In the spring of 2010 I started experimenting with the Warrior Diet by Ori Hofmekler and it forever changed the way I approach nutrition. Without that diet, and my subsequent experiments with different versions of it, my clients and I wouldn’t be as lean and healthy as we are today. I won’t delve into why I initially tried the Warrior Diet since I covered most of that in this blog.
This installment covers the nutritional strategies I currently recommend for fat loss and gastrointestinal (GI) health. I’ll tell you upfront that I’m not going to explain why the Waterbury Diet ended up the way it did, or else I’d have to write a book. But I don’t want to do that. Why? There are a few reasons.
First, this version of the Waterbury Diet is similar enough to the original Warrior Diet that I don’t feel right charging people money for it. However, my approach is different enough to justify its own version or else I’d tell you to just follow the Warrior Diet. (Although, reading the Warrior Diet is highly recommended.) Second, since there’s not a lot of research on intermittent fasting (IF) – the key component to this diet – it’s unlikely I’ll be able to reference any new studies you haven’t seen from other experts. Third, it was time I outlined what I’ve been doing since I’m late to the game. My buddy Jason Ferruggia has his Renegade Diet, and Dr. John Berardi wrote an excellent piece on this style of eating. Yep, there are many others out there that have their own versions so I thought it was time to outline the approach I use for myself and my clients.
Finally, I must mention that it’s essential for you to consult your physician before embarking on this, or any other, nutrition plan. Now let’s get started.
Gut Health and Intermittent Fasting
In the early part of the 20th century, Dr. Eli Metchnikoff coined the phrase “Death begins in the gut.” That’s probably the most accurate and important statement you’ll ever hear. Indeed, in 1908 he won a Nobel Prize for his work studying gut bacterial flora. In order to get leaner, stronger, more muscular or healthier, you must improve gut health. This is where intermittent fasting (IF) becomes essential.
In the Warrior Diet, Ori Hofmekler outlines two distinct phases of eating each day. The first phase is the aptly titled “undereating phase” where you consume very few calories. (He also refers to this stage as “controlled fasting.”) The undereating phase lasts 16-20 hours. That’s followed by the “overeating phase” at night where he recommends a specific sequence of foods to get the most benefit. During this 4-8 hour window you’ll consume most of your daily calories.
The effectiveness of this diet stems from the intermittent fasting (IF) stage. When you get it right you’ll burn fat, boost energy and improve overall health by reducing inflammation. Importantly, the terms controlled fasting, undereating phase, and intermittent fasting all refer to the same thing. I’ll be using the term “fasting” to describe this phase.
Waterbury Diet for Fat Loss – Fasting Phase (20 hours)
From the time you wake up, until four hours before bed, consume 0.5 ounce of liquid per pound of lean body mass. Your lean body mass is your body weight minus your fat weight. So if you weigh 200 pounds and have 20% body fat, you have 40 pounds of fat. That leaves you with 160 pounds of lean body mass. You need at least 80 ounces of liquid during the fasting phase, mostly from water. You can have up to 16 ounces of tea (green and white tea are best) as part of this liquid requirement. Coffee addicts are allowed up to 8 ounces of black coffee, although it’s not recommended.
The fasting phase is the toughest part of this whole diet, especially during the first few days. You’ll be hungry, cranky, and your energy will be lower than ever. I recommend starting this diet on a weekend when you don’t have work demands or when you don’t need to be a social butterfly. It’s never fun to go through detox, and that’s exactly what the fasting phase is. However, after a few days your physiology will shift, the hunger pangs will go away, your skin will start to clear up, and your energy levels will be higher than ever.
What can you eat during the fasting phase? This is where I differ from the original Warrior Diet that says you can have any fruits, fruit juices, an egg or two, or some yogurt. I’ve found the best results are achieved with the least amount of food possible. Look, anyone can go without eating much during the day, especially when you know you can eat until you’re completely satisfied at night.
Fasting Phase Rule #1: Don’t eat unless you’re really hungry.
At first you’ll be hungry within a few hours after you wake up, maybe even as soon as you wake up if you’re like I was. After a week or so you might not be hungry until 2pm. In any case, wait until the hunger pangs are too tough to withstand before eating anything.
Fasting Phase Rule #2: When you do eat, eat as little as possible.
Consume calories during the fasting phase from only five sources:
1. A handful of fresh berries. Any berries will work, but many people favor raspberries since the high fiber content controls hunger.
2. One-half of an organic apple. If it’s a relatively small apple, eat the whole thing.
3. A glass of vegetable juice made from any fresh veggies. V-8 is not recommended since it’s not fresh, but there are worse things to drink.
4. Mix 4 ounces of organic cranberry juice with 8 ounces of water. This adds toward your daily liquid requirement. Thanks to John Meadows for turning me on to cranberry juice – it’s excellent to support liver health and stave off hunger.
5. Drink 8 ounces of fresh coconut water. Because of the carb content in coconut water, don’t drink more than one serving per day. You can add a pinch of salt to the coconut water, thus making it “nature’s Gatorade.”
So whenever hunger takes over during the fasting phase, choose one of the five options above. You can have any of the above choices up to three times during the 20-hour fasting phase, but mix up your choices each day and spread them out as much as possible.
Fasting Phase Rule #3: Take supplements during the 20-hour phase.
Certain supplements will make the fasting phase much easier to deal with. The following supplements support your metabolism, immune system, and reduce inflammation. I always hesitate to mention supplements because there are so many. It’s inevitable that I’ll get hundreds of questions asking if “supplement x” is ok to take, too. What you see below is what I recommend, but you might want to add other things to the mix. Keep in mind that some supplements should be taken with food so they might not fit in the fasting phase.
1. Multi-vitamin/mineral – my two favorites are the “one daily” versions by MegaFood and Biotest’s Superfood. Take either when you wake up.
2. Curcumin/Turmeric – take 500mg of curcumin when you wake up. I use Biotest’s version.
3. Resveratrol – take a 600mg dose when you wake up. Again, I use Biotest’s Rez-v.
4. Probiotics – I recommend one capsule of MegaFlora by Mega Food when you wake up.
5. Herbs for thyroid support – each afternoon around 2pm, when I’m hours into the fasting phase, I take herbs to support thyroid health. The best out there is Thyrolyn by Defense Nutrition.
The feeding phase is where the real fun begins. Hofmekler recommends that you eat your foods in a certain sequence during his “overeating phase” at night. Even though I like his approach, I don’t think it’s necessary. Your body has been without any sufficient calories for 20 hours so it’s ready to assimilate what you give it. This is where dieting dogma goes out the window: you can eat the majority of your calories at night, even with carbs, and still lose fat. I’ve seen it countless times over the last few years with clients that range from 24 to 70 years old.
What can you eat during the feeding phase? Whatever you want that’s not processed or crap. Honestly, we all know what good foods are, so I don’t want to rehash them here. No, you can’t eat a bag of Doritos, but you can have a baked potato with dinner.
The key point is to get a big, healthy serving of protein with dinner. You haven’t had any protein yet so your body is craving it. That protein can come from chicken, fish, beef, turkey, eggs, shellfish, or any other complete protein source.
How much can you eat? As much as you want until you’re completely satisfied. But don’t gorge yourself with food, try to eat at a normal pace in order to give your gut time to tell your brain that it has had enough. Drink as much liquid as you feel you need.
You can have spaghetti with meatballs and a side of asparagus. You can have fish with rice and a side of broccoli. You can have chicken with a baked potato and a spinach salad. Again, there are countless options, just eat a complete meal with whatever good foods sound best to you. Dessert is fine, too. A square or two of dark chocolate or a bowl of fruit are great choices. Half a carrot cake isn’t smart.
I recommend four supplements with dinner, and two of them again later in the evening:
1. Digestive enzyme and/or HCl – my clients and I take 1 capsule of Digest Gold by Enzymedica at the beginning of dinner. During dinner some of them take 200-600mg of HCl in addition to the Digest Gold. Importantly, don’t take HCl if you’re having any alcohol with dinner. HCl is a tricky supplement, and beyond what I want to cover here, so consult with your doctor before taking it.
2. Vitamin D3 – take 2000 IU with dinner.
3. Fish oil – during dinner take two teaspoons (not tablespoons) of Carlson’s liquid fish oil or two Flameout pills from Biotest.
4. Astaxanthin – this powerful anti-inflammatory supplement is probably going to be the next big thing. Take one 4 or 5mg tablet with dinner.
That covers your first meal during the feeding phase. It’s likely that you’ll have a little hunger by the end of it. What should you do? Eat! Again, you can eat whatever sounds good that wouldn’t be categorized as junk. Maybe you want some leftover dinner, or a handful of mixed nuts, or another piece of fruit.
When you eat again at the end of the feeding phase take another serving of fish oil and astaxanthin like you did during dinner along with another 500mg of curcumin.
Before bed, preferably a few hours after your last food intake, I highly recommend that you take a full spectrum mineral supplement. It’s not easy for your gut to assimilate minerals so they should be chelated. Two versions I like are Biotest’s ElitePro Mineral Support and Mega Multi-Mineral by Solaray.
Training During the Waterbury Diet for Fat Loss
It’s best to train right before your feeding phase. That way, all those calories will shuttle into your muscles for growth and repair. However, some of you might train in the morning or earlier in the afternoon. Regardless of when you train (morning, afternoon, evening) take one scoop of protein powder immediately after your workout. Proventive’s Harmonized Protein is an excellent whey from New Zealand. If your stomach doesn’t like whey, Sun Warrior makes a great vegan protein.
This diet can be used in conjunction with any training program of mine. However, if muscle growth is your primary goal and if you’re on one of my more demanding HFT programs, my next installment might better fit your needs.
This version of the Waterbury Diet is for those who need to lose a lot of fat or improve their overall health. I want to be clear that I’m not against a more traditional style of eating with multiple meals per day. This diet isn’t for everyone, especially those who want to have breakfast with their family or power lunches at noon. But if you can make this plan work for at least 6 weeks, I think you’ll look and feel better than ever.
You might think this plan is heavy on the supplements, but honestly, it needs to be. During the fasting phase your body is getting very few calories so the nutrients need to come from somewhere. And during the feeding phase your gut is ready to assimilate whatever you put in it, so make the most of that opportunity with the recommended supplements.
In my next installment I’ll cover the changes I make to this plan for muscle growth with fat loss.
References (thanks to Mike T. Nelson)
Gjedsted J, et al. (2007) Effects of a 3-day fast on regional lipid and glucose metabolism in human skeletal muscle and adipose tissue. Acta Physiol 191: 205-216.
Johnstone AM. (2007) Fasting – the ultimate diet? Obesity Reviews 8: 211-222.
Aksungar FB, et al. (2007) Interleukin-6, C-Reactive Protein and Biochemical Parameters during Prolonged Intermittent Fasting. Ann Nutr Metab 51: 88-95.