The original Bruce Lee Diet article, by Jon Wade
Bruce Lee is famous for his devotion to martial arts and his great abilities in this field. He was not only an exceptional martial artist, but also a serious bodybuilder. He firmly believed that diet and nutrition played a very important role in achieving his objectives. However, he was not an expert in nutrition, he gained most of his information from bodybuilding magazines and experimented with different supplements in addition to eating a well balanced healthy diet. For Bruce Lee a good diet was one that provided him with the energy and nutrients to maximize his physical training.
The following diet rules are based on what is known about Bruce Lee’s daily eating regime. There are many references to “The Bruce Lee Diet”, but really such a diet simply attempts to replicate Bruce Lee’s dietary and eating patterns, as well as his fitness regimes, to try to attain a physique similar to that of Bruce Lee. Bruce Lee’s diet and exercise regime meant that he had close to zero percent body fat. Following this diet regime could help you to lose weight as well as improve muscular growth.
Generally Bruce Lee avoided refined flour. So, he did not eat many baked foods such as biscuits and cakes, which he described as being “empty calories“. It is worth mentioning that today many people attribute irritable bowel syndrome to the excess consumption of refined flours. His philosophy was not to consume calories that did not provide some benefit to the body.
This approach to eating is very similar to that of the Buddhist scriptures, which states:
“You must learn to be moderate in eating, and eat only enough to remain healthy, and fit for trance. For excessive food obstructs the flow of the breath as it goes in and out, induces lassitude (lack of vitality), sleepiness, and kills all valour. As too much food has unfortunate consequences, also starvation does not lead to efficiency. For starvation drains away the body’s volume, lustre, firmness, performance and strength. You should take food in accordance with your individual capacity, neither too much nor, from pride, too little.” From Buddhist Scriptures (amazon.com), edited by Edward Conze (1959).
Bruce Lee enjoyed Chinese food, as he felt that western food was often too bland. Some of his favourite Chinese dishes were beef in oyster sauce and tofu. However, he loved to eat steak and liver too, but overall preferred the more balanced approach of Asian dishes. He felt that often Western food placed too much emphasis on protein and fat and not enough on carbohydrates from vegetables, rice, pasta etc.
Bruce Lee did not like dairy food, and only ate dairy as part of protein drinks, usually using powdered milk instead of fresh milk. This rule only helps to reduce total energy intake. Calcium from dairy has been found to help reduce the amount of fat that is digested (see Weight Loss Tip 7).
For Bruce Lee concentration on the type of foods eaten were not the only important consideration, the size of portions and number of meals were just as important. Bruce Lee would usually consume four or five smaller meals a day rather than a couple of large meals, plus some healthy snacks such as fruits.
Today bodybuilders often follow similar eating habits, eating high protein meals approximately every four hours to ensure the body has a good supply of proteins to help build and repair muscle tissue. Eating more often than every four hours can put too much pressure on the digestive system, leading to indigestion. This is another reason why constant snacking is not good for you.
Bruce Lee consumed one or two protein drinks every day, plus fruit smoothies too. Although his protein drinks varied, they generally consisted of:
- Non-instant powdered milk – which is reported to have a higher concentration of calcium than other forms of powdered milk
- Eggs – sometimes with the shells
- Wheat germ / wheat germ oil
- Peanut butter
- Brewers yeast (contains concentrated B vitamins, which are essential in the release of energy from carbohydrates).
- Inositol supplement (Inositol is found in many foods, particularly in cereals with high bran content. Inositol plays an important part in the health of cell membrane, in particular the specialized cells in the brain, bone marrow, eyes and intestines. The function of the cell membrane is to regulate the contents of the cell, which makes effective functioning of the cell possible).
- Lecithin – taken in granular form. (Lecithin is a mixture of glycolipids, triglycerides, and phospholipids. It is needed by every cell in the body and is a key building block of cell membranes; without it, they would harden. Lecithin protects cells from oxidation).
All ingredients would be mixed thoroughly in a food blender. Bruce Lee suggested that for better results (i.e. for gaining more muscle mass quicker) milk and cream can be added too.
Please bear in mind that the supplements Bruce Lee took were popular when he was researching bodybuilding during the 1960’s and early 1970’s, these supplements may now be superseded by new ones producing better results. Also bear in mind that all supplements may have side effects if taken to excess. It is best to check with your doctor/GP before starting a bodybuilding diet.
Bruce Lee also took many mineral and vitamin supplements. Today there is a much greater variety of supplements on offer than there were when Bruce Lee was training. Knowledge about how different supplements interact and benefit us has advanced a great deal since the 1960’s, as a result there may be better and more efficient supplements available than the ones listed below. However, here are some of the supplements Bruce Lee is known to have taken:
- Vitamin C
- Lecithing granules
- Bee Pollen
- Vitamin E
- Rose hips (liquid form)
- Wheat germ oil
- Natural protein tablets (chocolate flavour)
- Acerola – C
Bruce Lee knew that carbohydrates are essential for people with very high activity levels. It was for this that he regularly consumed fresh fruit and vegetable smoothies. Fruit and vegetables provide the richest source of carbohydrates, so Bruce Lee would often make juices/smoothies comprising of carrots, celery, apples, bananas and some parsley.
Usually carrots would make up one half of the contents of the drink, the remaining being split between the other fruits and vegetables. He also sometimes used green leafy vegetables, again with a large proportion of carrot juice to help offset the bitterness of the green leafy vegetables. Bruce Lee was ahead of his time hear, as these are the basic rules applied in our articles on weight loss today.
Juicing fresh fruit and vegetables is a great way to consume high quality carbohydrates. Juicing allows the body to assimilate many nutrients more easily. The enzymes in the juiced vegetables are also organic catalysts that increase the rate at which food is broken down and absorbed.
Many enzymes are destroyed when vegetables are cooked, especially if boiled, therefore consuming raw fruit and vegetables is best. Some nutritionists suggest that for better health and more energy, approximately half of the carbohydrates consumed should come from raw fruit and vegetables.
Bruce Lee often drank a Royal jelly and ginseng drink to give him a quick boost. These drinks are very small, and provide a very quick release of energy. Royal jelly contains B-complex vitamins, including a high concentration of vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), acetylcholine, hormones, and eighteen amino acids. It also contains trace of many minerals, trace amounts of vitamin C, some enzymes, as well as antibacterial and antibiotic components. Contrary to claims by many of those promoting its use, vitamins A, D, and E are completely absent from royal jelly.
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Ginseng promotes Yang energy, improves circulation, increases blood supply, revitalizes and aids recovery from weakness after illness, and stimulates the body.
Obviously Bruce Lee’s diet would have varied greatly during the 1960’s and early 1970’s as his training methods evolved, but here is what is possibly one of his typical days meals:
- Food: A bowl of muesli cereal, comprised of whole grains, nuts, and dried fruits, plus 2% milk (semi skimmed).
- Beverage: Orange Juice and/or tea.
- Juice or Protein Drink: Protein powder, non-instant powdered milk made with water or juice, eggs, wheat germ, bananas, peanut butter. Brewer’s yeast was frequently added.
- Food: Meat, vegetables, and rice.
- Beverage: Tea.
- Juice or Protein Drink: see ingredients for morning-snack protein drink.
- Food: Spaghetti and salad, or another meal of rice, vegetables, and meat, chicken, or seafood.
- Beverage: One glass of 2% milk and/or tea.
- The Art of Expressing the Human Body by Bruce Lee and John R. Little. Tuttle Publishing. 1998. ISBN-10: 0804831297. (available from Amazon.com)