T Nation

Vertical Diet - Stan Efferding


I basically switched to essentially the vertical diet about 8 years ago after reading a book called “The Perfect Health Diet”. Why it worked IMO. 1) It controlled carbs but kept them high enough to keep me feeling like I was eating normally, 2) I eliminated high linoleic oils, 3) I kept fructose at an optimal level, usually less than 25 grams per day, 4) I eliminated wheat, oats, most corn and beans, and later on, other foods that were irritating. For me, the same foods that are irritants are trigger foods for throwing me off of eating right. When you avoid those trigger foods, you start to crave things that your body really needs rather than those inflammatory trigger foods. The thing is that cortisol has some addictive properties, so cortisol raising foods can make you eat for the chemical response rather than the nutritional need.

In my case, I did this step-wise, and when I cut grains (except white rice) and beans, I started sleeping much better because I had sinus inflammation most nights, and removing grains and beans shut off my sinus inflammation immediately. I’ve tried to add them back and the night time sinusitis came back right away.

To this day, if I add back sugar (aside from about as much fruit as I want), or linoleic oils, or canola or wheat, or beans, I get foggy headed, and my sleep quality falls off dramatically. I’ve also come to cut milk most of the time as well. I don’t have noticeable gut issues from any of those foods, but I absolutely get sinus inflammation and general inflammation from them, and they tend to show up most at night. There is no doubt that I was wheat sensitive. As for the high linoleic oils, they are highly systematically inflammatory. Cutting linoleic acid intake can make people feel a lot better right away by reducing inflammation. This also leads to improved insulin sensitivity. Wheat can take 50% more insulin to manage than other carbs because it triggers cortisol release from gut irritation. The reason that high gluten wheat has a low GI is because it contains gut irritants that distress the intestinal lining and make it slower to absorb, but also require more insulin in the long run due to spiking cortisol level as a response to the inflammation.

Obviously, the diet also keeps blood sugar levels very stable because of the balanced macros.

Other things may be the higher cholesterol intake which keeps hormones optimized, and also the sodium. I tended to get really low sodium when I ate right, and adding more sodium improved my workouts. I CAN train in the morning on limited carbs but I need sodium. I have come to think that a main benefit of Plasma or Mag-10 is the sodium content.


This is pretty much the reason why. If you’ve never had any digestive problems then you probably don’t need to think too much about it, but, for guys like me who have struggled with food intolerances, finding a set of foods you can eat day in, day out, without problems is life changing.


Do you have a reference for that part? I hear people saying stuff like that about gluten and wheat while others claim it is nonsense, I personally have zero issues with wheat.


Here’s one question I have about this diet: why white rice rather than parboiled rice?

Of course parboiled rice tasted like shit if you cook it like white rice, but obviously you can season it up. It also has nutrients that white rice lacks, but probably not in high enough quantities to make much difference.


I eat jasmine rice. It doesn’t get hard after cooking. It stays nice and fluffy


This is a pretty good summary: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3705319/

Also, it is well established that 1) high gluten content in wheat greatly lowers the glycemic index by producing a glutenous gell around starch granules that blocks the starch from endothelial cells. 2) Insulin dependent individuals require significantly more insulin per gram of carbohydrates from high gluten wheat than from other starches-the insulin requirements are not high at any one time, but they are greatly prolonged. Insulin dependent individuals may require more insulin for up to 8 hours after consuming high gluten wheat products. This was from a Harvard study and they blamed it on the high fat content of the pasta or pizza meal, but similar studies with high fat meals and gluten free grains required much less additional insulin.


I eat or VeeTee or Annie Chun’s rice. It is 90% cooked, and vacuum packaged with moisture and cooks in about 90 seconds in the microwave, or adding it to other dishes. VeeTee comes in Basmati and Jasmine. I don’t know why there would be a problem with parboiled. Generally, other fairly non-inflammatory starches would be potato, sweet potato/Yam, Banana flour, Plantain. Next would probably be Sorghum and Buckwheat. I think Stan recommends that highly sensitive individuals avoid even potato and banana flour which form resistant starch which CAN be irritating, but resistant starch is not immuno-active like wheat/oat/corn/bean proteins, lectins and lignins, and resistant starch is generally considered to be pre-biotic. One thing about the vertical diet is that your gut needs cellulose, pectin or resistant starch to serve as food for gut bacteria and that’s not included in the vertical part of the diet.


Carrot, sweet potato, bell pepper, squash, spinach…all in the horizontal and daily eats for me.


Ok, but the thing is that high GI carbs + fat or protein equals a lower GI one way or another, wheat just happens to have a relatively high protein content. Rice with steak (fat+protein) will have a lower GI than rice alone, but if you eat rice alone then I would have to ask why you are in this forum. There are differing opinions on gluten, but most of the actual science-based opinions state that unless you have celiac disease there is no reason to avoid it. I have to say that I agree. I like rice and I eat it regularly, but aside from that the only benefit I see over wheat (in various forms) is that it is easier to eat a large quantity of rice and it wont make you feel full for as long. That is part of the reason that Stan recommends rice, if you need to eat 8000 calories per day you will get it in easier with foods that don’t make you feel as full.

What you are saying in the second part might be relevant for diabetic people, but for the rest of us probably isn’t anything to worry about.


Regarding the last part first, that’s not true. Wheat may give a non-diabetic better blood sugar profile (al-dente what pasta has a GI of about 35 versus 100 for wheat meaning that it delivers its initial glucose only 1/3 as fast as rice) BUT if an insulin dependent individual needs 150% as much total insulin for wheat than for rice OVER a period of time then so will a person who secretes their own insulin, and insulin exposure causes insulin resistance. Furthermore, high insulin levels in the first 4 hours of sleep block natural GH (growth hormone) release almost completely which leads to gradual build up of microtrauma. What’s problematic is that the wheat requires more insulin, NOT because it has more glucose, but because it raises stress hormone levels which have to be countered by insulin. This is the fundamental mechanism of metabolic syndrome-high night time cortisol induced insulin resistance and blocking of GH.

Regarding the first part, it is true that the high GH of rice can be manipulated by combining it with protein, fat, acid (vinegar) and fiber, which slow down glucose absorption pretty much the same way that gluten and dozens of other grain proteins, lectins and lignins do, but these components present in wheat and beans and nut skins primarily, 1) weaken the tight junctions in the intestinal wall that allows autoimmine diseases and allergies to develop https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5440529/, 2) many of them are direct allergens that provoke allergic responses ranging from mild (sinusitis) to sever (asthma-you may know that wheat, even sans gluten is the #1 food allergen provoking asthma attacks), and 3) the non-glucose polymer components in grains act as anti-nutrients, blocking absorption of many minerals. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4325021/ White rice has had phytic acid mostly removed.

Grain and legume proteins are designed to prevent destruction of the grain in animals guts by making them into gut irritants/inflammatories. Meat protein is not allergenic, or animals would have a real hard time being allergic to their own muscles.

It is clear that sensitivity to different plant proteins and plant starch sources varies by genetic and exposure, but it tends to get worse over time, and its not about gluten. Gluten just happens to be one polypeptide that causes a full blown autoimmune response. Yeast bread, especially sourdough seems to be better since the fermentation process destroys most of the harmful macromolecules. Raw soy and unprocessed wild corn literally will kill you in a matter of weeks
because they inhibit thiamine and trypsin. When human populations moved to grains for starches, they all got more calories, but individuals also got smaller stature and dental disease.

Inflammation caused by wheat and linoleic oils (as well as high sucrose intake) probably have driven the rise in metabolic syndrome over the last 100 years by increasing insulin resistance by increasing cortisol, insulin exposure, sleep disturbances and higher triglyceride levels including fatty liver.

A few important points on physiology: 1) Food requires insulin by two mechanisms-a) the direct entry of energetic substances into the bllodstream and b) the stimulation of cortisol, adrenaline and glucagon which stimulate the liver to release stored glycogen, usually on a time table 1-4 hours longer than the initial rise from the food energy itself. 2) Inflammatory foods and agents raise blood sugar because the body releases cortisol to reduce inflammation. Cortisol stimulates the liver to break down glycogen and release it as glucose. Cortisol also stimulates fat mobilization, but the increased fat in the bloodstream blocks the effectiveness of insulin on the liver and muscles meaning that it raises blood sugar too because the liver releases glucose and the muscles are impeded from taking in glucose at normal rates.


This is totally anecdotal, but a few years ago I went to Italy (specifically Sicily) and there everyone eats white bread and/or pasta at every meal. They have rice too but it’s not half as popular. There are hardly any fat people there at all, and of course insulin resistance and diabetes are associated with obesity. On top of that, they usually have dinner at like 9p or later. I was sold on the idea that white flour is bad for you and so on until I went there, based on what certain experts say these people should all be obese and diabetic by now. It is my impression that a lot of scientific data is presented in a way that will promote certain products, like gluten-free everything and whole grain stuff.

I don’t know if that is true or not but recently Mike Israetel posted something on Facebook saying that bedtime casein is good for a bunch of reasons including increased insulin sensitivity upon waking. Protein stimulates insulin production as much as carbs so if what you say is true then casein before bed would have the exact opposite effect. Either you are mistaken or he is giving us bad information.

So regarding the vertical diet, nothing about it sounds unreasonable to me but it probably isn’t necessary unless you need to eat a ton of food or just have digestive issues. The only thing that gives me digestive issues is if I eat too much fiber, there are some things like mangos, cabbage, etc. that I like and could eat in large quantities but if I do I end up feeling bloated and spend more time in the bathroom than I would like to.


Mike is not dependent on noctornal GH. Protein requires approximately half of the insulin per gram as glucose, and even less compared to wheat. That would make 40 grams of casein equivalent to about 20 grams of glucose or 12-13 grams of high gluten wheat starch in terms of insulin response. In addition, casein’s response to insulin is very delayed AND protein can enter cells through non-insulin mediated glucose uptake if it is slow enough like casein. It will use insulin if it is available, but will enter without it as well, and casein absorption is so slow that most of it is getting absorbed by non insulin mediated glucose uptake before it has a chance to stimulate an insulin response. So it is not true that either I am mistaken or he is giving bad info. The answer is that you have introduced false info on insulin and protein into your reasoning.


In addition to rice, and avoidance of anti-nutrient containing starches, the vertical diet (as well as various anti-modern diets out there) also promote high saturated fat, high cholesterol, low linoleic acid, low hormone given protein-Ungulate meat, particularly beef. A prime point is that saturated fat is good, and chicken and pork are high in linoleic acid and hormones.


It’s pretty obvious at this point that Mike Israetel is not natural, but that still doesn’t mean that his advice is not valid for natural lifters as well.

I have no agenda here at all, this started as a discussion on the vertical diet and is becoming something else. If I’m wrong then I’m wrong but I’m not intentionally spreading false information. And at this point I don’t really know what to think, people with PhD’s and university professors are saying things that contradict what you are stating. No offense, but you are just a guy on an internet forum (like myself) so I take these thing with a grain of salt.

In the end, I’m not a dietician and I don’t sell nutrition plans so I don’t really care one way or another. I know what I need to do to gain or lose weight and it’s pretty simple.


Where did you arrive at the information that protein requires as much insulin as carbs?

I posted current medical research. The newest research is starting to concede that wheat is allergenic and causes leaky gut and autoimmune disease, but there was resistance to this kind of research because the medical community has been pushing the opposite (whole grains, omega-6s, low saturated fat) for 30 years. It is hard for them to turn around and say that we should have been telling you to eat saturated fat and eliminate whole grains.

I won’t call myself an expert but I have degrees in chemistry and in exercise physiology and have researched in those fields over 25 years, and my wife is a cardiologist. For whatever it is worth.


Are you saying that this is a good or bad thing? That’s another controversy here that I don’t have an opinion on because I just don’t know what to think. Stan mentioned an article titled “The Oiling of America” (if I remember correctly) which basically says that polyunsaturated fats are unhealthy and saturated fats are better. However, plenty of other sources (mainstream science) says that intake of saturated fats should be minimized. I realize that saturated fat and cholesterol are necessary for hormone production, but beyond the minimum necessary to produce hormones is there any benefit to more saturated fat? Is it really unhealthy? I just try to keep fat at a moderate level, saturated or otherwise.


I have read this in multiple places, I don’t have a specific reference for you. However, I may have misquoted what I read, my understanding is that both carbs and proteins stimulate insulin production but I don’t know about what quantities are required for how much insulin. My point was that if elevated insulin levels for a prolonged period of time were a problem then bedtime casein would be a bad choice. Perhaps casein doesn’t stimulate insulin very much, I have no data either way. Do you believe that bedtime casein is bad for your health?


Read the above response. Also I will like to a discussion of saturated and pufa fats on this forum.


So here’s the question: why do all these doctors and scientists promote vegetable oils? Are they just stupid or are they trying to make people sick so they can take our money? It looks like you and Stan are on the same page there, and both of you have scientific data to back up your statements so I can’t say you are wrong, I just don’t understand why there are two groups preaching complete opposite things here.


No. It would take a huge dose of casein to match the insulin released to match a small amount of wheat overnight. https://www.google.com/imgres?imgurl=https://cdn.shopify.com/s/files/1/1943/7603/files/time.png?v%3D1503269904&imgrefurl=https://pescience.com/blogs/blog/lesson-9-avoid-massive-insulin-spikes-from-your-whey&h=385&w=485&tbnid=E5nYF2p8Cf-pDM:&tbnh=160&tbnw=201&usg=__1d3kOWHT17Gk55lMB6HqsxasdJc%3D&vet=12ahUKEwihibKA-vPaAhWS94MKHbNmAy8Q9QEwAHoECAAQLg..i&docid=OG7G7biSVvcR5M&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwihibKA-vPaAhWS94MKHbNmAy8Q9QEwAHoECAAQLg