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Bodybuilding Legend - Steve Reeves Diet

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Bodybuilding Legend Steve Reeves Diet

The following info was provided by Jeff Roark…

I’ve been using the old Reeves diet for the past two months. I had been doing the low carb high fat and protein stuff before that and I was completly miserable. On top of that I had blood work done and was not pleased with some elevated liver and kindey enzymes which were completely normal on all past  blood tests. Back to feeling miserable, my workouts were a complete drag along due to feeling like a slug 24/7. I did drop some fat, but now I think it was more water weight.

Now a few more things. I am hypothyroidal and have had some slight hypertension. I take T3 and T4 for my thyroid issues and had been taking lisinopril at 10mg per day. I take my blood pressure here at home and keep a log of it. I had been being the nice little patient following the advice to drink tons of water(for me a I drinking a gallon a day) and staying away from the evil salt. This did nothing for improving my blood pressure. It stayed the same with the garbage medicine, generally around 140/90 give a few numbers here and there. I had been seeing a pattern but it never dawned on me what I was seeing until I started doing some research on diets for people with hypothyroidism. The pattern that had been before me was that the higher my pulse rate the lower my blood pressure would be and resting pulse rate was directly related to the thyroid. I would notice it everytime I would get off the treadmill and my pulse would be anywhere between 80-100 beats per minute and my blood pressure would drop into the 115/70 range. Although this was pulse rate increased by exercise, it still lowered my BP. So, this led me back to diet related issues and my thyroid problems.

I read that for most people with a hypothyroidal condition a diet higher in carbs and more moderate protein and fat intakes were optimal along with optimal amounts of salt. Total contradiction to what I had been doing. I knew that i needed to make a change, enter the Reeves diet.

I had remembered reading a blog post ages ago about the Reeves diet and it seemed simple to follow and thats what I need. I dug it up and I quickly knew it would meet every need I had. I used Casey Butt’s calorie calculator to adjust my proportions to get around 2000 cals per day. Seems I maintain on this pretty good at the time. I also cut my water intake in half, probably increased my salt intake 10 fold and quit the lisinopril instantly.  Here is the diet which I am sure many have seen it before.

Breakfast: The Steve Reeves Power Drink consisting of:

14 ounces of freshly squeezed orange juice
1 tablespoon of Knox gelatin
1 tablespoon of honey
1 banana
2-4 raw eggs (he recommends that pasteurized eggs might be safer today)
2 tablespoons of High-Protein Powder (which he made himself)


cottage cheese (with a handful of nuts, raisins)
2 pieces of fresh fruit (in season)


1 huge salad
1 swordfish steak (or turkey, tuna, or lean ground beef)

I make adjustments here and there to help with calories and tastes. Most evenings I have a either a 6-8oz sweet potato or white rice with dinner and a thouroughly cooked vegetable. I don’t seem to do well anymore with uncooked veggies. Sometimes (2x per week) I’ll have cream of rice cereal and scrambled eggs with orange juice for breakfast instead of the shake, but I definitely prefer the feeling I get with the Breakfast shake. I seem to get really warm after I drink it and that’s a good sign for someone with the hypo! We struggle with cold feet and hands.

Now after nearly two months on the diet my blood pressure has dropped down into the 125/80 range give or take a few now. I feel a ton better in my workouts and everything else. Plus, my pulse is slowly creeping up. It was in the upper 50s and now it creeping up to around 70. I would like to get it up to around 80 but that may take some time and maybe more thyroid medicine which i would like to change to the old time Armour instead of synthetics.

I’ve gained a few pounds now that I have some sugar in my blood but I am leaner now.


The following info was provided by Magnus in response to Jeff Roark…

Hi Jeff,

A very interesting post and yet another case of modern pharmaceutical practises being ineffective. Steve Reeves was of course not only the best-looking bodybuilder of all time but also pre-dated the steroid era and was very interested in good health and nutrition. In his book ‘Building The Classic Physique’ he describes his diet and also a vegetarian alternative, recommending Frances Moore Lappe’s book ‘Diet for a small planet’ which appeared in the early 1970s. I also have this book and it does a good job of matching veggie sources of protein to make meals that  contain all the essential amino acids.

The odd thing looking through Steves book ( unless it appears in the second edition which had a lot more pages, but I only have the first edition) is that there is no mention of a book that did influence Steve and health food advocates in the 1950s called ‘Look Younger, Live Longer’ by Gayelord Hauser. In his day Hauser was a preacher for healthy foods and lifestyles. I also have an old copy of this book in which Hauser lists his ‘wonder foods’ as Brewers Yeast, Yogurt, Wheat Germ, Black Treacle ( otherwise known as Blackstrap Molasses) and powdered Skim Milk. Hauser suggested blending skim milk into whole milk to make ‘fortified milk’ with twice as much protein and calcium content. He also recommended vitamins A, C, D and E BE taken and get this; until very recently vitamin D was given a suggested daily amount of 400ius, but now it is known we need more like 1,000 ius minimum in the colder months, yet Hauser suggested 1,000 ius daily in his book over 60 years ago! His amounts for the other vitamins were likewise ahead of his time and further dietary advice included lots of fresh vegetables and whole grain breads and cereals.

Of course nutritional science has moved on and is changing rapidly these days but what was written in Hauser’s book all those years ago generally holds up quite well and if you can find a copy in a second-hand bookshop it’s worth a read – I won’t spoil the fun of reading some of the quaint ideas that were not so modern by mentioning them!

Jeff, maybe it could be worth it to try out his wonder foods and see if they help you. Okay, enough already except to say I watched your lifts and your form is textbook perfect on them all.

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