The vertical diet, also known as the Crossfit Diet, was invented by Stan Efferding to optimize performance in athletes, increase muscle mass and nurture your microbiome. With certain adjustments, it can also be used for weight loss.
Why is it called the vertical diet?
The vertical diet is called this way because an inverse T shape shows the way the diet is structured. The base of the T includes a variety of fruits and vegetables (low FODMAP), while the rest of the diet is composed of high-quality protein and rice. According to Stan Efferding, the majority of your daily calories should be taken from the vertical axis. The horizontal line just provides micronutrients from a small but varied quantity of whole foods.
Is it a low-carb or low-fat diet then? According to the founder, as long as the right amount of protein and micronutrients are present, it doesn’t matter if you tend more towards a low-carb or low-fat diet.
What can you eat with the vertical diet?
White rice! It doesn't contain gluten and it is fast and easy to digest. Possibly combined in the Monster Mash.
- high-quality beef
- salmon (at least x2 a week)
Can you eat chicken on the vertical diet? Yes, if you focus on hormone-free. However, for this diet, red meat is the way to go because of its high protein quality and other micronutrients (B-complex, selenium, iron and zinc). Salmon is integrated twice a week for Omega-3.
Micronutrients and fiber sources:
- carrots or baby carrots (raw!)
- bell peppers
In general any type of fruit and vegetable that is low FODMAP. There are over 110 alternatives. Here you can find the full list.
What to avoid on vertical diet?
In general, you should particularly avoid foods that cause bloating, constipation and irregularities with your gut. These types of foods belong to the high FODMAP (Fermentable Oligo-Di-Mono-saccharides And Polyols).
In short, they are short-chains of sugar that cannot be absorbed properly. They end up fermented, producing gas and bloating. Over here you can see how much a low FODMAP diet can impact gas production.
References: Manipulation of dietary short-chain carbohydrates alters the pattern of gas production and genesis of symptoms in irritable bowel syndrome
- table sugar / artificial sugar
Only if they are barley, kamut, rye or wheat based.
- certain legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc)
- dairy with lactose
In general, there are around 71 foods that are medium-high in FODMAP. Over here you can find the list!
How much should you eat?
The typical Vertical Diet consists of 4-5 meals a day. The YouTuber, Rob Marino, made an in-depth video of his meal plans. This a typical day in the life of a vertical diet user, for more you should go and check his video. Just keep in mind that there is no distinction between simple and complex carbs!
Total daily calories: 3400 kcal; Carbs: 510; Proteins: 190g; Fat: 67g
Breakfast: 608 kcal
eggs, rice, spinach, carrots, cranberry and orange juice
105g carbs; 20g protein; 12g fat
Lunch: 420 kcal
ground bison, bell peppers, rice, carrots, and bone broth
70g carbs; 23g protein; 12g fat
Pre workout: 225 kcal
40g carbs; 5g protein; 5g fat
Post workout: 600 kcal
dextrose, protein powder, orange juice, 1g salt
100g carbs; 50g protein; 0g fat
Dinner 1: 630 kcal
salmon, sweet potatoes, almonds, baby carrots
70g carbs; 28g protein; 26g fat
Dinner 2: 965kcal
rice, bison, carrots, bone broth
150g carbs; 15g protein; 18g fat
Can you lose weight on the Vertical Diet?
This diet was invented as a way to maximize performance and strength. It is a diet popular in this specific niche. In fact, famous bodybuilders, powerlifters, even the famous Mountain, claim to use it. But is it a good idea for weight loss? According to the founder, with a drastic reduction of carbohydrates, it can be used as a weight loss diet.
My opinion as a dietitian is that it contains way too little fiber and way too much LDL-cholesterol. Fiber-rich foods have the ability to reduce hunger by increasing low-density calorie food volume. In order to make it a sustainable weight loss diet, I would suggest increasing the amount of whole foods and reducing the amount of fat.
Dietitian review: the positive
As a registered dietitian, I always look through data and meta-analysis before sharing my review. Unfortunately, this particular diet is not referenced in any scientific study. My review will be based on the information and data collected online.
Gut health focus
I love the focus on the microbiome! Knowing that around 15% of adults in the U.S. suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, eliminating certain food triggers can be a good step forward (but only temporarily! Check the part below). As a dietitian specialized in IBS, I noticed that not many diets focus on gut health.
In general, I am not a huge fan of supplements. They have a low absorption ratio, in the case of Calcium sometimes only 20% is assimilated. Other times you need a specific type of nutrient, in the case of Magnesium you can find it in different forms and each one has a specific function.
Vitamin D3, however, is one of the only supplements that I suggest to my clients. Click over here to find out why. I like that Stan Efferding encourages his clients to integrate it in their diets.
The salt question
With the vertical diet, you can eat as much salt as you want ... but there is a specific reason why! Many studies found a correlation between the potassium:salt ratio. As long as you have enough potassium in your diet, the extra salt won't increase your blood pressure. This is particularly important if you are an athlete that sweats and loses important mineral salts with training.
Dietitian's review: the negative
Excluding too many whole foods
It's true: certain vegetables and fruits can cause bloating, but ... there is no need to eliminate 71 different foods. Each human being reacts differently. Maybe you don't have any triggers or maybe only 1-2 foods are problematic.
There are three different triggering groups:
- Fructose (when the ratio between fructose and glucose is high!)
Every intestine reacts differently to specific foods. For example, there are individuals that are triggered by fructose-rich foods and have no problem with lactose. Excluding so many foods, even favorite foods, without first doing a proper low FODMAP diet can make you feel too restricted.
My opinion as a registered dietitian is to first follow a low FODMAP diet and reintroduce certain foods slowly. By keeping a food diary, you can keep track and understand which foods are triggering bloating. There is no need to eliminate entire food groups.
Fiber reduction: quality & quantity
Little fiber = little gut bacteria variety. Studies suggest that <30 different plants a week can guarantee a healthier intestine. Since most of the serotonin receptors are placed in the gut, why not make your gut happy? Oh, it also reduces the risk for colon cancer!
The WHO recommends around 35g fiber/day. Observing the meal plans offered on the vertical diet website, the quantity of fiber looks extremely low. Hopefully, there will be more data available soon.
The only data that I found on this topic comes from a Youtube fitness trainer. Derek mentioned that after adhering to the vertical diet, he noticed in his blood tests, that his LDL-cholesterol raised. After eliminating the eggs, his cholesterol levels went back to normal. If you want to know more about it, check his video!
Like my fellow colleague Amy Shapiro: I would recommend including additional sprouted grains, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits, and limiting the intake of saturated fat from red meat and full-fat dairy. Feel free to share this article with a friend or a fitness lover!