Actors and other celebrities often have to follow a very strict diet if they want to get the bodies they need for their roles or jobs, and Bruce Lee was one of the most famous: in fact, the “Bruce Lee diet” has become a very popular way of changing your eating habits to back up an exercise regime or some workout routines that take after the man himself. But how does the Bruce Lee diet work, and what does it consist of?
One of the most obvious aspects of the diet Bruce Lee followed was the removal of empty calories: foods that didn't contribute towards muscle mass, had a low protein content and were generally worthless other than maybe carbohydrates or fat content. While these would technically provide energy, they weren’t useful in anyway, and could also contribute towards your body fat percentage. Bruce Lee is famous for considering refined flour “empty calories”, which is why almost no refined flour would ever appear in his meals.
Like many diets, the idea of reducing calories to trace amounts makes weight loss easier, something that can make a massive difference if you're getting into fitness so that you can make your muscle tissue more obvious. This is also a practice used in a lot of bodybuilding diet suggestions, including those published by major bodybuilding magazines.
Switch to Chinese Food
The Bruce Lee diet consists of a lot of Chinese food and other eastern dishes, and it's not hard to see why: he considered a lot of western food to be bland no matter what variety of snacks he tried, and needed up sticking to Chinese food for most of his life. The difference is quite clear: Chinese food puts more focus on carbs from ingredients like fruits, vegetables and rice, whereas many western foods were more geared towards fat and protein. He would avoid a lot of meals that were mainly centred around meat and eggs for this reason, including things like steak and beef, but would still eat them in other contexts.
Oddly enough, his favourite dish is said to be beef in oyster sauce, which contains a lot of nutrients but misses out on many vitamins and minerals. However, it was also very low in calories and fat, as well as cholesterol. The Oyster sauce itself was served in very small amounts, which fit in with his habit of eating smaller meals. While fast food is generally seen as a bad idea for any kind of diet, Chinese fast food is still better than western junk food in this regard.
Lee didn't exclusively eat one particular type of food, so his daily diet would still change rather than being the same thing over and over again. However, it's worth noting that Lee also wouldn't compromise on his dieting plan, and would refuse to let himself get tempted into eating something that he shouldn't.
Rather than eating three meals a day, the Bruce Lee diet was more focused around five smaller meals along with fruit, vegetables and other healthy snacks. The more food you eat at once, the slower your body gets and the worse your body metabolism becomes, resulting in a lot of the calories becoming fat. Eating less prevents this and makes it easier to eat again later on, meaning that you can focus on essential nutrition.
There's one other reason that this was such a major factor for Bruce Lee: training was tiring, and the best way to recover after a heavy workout is to eat specific types of food. By making sure that his body wasn't overloaded with a lot of food from big meals, it made it easier for him to eat snacks and restore his energy levels without the recovery food being too excessive.
Use Protein Supplements
Bruce Lee would often take up to two drinks full of protein per day: this could be a protein shake, protein tablets or just a general protein drink. They would usually include ingredients like peanut butter, bananas, brewers' yeast, granular lecithin, wheat germ and eggs. Protein is one of the main building block tools of the human body, so it became a stable of the Bruce Lee diet due to the impacts it would have on his martial arts training. After all, as a martial artist, his lifestyle and devotion to his martial arts was one of the key points of his life.
Even if you're not following martial arts or don't have any desire to become a martial artist yourself, protein is important. You can get it from hundreds of sources, such as peanut butter, wheat germ or powdered milk (just to name a few), but it's up to you which combinations and drinks you use. Powdered milk can be an appealing option that doesn't take much prep work, and peanut butter is easier to spread onto food, so come up with your own combination if you have to.
Drink More Tea
Bruce Lee would regularly drink different varieties of tea, often mixed with honey and other beneficial ingredients. This might sound like a strange part of the Bruce Lee diet, but it had a noticeable impact on his body: not only did many varieties of tea (such as Lipton or Li-Cha) hydrate his body, they also had positive effects on his body functions, which made his dedicated Bruce Lee workout routines much easier to handle.
Tea is also a very light drink, which fits in with the rest of the Bruce Lee diet. Unlike water, it's full of nutrition, so it could easily be consumed along with meals based on rice to minimise calories and maximise the health benefits.
Alongside tea, Bruce Lee would also occasionally drink royal jelly, made from the honey of a queen bee. Most royal jelly is full of not only B-complex vitamins, but also contains a range of other smaller vitamins and useful amino acids without any obvious downside. The only thing it notably lacked was vitamin C, but since the royal jelly was a drink it could be backed up with a small meal to get these vitamins instead. Lee would often drink it shortly before filming to boost his energy levels, too.
Alongside that was ginseng, a plant root that Bruce Lee would often drink alongside the royal jelly as a mixture. Ginseng was said to be one of his favourite herbal supplements, and it's still one that you can get hold of today: the royal jelly and ginseng combination that Bruce Lee was so fond of is actually available in a lot of places as a pre-made drink, although the exact mixtures he used aren't fully known.
What did Bruce Lee Eat Every Day?
Bruce Lee's exact diet is only known to the man himself, but we have a general idea of what Lee's diet would be on most days. The diet Bruce Lee usually followed consisted of:
- Sweet and regular potatoes
- Rice (multiple varieties of rice)
- Two protein shakes a day (to give his body more muscle) that often included wheat germ.
- Royal jelly (occasionally).
- Tea (very often).
- Peanut butter (mixed into shakes).
- Eggs (mixed into shakes, often with the shell still on).
- Bananas (mixed into shakes).
- Spinach and parsley (blended with other vegetables).
- Beef (in oyster sauce).
Exactly how often these were eaten during the “Bruce Lee die” is unknown, but Bruce Lee himself apparently followed it for most of his life. Since its Lee's diet, it was undoubtedly tailored to his body size, shape and preferences.
What is the Best Diet for Martial Arts?
The Bruce Lee diet is said to be one of the best for martial arts reasons, either to lose weight or to put on more muscles. However, even though Bruce Lee created his own diet, it's very similar to a lot of others that are also used by modern martial artists. This includes:
- The diet of Shaolin Monks – in comparison to Bruce Lee, they're vegan and have a very pacific attitude towards which foods they eat, with a focus on spiritual purity.
- The Rhonda Rousey diet based on the MMA champion of the same name – compared to Bruce Lee, she ate only the necessities and focused entirely on beneficial ingredients, but would only eat three meals a day with trail mix as a snack.
- The Fabricio Werdum diet, based on another MMA fighter – unlike Bruce Lee, he ate high-protein food and would have at least eight meal sittings a day, not counting extra protein shakes.
- The Gracie Diet – another martial arts group that follows a similar diet to Lee. Not only do they space out their food like Lee, but they also limit carb intake and avoid unimportant foods like desserts or sodas. Unlike Lee, they would only drink water at mealtimes, whereas Bruce Lee preferred tea where possible.
What Religion did Bruce Lee Follow?
While many people would assume that Lee followed a religion that affected his diet, that wasn't necessarily the case. Lee considered himself atheist, but his mother Grace Ho was Christian and his father Hoi-Chuen Lee was a Buddhist. Since Bruce Lee was still a spiritual person despite his lack of religion, it may have had some impact on the kind of food he ate, but Lee never actually elaborated whether that was the case.
There are rumours that Bruce Lee did eat a vegetarian diet for a time, and it's assumed that this was for spiritual reasons, but Lee himself never confirmed it. Lee continued to eat meat after this period, so it was only a short-term change.
Should I follow the Bruce Lee Diet?
Bruce Lee ate the way he did because he had to look, feel and perform in a certain way as part of both his job and his lifestyle. Unlike a lot of conventional diets, Bruce Lee wasn't necessarily trying to lose weight or build muscle in any particular sense: it was a way of maintaining the results he already had. He had to carefully manage his blood pressure, energy production, blood sugar levels, and even his heart health, since he had carefully developed the diet for peak performance, form and activity levels whenever he needed it.
This eating plan is definitely effective, but it also won't be perfect for everybody. Bruce Lee created it to fit his needs, so you might want to modify it based on your preferences, exercise routines, and body shape.