Brian Johnson, better known as the self-proclaimed Liver King, has amassed millions of followers by promoting a controversial “ancestral” diet on TikTok. Now, the King has been dethroned as he was recently exposed as a heavy steroid user.
Who is the Liver King?
Brian, a 45-year-old influencer who first started posting as the Liver King on Instagram and TikTok in August 2021, has since risen in popularity with more than 1.7 million and 3.6 million followers, respectively.
His content consists of ‘educational’ videos (which he films topless) about health, lifestyle, and nutrition.
Modelled after the hunter-gatherer lifestyle, he promotes “ancestral tenets” like daily exercise, sun and cold exposure, proper sleep, social connection, and a controversial meat-heavy diet consisting largely of organs and muscles, “organic pastured egg yolks,” bone broth, raw full-fat milk and cheese, fermented vegetables, and “wild-caught fish eggs.”
Brian also owns a company called Ancestral Supplements, which he claims sells $100 million a year in protein supplements and dried animal organs. Each bottle of grass-fed beef liver capsules costs between $30 and $65 USD.
Through this lifestyle, Brian promises to help his followers unlock their “highest and most dominant form.”
Appearing on numerous podcasts, including Logan Paul’s Impaulsive, Brian firmly maintains that he obtained his “herculean physique” naturally through this “ancient primal” carnivorous diet without the use of any type of steroids.
The Liver King comes clean
Earlier this week, Brian released a video on his YouTube channel admitting that he uses steroids to achieve his figure.
“I lied, and I misled a lot of people,” Brian said in his video. “Yes, I’ve done steroids and, yes, I’m on steroids.”
This admission came only after fitness influencer @MorePlatesMoreDates posted a YouTube video exposing what he said were “private emails in which Brian described his steroid regimen.” In the emails, Brian allegedly said he was spending about $11,000 USD a month on steroids. This included an array of drugs and hormones, such as regular injections of powerful anabolic steroids such as Winstrol, Deca-Durabolin and testosterone cypionate, as well as Omnitrope, a form of human growth hormone.
In Brian’s video, he said that the reason why he hid his steroid use from his followers was because he “dug [himself] into a bigger and deeper hole” every time he lied on podcasts by denying ever using steroids.
Brian put his steroid use down to “self-esteem issues”.
“This is why I f**king work myself to death in the gym. This is why I do 12 to 15 blood-burning workouts a week – just to feel like I’m OK,” he said to the camera.
“And hormone replacement has helped in a profound and significant way.”
Fans respond to Brian’s steroid admission
Fans are understandably confused and angry.
One user on Twitter wrote, “This makes fools of a lot of high profile influencers/podcasters that glommed on to The Liver King for views. It would all be funny if there weren’t actual teenagers out there who think the key to getting jacked is eating bull testicles.”
“Liver king being on steroids just goes to show that you can’t trust everything or everyone you see online just because it’s viral,” wrote another.
Fellow YouTuber and streamer Ludwig uploaded a video questioning the sincerity of Brian’s video saying, “It still feels so fake, because of how much he has gained off of the lie, and how little he will be punished from it.”
While most of Brian’s followers were surprised about the admission, some saw it coming.
“NO WAY you looked at the Liver King and thought he was all natural,” ESPN analyst and former NFL quarterback Robert Griffin III wrote on Twitter.
The ethical implications of lying to his audience
Promoting an extreme lifestyle to achieve a certain physique is not a new concept among influencers and celebrities.
But the ethical implications of Brian lying to his audience about the reality of how he’s achieved that physique — by way of a cheat code, perse— are too steep to ignore.
As noted by YouTuber Vangelina Skov, in a video responding to the steroid scandal, these unrealistic expectations set out by platformed individuals can lead to eating disorders and lowered self-esteem among their audience.
“What happens is the self-esteem of people who already had a pretty low to begin with gets lowered even more and in some cases these unfortunate people can develop EDs. Think about it, in the 90s and early 2000s being skinny was the ideal, especially for women, if you wanted to be beautiful you needed to be then and what happened; more and more people developed restrictive EDs,” she says.
Although Brian himself is a victim of societal pressures, he continues to profit off of this lie while perpetuating damaging messaging to his large audience.
Brian has continued to post his regular content on all his socials and does not seem to be changing his mind when it comes to his “ancestral tenets” any time soon.