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How to Start the Warrior Diet

author image Andrea Cespedes
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.
How to Start the Warrior Diet
On the Warrior Diet, Stick to whole foods such as meats, poultry, fish, vegetables and whole grains. Photo Credit: Lisa Thornberg/E+/Getty Images

In 2001, Ori Hofmekler published the Warrior Diet to help people get off the roller coaster of weight gain and loss that modern-day diets may cause. He bases his plan -- which involves "undereating" during the day and "overeating" at night -- on the way people were allegedly designed to eat, according to pre-industrial times. Hofmekler designed the diet based on observation and opinion, rather than on science. With experience in the Israeli military and research into the way warrior societies -- such as ancient Sparta and Rome -- functioned, Hofmekler makes recommendations that are contrary to modern concepts in nutrition.

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The Warrior Diet in a Nutshell

The Warrior Diet asks you to follow your instinct when it comes to dieting. You should not be swayed by processed foods or rules as to what types of calories and macronutrients to eat and when to eat them. Instead, eat like an ancient warrior -- ancient warriors had little during the day, and instead ate their "hunt" at night. He advocates controlled fasting and exercising on a virtually empty stomach. You ease into having your food intake consist primarily of only one meal a day.

If you adapt to the diet in the way Hofmekler claims you will, you'll be better able to burn fat for fuel, have greater energy and you'll become lean without counting calories. The book advocates exercise as part of the plan, recommending total body strength training with moves such as pullups, squats, presses and high jumps. You should include short bursts of high-intensity cardio activity, such as sprints and frog jumps, in these intense sessions that last only 20 to 45 minutes.

Starting the Warrior Diet

Because the diet is quite different from the three meals and two snacks per day that most nutritionists recommend, it takes some adjustment before you start the diet. Going cold turkey into a regimen of one meal per day can cause light-headedness and weakness. Instead, ease into the diet gradually. Add short periods of controlled fasting a couple of days per week. For example, don't eat breakfast twice a week and then eat normally for the rest of the day. During the following weeks, increase the number of days that you follow this protocol until you've fully adapted to the diet.

Next, you'll work on extending the periods of "undereating." You'll start to skip lunch, too. Fasting doesn't mean drinking only water, though. You can still eat whole, raw foods so that you'll benefit from the digestive enzymes.

Undereating and Overeating on the Warrior Diet

When you undereat, or fast, on the Warrior Diet you may still consume fruits, vegetables and small servings of protein, if you desire. Canned fruits and vegetables or their juices are off limits. Instead, you focus on eating the whole food or freshly pressed juices from the whole food, which are full of enzymes that help you reload, according to Hokmekler.

Small portions of protein that are less than 6 ounces are also permitted during the "undereating." Don't mix the types, though, and choose those that are easy to digest, which includes sashimi, eggs, poultry and yogurt. He claims that your body will sense if and when it needs a little protein during this phase.

Except for protein, the diet doesn't offer recommendations as to how much of these foods to eat during the "undereating" period. You may feel hungry, but you should never feel the pain of starvation while on the plan.

You can have your evening meal any time -- even right before bed -- and this meal isn't limited by calories or serving sizes. Stick to whole foods such as meats, poultry, fish, vegetables and whole grains. Hofmekler says you know you're satiated when you feel "thirsty," and should stop eating.

Concerns With the Warrior Diet

The fact that the diet really has no support in science is a concern. For some advocates, like Hofmekler, it may work, but this doesn't mean that the diet is appropriate for the general population.

It's difficult to get all the nutrients you need in one meal a day. Sticking to one meal a day may help you lose weight, but that's not a guarantee. A one-meal-per-day plan can leave you extremely hungry so that you're likely to binge and overeat when you do eat -- which won't help you lose weight. It's also difficult to maintain if you live in a household where the other people eat three meals a day.

The Warrior Diet has most of your workouts occur during the "undereating" or controlled-fasting stage. While some people might be OK with exercising on an empty stomach, other people may find that this can cause side effects such as dizziness, nausea and poor performance.

Before beginning this -- or any other altered eating plan -- consult with your health care provider. Some of the exercises in the book or the fasting may be contrary to certain health conditions or medications.

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