The diet of bodybuilder "Liver King" excites and horrifies me at the same time

Would you be willing to eat raw testicles and liver to look as burly as the Liver King?

Liver King
(Image credit: Brian Johnson/Liver King)

With 2022 rearing its hopefully not so ugly head around the corner, many started thinking about possible new year's resolutions. What's it going to be this year? Same as always, of course! My new year's resolution for 2022 will be to start eating like the "Liver King".

The man behind the Liver King phenomenon is Brian Johnson, an American bodybuilder who promotes "ancestral living", a sort-of paleo lifestyle that includes hunting-gathering and eating as little processed food as possible.

Brian wasn't always used to living the way he does now. After his sons developed severe allergy, he and his wife tried removing processed food from their diets as a last resort to make them feel better. "Two decades later, I eat a pound of liver every single day", the Liver King explains on his website, "I walk barefoot down to the lake and subject my body to cold temperatures. I sleep on the floor. I lift heavy things. I fight, I hunt. I struggle. I overcome."

Brian is not the first person to promote a different approach to bodybuilding, albeit he's slightly different from the plant-based athletes who you see very often parading their shredded physique around on Instagram. Naturally, the Liver King also has an Instagram account, but instead of chowing down on pea protein and tofu, he opts in to have raw liver and scooped out bone marrow for tea:

Now, I tend to cook my own food (chicken, rice and broccoli, baby!), and I'm not a vegan either, but my diet is a far cry from the Liver King's feasts. He's a big guy – a true burly man – but even if I scaled down his diet to better match my calorific needs, I don't think I could stomach quite so many raw ingredients without throwing up in the process, at least a couple of times.

I can only assume Brian started by eating less intense stuff at first, but nowadays, he squeezes eggs out of a fish straight into his mouth and eats raw testicles for dinner (needless to say, these posts might be NSFW for some people). Not to everyone's taste, so to speak, although even he admits his lifestyle might be controversial in one of his Instagram posts.

If you find his way of eating like a cave dweller admirable like I do, it's important to bear in mind that there is a reason why we cook food: to remove bacteria, or at least to reduce the chance of getting ill from consuming heap loads of them. Raw meat from a supermarket is generally safe to consume when used as intended (as in, cooked), but I'm not sure if I want to gobble up breast portions from chicken raised in a cage.

As well as eating meat au naturel, the Liver King also works out like a beast. In one of his IG posts (linked above), he goes on a 1-mile walk while wearing 20 Lb. ankle weights, pulling a 195 Lb. sled, carrying a 100 Lb. backpack and holding 97 Lb. kettlebells in each hand. Sure thing! The best full-body workout for troglodytes.

He does other stuff, too, such as standard dumbbell floor press and resistance band pecs flys, exercises we can all do at home. Of course, Brian also likes to do overhead presses with massive tree branches, but I guess it's something we would expect from a guy who promotes ancestral living, right?

Would I recommend the Liver King's diet as a good example? Not necessarily. I agree that eating less processed food is better for you in general but chowing down on raw animal meat is not a sustainable way of existing, both from a diet and the planet's point of view.

Health concerns aside, sticking to a restricted diet such as the Liver King's takes a significant psychological toll on the mind. Our bodies are infinitely adaptable, but going on a raw meat diet is not feasible for most people living in an urban environment. It's not like you can take a plastic container full of chopped liver to the office and have it at your desk.

Nevertheless, I think I'll try to cut down on processed food next year and see where it takes me. I will probably still occasionally have protein powder and weight gainers, but I will have more nuts and fewer Mars bars in between meals. No testicles, thank you.

As for the workouts, even the Liver King uses adjustable dumbbells and kettlebells, so I just carry on lifting as usual. Maybe I start wearing my weighted vest when I go for runs more often.

Matt Kollat
Matt Kollat

Matt is a fitness fanatic (a.k.a. fitness and nutrition writer) who's been rambling on about all things health and fitness for over two years now here at T3. His achievements include a short-lived fitness podcast called Fit Mentality Podcast and being a judge on the Fit&Well Awards 2021. In his free time, he works out at home, runs, cycles and loves a good ol' walk around the city. He writes about general fitness stuff, fitness tech, workouts, workout gear/equipment, nutrition and much, much more.