Sunday, September 30, 2007

Eating for a Classic Physique: The Steve Reeves Diet

So what kind of diet did these classic physique builders of the Golden Age of Natural Bodybuilding follow?

Well, here is the Steve Reeves Diet as outlined in his book Building The Classic Physique The Natural Way (available at It represents a typical day's diet when he was competing.

It isn't the modern "eat protein every 3 hours" or "eat six or seven small meals a day" type diet that we see today. Instead, it is based on the old "3 meals a day" plan.

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)

He describes this diet as "well-balanced with something from each of the food groups...". That's it! Pretty simple. He doesn't seem to have needed to eat protein every three hours as is recommended today. His home-made "protein drink" was taken as a meal replacement and he limited it to once-a-day for breakfast.

While we wouldn't recommend anyone using raw eggs today, his diet is well-rounded and healthy. It is interesting and encouraging that without the in-depth, scientific knowledge of nutrition that we have today, bodybuilders like Steve Reeves were able to produce classic physiques that are still unsurpassed today!


brendon patrick said...

A VERY good blogspot! Steve Reeves diet is so simple, yet so effective and also healthful.
The photos you publish of Steve and other classic physique men are very encouraging to continue the workouts. The classic sculptures fit in well also.
I will be checking in often. Keep up the good work!

- CPB - said...

Welcome to Classic Physique Builder! We are glad you like our blog! Yes...learning about the Golden Age of Classic Physique Building (the 1940s and 50s) is a real eye-opener when you discover that you can actually build a fantastic physique naturally (without steroids) with just proper training, proper nutrition, and proper rest. You don't even need all the modern nutritional supplements that fill the pages of the mainstream muscle mags! So stay tuned for more inspiration! We will do our best to bring you "Golden Age Methods for a Golden Age Physique!" - CPB

Anonymous said...

hi, i'm really surprised and amazed at the same time that steve reeves could build such a physique with this "3 meal plan". If you read articles about bodybuilding today their advice is to eat, eat more, and eat 'till you drop dead.

It's very interesting reading all those articles from the old champions. it gives me courage to keep on working out without taking supplements and roids. Steve Reeves has become my idol, and now i have set a goal: look like him one day. I follow a little bit his diet as well, don't take any supplements. And I have to say I feel a lot better and healthier and...I see some progress.

Thank you CPB for your wonderfull site. Keep on the good work!!!

- CPB - said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for contributing to our CPB blog! We hope that all CPB'ers (those who follow this blog) can feel as if it is CPB Blog is their blog as well!

Yes, the 3 meal-a-day plan was pretty standard in the Golden Age. Now, don't forget, that snacks were also allowed. So, Steve Reeves might have snacked on goat milk, a few figs, and even carrot juice between meals if he got hungry.

We should point out that the 5-6 meal-a-day plan was not unkown during the Golden Age (but it was considered an option for those who found it difficult to eat 3 solid meals a day).

We think the supplement companies are probably responsible for the greater promotion of the 5-6 meal plan since it provides greater opportunities for someone to have their protein drinks to substitute for one of those meals (in other words, it is better for sales).

Although the quantity of food that Steve consumed doesn't seem that great, other classic physique champs (like Reg Park and John Grimek) were known to have quite an appetite (so those 3 meals could have been quite substantial).

We think the quantity of food necessary is an individual thing. You can start by finding your maintenance level (where you are neither gaining or losing), then if you want to gain mass, you can increase your intake from there (with good quality foods). Or if you want to lose weight, you can decrease your intake (or lower your carb intake).

Milk was a favorite snack in those days and some CPB champs were even known to consume a gallon of milk before, during, and after a workout (although this seems a bit excessive). Milk has good protein, carbs, and fat, so, by trial and error, they found that it made a good pre-, during-, and post-workout drink.

With respect to supplements, as we pointed out, Steve made his own protein/power drink which he would have for breakfast. He was also known to have taken vitamins.

We agree that Steve Reeves is a great role model. Anyone would do well by following his example!

All the best,


Anonymous said...

hi CPB,

in footsteps of Steve Reeves I made my own Power drink for the morning which consists of:

-3 raw eggs
-1 tablespoon of honey
-1 scoop Whey protein powder (chocolate flavour)
-200-300 grams of fresh cheese/some variation of cottage cheese ( I don't know how to say this in english) but it contains a lot of protein and doesn't contain much fat
-1 banana


- CPB - said...

Hi Bruno,

That's great! How did it taste?


Anonymous said...

it tastes great! If you don't like the chocolate flavour with the banana flavour just use another protein powder. I drink it every morning instead of taking a breakfast.It's very easy and you don't have a hungry feeling! For lunch I eat almost the same things like Steve: some bread with cottage cheese and some fruit. And in the evening some meat with vegetables and rice or patatoes.


- CPB - said...

Hi Bruno,

Thanks for the additional info! Keep us posted on how this (3 meal a day) diet works out for you and your progress in making gains!

All the best,


Anonymous said...

awesome site good to know that just 3 simple meals a day can work wonders.i just have no time to eat six freaking times a day.bodybuilding should be about building a strong body and a sharp mind.where did it all go wrong.

- CPB - said...

Hi Anonymous!

Yes...3 meals a day can work wonders!

In the first half of the pre-roid Golden Age, 3 meals a day was standard. During the second half (the 1950s), we can find 4, 5, and 6 meal-a-day plans as options to the 3 meal/day plan. But the 6 meal-a-day plan was not standard.

Everyone is a bit different, so people were encouraged to experiment a bit to find out what worked best for them. That was and still is a good approach!

Where did things go wrong? - in 1960, when roids flooded into the bodybuilding world. It was all downhill from there!

The 1960s were a period of transition (the beginning of the "dark ages of bodybuilding" so to speak) where more and more competitors turned to roids and the remaining few classic physique builders gradually left the competitive field.

The muscle mags in the 60s used the roid-users to push their supplements (this continues today) and roids eventually made the extreme Hulk-like physiques possible - which helps create a market for the high-tech, roid-sounding like supplements of today.

The mainstream muscle mags today can make a lot more money(from the advertising dollars of the supplement companies) by making roids "acceptable" and pushing high tech supplements than they can by selling weights and muscle building courses (which is what the mags sold in the Golden Age).

Ever wonder why the muscle mags of today are at least 50% of advertising pages? There are so many ads, you can hardly find or recognize the articles! Well, every ad represents LOTS OF MONEY to the mags. They make far more money on those ads than they do through mag sales and subscriptions.

It is sad, but there it is. Follow the money and you'll find the story!

Fortunately, we live in the information age. So the truth about pre-roid, Golden Age methods and physiques can no longer be hidden! And we don't have to follow or swallow the hype of the mainstream, roid-oriented muscle mags any longer!

All the best,


Johnny G said...

a far cry difference then the Iron Guru - Now I know we need more protein to build muscle, but Steve Reeves has a sensable approach

Johnny G said...

another thing about diet, even Arnold S. ate only 3 times per day - I know this is a steroid free blogg but just wanted to show people that even extreme diets are not needed - Steve was ahead of the times or better yet we need to get back to those times

Truman said...

This is great information. So refreshing to see someone who did it on just 3 meals a day. All this crap about 6-8 meals a day is nuts. It gets expensive and I feel like my whole day revolves around food. I also love the fact that he recommended more carbs in the diet; they get such a bad rap now a days. Im going to give this a shot. Except the cottage cheese part, im allergic to dairy lol.

Thanks for all the info!!