The Bruce Lee Diet

Bruce Lee diet
Having a good diet and comsuming the right nutrition is paramount for all dedicated Martial Artists and can dramatically improve performance. This article discusses what is needed for a well balanced diet and which nutritional aspects are particularly recommended for Martial Artists. Every sport requires specific advise on diet and Martial Arts is no different.

On analysis of Bruce Lee's body, if you didn't know who he was, you would be forgiven for thinking he was a nutrional expert. In fact he was. Bruce Lee was devoted not only to Martial Arts but also his body. Always wanting to perform at his highest potential, Bruce had rigid controls on his diet which gave him prime physical conditioning. It is obvious just looking at the legend that Bruce was in excellent physical condition and it was once said by someone who met him that "touching his body was like hitting Mahogany". Although Bruce trained his body to it's peak performance at all times, he was only able to acheive this, as stated by himself because of his attitude towards his diet. There are many references made to 'The Bruce Lee Diet' however, this is a term used which only names the patterns and regimed of Bruce Lee's food and diet habits. These regimes are of no secret with Bruce openly discussing them in his books and in documentaries. This article puts together the key and relevant information that you may wish to bring into your diet.

Bruce Lee food

Bruce Lee - "When you are a Martial Artist, you only eat what you require and do not get carried away with foods that do not benefit  you as a Martial Artist"

Bruce Lee Diet Rule #1 - Avoid empty calories

By empty calories, Bruce meant refined flour - describing this as calories as doing absolutely nothing beneficial to the human body. Such calories are often found in biscuits, cakes and most notably pastry. Linda Lee (Bruce's widow) said: "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". Pasta, spaghetti and rice were what Bruce considered to be his most valuable sources of carbohydrates.


Bruce Lee Diet Rule #2 - Less, more frequent

Smaller portions of food more frequentlycan prevent your metabolism slowing and in turn help prevent the body from turning those calories into fat. Eating large amounts of food at a time cause the bodies metabolism to slow down and this results in the excess calories being stored as fat. Eating portions of lower volume means that the excess calories per meal are less and it also means that you can eat more often. Eating more often will train the body into knowing that it does not need to store the calories, again preventing fat depositation. However it is important that you combine eating more often with loess portions, otherwise benefits gained will be minimised. Linda Lee stated that "he would eat up to 5 meals a day but didn't eat large portions" - this would also help him fit in his workouts without having a heavy stomach.

The Bruce Lee Diet

Bruce Lee Diet Rule #3 - Honey and Ginseng

His favourite drink for energy was 'Royal Jelly' (a drink apparently comprised of honey of the Queen Bees) mixed with Ginseng. He would often take this drink on set  as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar recalled that he would open them during breaks between filming 'The Game of Death'. The reason for this drink was because it would give him a quick source of energy, rather than having to rely on slow releasing carbohydrates constantly which can make oneself tired upon consuming. As Bruce said "I take a little Royal Jelly beforehand and Voom! My energy levels are perfect".

Bruce Lee Diet Rule #4 - Balance your diet

Although this is a broad term, what Bruce meant was to ensure that you consume not only carbohydrates, but a good level of protein, fats and vitamin rich food too. Protrein is an essential substance found in many foods, however most people consume way less than the recommended daily consumption. For people attempting to gain muscle and strength, 1g of protein is recommended per pound of body weight. The best sources of protein are eggs, milk, cheese, soybeans, nuts and quorn. Fats should also not be neglected and is vital for the human body, possessing many potential benefits. However it is important the correct type of fats are consumed. Certain fatty acids are absolutely essential to life and can be found in egg yoke, peanut butter, avocados, brazil nuts, mackeral, cheese and many more.

Bruce Lee Diet Rule #5 - Drink Tea

Bruce would drink tea every day, sometimes mixing honey with it. Tea contains many anti-oxidents and has certain substances that  can increase the bodies immune system dramatically. It is a common fact that people who drink more tea have a stronger immune system. His favourite kind of tea's were Lipton (mixed with honey) or a Chinese tea called Li-Cha. This is a black tea and should be mixed with a small amount of milk and sugar. Tea is an excellent way of hydrating the body along with giving it essential ingredients to improve many bodily functions. Bruce drank hundreds of types of tea's and was his favourite beverage.


Bruce Lee Diet Rule #6 - Supplements

Supplements were part of his diet, as being essential for the muscle building side. Most commonly he would consume two protein drinks a day. Along with the protein powder, other ingredients he would mix into the drinks included eggs, non-instant powdered milk, wheat germ, peanut butter, bananas, brewers yeast, inositol and granular lechitin. He also took regular vitamin and mineral supplements.


Any fans of this Martial Arts hero will know that he suffered a serious back injury which temporarily paralyzed part of his lower body. He was told by doctors he would never fight again. However so the suprise of his health advisors Bruce made an incredible recovery and it is beleived that this would never have been achieved if it was not for his fantastic physical attributes which he would never have had without what we call today - 'The Bruce Lee Diet'. 

Some beleive that Lee's strict healthy diet played a role in ensuring he achieved a taller height than expected of 5 foot 7.5. Although this seems short by today's standard, it is in fact taller than average for his generation, ethnic background and parent's heights. See How Tall Was Bruce Lee.


For more Bruce Lee Diet Tips

Bruce wrote extensively about his diet and fitness regime in his books, in particular The Art of Expressing the Human Body goes into great detail.

I highly recommend buying this if you interested in understanding his nutrition and fitness regimes. It's not just for martial artists.

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Ash Paul Connell's picture

Takes dedication for this kind of diet, day in day out - you cannot really afford to have one day eating junk.
Paul Toast's picture

not suprised Bruce was in tip top shape looking at this article
Dazman's picture

nice going Bruce, see you on the other side
Katy's picture

That's just intense the way Bruce looked in Enter the dragon. Never seen anyone with a low fat % like that.
SimonB's picture

Bruce had a commitment to the sport and a commitment to life. RIP Bruce, you will live on for ever in martial arts history.
BarryBJJ's picture

Obviously he looked good and had enormous strength for his size, but don't you think he was too thin?
TedBrooks's picture

Anyone tried the honey and ginseng thing, anyone got results from it?
Varekai22's picture

Haven't tried the honey and ginseng but royal jelly is fantastic and very good for you. A little bit pricy though.
Qualmpaw's picture

Try to get local unprocessed honey, it also helps with allergies. Like local fruits and vegetables in season is best.
Russell's picture

What a lot of people don't realize in today's society , is that Sifu Bruce was way ahead of his time not only in martial arts and physical conditioning area but in nutrition as well. This 135lb man with 15 inch forearms and a slim body hard as a rock was also constantly refining his diet.Where we can non nonchalantly walk into a local heath food store and buy various ready to eat and drink heath products, back in the 60's and early 70's for the most part only weight lifters understood mixing concoctions and taking supplements. As far as many commenting on being too thin, he always kept his body fat down and prior to his death he was also for the most part on a liquid diet plan weighing in at just over 120 lbs.
Simz's picture

Well, congrats to you bruce. R.i.p. 9ce article by the way, I appreciate it.
Quex's picture

Well, I dont think he used any "protein powders" or "supplements" except maybe some vitamins, because they didn't had any supplement business in sixties-early seventies. People who use supplements look usually fatter, they have that "bodubuilder look". He was super lean and looked also very natural, unlike most so called atheletes today. Supplement and steroid business has ruined it completely.
dionbrother's picture

He did use protein powders. He bought Blair Protein Powder on a regular basis. Google it. The stuff was said to be the best and is no longer available. Weider supplements existed back then as well. Linda Lee told stories of blending his powders into a smoothie shake several times a day. He had a high metabolism, was an ectomorph and burned calories like a madman. He also didn't sleep much, which we now know is essential for muscle growth. Bruce wasn't going to be bodybuilder huge no matter what.
jorellana93's picture

His life style is just phenomenal! There's just no words I can say to describe Bruce... Undoubtedly he is one of the most brilliant minded people and martial artists of all time!
KarateJake's picture

Its unfair that the article does on list the source of the article. I would say 90% of the text came from "Bruce Lee - The Art of Expressing the Human Body" by John Little, a former student of Bruce Lee and family friend of the Lee's. Also if you want to know more about Bruce's workout routine, then you should pick up this book.
bodyhealth tai chi's picture

To be healthy and fight disease you need a body fat % of around 10%, Ideal long term fat % around 15%. muscle mass and ratio can be high in chinese martial art training, fat levels lower that 10% just make you look good? in the mirror.
Ronin Athletics's picture

Acquiring proper nutrition is one of the most important aspects of any sport, including martial arts. What you eat affects not only your energy levels but also your recovery and your performance in competition.
Qualmpaw's picture

My diet is very similar to Bruce, I weigh 165 Lbs, 6 “ and don’t have any visible fat on my body. Bruce eventually stopped eating meat later in life. Brandon was also a vegetarian. For me I do not need discipline maintaining my diet because I could not bare the feeling buffered up with junk food. The area I have to discipline is there are few restaurants, that serve what I eat , and having to refuse dinner invitations. My body’s appetite is tuned in to what I need. Now some people say I’m to thin, and my veins popping out all over my arms are a bad thing. I have to laugh because they have no idea how good I feel, and how well my body heals. I have no problems what so ever building mussel mass. Even with all my severe neck , spine, cartilage injuries my endorphins flow well and pain dose not bother me. There are risk to my diet and I know I need constant maintenance, water and many small meals ( my body cant afford to loose weight). My metabolism is so high I could eat a mountain of food dally and wont gain a pound, it all instantly turns into pure energy.. The way we combine foods really makes a big difference too. Our body’s are like rivers, and if we don’t allow anything to clog it up , it flows perfectly. With the greatest endurance. It took many years of the process of eliminating foods that did not work with my personal body chemistry, and I had to stop tofu because I got constant headaches. Never eat processed food. Simplicity is all. Think of you body as a garden and the more you feed it correctly the better it blooms,