meat, white rice, various other low FODMAP vegetables, whole dairy, and non-processed oils.  

Suppose you are a serious athlete looking to gain muscle and endurance. In that case, you could test out the vertical diet with the help of a registered dietitian or other healthcare professional.  

However, if you are not a powerlifter or bodybuilder, you should avoid the vertical diet as it is very limited in variety and is low in fiber. Instead, it would be best if you ate a variety of balanced healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, nuts, seeds, and legumes.  

A registered dietitian can help you make meal plans that will provide the long-lasting and healthy results you desire. 


+ 11 sources

Health Canal avoids using tertiary references. We have strict sourcing guidelines and rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic researches from medical associations and institutions. To ensure the accuracy of articles in Health Canal, you can read more about the editorial process here

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  2. Lambert, C.P., Frank, L.L. and Evans, W.J. (2004). Macronutrient Considerations for the Sport of Bodybuilding. Sports Medicine, [online] 34(5), pp.317–327. doi:10.2165/00007256-200434050-00004.
  3. Helms, E.R., Aragon, A.A. and Fitschen, P.J. (2014). Evidence-based recommendations for natural bodybuilding contest preparation: nutrition and supplementation. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, [online] 11(1). doi:10.1186/1550-2783-11-20.
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  5. Staudacher, H.M., Whelan, K., Irving, P.M. and Lomer, M.C.E. (2011). Comparison of symptom response following advice for a diet low in fermentable carbohydrates (FODMAPs) versus standard dietary advice in patients with irritable bowel syndrome. Journal of Human Nutrition and Dietetics, [online] 24(5), pp.487–495. doi:10.1111/j.1365-277x.2011.01162.x.
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Alexandra Gregg

Written by:

Alexandra Gregg, RD

Medically reviewed by:

Michael DiLeo

Alexandra Gregg is a registered and licensed dietitian with a private practice in Kansas City, Missouri. After studying Nutrition and Dietetics at Northwest Missouri State she completed her Dietetic Internship at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, MN. Following her dietetic internship, Allie worked at Mayo Clinic in a variety of areas including nutrition support, geriatrics, neonatology, and pediatrics. In addition, she was a regular presenter at Mayo Clinic conferences and an educator for dietetic interns.

Medically reviewed by:

Michael DiLeo

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