Some methods for losing weight are fairly logical and self-explanatory. Others, not so much.
The Steak and Eggs Diet by Vince Gironda is one of the latter approaches. In fact, it's hard to imagine how you could lose weight just by eating steak and eggs.
Yet, the approach has become popular as a way for weight loss - especially among people who want to maintain (or gain) muscle mass at the same time. And, many people are convinced that the diet is powerful.
When you really get down to it, there is even a surprising amount of logic to the approach.
For one thing, the idea is an extreme version of a high-fat and low-carb diet. Theoretically then, you could lose weight by following it.
In this post, we’re going to look at what this diet actually involves and whether or not it lives up to the hype that surrounds it.
After all, weight loss is only one part of the equation. You also want a diet to actually be healthy and to be somewhat sustainable.
Otherwise you simply end up putting back on any weight that you lose - and doing so is far from ideal.
The Overall Concept of the Steak and Eggs Diet
This particular diet is also sometimes known as the Vince Gironda diet, after the person originally involved in its development. The original form of the diet was created specifically for bodybuilding and is designed to help bodybuilders decrease fat while also bulking up their muscles.
The diet is also considered an old-school bodybuilding approach, as it is an effective way to build muscle without having to rely on steroids or even on products like whey protein.
For example, the site Iron & Grit Fitness suggests that the approach can work exceptionally well for building muscle, especially if you make good choices and follow it in a flexible manner.
As diets go, this is one of the simplest options out there – and that’s part of its appeal.
In particular, the diet simply involves eating steak and eggs (cooked in butter) and that’s all the food you eat, period. Specifically, you are supposed to eat between 3/4 lb and 1 1/2 pounds of steak and 4-6 eggs in each meal. The steak and the eggs can be cooked any way you like but this is the only variation that you get in the food you eat.
You're also not allowed any drinks, except for water, unsweetened tea and black coffee.
The other restriction with the diet is that you only eat 2 meals in a day. As such, this diet does also act as a form of intermittent fasting, especially with the long gap between meals.
Some people also recommend taking a fiber supplement as part of the diet, as you aren’t getting much fiber from other sources.
Steak and Eggs Diet Cheat Day
There is also a cheat day within the steak and eggs diet.
The basic concept is that you follow the diet strictly for 5 days then you have one day where you can literally eat whatever you like.
So, you could have alcohol, chocolate and McDonalds if you felt like it.
The cheat day also acts as a way to get nutrients into your body, as you don’t have any fruit or vegetables during the other days of the diet.
The cheat day is also a chance to refuel on carbs if you want to, although doing so will take you out of ketosis (which is a key reason for the weight loss outcome).
For best results, the cheat day should be used as a change to gorge on junk. Instead, the ideal would be to focus on nutrient-dense healthy foods, particularly plant-based options.
Variations on the Diet
One variation with this diet is how much steak and eggs that you should eat. The figures that I gave above are general estimates but some people say that you should tailor your consumption around your calorie requirements. So, if you don’t exercise much, you would probably eat less than someone who exercises extensively.
Nevertheless, it is fairly hard to overeat with this diet. After all, you only have two meal times that you can eat, and there is only so much steak and eggs that you can eat in one sitting – as this is a very filling meal.
Another variation is the timing.
Many people say that you should have your two meals at breakfast and dinner but not everyone agrees. Instead, you can change up this timing to suit your own needs.
For example, one common approach is to eat lunch and dinner instead. This tactic is common with intermittent fasting as well and it’s a good general way to decrease the amount of food you eat.
There is this common myth that if you skip breakfast that you will gain weight (because you eat more in the next meal) and that you will have hardly any energy. This may well be true for some people but many people find that they can effectively lose weight by skipping breakfast.
If you are going to skip any meal, breakfast also tends to be the easiest because often it takes time for you to feel hungry after you wake up. As such, you feel hungry for a shorter period of time than if you were to skip lunch.
One final variation is in the specific food you eat.
Now, most people who promote this diet say that you cannot substitute out food. Instead, you have to eat steak and eggs regardless (aside from the cheat days).
Honestly, this restriction is more about ideology than anything else. There is no real reason why you couldn’t substitute for other cuts of meat. For example, ground beef has a similar ratio of fat to protein – although it is easier for the body to digest, which may make it a little less effective.
In all of these cases, which approaches you take will ultimately come down to what works best for you. For example, some people may have no problems eating steak and eggs every day, while others may want to vary this up at least a little, simply so that they can stick to the diet.
Is the Diet Healthy?
The biggest argument against the diet tends to be that steak and eggs cooked in butter is unhealthy. Honestly though, that’s not really accurate. Instead, the fears about fat and cholesterol have been majorly overblown and there is growing recognition that fat isn’t really the villain at all (1). Instead, our low-fat high-carb diets may be doing far more damage to our health than fat ever did.
Like anything, fat is unhealthy if you consume too much of it and having some fat is critical to health.
In fact, one major issue in our society is that people consume large amounts of fat, sugar and carbs. Basically, we consume too many calories in general and that’s the major issue, not fat itself.
At the same time, the high amounts of carbs in our diet (particularly from sugar and processed foods) plays a key role in the development of inflammation, which in turn is associated with a number of health conditions.
With this diet, your calorie consumption isn’t too concerning because you aren’t eating anything else. Additionally, the diet is designed with bodybuilders in mind, so many people following it will be burning off a lot of that energy.
So, it’s certainly true that the diet is not as unhealthy as it first appears. Indeed, all of the components contain a lot of nutrients.
At the same time, this is also a high protein diet. Despite many of the myths that surround protein, high protein diets can play a key role in promoting health and protein itself is associated with health benefits,
Likewise, protein plays a role in muscle development (2) and may even help with weight loss, especially as protein can help to ensure that people eat less. That role in muscle development is particularly important as some research has found a connection between muscles and longevity.
In fact, most people don't get enough protein in their diets to start off with.
It is also worth noting that there is some debate about the impact of too much protein on health. Many people do claim that excessive protein can make the body work ‘too hard’ and cause health issues. However, when I researched this topic as part of an article on whey protein, I found that the evidence for this risk is extremely low and most of the claims are based on hype and assumptions.
However, whether or not the diet is healthy is still debatable. After all, you are missing out on key food groups, along with all the nutrients that fruit and vegetables have to offer.
For health, you're probably better adding protein into your diet, such as in the form of a protein shake. Doing so would still give you benefits and would reduce any potential risks.
This diet does contain a decent number of nutrients and the fat content doesn't make it unhealthy. Nevertheless, you do miss out on key nutrients from plant sources and the diet is unlikely to be healthy in the long-term
Can You Actually Lose Weight?
The steak and eggs diet is mostly designed for bodybuilders but some people also choose to use it simply for the potential to reduce their fat and lose weight.
One reason that this works is simply that you aren’t actually eating a huge amount of food. The gap between meals also lets you take advantage of a process called autophagy, which is a key process in the body and may play a key role in health and even in weight loss.
At the same time, this diet is a ketogenic diet.
That diet type plays on the biochemical processes in the body, producing a state called ketosis. Ketosis is sometimes referred to as a fat burning mode and when the body is in ketosis it does burn fat much more effectively.
Now, this process occurs when people have a diet that is very low in carbs. The Atkins Diet was a famous early example of achieving this approach.
I’m not going to go into the complexities of ketosis or a ketogenic diet here but the basic concept is legitimate – if you can get (and keep) your body in ketosis, then you will lose weight fast.
However, there are some side effects of ketosis, especially early on. These include dizziness, excessive thirst, shakiness, headaches and chills. In most cases, the side effects will go away with time but it’s important to be aware of them before you actually get started with the diet.
For that matter, the steak and eggs diet is also a low carb diet. So, it is an interesting option for anybody who is trying to cut down on their carbs.
It is certainly possible to lose weight with the steak and eggs diet, partly because it is a ketogenic diet
Steak and Eggs Diet Results
The overall design of this approach does raise some questions, especially with the limited food selection. Nevertheless, the diet is extremely popular. One reason is just the simplicity, as following the eating style doesn't involve meal planning, calorie counting, carb cycling or anything like that.
So then, it's no wonder the diet is popular among bodybuilders.
Despite the limitations, some people do see results with this eating style
Additional Things to Consider with the Diet
Steak and Eggs Diet Side Effects and Risks
The steak and eggs diet might sound like a perfect idea for weight loss but the approach does still come with side effects to be aware of. As I mentioned earlier, some of these are related to ketosis and will be particularly strong when you first start the diet.
At the same time, this diet is extremely limited in nutrients. If we don’t consider the cheat day, then this diet doesn’t contain any fruit or vegetables, which do contain important nutrients for health.
Now, supporters of the diet argue that this doesn’t matter because steak and eggs contain a lot of nutrients, as does butter. That’s entirely true and I’ve even written posts on how butter, red meat and eggs are all important for health.
Even so, those foods don’t contain all of the nutrients you need for health and wellbeing – far from it.
Instead, there is a huge range of different compounds in plant-based foods that help to keep us well and this is the whole reason that the idea of superfoods is promoted so heavily in the media.
This means that if you follow the steak and eggs diet for an extended period of time, there is considerable risk that you will suffer health issues as a result.
One recommendation is to take fiber supplements, which helps to get around the issue that the diet lacks fiber.
However, doing so does not help with the other nutrients from plants. Indeed, many of the plant-specific compounds aren’t available in supplements anyway.
In the short-term, the restrictive nature of the diet might be okay, especially if you were healthy beforehand. However, in the long-term, the health risks are considerably more significant.
Challenges of the Diet
It’s easy to see the appeal of the steak and eggs diet for weight loss. After all, the diet doesn’t involve counting calories or preparing complex meals. Likewise, many people love steak and eggs, so the idea of eating this regularly sounds amazing.
Nevertheless, the diet isn’t as easy as it sounds.
For one thing, eating the exact same food every day is a pretty major mental challenge, even with that cheat day in there.
Now, steak and eggs is a high protein meal, which does mean that it will tend to be more filling and satisfying than many other meal options. Nevertheless, this diet is still going to leave people hungry a lot of the time. After all, you don’t get to eat anything between lunch and dinner.
That aspect of the diet could be a major issue if you work a 9-to-5 job or do anything where you need to concentrate during the day. At the same time, you also don’t get any snacks and that just adds to the challenge.
You could get around some of the hunger by taking the approach that some people do, which is to skip breakfast and eat lunch and dinner as the two meals. Many people do find this variation easier, partly because the gap between meals doesn't feel as long.
Likewise, one of the key reasons that people would get hungry is that this is a significant change from most normal eating patterns. A lot of people eat three meals a day and a number of snacks, so cutting this down to two meals and nothing else is a bit of a shock and can take time to get used to.
As I mentioned earlier, there are also considerable side effects with the diet, especially when you first start it. This is going to be particularly true if you relied on carbs for much of your energy previously because you are essentially switching from one energy source to another.
On a side note, it would be easier to eat out with this diet than with most others. Realistically, steak and eggs is a fairly common dish at a lot of restaurants and even if restaurants don’t specifically serve this, you could probably get them to make it anyway. Likewise, steak is commonly served at barbecues and other types of functions, as is other red meat, which could act as an alternative.
Now, there are still many restaurants and places that you can’t get steak and eggs but at least this is easier to achieve than trying to follow a strict paleo diet or even a vegan diet while you are out with friends.
Short-term versus Long-term Success
With the various challenges and side effects of this diet, it’s easy to see that this is only ever going to work in the short-term. You could certainly lose weight with the diet but it wouldn’t be safe or sustainable to try and follow it for months or for years.
This issue is also common among fad diets, like the Clean 9 Diet and the 3 Day Military Diet. In fact, it’s true for pretty much any fast weight loss diet, because they tend to be excessively restrictive.
There isn’t anything wrong with fast weight loss per se, despite myths to the contrary (3). But, fast weight loss is only going to help if you can keep that weight off.
This is where the issue lies. Most people will lose weight in a diet like this and then gain it back again once they get off the diet. That process is known as yo-yo dieting and it certainly isn’t good for physical or mental health.
Indeed, one of the key reasons that people don’t lose weight when they are trying to is that they are trying an unsustainable diet.
One way around this is to make sure you have a realistic lifestyle to fall back on once the diet is over. For example, there are versions of ketogenic diets that are sustainable in the long-term. The same is true for intermittent fasting.
However, the best approach is to avoid ‘quick fix’ diets like the steak and eggs diet.
As a general rule, making sustainable changes to create a healthy lifestyle tends to work much better as a way to lose weight and actually keep it off.
At the same time, this type of approach is going to be healthier for your body as a whole and this also lets you tailor a lifestyle towards what is actually going to work for you and your individual needs.
For example, many people follow a low carb or a ketosis diet but they don't just stick to a couple of different foods. Instead, there are many fantastic recipes that you can make, including low carb pumpkin recipes and even a range of amazing keto desserts. For that matter, there are also many low carb vegetables that you can include in your diet, even if you are focusing on cutting down carbs.
Nutritionally, you're going to be much better off following a diet that includes a range of healthy components, rather than one that sticks to just a few foods. Now, in the short-term, the steak and eggs diet may be okay. But, even then, I'd suggest paying close attention to your food and body to make sure you are getting the nutrients that you need.
The steak and eggs diet may work for short-term weight loss but it comes with a range of challenges and some side effects, especially as the diet is low in some nutrients
My Personal Thoughts on the Steak and Eggs Diet
I can certainly see the appeal of the steak and eggs diet, especially for bodybuilders as the high protein content would help with muscle development as well.
The biggest issue is that it wouldn't be effectively sustainably. So, you might use the approach to start your weight loss journey or as a way to get yourself into ketosis quickly. But, in the long-term, the diet is less powerful.
After all, the bulk of the diet is just eating two foods. Eggs and steak are both nutrient-dense and have health benefits, true. But, even then, you're missing out on a range of plant-based compounds, including antioxidants and phytochemicals. Doing so is far from ideal.
Personally, I would recommend avoiding the diet for simple weight loss but if you are going to follow it, try to do so only in the short-term and make sure you get lots of nutrients on your cheat days. At the same time, make sure you have a healthy lifestyle to turn to once you have finished with the diet.
As for bodybuilding, this diet does have some advantages but again, you need to be careful about your nutrients, especially if you plan on following the diet for an extended period of time.
Alternatively, if you are looking for a long-term effective weight loss approach - the most important idea is try to change your lifestyle rather than follow a specific diet. There are also a range of different diets and approaches out there that can act as a sustainable lifestyle, such as intermittent fasting, low carb dieting and even the paleo diet.
Want to Lose Weight and Keep it Off?
Weight loss is a huge industry, with no shortage of hype. But, long-term weight loss doesn't come from a crash diet or a popular fad.
Instead, you need sustainable habits and healthy foods.
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