“You can’t train like a horse and eat like a bird.” – Lee Haney
We recently visited 8x undefeated Mr. Olympia, Lee Haney, at his home in Atlanta, Georgia.
Lee is considered among many as the greatest Mr. Olympia ever in the sport of bodybuilding.
And to others, he is overlooked in a sport that has produced so many greats over the years.
However, while every era in the sport of bodybuilding has been special – Lee’s era and the years prior to his dominance is seen as the “Classic Era”.
A time in the sport where the winners were not only big, but also symmetrical and defined.
When we met up with Lee, we wanted to get a comparison of how the philosophy behind dieting as a competitive bodybuilder has changed over the years.
Lee Haney’s Tips to Eating like a Bodybuilder
Lee begins the interview by breaking down some of his favorite food options that he ate during his competition days.
For proteins, Lee ate chicken, eggs, fish and lentils (to an extent). He used some powder proteins in the off-season, but not a lot.
For carbohydrates, he was a fan of sweet potatoes due to their richness in beta-carotene and fiber. It was the perfect energy food for him. For greens, he used a lot of spinach in his diet – a veggie he believed to be the perfect multi-mineral complex.
One of the things he liked most about spinach was its ability to help detoxify the body. Lee also drank and recommends people drink a lot of water to help cleanse the body.
The main source of fruit he included in his diet was pineapple to help with inflammation during his training days. He would eat fresh pineapple twice a day.
As far as fats go, he’d utilize almonds and walnuts in his daily diet. He’d also take in as many as 15 whole eggs during his off-season to help spark muscle growth. Lee’s big on utilizing the whole egg due to the nutrient density in the egg yolks which contains choline and lecithin which can help with fat metabolism.
As he prepared for contest, there’d be times where he’d eat a mixture of egg whites and whole eggs, but there was never a time in his competitive career he didn’t consume whole eggs in his diet.
Philosophy of Lee Haney’s Nutritional Choices
What Lee’s tried to stay true to is making sure that quality nutrition was (and is) a part of his daily existence as it relates to training both on-season and off-season. He always wanted to make sure that the maximum amount of weight he gained between contests was 25-30lbs during the off-season.
And he always felt abs were a good indicator of how his overall off-season was going. Whether he was 20-30lbs heavier, he always wanted to see his abs. If he had abs that meant his body fat was under control. If he didn’t, he knew he had to make some changes.
The Differences in Modern Day Dieting
There’s a lot of debate about new school methods vs old school methods, and Lee is very aware of this.
In his opinion, the criteria of what is accepted now is so much different that the methods to get there aren’t really comparable.
When Lee competed, most competitors had 32 inch waists and the vacuum was a key distinguishing pose among bodybuilders.
The vacuum has since slowly disappeared over the years and the physiques began being judged on the amount of mass as opposed to the distribution of mass.
So, the mindset has transitioned to dieting to get as big as possible and then worring about training down for definition once it’s closer to show time.
When you compare this to the lean bulking style that was more popular in Lee’s era, it’s easy to realize the extremes competitors must go through both with their aggressive bulks and even more aggressive cutting phases to get ready to step on stage.
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