Chances are if you’ve been on the internet in 2022, you’ve come across a grisly, chiseled, bearded man named Brian Johnson, better known as the Liver King. With 3.9 million followers on TikTok and 248,000 subscribers on YouTube, his claim to fame is peddling a primarily raw meat diet, much of it involving, yes, raw liver. Johnson claimed that eating, sleeping, and exercising like him will yield the right lifestyle to get as big as he is.

But in December, Johnson admitted he lied about how he achieved his large muscles. It was not the liver diet and primal behavior that helped him gain, but it was steroids, something he denied multiple times across several interviews. In fact, his performance enhancing regimen costs roughly $11,000 per month. Fans and followers were, obviously, quite upset, especially those who tried out his lifestyle for themselves or purchased his Ancestral Supplements.

As a result, Johnson, who has a current annual income of $100 million, was hit with a $25 million class-action lawsuit for profiting massively from phony health advice and pills – not uncommon among well-known male content creators. Though, Harvard law spouses Maclen and Ashleigh of the TikTok account noted how Johnson’s legal team may be able to forgo any legal consequences due to the “reasonable consumer test.”

The Liver King's push towards primal

Aside from his buffet-style consumption of raw organs, Johnson’s core “beliefs” also captured the internet’s attention. Johnson implored that humans need to return to their primal/ancestral roots via various tenets. “Our ancestors had it right," his website states. "Many years before us, they identified a simple, elegant way of living that enabled us to genetically express the highest version of ourselves."

His YouTube channel is filled with videos of athletic activities including tribal and Eagle hunting and less than appetizing meals of raw butter, real maple syrup, raw bone marrow, raw animal liver, raw eggs, and raw testes. He claimed that these practices keep him absolutely ripped and with high energy and mental stamina, just like the hunters from another era.

What eating raw liver does to the body

Founder of Dark Blue Nutrition, Katie Horrell, MS, RDN, CPT, made a video essay explaining the Liver King controversy and analyzed his obsession with “being primal.” She talked with Spoon about her thoughts.

She clarifies that, yes, beef liver is packed with nutrients, but eating it in raw form in mass quantities is a huge no-no. Raw meat can cause symptoms of vomiting, diarrhea, and even more serious foodborne illnesses that can land you in the hospital.

“Liver has over 20 times the recommended daily intake (RDI) of Vitamin A and approximately 11 times the RDI of copper, which can put you at risk for hypervitaminosis A and copper toxicity,”  Horrell said. The most painfully ironic thing about copper toxicity? Liver damage.

Horrell described how Johnson’s diet wasn’t actually doing the heavy lifting with muscle building. “As one might expect, taking exogenous steroids tends to yield results that would be outside the norm of what you’d see without them. In other words, if the Liver King did the exact same thing, without steroid use, he would have a very different physique from what you see today,” she said.

There are no shortcuts with your health

“I think the key message here is: There are no shortcuts with your health,” Horrell said. “If you see someone promoting a single thing as the magic pill to muscle growth or nutritional well-being, it’s probably bogus.”

Though it may sound trite, the best way to maintain a healthy body and mind is through a balanced diet of protein, whole grains, fruits, veggies, and fats in combination with physical activity, mental health exercises, therapy, and the like. A specific weight, muscle mass, or diet does not dictate a well-rounded measure of health.

“Remember, there can be a tremendous amount of pressure to live up to unrealistic standards of beauty on social media and beyond. Make sure to follow people who promote balance over extremes,” Horrell said. “If you're seeking more support on your nutrition, seek out the help of a dietitian nutritionist who will help you find nutritional balance and a healthy relationship with food... without a fad diet or raw liver in sight!”

Find Katie and more Dark Blue Nutrition content on Instagram and YouTube.