Given now is the time of year when many people join gyms in the hope of attaining their goal physiques, it seems only right to discuss the dieting strategy of Steve Reeves, one of bodybuilding’s original stars. In his day Steve had one of the most respected physiques in the Iron Game, winning several bodybuilding championships and even making the crossover to Hollywood where he appeared in a number of Tarzan and Hercules flicks. Using this approach Reeves was crowned Mr. America in 1947. Needless to say, it works.
Oh and before you ask about Cardio, Steve didn’t do it. In his book Building the Classic Physique – The Natural Way (published 1995), the former Hercules Star revealed that
If there was a contest coming up, I would simply train a little harder. In other words, I would just train a little bit faster and increase the intensity of my workouts by having less rest time in between sets and muscle groups.
Note that this form of contest prep was commonplace amongst many bodybuilders from this era and there is still a lot to be said for it. Furthermore, Reeves preached moderation in his dieting phases. A plea that has fallen on deaf ears in the past few decades in the sport.
The whole key to acquiring a Classic Physique lies in the proper balance of intensity, duration and frequency of your workouts. If you work out at too high an intensity, you can’t work out very long – which means you may stimulate some muscle growth but you’ll not burn off much body fat. If, on the other hand, you train with an intensity that is too low, you can go on for long duration – and burn some body fat – but it’s too low an intensity to stimulate much increase in muscle size.
Training to either extreme is not desirable. It’s a waste of time unless you have a balance of both intensity and duration in your workouts, as well as adequate rest periods in between workouts to enhance your recuperation from training.
In case you are wondering Steve usually rested less than 45 seconds between sets when he trained for a competition in a bid to shed unwanted pounds.
The Diet Itself
‘Steve Reeves Power Drink’
14 ounces of freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon of knox gelatin
1 tablespoon of honey
2-4 raw eggs (pasteurized)
2 tablespoons of high protein powder (Steve’s custom mix: Combine 1/2 lb of powdered egg whites, 1/2 lb of powdered skim milk, and 1/4 lb of powdered soy protein.)
‘Steve Reeves Power Drink’
- One huge salad (with rice vinegar & olive oil dressing – 1 tablespoon each)
- Turkey, fish, or chicken
- One of the following carb sources: whole wheat bread, potatoes, corn, pasta, beans or rice.
How quickly can I expect results?
Reeves was a pragmatic man and knew the value of patience. He often stressed that muscle fanatics should aim to lose 1 – 2 pounds a week and nothing more. Anything over 2 lbs likely to be muscle.
If weight loss stalled, Reeves recommended cutting back on carbs either at dinner time or reducing the amount of honey or orange juice used in his power drink.
Who should use this diet?
Anyone looking for a pragmatic means of losing weight and lowering their body fat. Note however that although effective, such a diet will not provide the extreme levels of body fat that modern day bodybuilders exhibit on stage as in Steve’s time such conditioning was largely unheard of. For those wishing to reach bodybuilding levels of body fat you may want to consider Vince Gironda’s reducing diets.
Something to be said for that 1) Shake 2) Shake 3) Meal approach. I’ve used the same approach for years. Jeff Willet does it. Jamie Lewis’ Predator Diet is very similar also. I think the “liquidifcation” of the “meals” early in the day allows for easy digestion and absorption, and places less stress on the digestive system. I’ve also noticed it really helps keeping the waist small as there’s no food babies sitting in there all day. Eating at night still allows a person to be social and provides enough satiety to keep those late night cravings to a minimum. Great article!
Thanks for stopping by. Agree with you on a liquid diet approach. Its interesting Reeves intuitively knew the importance of having a good evening meal, something some liquid diets of the past have forgotten about. I think the latest version of the ‘Velocity Diet’ even includes a proper meal now after a lot of buzz about not needing one. Shows the fundamentals never change!