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Home » OSL Blog » What is the Warrior Diet? [A Review]

What is the Warrior Diet? [A Review]

January 10, 2020

Key Takeaways

  1. The Warrior Diet is based on how our ancestors ate back in the days of feast or famine.
  2. While not based on scientific research, eating a Warrior Diet can have some positive health benefits worth exploring for some.
  3. This way of eating is not without its drawbacks and it isn’t for everyone, especially people with certain health conditions and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  4. Eating a Warrior Diet requires some lifestyle change and may mean overhauling your diet to reap the most benefit.

Intermittent fasting has become more popular in recent years. We’ve discussed other methods of eating this way before.

What might work for some doesn’t work for others. The Warrior Diet is an option to consider if you are interested in intermittent fasting to get results.

Today, we’ll discuss this particular way of eating. What it is, the benefits and drawbacks, and how to eat using these diet principles.

What is the Warrior Diet?

Created by former Israeli Special Forces and Defense member Ori Hofmekler, the Warrior Diet is an intermittent fasting way of eating. He coined the name based on the way ancient hunter-gatherers ate, much like he did while in the military. 

Intermittent fasting

The Warrior Diet centers around eating very limited calories for most of the day and most calories in a short timeframe. Similar to OMAD (One Meal A Day), but not as severe.

With the Warrior Diet, you fast during a 20 hour period and feed during a four-hour window.

This type of fasting can make sense for a lot of reasons and has been known to have some health benefits. We’ll get into the health benefits later, but the most common reason people use IF is to lose weight.

While not backed by science like other diets, the Warrior Diet was still well researched and put together. Hofmekler was the editor-in-chief of Mind and Muscle Power magazine when he wrote the book detailing this diet. 

Hofmekler Fasting Book

Titled The Warrior Diet: Switch on Your Biological Powerhouse For High Energy, Explosive Strength, and a Leaner, Harder Body, it debuted in 2002. An updated version was released in 2007, and there have been many people who found success in eating this way.

And while this is a diet, or way of eating, it’s actually a lifestyle change. The idea is to change your eating habits along with the timeframe you eat. 

Now that we’ve learned more about this intermittent diet, we should take a look at some of the benefits it can have.

The Warrior Diet Benefits

Since this diet is so similar to the 16:8 intermittent fasting way of eating, it has similar benefits. 

Weight Loss

Weight loss is one of the main reasons that people choose to perform intermittent fasting. In this study, test subjects were provided the same calories as the control but ate one meal per day instead of three.

After the study was over, the IF group saw a greater reduction in pounds lost and a decrease in fat mass. Those same subjects saw a greater increase in muscle mass compared to the control group.

This can be expected from having a large window of very limited calorie intake. Once the body stops burning energy from the food consumed, it takes from the stored fat as fuel. In this way, the Warrior Diet can provide impressive results with weight loss even with little exercise.

Improve Insulin Resistance

More and more people are dealing with insulin resistance as overall energy expenditure decreases.

Gone are the days of feast or famine, the premise of the Warrior Diet. These study results indicate that getting closer to that way of eating can help improve insulin levels.

For those type 2 diabetics who aren’t able to exercise, the Warrior Diet may be something to consider. While only a short-term study of two weeks, the participants here showed significant glucose control. 

Warrior Diet Insulin Resistance

They also were able to lose weight as a result of the fasting period. The participants’ calorie intake naturally reduced as well with less hunger during the study period. Once they stopped fasting though, their weight and glucose levels returned to normal.

Here, three patients were able to replace insulin dependence with fasting while maintaining normal blood sugar levels. They also noted significant weight loss as well. Eating a healthy, lower carb diet is essential for the best results.

This study supports the improvement of insulin resistance and improved glucose levels when fasting for 20 hours. Though caution should be taken, since hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can be dangerous and even fatal.

Reduce Inflammation

Evidence is mounting that chronic inflammation and stress can lead to various diseases over the course of a lifetime. This includes infectious diseases, autoimmune disorders, and even cancer.

Stress and inflammation together have a direct link to intestinal disorders like inflammatory bowel disease. It can increase the permeability of the intestines, causing a host of gut issues, creating a negative feedback loop.

Reducing Stress

The more stress, the more inflammation, the more problems.

Though more human tests are still needed, animal testing has shown that fasting can reduce inflammatory markers. Human tests have been conducted in some religious groups who participate in fasting to compare results.

During the holy month of Ramadan, for example, practitioners fast from dawn to sunset in the warm months. In 50 participants, proinflammatory markers and tumor necrosis cells were greatly reduced. 

Not only can this keep us healthier with fewer diseases, but it can also increase life expectancy. 

Improve Brain Health

Along with reducing inflammation, fasting has had positive effects on brain health and a reduction in certain diseases.

Improve Brain Health

Intermittent fasting and calorie reduction in mice show that aging processes in the brain slow down. Neurons and cognitive functions are protected and can reduce the chance of Alzheimer’s disease.

Other positive metabolic effects that fasting can have on the brain:

  • Promoting stem-cell regeneration
  • DNA repair
  • Enhance mitochondrial health
  • Improve autophagy (self-cleaning or old cells to make way for newer, healthy cells)

While the benefits of this diet are impressive, there are still some potential downsides to know about. Weighing both the pros and cons of any new diet is essential to determine if it’s the right choice for you.

Drawbacks of the Warrior Diet

With any diet, there are benefits as well as side effects and drawbacks to consider.

This diet is not for everyone and certain groups of people should get a doctor’s approval before trying it:

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women
  • Type 1 and 2 diabetics
  • Those with heart conditions
  • Anyone with an eating disorder or predisposed to one
  • Those who are already underweight
  • Children 

There are other things to think about before trying the Warrior Diet and other intermittent fasting methods.

Negative side effects

Most negative side effects go away after a few days, as your body adapts to the change in eating. 

Side effects you may have when trying intermittent fasting:

  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Low energy
  • Extreme hunger
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Fainting
  • Hormonal imbalance
  • Insomnia 
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability

Weight Gain

Though intermittent fasting usually involves weight loss, it can also create weight gain. Whether or not you’ll see weight gain has to do mainly with what you eat.

Unhealthy Foods

The premise of the Warrior Diet is that you can eat whatever you want for your meals during the feeding window. However, don’t expect weight loss if you are eating unhealthy junk foods. 

This includes:

  • Sugar-laden foods
  • Processed foods
  • Fried foods
  • Empty calorie foods

If you follow the foods suggested in the book, you should see at least some weight loss. You don’t necessarily have to count calories, but you should know the maximum amount for your weight goals. 

Remember, to lose weight you need to eat at a calorie deficit, regardless of the window of time you have to eat.

It’s Hard to Follow

When changing your eating habits, almost any diet can be hard at first. However, when reducing your eating window, it can be even harder to stick to.

Dieting with other people

You might find yourself missing out on social interactions involving food to reduce temptation. If you have some of the more serious side effects, you might want to give up and give in.

To find success with this program, it’s best to reduce your feeding window over time rather than all at once. It may take two or three weeks for you to get to a point where you can go with little food for 20 hours a day.

You Could Develop an Eating Disorder

This is true whether or not you have a history of an eating disorder. Binge eating is something that might happen if you deal with extreme hunger during the fasting period.

Man Eating Burger

To avoid this, know the calorie intake you should be following, and stick to it. Don’t forget to add in any calories you eat during your fasting period. Eating small amounts during the fasting period can reduce binging during the feeding period.

Nutrient Deficiencies

If you don’t eat healthy, nutrient-dense food while intermittent fasting, you could end up with nutrient deficiencies.

Healthy Foods warrior diet

The best way to combat this is to supplement with a multivitamin at the very least. Make sure you are eating good food during the feeding period so that you can reduce this risk.

Some people find it hard to get in the recommended amount of calories they need in a short amount of time. This not only creates a deficiency but can cause some of the side effects listed above, making you want to quit.

Women May Find it More Difficult

Women who participate in intermittent fasting can find that they have worse side effects than men. This includes:

  • Irritability
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Increased fatigue
  • Binge eating
  • Fearing a loss of control

Females may also find that their hormones become imbalanced. They might also notice a change in their menstrual cycle as a result of the Warrior Diet and intermittent fasting.

While it’s not necessarily a reason to avoid this way of eating, it’s important to note these additional side effects.

Could Affect Reproduction

This drawback could affect both men and women who participate in intermittent fasting, including the warrior diet. Nutritional infertility can happen if nutrition restriction is severe, especially when young.

This could be one of the reasons that children and teens are advised not to participate in fasting. The hypothalamo-hypophysial-gonadal axis regulates hormones and reproduction maturity in our bodies. 

Doctor Advising Man

Lack of proper nutrition, among other things, could negatively impact reproductive hormones.

This is the case in some who suffer from anorexia nervosa. As an adult, we are able to make informed choices about our diets and lifestyle choices. 

Working with your doctor, regardless of age, to get regular testing done is a great way to avoid potential health concerns like this that can impact future health.

Now, let’s take a look at some reviews to see what others really think after trying the Warrior Diet.

The Warrior Diet Reviews

Over the years people have tried out the Warrior Diet with various results. One cyclist on the Bike Forums tried eating this way for seven months and then posted a review.

He noted a 20-pound weight loss during the time period and sustained energy throughout the day. Like the title of the book suggests, he achieved a “hard body” at 60 years old.

Cyclist Review

Like many who try intermittent fasting, after a few days, he had no hunger pangs.

As a cyclist, one thing he was surprised by was the lack of enthusiasm for biking, replaced by gym workouts.

His endurance had increased, allowing him to easily run longer distances and increase intensity during workouts. He also noted more apathy than he was used to.

This user did state that while he followed the 20:4 philosophy, he didn’t change his eating habits. After the 7 month test, he planned to change his eating habits but didn’t update the thread further.

Research Warrior Diet

This Reddit user showed impressive before and after results while being on the Warrior Diet for eight months. He noted that he was still drinking on the weekends, adhering to healthy food, and fasted workouts.

This diabetic Reddit user noted a 30-pound weight loss but high morning glucose readings. This study supports the user’s results when calorie intake remains high during the feeding window. 

Fitness instructor and health coach Jill Brown also participates in intermittent fasting, though not strictly to the Warrior Diet.

She noticed that she felt better working out in the morning fasted using just black coffee. She regularly goes 16 hours or more without eating, following her natural instincts.

The Phases of the Warrior Diet

When it comes to being compliant with the Warrior Diet, there are three phases to follow. Each phase lasts one week. To better stick to the fasting time frame, you may want to ease into the phases before starting.

Break at gym

Choosing the 4-hour feeding period is up to you. For many, it makes sense to eat during the evening hours. However, do what works best for you.

Before we get into the phases, you’ll need to know the kinds of drinks you can have during the fasting period. You don’t want to break your fast and reduce your results by drinking the wrong beverages.

You should only be drinking these fluids while fasting:

  • Black coffee – no sugar, no cream
  • Water – tap, filtered, seltzer, mineral
    • You can also include lemon or lime
  • Tea – black or green, no sugar (consider green tea for the health benefits)
  • Bone broth
  • Apple cider vinegar (can be added to other drinks)
  • Milk – almond milk is preferred over dairy unless full-fat and raw

You should avoid these during the fasting window:

  • Sodas – even diet
  • Alcohol
  • Fruit juice – it’s full of sugar and carbs

For best results, consider avoiding these types of drinks altogether.

Phase I – Detox

Sliced up pineapple

Here are the foods you can eat during the 20-hour fasting period. Your goal is to keep your calories under 500 or 600 during this time period:

  • Raw fruits (keep the carb and sugar content low)
    • Banana
    • Pineapple
    • Berries
    • Watermelon
    • Grapefruit
    • Avocado
    • Peach
  • Vegetable juices
  • Raw vegetables
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Clear broth
  • Small amounts of dairy (raw and full-fat preferred)
    • Cottage cheese
    • Yogurt
    • Hard cheese
    • Milk 

Here are the suggested foods during the 4-hour feeding window:

  • Cooked vegetables (small amounts)
  • A salad dressed with oil and vinegar
  • Plant proteins
    • Tempeh
    • Lentils
    • Chickpeas
    • Spirulina
  • Beans and legumes
  • Whole grains (wheat-free)
    • Millet
    • Quinoa
    • Sorghum
    • Buckwheat
    • Amaranth
    • Wild rice

Phase II – High Fat

Here are suggestions for the fasting period:

  • Raw fruits (keep the carb and sugar content low)
    • Banana
    • Pineapple
    • Berries
    • Watermelon
    • Grapefruit
    • Avocado
    • Peach
  • Vegetable juices
  • Raw vegetables
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Clear broth
  • Small amounts of dairy (raw and full-fat preferred)
    • Cottage cheese
    • Yogurt
    • Hard cheese
    • Milk 
Fresh fruit and vegetables

Suggested foods for the feeding period:

  • Salad dressed with oil and vinegar
  • Cooked vegetables
  • Lean animal proteins
    • Haddock
    • Flounder
    • Halibut
    • Orange roughy
    • Grass-fed beef
    • Turkey
    • Chicken
    • Pork
    • Venison
    • Shrimp
    • Bison
  • A small number of nuts

Phase III – Concluding Fat Loss

This phase includes carb cycling, where you cycle from high carb days to low carb, high protein days. Complete one to two high carb days, followed by one to two low carb, high protein days. Complete this cycle twice.

Fat loss through healthy eating

For the fasting period, use the guide above for what you should eat. Here are some ideas for the high carb days:

  • Salad dressed with oil and vinegar
  • Cooked vegetables
  • 6 oz or less of lean animal protein
  • Main carbohydrate:
    • Sweet potato
    • Oats
    • Quinoa
    • Beans
    • Lentils
    • Legumes
    • Brown rice
    • White rice

Food suggestions for the feeding window on low carb, high protein days:

  • Salad dressed with oil and vinegar
  • A higher amount of animal protein
  • Cooked vegetables, low starch
    • Spinach
    • Artichoke
    • Asparagus
    • Bean sprouts
    • Green beans
    • Bamboo shoots
  • Fruit for dessert

After you’ve completed the third phase, you can rotate back to the second phase and continue. Calories are not set in the Warrior Diet book, so you’ll need to figure out what works best for you. 

Exercising on the Warrior Diet

On days that you’re exercising, you may need to increase calories to rebuild your energy stores. Listen to your body, and avoid eating too little during the feeding window so you don’t risk hypoglycemia.

Warrior Diet and Strength Training

Strength and endurance training are encouraged, especially during fasting periods. Hofmekler explains here that reaching the maximum anabolic state is done best during undereating. Bodybuilding and the Warrior Diet are the perfect complements to each other, according to him.

When weight training and undereating, “the body gets a signal to recuperate and build stronger fibers.” This is especially important when building for size and strength.

Your muscles recover faster and stronger, and your body recycles its cells to keep you young and healthy.

The Bottom Line

The Warrior Diet is not for everyone. It’s hard to follow and if you have a lot of side effects, you may want to quit. The perceived health benefits may be enough for you to give it a try at least.

Some of the science supports Hofmekler’s claims about cell regeneration, muscle building, and aging. While quite a few studies have been done on animals, there are still more human tests to be done.

The Warrior Diet is just one way of eating we’ve discussed on the blog. Be sure to check out our entire nutrition library, where we go into detail on different diets to help you make the right choice.

Have you tried the Warrior Diet? Did you have success with it? If you decided it wasn’t for you, care to tell us why? We’d love to hear all about your experiences with the Warrior Diet in the comments section below!

Disclaimer: None of the individuals and/or companies mentioned necessarily endorse Old School Labs or COSIDLA Inc. products or the contents of this article. Any programs provided for illustration purposes only. Always consult with your personal trainer, nutritionist and physician before changing or starting any new exercise, nutrition, or supplementation program.
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