Bruce Lee’s Diet and Supplements (And Nootropics!)

By on September 13, 2017

bruce lees diet

There are countless legends about Bruce Lee’s physical capabilities and martial arts prowess, to the point that it can sometimes be hard to differentiate between reality and myth. Some people have even said that much of Bruce Lee’s legacy was based on myth rather than fact and that he was more an actor than a true martial artist.

But you only have to watch Bruce in motion to know that this isn’t true. And thankfully, footage has now emerged showing Bruce Lee’s only ‘real’ fight. And it shows a man whose mastery over his opponent is everything that you would have hoped. Assuming the footage is real, Bruce’s naysayers can now finally be put to rest.

bruce smiling


And that means we can instead focus on how we might be more like him.

I’ve discussed his training regime, I’ve talked about his philosophy… but what about his diet? What did Bruce Lee eat to sustain such muscular power while still keeping his body fat percentage at sub 3%?

The Basics

bruce rippedBruce Lee reportedly ate largely Chinese food with the occasional steak as he found a lot of Western food to be ‘bland’.

Other than that, he ate what could be a called a balanced and nutritious diet. Bruce Lee’s diet consisted of carbs, protein and fats and he didn’t avoid any one particular food group. He did believe that the Western diet was too high in fats however and saw particular value in using protein to build his muscle and eating carbohydrates to fuel his workouts.

For carbohydrates, he relied heavily on pasta, noodles and rice. For protein, he ate meat as well as protein shakes. Bruce would reportedly avoid anything that he deemed an ‘empty calorie’ for the most part and his most damning criticism in that regard was for baked goods. An empty calorie of course is any food that adds to your caloric total but without providing any nutrition.

In Linda Lee’s words: ‘he didn’t eat a lot of baked goods, primarily because they were made from refined flour and contained nothing but empty calories. He had no interest in consuming calories that would do nothing for his body’.

Bruce also didn’t like dairy (he was likely lactose intolerant!) but he would consume it when he was using protein shake. I would argue that this isn’t something we especially need to be emulating, but if you wanted to follow the ‘Bruce Lee diet’ to the letter, then that’s another interesting fact to consider.

Bruce is said to have subscribed to the idea that it is better to eat ‘little and often’. He would eat around five times a day but wouldn’t over-indulge each time. The aim here was to provide the body with a constant supply of energy and nutrients without encouraging fat storage.

Did Bruce Lee Take Supplements?

Interestingly, Bruce was an advocate of using supplements in addition to his regular diet.

We’ve already seen that he would use protein shakes to add to his protein total and thereby build muscle. Along with the protein shake itself, he would also add in a number of extras to make for a potent mixture. The full recipe:

  • Protein shake
  • Eggs
  • Powdered milk
  • Wheat germ
  • Peanut butter
  • Bananas
  • Brewers’ yeast
  • Inositol
  • Granular lecithin

He drank this mixture twice a day. That makes for quite a lot of carbohydrates and protein in a single shake – but also a lot of nutrients.

Bruce Lee also had an energy supplement of his own making, which he referred to as ‘Royal Jelly’. This consisted of honey ‘from queen bees’ mixed with ginseng and made into a drink. He explained how he used it between sets to get his stamina up:

“I take a little Royal Jelly beforehand and Voom! My energy levels are perfect!”

Other than that, Bruce Lee would also drink a lot of tea (in a variety of different blends) and would reportedly use vitamin and mineral supplements on top of that. To top it all off, he reportedly drank a lot of fruit and vegetable juice. He is also said to have supplemented with vitamin E and bee pollen.

Bruce Lee’s Protein Mix Explained

What might at first glance look like a random series of ingredients thrown into a blender, actually makes a ton of sense for a guy who needed lots of energy and who had an insanely ripped physique. There was clearly a lot of thought and careful consideration put into this combination.

Brewers’ Yeast for example would have provided Bruce with heightened energy levels and low fat as a supply of B vitamins 1 through to 7 (which helps us to get energy from carbs among other things) and chromium which is useful for managing blood sugar levels and which might be a powerful option for treating diabetes.

bruce lees protein mix

As for the powdered milk, this simply once again came down to Bruce’s dislike for dairy.

Wheat germ is a nutritious addition that provides extra protein, as well as numerous minerals and vitamins – vitamin E in particular. Bruce seemed to be particularly fond of vitamin E, seeing as he would also have gotten it from the peanut butter and he supplemented with additional vitamin E. Vitamin E is useful for supporting the immune system, fighting inflammation (thus helping with recovery and potentially improving mood and brain function) and for improving the communication between cells. Wheat germ also provides omega 3 fatty acid, which has the same benefits.

Peanut butter also offers niacin, which once again improves with energy production. The egg shells meanwhile are 90-95% calcium, which not only strengthens bones and muscle contractions but may also have a synergistic benefit when combined with the inositol (see below).

bruce stance

It’s highly unlikely that you’ll get salmonella from raw egg these days. Do note however that egg shell can carry bacteria. It’s also pretty horrid (yes, I did try this shake… see the video!). There are other ways to get your calcium, so I recommend avoiding this particular option. You don’t have to do everything like Bruce Lee.

Did Bruce Lee Use Nootropics?

When I think of Bruce Lee, I think of a man who had seemingly endless reserves of energy, enthusiasm and determination. His incredible physique was merely an end-product of this intensity.

Did Bruce Lee use nootropics? It turns out that he did in a way and if we look at his concoction here, we can actually see that it has a lot in common with a typical nootropic stack.

Inositol, sometimes referred to (somewhat inaccurately) as vitamin B8, is used to strengthen cell walls and further encourage the transportation of lipids to prevent the body from storing fat and supply more energy. Inositol is found in a lot of energy supplements and is often used just before workouts. That insanely low body fat percentage and high energy is starting to make a lot of sense!

bruce lees diet 2

Inositol actually has a lot in common with choline though, as a powerful nootropic. Inositol triggers the release of calcium in the brain, which is critical for all communication between neurons. It release serotonin and acts on GABA receptors, making it one of the safest methods for combating anxiety and insomnia. Perhaps though, Bruce was most interested in role that acetylcholine had in sending messages to the muscles across the neuromuscular junction which could have contributed to his incredible quickness.

Inositol is closely linked to choline (found in egg yolks – which are included in Bruce’s protein stew), which today is among the most popular nootropics for enhancing memory and mental sharpness. Moreover, choline is found naturally in the form of lecithin, which was also in Bruce’s mix. Again, Bruce was way ahead of his time – consuming a popular nootropic stack way before the internet made it cool. Even the wheat germ makes sense as an addition to this stack, as another good source of inositol. And when you combine choline, inositol and lecithin in these ways, you gain a synergistic effect which makes all more effective.

bruce lee reading

Analysing Bruce Lee’s Diet

Bruce was undoubtedly ahead of his time in many respects, but he was also ‘of his time’. We’ve learned a lot more about nutrition and sports science since the 60s, so it would be mistaken to simply follow his lead on this blindly.

So, what should we absorb and what should we discard, to paraphrase the man himself?

bruce shades

Some regular visitors to bodybuilding.com are probably already getting ready to write in the comments that empty calories aren’t bad, so long as they fit in your macros and you hit your micronutrient requirements.

My answer to that is that no they’re not ‘bad’ but they’re also not good. Bruce Lee described food as ‘fuel’ for workouts, so you might think that he would be all for eating large quantities of calories from carbs. But the think to recognize here is that Bruce constantly pushed his body far beyond what most of us experience. It’s not enough to simply have the energy: you need the sustenance in order to avoid injury, illness or burnout. That’s where the nutrients come in and the more you can get, the better. Nutrients can also act almost like sports supplements: from things like lutein that boost energy, to thinks like omega 3 fatty acid which can reduce inflammation and quicken reflexes. Why not make sure you get some kind of additional buff from every meal? Bruce Lee himself was simply absorbing what was useful and discarding what was not!

This mentality also explains why he supplemented with vitamins and minerals and vegetable and fruit juices. From personal experience, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to give your body the building blocks it needs in order to perform optimally. I write anywhere from 15-20,000 words a day, workout hard and lead an active social life. The number one thing that impedes my progress in the gym is burnout – and the right nutrients are my best defence against that. For me personally, the ideal combination is creatine, lutein, vitamin D and cordyceps (which has a lot in common with Ginseng).

Bruce had endless energy and determination and like I said, I’m certainly interested to know whether his Royal Jelly and protein combo helped to contribute to that.

bruce lee lats

The other matter to consider is Bruce’s notion of eating smaller, more regular meals. It’s an idea that makes logical sense on the face of it (at least to me) but there are those that will claim ‘meal timing’ makes no difference. There is no conclusive evidence to support the idea of eating little and often, but at the very least it means you can get a lot of nutrients and calories without having to train on a bloated stomach – which is one additional benefit Bruce recommended.

Remember: Bruce Lee trained an insane amount. He would regularly combine bag work, martial arts training, weight lifting and jogging in a single day. That would have given him an insane metabolism, meaning he could get away with rather indulgent amounts of carbs in his protein.

Everyone is different, so you may find that some of these strategies work for you and others don’t. Give some of these strategies a go and see if they help you meet your goals. If not, then move on. It’s what Bruce would have wanted!

 

 

 

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About Adam Sinicki

Hi there! My name is Adam Sinicki, I'm an entrepreneur, psychology graduate and amateur bodybuilder interested in fitness, self improvement, technology and transhumanism. I run an online business (NQR Productions) which allows me to live the lifestyle I want: getting time to hit the gym and to work on my projects and apps. Stick around and I'll be sharing my experiments and adventures in brain training, bodybuilding, productivity, business and technology.
  • Marco Barros

    You have a great blog, I’ll probably end up reading every article by the weekend.

    • thebioneer

      Thanks a ton man, glad you are enjoying it! 😀