Several years ago I revived the diet that was hailed by Vince Gironda as one of the most anabolic diets in existence, the 36 Eggs a Day Diet.  Vince Gironda once controversially stated eating 3 dozen eggs a day was the equivalent of a mild cycle of the steroid Dianabol.

The video I created on this diet and uploaded on my YouTube Channel went viral and caused such a stir that many people followed suit creating videos of their own either praising the diet or aiming to debunk it! After just checking YouTube again, people are still creating content on this most controversial diet! Was I naive in believing Vince Gironda back then? Let’s look at the history of how this controversial diet came about and see what science has to say about such a diet.

The Original Experiment

Back in the mid 1960s after Dianabol had just come on to the bodybuilding scene, several scientific research articles were being published on the effectiveness of methandrostenolone (the scientific name for Dianabol) in the healing process and recovery of patient burn victims, partly due to its ability to create a positive nitrogen balance. Then in 1975, the historic medical research article titled « 35 eggs per day in the treatment of severe burns» was published in the British Journal of Plastic Surgery by Hirshowitz and colleagues, which demonstrated that eating 36 eggs a day allowed patients to maintain a positive nitrogen balance which accelerated their healing process. The researchers found that although patients were injesting up to 7,000 mg of cholesterol a day, did this not seem to affect serum cholesterol levels. The researchers theorized that due to the high demands of the body for utilisation of fats in severe burn patients, this might help maintain normal serum cholesterol levels.

The Doctor that made the connection

Soon after, a member of Vince’s Gym, a medical doctor called Dr T. K. Desai began training at Vince’s Gym and experimenting with Vince Gironda’s diets. He was so impressed with his results, that he wished to understand the biochemical changes that were occuring in his body, and so he began to take his own blood samples before and after Vince’s Diets and training programs. But it was Dr Desai who pointed out to Vince Gironda that at the time, 3 dozen eggs per day were prescribed to patients with severe burns and that the diet led to a quick skin healing process similar to that achieved by the commercial steroid dianabol. 

Vince’s Special Protein Shake and The Hormone Precursor Diet

Apparently, Vince and other bodybuilders were already aware of the benefits of eating large quantities of eggs for several decades prior to this study. Once the study came out, it didn’t take long for Vince to connect the dots, and Vince quickly realised that if 3 dozen eggs could accelerate the skin healing process of burn patient victims due to the increased nitrogen balance caused by the diet, then perhaps it was having a similar anabolic effect in bodybuilders. Vince states the following in his book, The Wild Physique :

Nutrition for the bodybuilder is actually very simple. The bottom line is to get your system in positive nitrogen balance. This is achieved by ingesting 30-50 grams of grade-A protein every three hours to keep your blood-sugar level with a constant supply of protein to the muscles. Since raw fertile eggs are the number-one source of grade-A protein (and the least expensive) and are quickly and easily digested in a mixture of half & half, it is the best food source for growth and strength.

This diet will provide a satisfied feeling in the hard gainer because of the steady bloodsugar levels. It is superior to a meat, egg, and water diet because you will never experience actual hunger or weariness. Since it puts you in a positive nitrogen balance (anabolic state) by precursing hormones, it is the best nutrition program for the hard gainer. It is also known as the ultimate musclebuilding diet!

Bodybuilders that used the 36 eggs a day diet

Golden Era Bodybuilders such as Don Howorth, Bill Grant and Don Peters were all bodybuilders that have openly admitted to having used the 36 eggs a day protocol to put on muscular size, whilst Arnold Schwarzenegger, Franco Columbu, Ric Drasin, Mike Katz and Rick Wayne relied on at least a dozen or two per day whilst bulking up. In a MuscleMag article, Vince stated the following on his student, Don Peters : 

I am turning out men like Don Peters, who at 43 years of age looks better now than he ever did when he was 20 years younger and taking steroids! I will put my reputation on the line to prove that steroids are not any better or as good as 4 dozen fertile eggs, 100 liver tablets and 100 amino acid tablets every day!

Cholesterol and Fats and their effects on cardiovascular disease 

The issue with the 36 eggs a day diet of course is that the moment you mention it, there is always someone that screams « But aren’t you worried about the cholesterol ? ». If I could have a dollar for every time I have heard or read that…I would be a millionaire by now ! Let’s dispel some myths about cholesterol. There is a legitimate fear of cardiovascular disease (CVD), but its association with cholesterol is one that is no longer supported by science. A recent review titled « Dietary Cholesterol and the Lack of Evidence in Cardiovascular Disease » published in Nutrients in 2018 states : 

To date, extensive research did not show evidence to support a role of dietary cholesterol in the development of CVD. As a result, the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans removed the recommendations of restricting dietary cholesterol to 300 mg/day.

In this particular study, eggs were particularly singled out as part of a healthy diet even though they are high in both dietary fats and cholesterol. The notion that dietary fats can increase the risk of CVD is also that needs clarification. The type of dietary fatty acid can have different effects in the body, but may not be as important in CVD risk as reducing sugar and processed carbohydrates. Some evidence states that a significant reduction in CVD risk can be achieved if saturated fats are replaced by unsaturated fats, especially polyunsaturated fats. Other studies state that saturated fats should be part of a healthy diet, and can reduce the risk of CVD. The research as to whether saturated or unsaturated fat really is a risk factor at all for CVD is ongoing. Eggs being a dietary source of cholesterol, contains both saturated  and unsaturated fats, whilst being a nutrient dense food. The curent medical opinion does agree that for healthy people without CVD risk factors, eggs should be part of a healthy diet. But if you or your family has a history of cholesterol issues, heart disease or vascular disease, then perhaps large quantities of eggs are not a good idea.

Saturated Fat and Cholesterol and their effects on Testosterone and Muscle Hypertrophy

But what about the effect of fat and cholesterol versus diets high in carbohydrates on testosterone levels in healthy individuals? Well a recent study in the journal Nutrients titled « Testosterone-associated dietary pattern predicts low testosterone levels and hypogonadism » found that high consumption of processed carbohydrates, namely bread and pastries, desserts etc was associated with obesity, hypogonadism, reduced skeletal muscle mass, increased fat mass and low serum testosterone levels….no surprise ! 

Instead several studies have found that dietary fatty acids positively influence sperm quality, testicular function and testosterone levels…..once again, no surprise ! A previous study found that saturated animal fats positively influence serum concentrations of androstenedione, testosterone and free testosterone in healthy men. Another similar study found a low saturated fat intake was associated with reduced testosterone production. The study found that men going from a 40% fat diet with a high saturated fat intake to a 25% fat diet with a low saturated fat intake experienced a decrease in total and free testosterone levels, whilst going back to their original diet caused testosterone levels to increase again (see graph below if you’re interested in the details). Further, saturated fat intake was positively associated with lean body mass….winning !! Several more recent studies have also found that diets low in saturated fat reduce circulating testosterone levels. All in all, it seems that diets rich in saturated animal fats are positively correlated to high testosterone levels.

Difference in testicular volume by increasing quartiles of some nutrient intakes. (a) Omega-3. (b) Omega-6. (cTrans fatty acids. Values represent the difference and 95% confidence interval in the mean (right and left) of testicular volume for men in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th quartile of intakes when compared to men in the first quartile of intake. Models are adjusted for BMI (kg m−2), smoking (current smoker vs not current smoker), time of blood sampling (min), and intakes of caffeine (mg day−1), alcohol (g day−1), calorie (kcal day−1), other fat sources (% of calories), protein (% of calories), β-carotene (mg day−1), vitamin C (mg day−1), cryptoxanthin (mg day−1), and lycopene (mg day−1). BMI: body mass index. – Original Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5312216/

But what about cholesterol ? Does cholesterol also increase testosterone production in men ? Indirect evidence does suggest this. Ketogenic diets high in saturated fat and cholesterol led to an overall increase in testosterone. In a recent review by Santos 2017, the authos suggests that the high cholesterol may serve as precursors for the increase in testosterone measured in subjects who went on a ketogenic diet high in fats and cholesterol…..it seems that Vince Gironda may have been right!

Whatsmore, it appears that diets high in cholesterol also lead to muscle hypertrophy. Studies by Riechman et al 2017 and Lee et al 2011 showed that a diet high in cholesterol versus a low cholesterol diet led to increased myofibrillar protein synthesis (muscle growth). Riechman et al 2008 found that higher cholesterol intake increased strength development. Further Van Vliet et al 2017 found that eating WHOLE EGGS stimulated more muscle growth than eating egg whites alone ! Go Vince !!

But why did Vince suggest raw eggs ? To not damage and oxidise the cholesterol in eggs, which can be detrimental to testicular health. Understanding that cholesterol is the precursor to testosterone is the most important thing, and keeping it intact is important if one is to optimise hormonal health. See, when one cooks eggs, the cholesterol is oxidised, which removes the positive effects of cholesterol in the diet. A recent study perfomed on rats demonstrated that oxidised cholesterol decreased spermatogenesis and organ weight, as well as testosterone, whilst non-oxidised cholesterol did not show these effects. In summary, raw eggs provide non-oxidised cholesterol which supports testicular function and testosterone production, whilst cooking eggs, in particular, the yolk, has destructive effects on male hormone production.

The Magical Egg

Besides the wonders of cholesterol and saturated fat for optimal testosterone production and muscle hypertrophy, eggs have other wonderful nutrients proven to increase muscle hypertrophy. Eggs contain natural hormones, egg albumin as well as follistatin.

Testosterone, Androstenodione and other hormones are found in regular chicken eggs. A study which looked at the level of testosterone in regular supermarket eggs found that testosterone levels were present at only 120 ng per egg. Another study on unincubated fertilized eggs calculated similar values. In all honesty, it is difficult to say whether this small amount of testosterone would have any anabolic effect. However, eggs do contain a significant amount of androstenedione, which is another precursor to testosterone, and one week of 36 eggs a day would be the equivalent of 750 mg of androstenedione!! Although studies have shown that oral administration of androstenedione increases serum testosterone, much higher doses of androstenedione were necessary to achieve an increase than what would be obtained from the 36 eggs a day diet. Egg albumin alone has also found to be increase testosterone, although whole eggs have been shown to have even greater muscle building effect as already mentioned. Finally, eggs are an excellent source of follistatin, which inhibits myostatin. As the name suggests, myostatin prevents muscle cell growth and therefore inhibiting myostatin through follistatin is a great idea. It is interesting that supplements companies have jumped on the egg band wagon, and have begun to create follistatin isolates from fertilized egg extracts which contain even greater follistatin levels. These extracts have been shown to increase lean body mass, strength and power in resistance trained males.

Why do the 36 eggs a day diet?

As Vince stated, this IS the ultimate muscle building diet. Vince admitted that by the 1980s, bodybuilding nutrition had become centred about «procuring or accessing the male hormone » ie testosterone or any of its anabolic derivatives. Vince abhorred the use of steroids and preferred to rely on bodybuilding nutrition. In The Wild Physique, Vince clearly states that the 36 eggs a day diet is for accelerating muscle growth, and that is the major purpose of this diet. Let’s hear from Vince again: 

A heavy diet of eggs for a few weeks could upgrade your physique like you wouldn’t believe, And you’ll get the anabolic effect naturally. Actually, I have made some of my best gains while eating three dozen eggs each day!

How to correctly do the 36 eggs a day diet

If you do decide to try out this diet, here is the correct way to do it, as outlined by Vince Gironda. To correctly incorporate the 36 eggs a day diet, one needs to follow the correct protocol. Once again, in The Wild Physique, Vince outlines the correct diet plan as follows :

Breakfast : Vince’s Special Protein Drink

Make 1-3 mixtures oft he above formula in a blender and drink it throughout the day, between meals, and before retiring. More on how to increase the intake of this shake later.

Lunch

  • 1 pound hamburger or other meat
  • Mixed green salad or raw vegetables

Dinner

  • 1-2 pounds of steak or roast meat
  • Raw or steamed vegetables or salad and cottage cheese

This diet was to be followed for 6-8 weeks. Understanding that one of Vince’s Special Protein Drink is equivalent to 12 eggs (a dozen eggs) per day, one is supposed to increase the consumption of this drink progressively over time. During the first and second week, one was supposed to injest one serving of Vince’s Special Protein Drink per day. On the third and fourth week, one was supposed to increase the servings to two servings of Vince’s Special Protein Drink per day. Finally on weeks five, six, seven and eight, one increases to 3 servings of Vince’s Special Protein Drink per day.

Conclusion

So there you have it ! Science does suggest that Vince and Dr Desai may have been correct about the anabolic effect of the 36 eggs a day diet. Of course much more research is needed to confirm or reject Vince Gironda’s and Dr Desai’s claim. If you decide to try it, let us know how you go !

References

Dianabol aids healing of burn patient victims : https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/5324412/

Dianabol increases nitrogen balance : https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/13784472/

3 dozen eggs a day in the treatment of severe burns: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/1191862/

The Wild Physique: https://nspnutrition.com/products/the-wild-physique-the-complete-book-of-championship-physique-training-for-men-and-women-by-vince-gironda-1

Dietary Cholesterol and the Lack of Evidence in Cardiovascular Disease : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6024687/

Dietary Fat and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: Recent Controversies and Advances : https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28645222/

Saturated Fat, part of a healthy diet : https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30084105/

Egg fat profile : https://www.australianeggs.org.au/what-we-do/healthcare-professionals/hcp-factsheets/eggs-and-fat/

Testosterone-Associated Dietary Pattern Predicts Low Testosterone Levels and Hypogonadism : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6266690/

Saturated fats in diet and serum sex hormones in healthy men: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6538617/

Decrease of serum total and free testosterone during low-fat high-fibre diet: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6298507/

Saturated fat ingestion regulates androgen concentrations and may influence lean body mass accrual : https://academic.oup.com/biomedgerontology/article/63/11/1260/759439

Ketogenic diets increase testosterone : http://www.hormones.gr/pdf/04_1498_Santos_editorial.pdf

Riechman et al 2017 : https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17921432/

Van Vliet et al 2017 : https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28978542/

Cholesterol percursor of testosterone : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6060264/

Dietary cholestrol and oxidised cholesterol, effects on sperm and hormonal profile in rats : https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24620776/

Testosterone levels in supermarket chicken eggs : https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17852390/

Yolk concentration of hormones in unincubated chicken eggs :  https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0016648013001226?via%3Dihub

Oral administration of androstenedione increases serum testosterone in men : https://scholar.google.com/scholar_url?url=https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/articlepdf/192367/JCI00000.pdf&hl=en&sa=T&oi=ucasa&ct=ufr&ei=XU8QX-mhErSIy9YPlPKC8AQ&scisig=AAGBfm0eoRyyiY1JHKvbxNu13ltwoEhkRg

Egg albumin increases testosterone: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6950136/

Follistatin extracts increase lean body mass, strength and power in males : https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4271642/

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