The “Diet” That Contradicts Everything You Know About Nutrition

With a thousand different fad diets available to us (and shoved in our faces every day), along with an endless amount of supplements, it is increasingly difficult to determine which hold merit, which are effective, and which are the most suitable for our individual needs. With Low Carb vs. Low Fat, Paleo vs. Vegan, and Whole Grains vs. Gluten-Free, many of these nutritional plans are based on contradictory philosophies, which make our selection process much more difficult.

However, it seems that there has been at least ONE absolute in each of these diets that has held constant throughout the years: for those both looking to burn fat and/or gain muscle, frequent (4-6) smaller meals throughout the day are essential to stoke the metabolic fire. So at least we can sleep well in knowing that any diet should be structured around this principle. Right? RIGHT?!?

Well, that actually may not be the case. A few weeks ago, deep into one of those weird YouTube video sessions that started with a video of a kitten with a top hat getting slapped by its mother, progressed to kangaroos boxing, and eventually led me to Mixed Martial Arts videos, I stumbled across an interview with Ronda Rousey (#1 ranked female MMA fighter) talking about how she would kick Kim Kardashian’s ass. In this same interview, Ronda also described her diet, saying that her nutrition plan followed a “Warrior Diet” philosophy–meaning she would only eat ONE MEAL A DAY. Throughout the rest of the day, she would eat small “snacks” consisting mainly of nuts and low-glycemic fruits, such as blackberries (Video here). 

Considering myself to be someone that is well-read in nutrition and fitness, this sounded insane and unrealistic. However, I also remembered hearing that former NFL running back, current MMA fighter, and genetic freak-show Herschel Walker would also only eat one meal a day, and on occasion, not eat at all throughout the course of the day (Video here). I figured that if two world class fighters followed this plan, one in incredible shape at 50 years old (Herschel), that it may be worth experimenting with–or at least warranted some additional research.

Herschel Walker, who eats one meal a day, a monster at age 48.

Herschel Walker, who eats one meal a day, a monster at age 48.

After nearly a week of obsessive research, I found a great deal of books, articles, and research studies on the subject. I will do my best to sum them up for easy consumption (in this post, as well as additional posts to come).

It turns out that this type of diet is not necessarily new, and is based on principles of Intermittent Fasting (IF), which can be practiced in a variety of ways, but essentially suggests that going without food for certain periods of time (the length may vary depending on the particular diet plan) may have several health benefits. “The Warrior Diet” term was coined in a book of the same title, written by Author Ori Hofmekler–nutritionist, ex-Israeli Special Forces, and author of several nutrition books.

Ori, also in his 50's, is in fantastic shape himself.

Ori, also in his 50’s, is in fantastic shape himself.

While other methods of intermittent fasting may contain a 24-hour fast once or twice a week, this particular version of IF consists of a daily “fast” of 20 hours, followed by an “eating window” of 4 hours. The underlying philosophy of the Warrior Diet is that it follows the rhythms and programming that are more natural to the way humans were meant to eat. That is, grazing on small snacks throughout the course of the day (under-eating phase), followed by a large “feast” in the evening (over-eating phase). The theory is that our ancestors would spend much of the day in hunt of their animal prey–eating fresh vegetables and fruits as they were available–and then feasting on their kill in the evening, eating enough to satisfy them until the next kill.

Here is the basic template of this diet:

  • Under-Eating Phase (20 hours) – As you can tell, this is not a true fast, as this diet allows for small amounts of food during the “fasting” period. You are allowed 2-3 small snacks of 300 calories or less each time. These snacks can consist of fresh fruit (preferably low-GI fruit), fresh vegetables, nuts, and small amounts of protein if necessary.
  • Over-Eating Phase (4 hours) – When “dinner” time rolls around, once you begin your first meal, you then get 4 hours to eat as many times as you need, until you reach satisfaction. Ori recommends eating by “feel” and taking 20 minutes in between each “meal” to determine if you are still hungry. A good rule of thumb, according to Ori, is to stop eating when you feel more thirsty than hungry. IMPORTANT: During the over-eating phase, begin with fresh veggies, such as a salad, move on to cooked veggies, followed by animal protein, and lastly, carbohydrates if you choose to have them.

According to Ori, among others, there are a number of supposed benefits of eating only one meal a day. Here is a quick summary:

  • Increased mental clarity, alertness, and overall cognitive performance. I will address the more scientific reasoning behind this in a separate post. However, the non-scientific theory, is that when our ancestors were without food, the bodily reaction was a heightening of senses in order to help catch the prey.
  • Increased energy. For similar reasons as above, a hormone secreted in the body would increase adrenaline for physical ability. Also, large amounts of energy are used to digest food. During fasted periods, this energy can be used elsewhere. For this reason, if you work out, do so during the under-eating period, preferably right before your large meal. 
  • Digestive ease. Constantly putting significant amounts of calories in our body throughout the course of the day can put a strain on the digestive system. Fasting can have cleansing benefits on the body.
  • Fat Burn. Fasting will require the body to burn fat for energy.

Despite this diet being entirely contradictory to everything I thought I knew about nutrition–or maybe in part because it is so contradictory–I have decided to give it a shot. Many others on forums across the internet have had great results with the Warrior Diet, as well as on other versions of Intermittent Fasting. The major appeal to me of the Warrior Diet in particular, is the potential convenience of only needing to worry about one major meal each day.

I will follow the Warrior Diet for 30 days, and document my progress, post photos, report on energy levels, etc. Check back soon for updates with a more detailed meal template, some further research, and updates of my progress.