Vince Gironda is a legend among the bros who live on fitness forums. One of bodybuilding’s pioneers, Gironda and his minimalist training techniques paved the way for guys like Don Howorth, Frank Zane and, of course, Arnold. But his diet has long been a source of intrigue as well — namely, the fact that he consumed 36 raw eggs daily. So much so that in one obscure corner of the online fitness world — typically filled with white nationalists — his mass egg intake has become an element of their political ideology.
Now, the more general version of the “Egg Bro” certainly isn’t a new phenomenon — a creation most certainly of Rocky’s making. For example, last year, the #RawEggChallenge inspired dozens of fitness dudes and MMA fighters to chug raw eggs and not throw up. Meanwhile, Bodybuilding.com is filled with questions about whether those aspiring for “clean” hits of protein would be better off consuming raw eggs than taking shakes and supplements.
For Raw Egg Nationalists, however, downing uncooked albumen and yolk is as much about rejecting “feminized” male bodies, which some of them refer to as “Big Soy,” and “cucked” Western culture as it is about getting swole. More specifically, they argue that unlike other sources of protein in shakes and bars, raw eggs are both free of corporate influence, and provide nutrients (e.g., androgen hormones that allegedly boost testosterone levels) that the fitness industry deliberately withholds or minimizes to keep men emasculated. There’s also a distinctly anti-science vibe, as they openly flaunt the belief that eating raw eggs is “dangerous” or that too much cholesterol can be bad for you.
“This could be about stripping down diets — where diets generally position you within a certain lifestyle or group,” explains my colleague Oliver Lee Bateman, who has written extensively about the worlds of bodybuilding and muscle sports (and those athletes’ punishing diets). “So even though I know [non-Raw Egg Nationalists] who drink raw eggs and eat raw liver and steak publicly, [Raw Egg Nationalists] might think that by drinking raw eggs, they’re positioning themselves as ‘trads’ both in terms of fitness and their political outlook.”
If anything then, Raw Egg Nationalists are actually “following a broader trend of fitness minimalism” — something that often involves reverting to old-school lifting trends like Jim Wendler’s “5/3/1” program, or in this case, ditching protein shakes and creatine supplements for more natural, organic food.
Their claims, too, that raw-egg consumption better connects them to the “traditions” of the ancient world (many Raw Egg Nats use Roman and Greek historical figures as their avatars) are similarly dubious.
As Patrick Wyman, host of the popular Tides of History podcast, tells me, eggs were mostly something to cook with rather than a staple foodstuff back then. “There’s no reason to think that the consumption of huge numbers of raw eggs was a standard practice in the ancient world,” Wyman says. “The Romans did eat eggs in all sorts of contexts; wealthy folks used them as parts of salads and in the first course of larger meals, and eggs feature in recipes for baked goods, among other things.” But, he continues, fit Roman men more likely had “diets that leaned vegetarian,” or were full of meats and carbohydrates like bread so that they could “develop layers of fat that would protect their internal organs in combat.”
Despite these misreadings, however, some Raw Egg Nationalists have recently claimed that their diet is the secret to combatting — what else? — the coronavirus by making their immune systems more robust.
But again, a lot of this stems from a larger movement in the fitness world; Raw Egg Nats are merely adding a nationalistic bent to it. “After a generation of complexity — from weight machines to CrossFit — it’s understandable that gym folks want to do less, not more. And so, they assume a minimized program will get them what they need without a lot of fuss.”
For most people, that means maintaining muscle or losing weight. But for Raw Egg Nats, who see their pursuit for gains as akin to a holy pilgrimage, the simplicity of an uncooked egg represents what Bateman calls “one linear walk path to the truth” — both in terms of bigger biceps and their imagined traditionalist utopias.