Old School Bodybuilding Diet

raw steak on wood

What bodybuilders eat today is much different from the old school bodybuilding diet. With no internet or social media, golden era bodybuilders relied on word of mouth for diet advice.

They ate the whole egg (no egg whites) and preferred steak to whey protein. Continue reading to find out exactly what these muscle icons ate.

They Ate Whole Foods

Modern bodybuilders go through egg whites and scoops of whey protein each day. This was nothing like the old school bodybuilding diet.

Back then people ate real foods – especially when it came to protein. Whole eggs, steak, and hamburger meat was the preferred choice to build muscle.

raw steak on wood

Pumping Iron is a great example of this 1970s muscle diet. One scene shows Arnold Schwarzenegger and other bodybuilders eating lunch at a restaurant.

They ordered endless plates of scrambled eggs, hamburger patties and steak. The people sitting around them couldn’t help but stare at all the food!

Daily Meal Plan

  • Breakfast: Hamburger patties, eggs, and cottage cheese
  • Post workout: Protein shake with water
  • Lunch: Cheese omelette, sliced tomatoes, and cottage cheese
  • Snack: Can of tuna
  • Dinner: Steak, eggs, and a large salad
  • Snack: Protein shake with water

High Protein, Low Carbs

The old school bodybuilding diet of the 1970s was all about high protein and low carbs. This isn’t to say that carbs were off limits, because they were not.

But Arnold and other athletes ate much less carbs (compared to modern bodybuilders). So, how did these guys get big with low carbs?

You can still gain muscle without eating carbs. It’s important to note that these old school bodybuilders ate high amounts of protein and fat.

This means they were providing their bodies with the calories and nutrients needed to pack on muscle. They simply didn’t need the carbs in their diets!

What About Vegetables?

Vegetables offer plenty of micronutrients that are beneficial to the body. Modern bodybuilders focus on macronutrients (macros) when it comes to nutrition.

These are protein, fats, and carbs. Micronutrients provide vitamins and minerals, that can have a major impact on health. But did these golden age icons eat vegetables?

Unfortunately, vegetables didn’t have a major role in the old school bodybuilding diet. And while Arnold enjoyed a salad once in a while, these guys weren’t eating bowls of spinach and kale.

Their main focus was on eating high amounts of protein and training with intensity. It’s safe to say that beef and eggs took up most of their plates.

Supplements Were Scarce

You can’t go to the gym today without hearing about supplements. Health stores have aisles of fat burners, vitamins, pre-workout, and many other items you don’t need.

Heck, whey protein is even sold in most grocery stores. But did the old school bodybuilding diet include supplements?

Golden era bodybuilders had access to some form of supplements, but it was nothing like today. Protein shakes were hard to come by, and if you found one it probably didn’t taste very good.

Pre-workout didn’t exist, so people drank black coffee before hitting the weights. Other than the daily multivitamin, bodybuilders didn’t walk around with a tackle box full of pills.

Supplements that were most available came from desiccated liver, or other food extracts. Tom Platz was known to take 75 liver tablets each day – for the high amounts of B-vitamins and iron.

Similarities to Keto

The old school bodybuilding diet has many similarities to the ketogenic diet. The keto diet emphasizes high fat, moderate protein, and low carbs. Old school bodybuilders based their meals off eggs, meat, and cheese.

All of these foods are a staple in the keto diet. But there is one main difference between keto and the classic bodybuilding diet. The keto diet involves putting your body into a state of ketosis.

This is when your body changes its main fuel source from glucose to ketones. This process takes anywhere from 2-7 days – depending on a number of different factors.

But were these old school bodybuilders trying to enter a state of ketosis? No, Arnold Schwarzenegger and his buddies were not concerned with entering a state of ketosis.

They just cared about eating a ton of food and training with intensity each day (some days they would train twice a day). Carbs weren’t off limits during the 1960s and 1970s.

Did They Avoid Carbs?

Old school bodybuilders just thought that eating high amounts of protein and fat was more important.

When you’re eating pounds of meat and cartons of eggs each day, there isn’t much room for anything else. Once in a while they would add bread, or potatoes into their diet.

Cheat Days

These old school bodybuilders were known for their legendary cheat days. This is just another example of how they ate carbs when they wanted to. Sunday was typically the day these guys would rest up and eat everything.

Bodybuilders like Ric Drasin were known to eat pizza, ice cream, brisket, jello mold, and cheesecake on cheat days. On Monday when it was time to train, Ric would walk into the gym bloated and a few pounds heavier.

But this was mostly water weight, and by Tuesday his body would be back to normal. This cheat day approach is much different than what is practiced today.

Some bodybuilders today are so strict with their diets, they opt for a monthly cheat meal, instead of a weekly cheat day. While others look at a cheat meal as an extra serving of brown rice. Regardless of how cheat days are approached today, it’s much different from the golden era.

Final Thoughts

I hope you enjoyed this nutritional blast from the past. What people talk about most in bodybuilding is how physiques have changed over the years.

And while this is the result of a number of different factors, it’s safe to say that food played a major role.

The old school bodybuilding diet emphasized high protein, high fat, and low carbs. They embraced the cheat day, didn’t calculate their macros, or count calories.

Where modern bodybuilders weigh their food by the gram and plan out their daily eating schedule. Physiques have slowly changed with time, because of this new approach to nutrition.

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  • Classic bodybuilding meal plan

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