Old School Bodybuilding Wisdom With The Iron Guru, Vince Gironda
There was a time when bodybuilding was one of the most prestigious sports, the time we today like to call the golden era of bodybuilding. A time where people watched in awe as hard work and proper nutrition chiselled out some of the most impressive, all natural physiques that people ever witnessed in any field of sports.
Unfortunately, anabolic steroids later came along and changed all that; suddenly most people did not view it as a sport anymore. Even though it is not true that you can just take some steroids and grow impressive muscle, the mainstream view became something as such. The hunger for more muscle eventually became the sports own demise, ushering in a new phase of what some would call artificial mass monsters.
There are still believers in the sport, though, and nowadays people are more interested in building muscle than ever before. What better way is there than to return to the wisdom of old school bodybuilding greats that have truly stood the test of time?
Introducing The Legendary “The Iron Guru”, Vince Gironda
When people think about bodybuilding, what usually pops up in their mind first is the Governator himself, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Arnold is one of the most acclaimed bodybuilders of all time, and one of his first trainers was no other than the equally legendary “The Iron Guru”, Vince Gironda.
Gironda became famous not only because of the significant amount of Hollywood celebrities he trained but also because he broke many norms and went against the mainstream in his style of training as well as views of nutrition. His pupil Larry Scott won the first Mr Olympia in 1965, proving that his sometimes controversial bodybuilding techniques work.
Vince Gironda was an early proponent of low carb diets and diets high in fat, something that is still not widely accepted in bodybuilding circles today. Gironda advocated that bodybuilding is 85% nutrition, and only 15% of the work is done in the gym.
Some of his other more controversial ideas are for example that his gym completely lacked a squat rack. In Gironda’s view, squats promoted unequally large gluteal and hip development, and he always prescribed his acclaimed sissy squats instead. He was also not a fan of the flat bench press because it involved too much front deltoid.
Gironda was one of the most famous natural bodybuilders of all time and was strictly against all kind of steroid use, implying that they cause abnormal muscle growth of the grotesque kind.
If Vince Gironda managed to create all the incredible physiques of his pupils using 85% nutrition, he was clearly on to something. Many of his dietary routines are quite infamous even up until this day, let’s dig into some of them and see what all the fuzz is really about.
The Hormone Precursor Diet
Being a proponent of low carb nutrition, all of Gironda’s diets included lots of fat and little carbohydrates. To maximize muscle growth, you need to promote an anabolic environment in the body as well as max out your hormone production. We now know today through research studies that diets low in fat are a real killer for your testosterone levels, so indeed Gironda was on to something before everyone else was.
According to Gironda, a diet high in fat and protein was optimal for muscle development, and hence his Hormone Precursor Diet was born.
A typical day on The Hormone Precursor Diet looked like this:
Vince’s Hormone Precursor Shake
1 lb. Hamburger or other meat
Mixed green salad or raw vegetables
1-2 lb. steak or roast meat
Raw or steamed vegetables or salad and cottage cheese
As you can see the diet follows a paleo/ketogenic style and most of the fats are provided from the shake and meat.
The core principle of the Hormone Precursor Diet was his Hormone Precursor Shake recipe, specifically designed for bulking and gaining mass. Here is the original recipe:
- 12oz half and half (milk consisting of light and heavy cream)
- 12 raw eggs
- 1/3 cup quality milk-and-egg protein powder
- 1 banana (for taste, can be omitted if strict low carb)
As you can see the Hormone Precursor Shake contained an impressive 12 raw eggs, and this shake was consumed 1-3 times per day in-between meals for bulking. We highly recommend you try this one in your bulking routine with our Whey Isotope protein powder. For hard gainers, the nutritional content of this shake is perfect because of its high amount of calories, proteins and fat, as well as being very easy to consume and digest in liquid form.
Drinking this shake 3 times a day equals to consuming 36 raw eggs per day, which many people would consider an extreme amount. However, eggs are completely safe to consume in large quantities as been proven by research and are not associated with a higher incidence of heart disease. In fact, it is high triglycerides which are the determining factor for heart disease and excessive sugar consumption is one of the leading causes of high triglycerides.
The cholesterol contained in eggs is a building block for testosterone, and Gironda often said that consuming raw fertile eggs in bulk was of similar anabolic effects as the steroid Dianabol.
Eggs also contain Omega-3 fatty acids and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) which as been proven to both increase testosterone as well as being useful for reducing fat mass. Eggs are indeed one of the most anabolic foods containing all the essential building blocks needed for testosterone production. They are also loaded to the brim with Vitamin D, A, E, iron, zinc and many B vitamins.
To even further highlight the importance eggs can have for building muscle, as well as attest to its safety, recent studies have shown that eggs can help normalize lipids and lowers your risk of cardiovascular disease! As with most things, The Iron Guru was way ahead of his time.
Steak and Eggs Diet
The most infamous of all of Vince Gironda’s diets is the steak and eggs diet, which consists of nothing more than, you guessed it, steak and eggs! It was also called “The Maximum Definition” diet since it is one of the best ways to cut down to a low body fat percentage. Gironda repeatedly used this diet with his pupils for contest prep to lean down and look more vascular. Gironda also stayed on this diet himself for prolonged periods of his life.
The interesting part of this diet is that it is a ketogenic diet, what we today consider one of the best diets for fat loss. Ketogenic diets were not widely known at the time, but Gironda somehow came upon using it for this purpose by himself. Clearly showing that Gironda possessed an uniquely keen sense when it came to bodybuilding and nutrition.
He heavily promoted this diet even during a time in which media had started to wrongfully demonize saturated fats and cholesterol as the primary cause of heart disease. Vince always said that if the Innuits could successfully live on an animal foods only diet for thousands of years, so can anybody! This is also in line with what research has shown to be true in recent years. Many traditional societies around the world still thrive on diets high in animal fats up until this day.
A ketogenic diet is a diet that burns fat for fuel instead of carbohydrates. To benefit from a high-fat diet, you need to keep your carb intake below 50 grams, but below 30 grams is optimal for most people. This switches the body to burn fat for fuel and produce ketone bodies, which is a more efficient fuel than glucose.
An easy test you can do to show just how much more effective ketones are as a fuel, is to measure the time you can hold your breath on a carbohydrate diet compared to a ketogenic one. Most people notice a doubling since ketones is a more effective fuel for the heart and brain, decreasing the oxygen consumption needed by the organs.
The steaks and eggs diet is one of the few weight loss diets that allows you to eat until you feel full, no need to count calories and in fact, Gironda recommended people not to. Being also a high protein diet in addition to high-fat, modern researchers has shown it is indeed a very efficient macro profile for fat loss. Especially because of all the fatty acids the diet contains such as CLA we mentioned earlier. For the people who are worried about high protein intakes, fear no more, this study has shown it to be completely harmless and safe.
The steak and eggs diet is very simple and consists of 2 meals a day of as much steak and eggs you want. For beverages, coffee and water are accepted. Being a ketogenic diet, because of the bodies emphasis on burning fats for fuel, it won’t break down muscle mass even if your run a calorie deficit, hence you run this diet for as long as you need until you see the appropriate results in your body fat levels.
On every 5th day on the diet, a meal high in carbohydrates are allowed. This is to refuel muscle glycogen which will enable you to train harder with more reps, even while eating a low carb diet. Today we call this a cyclic ketogenic diet, something Gironda also was clearly ahead of his time with. For carb refuelling, we recommend using our Cluster Bomb product which contains fast absorbing carbs ideal for refuelling muscle glycogen after workouts.
Gironda often got calls from Hollywood directors that needed their actors to be in a particular shape for a role (which most often required fast weight loss) and Vince would often be able to shape up even the most difficult cases in time. Popular as one of the best diets designed for body recomposition, the steaks and eggs diet is still as popular today as it was back then.
Desiccated Liver Tablets
Vince Gironda was not a fan of synthetic supplements, and the few he usually recommended was all of natural origin, his favorite being Desiccated Liver Tablets.
Liver is indeed the premier Old School bodybuilding supplement. Used in-between meals it can help to keep the body in a positive nitrogen balance, promoting anabolism and the muscle building process. At peak periods, such as leading up to contests, some bodybuilders would consume as many as up to 100 liver tablets per day in preparation.
Why Liver you may ask? Well, first of all, not all people like the taste of liver, hence the easy to consume tablets. Second, liver is the most nutrient-dense food on the planet, beating all fruits and vegetables in every class except vitamin C. In fact, in the wild, predators such as lions and sharks always go for the liver first when eating their prey. Same as Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer humans have also done since the beginning of times. The liver has always been highly valued as a nutritional source that is hard to beat, and not until recently has it grown out of fashion because of our ever increasing diversity of foods available to us in supermarkets.
There is some interesting animal research done were including liver in the diets of mice, substantially increased their endurance in a swimming test. While we don’t exactly know the mechanism responsible for this effect yet, it is thought to be from a group of enzymes contained in liver belonging to the cytochrome P-450 family, which is responsible for steroid hormone synthesis as well as detoxification. An increase in endurance and faster recovery from exercise also just so happen to be some of the most commonly reported benefits of consuming liver tablets.
The liver is one of the best food sources of vitamin A, B12 (energy production), and especially heme iron, which has higher bioavailability than plant sources of iron. Iron is required for the optimal production of red blood cells, and even though it is possible to overdose on artificial iron supplements, it is not possible when eating liver or consuming liver tablets. Clearly, there is something more to natural nutrition than what we can fit in an artificial multivitamin.
On another note, one of the most common conditions caused by low testosterone is anemia, a deficiency of red blood cells. Not enough red blood cells decrease the oxygen-carrying capabilities of your blood, meaning, no awesome pump in the gym and erectile dysfunction to some degree. I am sure you are starting to catch our drift here that eating liver will do your body REAL good.
As you have learned, much of what Vince Gironda already preached 50 years ago, have now been verified by scientific research. In today’s world, saturated fats and cholesterol are wrongfully demonized even though the research proves otherwise. If Vince Gironda’s nutritional guidelines worked 50 years ago and helped sculpt some legendary bodybuilders such as Larry Scott and Arnold, they for sure still work today.