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September 20, 2022 5 min read
Myth-busting the Liver King: is raw organ meat healthy?
Who is Liver King and should we follow his ancestral lifestyle advice?
Here at Gravity Fitness we’re all about staying open minded to new angles on training, nutrition, and healthy living. But we’re also not a fan of fads and hyperbole. We like to look at the pros and cons, always coming back to the research.
To start our new myth-busting series, let’s look at the social media phenomenon that is Liver King.
Who is Liver King?
Liver King – aka Brian Johnson – is a social media influencer and supplement brand owner. He preaches the benefits of an extreme “ancestral lifestyle” which includes eating raw organ meat (hence the name) and doing intense workouts often in harsh conditions.
Liver King is a divisive figure (that’s probably why he’s got so many followers). His fans like his back-to-nature approach to eating, training, and….er…masculinity. His detractors say it’s quite possible that his bulging physique is the product of more than organ meat and strength training.
What does Liver King say?
Liver King bases his outlook on the assumption that modern life is making people (more specifically, men) soft and out of shape both mentally and physically. He says the only way to reverse the damage is to live more like our ancestors.
He preaches 9 tenets: sleep, eat, move, shield, connect, cold, sun, fight, and bond. The advice includes 10,000 steps a day, cold showers, barefoot walking, avoiding chemicals, and eating organ meat.
Liver King training and nutrition rules
What exactly does Liver King say about training and nutrition? His website is a lot more balanced and realistic than his social media snapshots.
In the “ancestral tenet” of “Eat”, Liver King suggests cutting out processed foods and liquid calories, and eating more whole foods. He particularly advises liver, heart, bone marrow and bone broth, plus raw pastured eggs. Liver King believes carnivore keto is the original human diet, but that it’s OK to also eat some in-season fruit and veg.
Alongside keto, Liver King is also a proponent of water-only fasting which he proclaims is the most powerful metabolic intervention you can do. He advises a 5-day water fast (and admits this is not medical advice).
In his “ancestral tenet” of “Move”, Liver King promotes regular movement, over dedicated workouts in a sedentary day. It won’t surprise you to hear that he’s developed his own workout programming (adapted from Westside Barbell)
He advocates training hard twice a day, and moving as often as possible throughout the day. Training is to include weights, strongman work, metabolic conditioning, plyometric movement and agility work.
Common themes in Liver King’s message
One thing we’ll say about the man, he’s got his branding spot-on. If it’s not ancestral, he’s not interested. Liver King’s messaging is all about removing the elements of modern day living that stand in the way of building a primal body.
Myth busting Liver King
Should you listen to Liver King? Well, at the root of it all his advice is pretty sound. We should all walk more, eat less processed food, get out in the sunlight and move our bodies in plenty of different ways.
But as with so many influencers, he doesn’t leave much room for nuance. We can’t really see how a parent with a full-time job could train twice a day (and stay walking around for the rest of their waking hours). And sure, minimise processed food if you can. But who here can honestly say their lifestyle could sustain raw meat, raw eggs, and the occasional apple?
When you dig into the basic underlying messages of Liver King’s preaching, it’s based in generally sound healthy advice. Eat less rubbish. Eat more wholefoods. Move your body more. Train hard. Make the most of the natural world. Get outside in the fresh air.
Is raw organ meat healthy?
Let’s address the Liver in Liver King. Is it really healthy to eat raw organ meat every day? No. Eating that much raw liver puts you at risk of Vitamin A toxicity, skews your diet dramatically towards one type of food, and reduces your intake of important nutrients like fibre and phytochemicals.
We don’t really know how our ancestors ate. They probably did eat a lot of organ meat, but almost certainly from a range of animals. And those animals ate a different diet to today’s animals. By eating raw organ meat today, you open yourself up to the possibility of salmonella, bacteria, and toxins.
Plus, let’s be honest, how quickly would your other half leave you if you ate raw liver and raw eggs every day? It’s just not practical, or necessary.
Here’s how we’d rewrite Liver King’s 9 ancestral tenets
Sleep: get as much as you can, 7+ hours is ideal. Don’t take your phone into bed with you. Use earplugs if you need to/
Eat: get sufficient protein, eat a wide variety of foods, enjoy fruit and veg, and have a little of what you fancy because life is short.
Move: find a way of training that you really enjoy. Do some form of stretching from time to time. If your job is sedentary, do a bit of cardio. Go for at least 1 walk a day.
Shield: try to minimise screen time when it’s realistic to do so. Wear SPF. Consider the idea of using eco friendly cleaning products for your home. Get some house plants.
Connect: spend time in nature when you can, take your shoes off sometimes and enjoy the feeling of grass or sand. Connect with friends and family too, it’s important to have a giggle with loved ones.
Cold: if you really want to give cold therapy a go, do it. But if the idea makes you want to cry, don’t bother.
Sun: get outside in the fresh air for a bit during daylight hours, especially in winter months when lack of sunlight can affect mood.
Fight: fighting for fighting’s sake sounds stressful (and there’s enough stress in life). Instead, have a purpose in life that’s meaningful to you, and stand up for it.
Bond: be part of a community, whether that’s at the gym, voluntary work, or family. Feeling included and valuable is important to mental and physical wellbeing.
Forget the influencers, how about developing your own style of training? Check out the Gravity Fitness store for a huge range of classic and innovatively new functional fitness kit.