The Vertical Diet: What Is It and What Are Its Disadvantages?

We're going to show you what the vertical diet consists of and whether it's a possibility that can be implemented on a regular basis in all people or not.
The Vertical Diet: What Is It and What Are Its Disadvantages?
Saúl Sánchez Arias

Written and verified by the nutritionist Saúl Sánchez Arias.

Last update: 07 November, 2022

The vertical diet is based on whole food choices and aims to improve intestinal health to ensure the proper functioning of the organism. It promises to correct hormonal imbalances and nutritional deficiencies, in addition to increasing energy levels and optimizing recovery.

In fact, it’s a diet that focuses on the supply of bioavailable nutrients for this purpose. It was designed by bodybuilder Stan Efferding to help other athletes and weight lifters meet their muscle gain and weight loss goals. However, the plan became popular among other groups. What does it consist of?

Foods allowed and forbidden in the vertical diet

Generally speaking, the vertical diet allows the consumption of fresh food. Thus, red meat, rice, nuts, eggs, vegetables, fish, and dairy products can be included. All of them are characterized by a high nutritional density, which will help to meet the needs.

In particular, it prioritizes protein intake, which helps to prevent muscle loss, as stated in a study published in the journal Nutrients. However, it also involves avoiding or limiting certain foods, including ultra-processed foods, refined oils, as well as soy and its derivatives.

In particular, it’s necessary to restrict products with a high FODMAP content, such as cabbage, onions and asparagus. These have been shown to cause bloating or discomfort in sensitive people or those with gastrointestinal conditions.

Meanwhile, a moderate intake of oatmeal and sprouted or soaked legumes is allowed, as they’re easier to digest.

Fried meat.
Red meat is one of the top foods in the vertical diet.

Is the vertical diet healthy?

The one disadvantage the vertical diet has is that it doesn’t always cover our fiber requirements, and this can have a negative impact on health. This substance is key to maintaining intestinal health and, in fact, the presence of at least 25 grams (1 oz) in the daily diet is recommended.

Research published in the journal Nature Reviews shows that if this dose isn’t met, the risk of problems such as constipation increases.

After all, we’re talking about a restrictive diet that may not bring adequate adherence. Because of this, it isn’t suitable for everyone. Some people may experience anxiety and boredom, which may result in subsequent binge eating or the rebound effect.

Both to gain muscle mass and to lose weight, it’s necessary to adapt the diet to individual needs. This, among other things, ensures its sustainability.

Despite the above, it’s true that the vertical diet may be well suited for people with inflammatory bowel disease during the acute phase and for athletes with specific goals. Of course, supplementation is sometimes needed to avoid deficits of essential nutrients.

Is the vertical diet useful for weight loss?

The vertical diet isn’t designed to cause a reduction in body weight. It’s true that it can be approached from a hypocaloric point of view in order to cause this effect, but this isn’t its main purpose.

If the aim is to improve body composition, an energy deficit must be ensured. The best way to achieve this is to increase the level of physical activity and moderate the portions of food consumed throughout the day.

A woman losing weight.
This diet model isn’t the most suitable for weight loss, as it’s difficult to sustain over time.

It is a restrictive diet

In summary, it must be recognized that the vertical diet is very restrictive with fiber and plant foods. For this reason, it isn’t a good option in most cases.

The consumption of vegetables and fruits is associated with a lower risk of death from any cause and with a reduction in the incidence of chronic pathologies. Five servings of these products are recommended each day.

If you experience intestinal symptoms, it’s best to consult a specialist to receive an accurate diagnosis and to be able to prepare an appropriate menu. Some supplements help to manage the process, such as probiotics.

Temporarily reducing the intake of fiber can also be positive, but it’s key to start consuming it again after a few weeks. If there are any questions about this, the best thing to do is to contact a nutritionist.

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  • Prokopidis K, Cervo MM, Gandham A, Scott D. Impact of Protein Intake in Older Adults with Sarcopenia and Obesity: A Gut Microbiota Perspective. Nutrients. 2020;12(8):2285. Published 2020 Jul 30. doi:10.3390/nu12082285
  • Bellini M, Tonarelli S, Nagy AG, et al. Low FODMAP Diet: Evidence, Doubts, and Hopes. Nutrients. 2020;12(1):148. Published 2020 Jan 4. doi:10.3390/nu12010148
  • Gill SK, Rossi M, Bajka B, Whelan K. Dietary fibre in gastrointestinal health and disease. Nat Rev Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2021;18(2):101-116. doi:10.1038/s41575-020-00375-4

The contents of this publication are for informational purposes only. At no time can they serve to facilitate or replace the diagnoses, treatments, or recommendations of a professional. Consult with your trusted specialist if you have any doubts and seek their approval before beginning any procedure.