We often bash the “bros” and their out-dated ways of training and dieting. But the thing is, these guys put themselves through so much stress that they don’t need to. Not just that, but they inflict it on others too.
They claim that their old school, hardcore approach of training to failure, only working a muscle group once a week, sticking to bland, boring meals, and eating seriously dull food is the way to go.
Not one bit.
A lot of these guys get big in spite of what they do, not because of it.
And this is never truer than when examining their diets.
If you’re currently eating tuna, rice and broccoli 6 times a day, get ready, because this article could just save you a whole lot of misery.
What is Bro Dieting and What Does it Involve?
You know the kind of thing I’m on about here.
At some stage in our lifting career, we’ve all followed something a bit like this.
It’s the kind of diet you see in the bodybuilding mags – the ones that have small, frequent meals, a hell of a lot of protein, a high amount of unprocessed carbs, a little fat from foods like almonds and olive oil, and a tonne of supplements.
You can’t eat anything fun whatsoever (unless it’s on your cheat day!) and any food that’s not meat or fish, a protein shake, vegetables, nuts, seeds, a healthy oil, or brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, sweet potato or oats is more or less banned.
Some bro diets do allow low-fat dairy, and foods like beans, but these are usually a grey area.
What Can You Eat?
As above really –
- Steak (and other lean red meat)
- Protein supplements
- Oats and whole-grain cereals
- Brown rice
- Sweet potato
- Whole-wheat bread
- Any type of vegetable
- Most fruits
- White carbs such as white rice, white pasta, bagels and white potatoes, but only after a workout.
What Would a Typical Day Look Like?
Maybe something like the following:
- Oats made with water and mixed with raisins, plus a huge serving of egg whites on the side.
- Can of tuna with 2 slices whole-wheat bread, 1 tbsp light mayo, and 1 apple.
- 1 serving of brown rice, with a chicken breast, green beans and broccoli.
- Protein bar and a handful of almonds.
- Protein shake mixed with water, alongside some fast acting carbs, such as a carb powder, a bagel with jam, or rice cakes.
- Lean steak with a sweet potato, asparagus and cauliflower.
- Casein shake mixed with water and 1 tbsp of natural peanut butter.
One day a week you can have a cheat day, or cheat meal, where you eat as much junk food as you can stomach. But this is the problem - there really is no clear guideline as to what clean eating is or involves. It's open to interpretation, and if you're eating the above without even considering the macronutrients and calories inside the foods you're eating, chances are you'll have very little control over your body composition at all.
For most guys starting at the gym, there’s enough food with a bro diet to put on some serious muscle mass … But then you are following the same eating routine as a 250-lb IFBB pro!
Also, you can’t argue that the diet is composed of mostly nutrient-dense foods, and high in vitamins, minerals and fibre.
You’ve also got a lot of protein, which many other fad diets often neglect.
I guess the best place to start here is with the sheer number of myths that often accompany the bro way of eating.
You have notions such as not eating carbs after 6, having to stick to low-GI (glycemic index) foods for most of the day, then shovelling down fast-digesting, high-GI, high-sugar carbs post workout to “spike insulin.”
The food choices themselves are pretty boring too, and there’s so much debate over whether certain foods are okay or not.
Dairy, for instance, is a big no-no for some bodybuilders, but a staple for others, and there are always debates on white potato vs. sweet potato, and how many servings of fruit you should have per day.
Due to the repetitive nature of the diet, you’re also at risk of nutrient deficiencies, and losing your mind.
Few people can stick to a plan like this long-term without binging, and this is why so many bro diets include a cheat day, which turns into a binge, and that can seriously wreck your progress.
Should You Go Bro?
As always, the key to any diet comes down to eating the right number of calories, and hitting your macronutrients, which brings us back round again to flexible dieting and IIFYM.
Flexible dieting and bro diets are not mutually exclusive, so if you want to stick to the bro rules, and eat every 2 to 3 hours, only eat clean foods, or ban anything fun, you can do, provided you still reach your daily protein, carb and fat goals.
That said, we don’t know why you’d want to.
You can have so much more fun with your food than the bodybuilding magazines say you can.
Why eat 7 meals a day of chicken, sweet potato and broccoli, when you could be eating pancakes, yoghurt, fruit, steak, cereals, and even the odd Pop Tart!?
Once again, flexible dieting rules the day.