Nutrition: Old School vs New School

There is a huge difference in approach to Nutrition today in bodybuilding and fitness compared to the 60s, 70s and 80s 'Classic' or 'Golden' Era. There could be many reasons for this, one invariably being the more detailed discovery of what role nutrients play in our body. One might say that it is this fact alone that over complicates the modern diet and leads to a potentially negative impact on results, others might argue that we now benefit even more from the knowledge, structuring better and more effective diets for ourselves. Either way it seems people had more impressive physiques 'back in the day' then they do now. There are obviously more factors involved here than Nutrition, but let's compare some old school principles to modern principles anyway.

It must be first said that Training alone creates the stimulus for change rather than over emphasis on nutrition. Muscles will not grow unless trained appropriately.

1. Protein

Old School:

The number one nutrient needed in life, it is required in huge amounts to grow muscles. Without enough Protein you will never grow. As much as 2-3g per pound of body weight is required for best results. Any excess will be used as energy via Gluconeogenesis or discarded as waste any way.

New School:

Protein is really important, but you actually don't need very much in order to grow. 1g per pound of body weight is enough (wrong).

2. Fat

Old School:

Fat is a great fuel source, needed for extended bouts of intense training. If you eat a lot of fat you can train for hours. You can keep them high all year round, animal fat is the best.

New School:

Essential fatty acids are required for optimal health and vitality, but animal fat is not good in large amounts with links to cancer and heart disease. Keep them at medium level, sourcing them from healthy foods like nuts, olive oil and fish instead of fatty red meat (wrong).

3. Carbohydrates

Old School:

Carbohydrates will make you fat, if you want to be lean then keep them very low. They offer very little to the world of bodybuilding. Eat them every now and then if you really want them, but otherwise you can pretty much ignore Carbs.

New School:

Carbs are really important for energy, your body really needs them to be healthy. If you are training hard in the gym then you definitely need a lot of them to fuel your workouts and your recovery! Make sure they make up at least 50% of your calorie intake (wrong).

Old School Diets:

Brian Buchanan: 4 whole chickens per day with a slice of white bread.

Serge Nubret: 4-8lbs of Horse meat per day with vegetables and some rice occasionally.

Arnold Schwarzenegger: Ground Beef with Eggs - as much as you can fit down in 4 sittings.

The old school approach to bodybuilding has so much to offer modern food science, and it always seems to go ignored. Hopefully soon the rest of the world will realise that actually the sport of bodybuilding proved over 50 years ago what optimal nutrition actually is. Vince Gironda is understood to be the real driver of old school nutrition principles, and every one of your favourite classical icons in the USA was under his supervision. His principles were very simple; Eat 4 times per day, as much meat and eggs you can eat in one sitting, that's it. There was no macro nutrient counting, no calorie measurements or weighing of food, just simply eat animal Protein and Fat till you're really full then move on.

Vince Gironda's approach was a game changer for the American bodybuilders of the time, they were looking bigger and leaner then most other foreign competitors. The bodybuilders of the classical era were eating a 'Gluconeogenic Diet'. Essentially the diet called for an overload of animal protein and fat in every meal, and it doesn't necessarily have to come from red meat, but poultry, fish and eggs too. We now know for certain that dietary Carbohydrate is non-essential for health, a fact that goes ignored continuously in the fitness industry today. Everyone has a level of carbohydrate they can tolerate before getting fat and that amount can still be consumed, but we notice that everyone needs plenty of Protein and Fatty acids in their diet no matter what. You just can't argue with results - try it and you will see. For more Info on Optimal Nutrition and programming please click here.

NOTE: It should be acknowledged that professional bodybuilders of both the modern and classical world partake in the use of anabolic steroids. However, nutrition is vitally important regardless of steroid use.


Arnold Schwarzenegger's Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding is an unbelievably valuable resource for learning about building muscle. Arnold describes in charismatic detail the techniques and protocols he and his fellow competitors used to achieve the classical physiques we all love!

The book is full of entertaining anecdotes from Arnold's training days, and really explores what is means to be on a fitness journey. Providing everything from detailed training, diet and recovery advice right down to maintaining mental strength through times of hardship that most of us can face when reaching plateaus in training or dieting.

If you ever wanted an extreme in-depth description of Classic Bodybuilding then Arnold's book is Numero Uno! It is one of the best Bodybuilding books I have ever read. Click here or on the image for more info.

Happy Lifting!!

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