Social media has been buzzing about The Bro Diet.
No, it’s not the latest viral horror film which involves the consumption of meatheads — although that’s probably in the works as we speak.
Instead, the Bro Diet is an eating plan for muscle gain and/or weight loss, derived from bodybuilding traditions of the ’70s.
It’s both extremely disciplined, which appeals to diet experts, yet its devotees find it extremely simple and easy to follow.
What Is the Bro Diet?
You could say that the Bro Diet is meal prepping on steroids, figuratively speaking.
Casually passed down from lore around the gym, the diet focuses on simple, whole sources of protein, carbs, and fats.
It’s a starter version of the regimen known as IIFYM (If It Fits Your Macros), in which the top priority is consuming a certain amount of those three macronutrients — protein, carbohydrates, and fat — each day.
What Can You Eat on the Bro Diet?
“The Bro Diet includes many healthy whole foods like chicken, rice, vegetables, oatmeal, eggs and especially egg whites, and discourages consumption of saturated fat, sugar, and alcohol,” says Jim White, ACM, Ex-P, CPT, a registered dietitian and certified personal trainer in Norfolk, Virginia.
While there are many ways to interpret the Bro Diet, it creates a lineup of predictable, go-to foods that are easily measured to help dieters create a calorie deficit.
Bro Dieters often prep these foods ahead of time and refrigerate them in containers to be quickly reheated or eaten as-is.
While there are no rules against seasonings or creative preparations, most dieters tend to keep things super-simple.
Instagram is rife with pictures (tagged #brodiet) of meal prep containers filled with unseasoned chicken breasts, plain rice and vegetables.
To outside observers, the biggest knock against the regimen is that it can seem bland and repetitious.
But to proponents of the diet, the simplicity has its virtues.
“Some folks require variety and some don’t,” a Bro Dieter nicknamed “MythicalStrength” said on Reddit’s /r/naturalbodybuilding forum.
“I can eat the same thing every day and be content. It helps to be distracted while eating, like watching TV or YouTube. Takes my mind off it. Simple and tasty recipe for me is slow cooker pot roast. Buy pot roast, put it in water in slow cooker, dump in onion soup, let cook on low for 8 hours.”
But, he added, “My other recipe was just meat.”
What Are the Benefits of the Bro Diet?
“In taking a look at the Bro Diet through a scientific lens, there are beneficial aspects of the diet and some inherent pitfalls,” says White.
First, the good news. The two main tenets of the Bro Diet have been found to be highly effective for weight loss and muscle-building:
- Planning ahead
- Portion control (although there is no specific calorie count)
It’s easy to follow and adhere to, and illustrates how popular meal prepping has become.
“Structured meal plans, with frequent (some Bro Dieters eat six meals per day, while others partake in the standard three) intervals, offer the best success rates for diet adherence,” says White.
“Regularly planned meals decrease hunger and improve appetite control. Regular meals may also affect our health — increased meal frequency appears to have a positive effect on various blood markers, particularly LDL cholesterol, total cholesterol and insulin.”
What Are the Drawbacks of the Bro Diet?
But the diet isn’t without its potential issues:
- Bro Dieters can get fixated on protein and cast vegetables aside. A lopsided emphasis on protein or omission of other beneficial nutrients is bad for your body.
- Getting too fixated on a routine can mess with your head.
- The boredom factor could undermine your desired results.
White says there are many pitfalls to the Bro Diet.
“Although diet monotony has proven to be an effective strategy for successful weight loss and maintenance, an individual who lacks variety in their diet can end up with gaps in their nutrition. When you’re always consuming the same foods, you must also consider the micronutrients, or vitamins and minerals, you could be missing which are essential for your body to function and stay healthy,” explains White.
For example, bodybuilders’ diets have a tendency to overemphasize protein while cutting carbs; but research shows that eating fast-acting carbohydrates alongside protein is necessary to effectively grow muscle, says White.
Also, the repetition and rigorous planning involved in the diet might be inspirational — or lead to dietary rebellion and unhealthy eating patterns.
“This can lead to binge eating, feelings of guilt after cheat meals, and can promote generally unhealthy behaviors like avoiding social situations where food will be present and missing out on celebrations,” says White. “There are many stories among competitive bodybuilders of battles fought with eating disorders, disordered eating patterns and distorted body image.”
The Bottom Line
These days, Instagram-friendly eating plans seem to come and go at an increasingly rapid rate. Experimenting with the Bro Diet (or a modified version) won’t necessarily lead to dietary disaster.
It could be a good short-term option for a dietary reset, after which you resume one classic — scientifically supported — recommendation for a healthy diet: variety.
“Several studies suggest that people who consume the widest range of healthy foods are less likely to develop metabolic syndrome and tend to have smaller waists, lower blood sugar and blood pressure levels,” says White. “Also, research has found that consuming a variety of foods promotes the diversity of your gut bacteria, which seems to play a role in everything ranging from guarding against heart disease, to our overall mood, immunity, and the storage of abdominal fat.”
While rebooting your eating habits, the Bro Diet can also help develop solid meal prepping practices. White stresses variety with this process as well.
“If you have a busy lifestyle and like the idea of meal prepping, just make sure to rotate different recipes and meals into the cycle each week,” he says.