1970s Bodybuilding Carnivore Diet
The Golden Era of bodybuilding. Loosely defined, it’s around 1950-1980. These men literally looked like Hercules.
Not the bloated, massive gut, veiny monsters you see in today’s bodybuilding. The Golden Era bodybuilders showcased athletic, lean, muscular physiques. They had a broad chest and shoulders, big arms, small waists, and muscular athletic legs. The coveted 'V-taper' physique.
In the earlier days you had guys like Reg Park, Steve Reeves, Sergio Oliva, Vince Gironda, Larry Scott. In the 70s, Arnold took over with dominance and began winning repeatedly. Other well known bodybuilders in the 1970s included Franco Columbu, Frank Zane, Ed Corney, Ken Waller, Ric Drasin, Dave Draper, Lou Ferrigno, Serge Nubret, and many others.
Interestingly enough—they shared many similarities with diet and training.
In the offseason, they tended to lift heavier and eat a high protein, high fat, high carb diet. They didn’t necessarily eat junk, but they tried to eat as much protein (and food) as possible.
When it contest time, that’s when they started lifting a bit lighter weights with higher volume (more reps and sets) to help cut down fat. They would occasionally do some running for cardio, but not much. And definitely not hours on the elliptical. Their weight training and diet took care of that.
Diet-wise, to cut down they cut their carbs. Plain and simple. Arnold talked about cutting carbs and stepping up training.. Vince Gironda advocated steak and eggs only for cutting up. Larry Scott followed a high protein, high fat, low carb diet.
Basically no one was eating low fat. Ric Drasin, one of Arnold’s training partners in the 1970s and fellow bodybuilder, has stated repeatedly that their diet was beef, eggs, fish, cottage cheese. Some guys would drink heavy cream for some extra fat. They ate around 5 meals a day to support training. They took liver pills and had some protein supplements—usually in the form of dried milk powder.
Once a week, they would have a cheat day to refill on calories and restock muscle glycogen. It also gave them a mental break from the rigors of dieting and very likely brought their stress levels/cortisol down after a tough week of training.
With their level of muscle mass and intensity of training, those cheat day carbs were getting sucked right into their muscles. The next day, they would have a great training session and they would lose the water weight and bloat from their cheat day.
In fact, those carbs may have very well unregulated their testosterone and relaxed their body—helping the fat loss process along.
I basically follow the exact same approach they did. I eat beef, eggs, fish, a bit of cheese, and liver. I train almost every day, and on the weekend I usually have a carb cheat day. And yes—anything goes.
My only real difference? I eat 2 big meals a day, as opposed to their 5 small meals a day. I personally think fasting plays a big role in attaining optimal health and keeping the engine running efficiently.
The old notion was to eat constantly to keep the metabolism firing. We now know that isn’t necessarily how the metabolism works. Yes, overfasting can tank your thyroid and slow your metabolism—but occasional fasting (intuitively) is most likely great for you and may help clear some junk from the body—as well as boost fat loss and improve mental clarity.
That’s all from me for today! I’m a huge fan of simplicity. If you want to look like a 1970s bodybuilder—lift weights 5x/week, eat beef, eggs, fish, cottage cheese, wear mini-posing trunks and get a tan! Play some Three's Company in the background and you’ll be well on your way.