What exactly is the Warrior Diet and does it work? Here’s some information that may help you decide whether it’s right for you.
What is the Warrior Diet?
The Warrior diet plan became popular with the 2001 book by Ori Hofmekler. A former member of the Israeli Special Forces, he eventually transitioned to the fitness and nutrition field. The premise behind the diet is that it mimics the eating patterns of ancient warriors who consumed very little during the day and feasted on meals at night.
According to Hofmekler, the diet enhances the way we eat, feel, look, and perform by triggering our body’s survival instincts with a large fasting period. However, even Hofmekler himself acknowledges that scientific data does not back up the diet’s validity. He based it merely on his own beliefs and observations.
The Warrior Diet is, at its core, an extreme method of intermittent fasting. It’s a way of eating that cycles extended periods of fasting with very short windows of feasting. Dieters eat 85% to 90% of their calories during this time window. That can be up to 1,800 calories in one sitting for someone on a typical 2,000 calorie intake plan. The eating pattern alternates between twenty hours of fasting and a four-hour eating window with unlimited intake.
What Do I Eat on the Warrior Diet?
Technically, there are no off-limit foods on the Warrior Diet. Proponents generally recommend that you choose nutrient-dense foods like vegetables and proteins that will fill you up. In his book, Hofmekler mentions that your meals should rely heavily on healthy fats and proteins, particularly high-protein dairy like cheese and yogurt. One should generally avoid processed foods.
During the 20-hour fasting period, dieters eat 10-15% of their daily calories. During this time, they can consume small amounts of dairy products, hard-boiled eggs, raw fruits and vegetables, and plenty of water.
Here’s a recipe that’s packed full of protein that you could eat during the feasting window of the Warrior Diet:
The Best Burrito Bowl
- 1 cup quinoa (or rice)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ¼ cup yellow onion minced
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 2 15 oz cans black or pinto beans
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro chopped
- 1/4 tsp chili powder
- pinch cayenne pepper
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice
- 1 cup romaine shredded
- Cook quinoa or rice according the package instructions.
- While the quinoa or rice is cooking, put the olive oil into another sauce pan on medium heat. Add onion into the saucepan and sauté until it's browned and tender. Add the minced garlic and let it sauté for 1-2 minutes longer.
- Add the black beans to the pot of onions with 1/2 cup water, 2 tbsp cilantro, chili powder, and cayenne pepper. Once the beans start to boil, reduce heat to medium-low. Let it simmer for 15 minutes or until the liquid is mostly evaporated. Add the lime juice and season with salt to taste.
- When the quinoa is entirely cooked, remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Mix in 2 tbsp of chopped cilantro and 2 tbsp fresh lime juice. Season with salt to taste.
- Pour the quinoa evenly between four bowls.
- Top each portion of quinoa with 1/4 cup of shredded lettuce and simmered black beans, and add any other toppings you'd like!
The Science Behind the Warrior Diet
There is no scientific proof that the Warrior diet itself is an effective method of weight loss. However, there is scientific evidence available related to intermittent fasting, an umbrella term for various methods of diets. The three different kinds of intermittent fasting include alternate-day fasting, daily time-restricted feeding, and periodic fasting. The Warrior Diet is a daily time-restricted method.
In one study on intermittent fasting, participants with a healthy body weight who ate one meal a day without restricting calories showed a decrease in body fat mass. It should be noted that they did not necessarily lose weight, and also showed significant increases in blood pressure.
Who Should Not Consider the Warrior Diet
Experts don’t necessarily recommend this type of diet plan for certain groups, as it may lead to nutrient deficiencies. You should also not use the Warrior Diet plan if you:
- Are pregnant or nursing
- Are an extreme athlete
- Have a disease like Type 1 diabetes, heart failure, or cancer
- Have an eating disorder or a history of disordered eating
- Are underweight
It should also be noted that research shows that women’s hormonal balance can be disturbed more than men’s. While some women may be able to safely use intermittent fasting, it’s important to realize certain side effects. This can include disrupted sleep patterns, anxiety, missed or irregular periods, and reproductive health disturbances.
Consult a doctor or dietician to figure out what is right for you.
The Risks and Harmful Effects of the Warrior Diet
The Warrior diet places an emphasis on overeating at one time, although the creator maintains that a person should only eat until “pleasantly satisfied”. Regardless, this type of extreme undereating and overeating can lead to complications for many people, especially those at risk for disordered eating.
It’s also important to consider the side effects of the Warrior Diet, which can include fatigue, dizziness, lethargy, anxiety, irritability, fainting, constipation, hormone imbalance, and many other risks.
There is some science behind the effects of fasting, especially when it comes to brain health. Intermittent fasting has been found to have positive effects on the regulation of inflammatory pathways that affect brain function. This research was conducted primarily with animals and there is not enough research to support the efficacy in humans.
Fasting is also reported to help decrease inflammation. One study in 34 healthy men found that the 16:8 intermittent fasting method showed lowered levels of TNF-α and interleukin 1 beta (IL-1β), substances that promote inflammation.
Finally, studies have shown that intermittent fasting may improve blood sugar control in individuals with Type Two diabetes. A study in 10 people with type 2 diabetes found that a fasting window of 18–20 hours a day leads to a decrease in body weight. It also showed to aid with blood sugar control after meals. It should be noted, however, that it also showed an increased risk for hypoglycemia, which is very dangerous and could lead to complications. Individuals with type 2 diabetes should consult with a doctor before considering intermittent fasting.
Should I Try the Warrior Diet?
Short answer? There are other methods with far fewer potential side effects and risks. You can experience the potential positive effects of this diet by more conventional means such as maintaining a well-rounded diet of (vegetables, fruits, proteins, healthy fats, and balanced carbs), drinking plenty of water, consistent moderate exercise, and getting 7-8 hours of sleep. However, talk to your doctor or dietician to find out what is the best option for you. Share your health journey in the comments and with your loved ones on FamilyApp!