Are We Still Dieting the Wrong Way?

The dieting craze, like any craze, goes in cycles. In the 1980’s, fat was the culprit. Fat was stripped from every food imaginable and the results were disastrous. By the 1990’s people realized that fat wasn’t the problem, it was those pesky carbs. This carb-phobic approach was ideal for the protein powder manufacturers that convinced you to load up on their carb-depleted product. And man did those protein pushers make a ton of dough.

Along with the low-carb boom came the frequent-eating craze. Everyone, including myself, recommended that people should eat every three hours. Calories should be spread evenly throughout the day to ensure a steady supply of nutrients for energy, repair, and hormonal control. This approach works well if the dieter is diligent and the food choices are fresh.

Then in 2002, Ori Hofmekler came along and told us that we had it all wrong. His Warrior Diet focused on extended periods of undereating, or “controlled fasting” as he calls it. This was followed by a big meal at night where the majority of your daily calories are consumed.

The Warrior Diet, a system of 18 or more hours of fasting followed by one huge meal (at night!), shocked the world. When the book came out, small frequent meals every few hours was considered the holy grail of dieting. And the evening hours were considered such a hazardous period to your waistline that most trainers recommended that dinner be nothing but a small portion of protein and some vegetables. Any carbs at this time would surely lead to a morning scare where woke up to find the Michelin man, with your head attached, staring back at you in the bathroom mirror.

I didn’t think much of the Warrior Diet when it first came out. I didn’t read the book, but I heard enough talk and read enough interviews from Hofmekler to have a firm grasp on the approach. His system was definitely at odds with what I was doing, and the results my clients were getting didn’t mandate any significant change on my part. That was 2002.

Since then, I’ve learned one essential truth. Whether you want to lose fat, gain muscle, or boost your energy, gut health is key. I firmly believe that the reason why you could eat virtually anything when you were 17 and not gain fat was because your gastrointestinal (GI) health was at its peak.

Being a nervous system guy, I usually talk about the power of your motor system to build size, speed, and strength. This central nervous system is made up of the brain and spinal cord, while the associated neurons that control your muscles are part of the peripheral nervous system. However, the simple term “nervous system” is an umbrella that covers many areas.

Your gut also has its own neural power source, the enteric nervous system. It controls the function of your gastrointestinal tract, pancreas, and gallbladder. The human enteric nervous system contains 80-100 million neurons. That’s virtually as many neurons as are found in the spinal cord! And if that’s not surprising enough, the enteric nervous system functions almost independently of the central nervous system. In grad school my professors referred to the enteric nervous system as the body’s “second brain.”

Yes, that’s how important your gut is.

So what does this have to do with the Warrior Diet? Well, this month marks the year anniversary when I actually read the book cover-to-cover and put Ori’s principles into play in my own life. Since I was already ears-deep in gut research, I had been using many supplements for support such as probiotics and HCl. I was satisfied with the results those supplements gave me, but I felt I could do more. I kept reading about the benefits of fasting, so that’s when I decided to give the Warrior Diet a try.

There are many ways to follow the undereating (controlled fasting) phase of the Warrior Diet as Ori explains in his book, but here’s a quick overview of what I did.

From the time I woke up until 7pm I had three glasses of juiced vegetables spread evenly throughout the day. Each glass contained the following:

1 medium/large carrot
1 beet
1/2 of a large cucumber
2 large celery stalks
A pinch of sea salt (to keep electrolytes in balance)

I drank this concoction at 8am, noon, and 4pm. From 6-7pm I trained and then I had a big dinner that started with a salad, followed by a large protein source, followed by a starch such as a yam or wild rice. For dessert I’d have berries and maybe a small serving of a chocolate dessert. This is the basic formula Ori recommends for the evening meal (minus the chocolate dessert).

Here’s what I experienced while on this diet for one week.

The controlled fasting phase for the first day was tough. I felt pretty lethargic overall. This was no surprise given that I’d eaten every three hours for the last, oh, 17 years. But I powered through it. I was hungry as hell when dinner came around and I ate a larger dinner than I’d had in years.

The first thing I noticed after dinner was that my stomach was almost as flat as when I started, even though I was completely full. This reminded me of my teenage years when I could eat a horrendous McDonald’s super size meal and have no gas, bloating, or indigestion because my gut was so healthy. Without a doubt, my controlled fast with vegetable juice upregulated digestive enzymes higher than the probiotic/HCl supplement combo I had been taking.

The second day was much easier. I actually felt pretty good during the day and by 5pm, the time of day when I usually have an energy crash, my overall energy and alertness was high. Hofmekler says that fasting will boost growth hormone throughout the day and activate the sympathetic nervous system (your energy system). Given the way I felt, this could certainly be true.

By the end of the week I had lost an inch off my waist, my gut health was higher than it had been in a decade, and my energy was at its peak. My venture in the world of the Warrior Diet paid off.

There were other reasons why I chose to give the Warrior Diet a run. First, I’m so busy during the day meeting with clients that I prefer to not eat. Second – and this is the honest truth – I go out to dinner every single night. Why? First, I’m the world’s biggest foodie. I live for great, rich, satisfying food. The boiled chicken breast and steamed vegetables lifestyle has never been a part of my life. Sure, it’s been a part of my client’s plans when fast fat loss was the goal, but these were people who didn’t really care about food. I, on the other hand, think about what I’m going to have for dinner the second I wake up.

So for me, the Warrior Diet fit my lifestyle perfectly. I have no problems with willpower so I could easily skip food during the day, especially when I knew I could eat a lot of satisfying food at dinner that night.

But many people want to eat during the day. Maybe breakfast is the only time when they can sit down with their kids, or maybe power lunches make up the bulk of a business person’s lifestyle. Or maybe the idea of not eating until 7pm every night sounds like torture. These social reasons are valid, and for them, I wouldn’t recommend the diet because you really have to get the undereating phase right for the diet to work.

Out of all my clients, half of them eat Warrior style. The other half eat small, frequent meals throughout the day. Both methods will work. The trick with eating frequent meals is that your food choices have to be fresh and you have to keep the calories relatively low in each meal. A huge meal like the Ori recommends thrown into a frequent feeding diet plan will quickly expand your waistline.

One of the best elements of the Warrior Diet is that you end the day feeling completely satisfied with food. This is where the small, frequent meal dieters typically fall short since they usually eat bland foods. The reason why this approach doesn’t work is simple: if you’re going to eat, the food must be satisfying to your body and senses or else you’ll fall off the wagon.

So here are the points I want to make in this post. First, I give the Warrior Diet my thumbs up. If fat loss, improved gut health, and longevity are what you primarily desire, and if that style of eating fits your lifestyle, give the diet a trial run. Second, I’m seeing more and more people in the fitness industry recommend a style of eating that Ori brought to the forefront almost a decade ago. In fact, I was at dinner last week with a colleague that I highly respect and we had a good laugh about the Warrior Diet. He started experimenting with it at exactly the same time that I did last year. His clients have all reaped big benefits from that style of eating, and he has made it a part of his routine, too.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the next diet “revolution” is going to revolve around periods of fasting.

Finally, you don’t have to eat Warrior style to change your body for the better. However, if that style of eating fits your lifestyle you should definitely try it. I think the key point that Ori taught us is that we probably don’t need to eat six times per day to get results. Our guts aren’t designed to be crammed with food every few hours.

It’s the quality of food that matters. Three or four meals with fresh food sources are better than six or seven meals made up of protein powder and a handful of supplements. Fresh food sources contain all the enzymes your overworked gut is craving. So you can fast, or you can eat fresh produce and wild fish, etc to restore your gut. You shouldn’t be afraid of food, you should be afraid of poor-quality food that doesn’t satisfy your body.

As Wolfgang Puck likes to say, “Live, love, and eat great food.”

However, there is a time and a place for a high-quality protein powder, and the best one can be found at this link.

Stay focused,
CW

 

83 thoughts on “Are We Still Dieting the Wrong Way?

  1. Thanks for the reply. Wov, 60grams, thats really surprising. Im looking forward to use this to lean out a little bit. How would you tweak this diet for someone looking to slowly and steadily gain some lean mass? Thank you again for your time, it is appreciated!

    CW: Add more carbs to your big meal in the form of sweet potatoes, wild rice, etc. Also, have a scoop of protein powder with raisins directly after your workout.

  2. Chad,

    Great post and pleased that one of the great coaches has recommended it. However, I notice many people are concerned with muscle/strength loss or limited gain and also with training in a fasted state, especially in the am…

    Over the last 12 months I have experimented with various fasting protocols and there is a simple solution – fast (and eat healthily) ONLY on rest days and overfeed before and after work-outs!
    So my current programme looks like this (all training takes place in the morning)

    Strength & Muscle training: Monday, Weds, Fri: overfeed before and after the training (3-6 hours) and then go lo-carb (or before if you train the pm)
    Martial arts HIIT and cardio/metabiolic training Tues and sat: lo-carb regular (every 4 hours) meals on Tuesday and CHEAT DAY on sat
    on Thursday Sunday: Fast until dinner time have a healthy but relatively low-carb, high protein, high-veg meal; by fast I mean just WATER and no food

    This is a blend of various programmes (“cHEAT YOUR WAY THIN, EAT, STOP, EAT, & LOSE FAT GAIN MUSCLE BY KELLY BAGGET ON BODYBUILDING.COM) that that has several advantages:

    – You don’t train in a fasted state or on a fast day
    – You only fast (for 20 hrs+) on non-weight days: 2x a week for simultaneous muscle gain/fat loss and 3x for rapid fat loss or 1x for muscle/strength gains
    – Satiety from the overfeeds post work-outs and a whole day of (not overdone) cheating
    – Increased muscle synthesis due to overfeeds and
    – Post cheat day fast utilises increased leptin levels
    – Great if you train in the mornings- no need to fast on training days
    – Programme can be adjusted to suit every type of body type and get all the benfits of fasting

    Try it…it will surprise you!

  3. Starting the WD for 1 week beginning tomorrow morning. Do you juice the leafy tops of the beets too? (I have an appropriate juicer to do so.) I’ll send a picture of before and after for you once I’m done.

    CW: You can juice the tops too.

  4. Could this work using a SuperFood or Greens+ type product instead of juicing?

    CW: Yes.

  5. Hi Chad,

    I will be doing some cardio activity some of the mornings, low intensity. Would you suggest adding in a few grams BCAA prior to this?

    Do you believe the main reason frequent meals work better for adding muscle is the almost constant upkeep of insulin (in your HIAH your intake of fruits/berries happen every 2-3 hours)?

    Thanks,
    Chris

    CW: BCAAs before morning cardio won’t hurt. If you’re a skinny hardgainer who loses muscle easily, it can help.

    Yes, insulin is one of the most anabolic hormones. So if it stays low for most of the day it’s tough to build muscle.

  6. Hi,
    I have listened to the Superheman Radio interview with Ori Hofmekler and it was really unfocused but he was started talking about whey protein supplementation throughout the day. It sounded like he was suggesting drinking whey every hour or so and it would have steroid like effects. Do you have any extra to add since the intervew never expanded on it? It seemed like he was very excited about this and it was an improvement over the original Warrior Diet.

    Thanks

    CW: Well the key is whether or not your gut can handle whey. If it can, adding a scoop of it every few hours will definitely help with muscle growth. But if you get bloating or indigestion from whey, it’s not for you.

  7. hi Chad, very interesting article.
    my questions are:
    1- can i do the WD daily with your ABBH (1and 2) and PLP: The 60-Day Challenge programs? if not, what your recommendation for the kind of workout program that fits with the WD because i want to lose fat and gain some muscle to get lean?
    2- what about medium intensity cardio (jogging), can it be done with the WD? and what time in the day? any recommendations for that (duration, etc )?
    3- where can we put good fat (olive oil) in the WD? can we add it in the juiced vegetables? and what quantity?
    4- can we drink milk in the evening meal or have dairy products?
    sorry Chad about all the questions but i have a big faith in your kindness, you are the best.
    thanks.

    CW:
    1. Yes, you can do that.
    2. First thing in the morning.
    3. Put it anywhere in the evening meal with, or after, the protein.
    4. Yes, during your feeding phase.

  8. Great post Chad! I’ve been interested in the WD since the book came out but had concerns on it’s affects on long term health (having been fully educated by the 6 meals a day culture). Would be interested to know if you’ve found any evidence to support the WD’s benefits for GI health, growth hormone etc…

    Thanks
    M

    CW: I think it helps all aspects of health and hormones.

  9. Chad.

    Great article, and it seems to have created a lot of interest. Following the article I have started the Warrior Diet myself and have also started the BOF training regime, so far the results have been excellent, I have lost ½ stone in the past 3 weeks.

    I was wondering if you planned on doing a follow up article concerning the developments you or your clients made on the diet.

  10. Can i still train in the morning if i followed this diet? or the workouts should all be in the evening?

    CW: Yes, you can train in the morning. Remember, the training during this week should be light.

  11. Chad,

    I workout in the mornings, typically Strength Training followed by Metabolic Conditioning. Is it okay to workout in a fasted state and be fasted all the way till dinner?

    CW: For this fast it’s fine. Remember, training during this week should be light. After the week is over you should have a scoop of whey protein after your am workout.

  12. Sir Chad,
    another question — Can I still use this protocol even if I want to gain mass?
    is there anything I need to change?

    CW: This plan does need to be modified to gain mass. First, you should have a scoop of protein a few times during the “fasting” phase – this is what Ori recommends, especially if you train early in the day. Second, add more carbs to the feeding phase.

  13. Hi chad
    What adjustments would you make to the warrior diet for an Athlete who trains more than once a day? In the morning I either Have either tempo runs/conditioning based excersizes or 1 1/2 hours boxing practice, afternoon/evening is strength and conditioning. Are BCAA’s enough to get me through to the main meal? Thanx for any advice

    CW: Take one scoop of grass-fed whey after each training session in the “fasting” phase. Also, focus on a handful of fresh berries throughout that phase when you feel hungry. And be sure to get starchy carbs in your feeding phase (rice, potato, etc.)

  14. Thanks for the reply Chad! one more question….I cycle carbs according to the demands of the day, should I count the berries into my carb count for that day? Thanks again and have a great 4th of July.

    CW: Berries are pretty low in carbs so don’t worry about counting them.

  15. Hi Chad, first thanks for the diet. A year and half ago I was 150 pounds and now I’m around 168~170 I’m 5f10 and now I want to cut up because I can see some fat on my abs and my love handles ( can’t see v abs). I wonder if I do this diet for a week. Can I loose only fat or can I lose a lot of muscle???? Because I dont want to lose my muscle. Finally with this diet can I see more my abs???? Thank you so much

    CW: You won’t lose muscle on the Warrior Diet.

  16. Hi Chad,
    I just finished reading the “Warrior Diet” book, reading your post is what got me interested. I wanted to get your thoughts on the following point: Ori recommends vegetable juice along with fruit juice. Wouldn’t the fruit juice spike your insulin levels?

    Thanks for your thoughts.

    CW: Yes, I don’t recommend fruit juice. Stick to vegetable juice.

  17. Chad,
    Any advice integrating Warrior Diet into 10/10 Transformation?
    Thanks!

    CW: You can do that. It works best if you train later in the day and eat right after.

  18. Hi Chad
    The idea of the WD really appeals to me, but I was wondering how I could fit it into my work schedule? I’m a cop and my shift work means I do earlies, lates and nights so I can’t train and and then feast in the evenings. For example, when I work nights I wake up at 4 in the afternoon, and go back to sleep at 9am the next day. Any ideas on how I can get the WD to work for me?
    Thanks for your time!

    CW: Eat at the end of your day, regardless of what time that is.

  19. Beware of the beets! I tried this for a week and then had my husband try it. After the third day of the juice mixture that you recommended, my husband had a detox reaction from the beets and became very sick from it. I had no idea that beets were so powerful!

    CW: Yes, it’s possible for people to have an intolerance to any food – there’s no way around it when recommending a basic food plan. For your husband, beets are no good.

  20. Could i use your pushup program (the one you posted on t-nation) with the warrior diet and still lose fat, or would i need to add some additional cardio on top of the push ups to lose more fat?

    CW: The WD alone will help most people lose fat. Adding push-ups will only help. Although, doing nothing but push-ups obviously isn’t much of an exercise program. At least add some sprints 3-4 days per week.

  21. With that being said, what kind of excercise or workout program do YOU recommend for the fastest fat loss results with the WD

    CW: Mild cardio with some body weight exercises thrown in the mix (push-up, jump squat, etc) if you’re itching to train. No strength training.

  22. Hi I think I remember Ori saying in his book to consume the vegetable juice as quickly as possible. This is fairly manageable for me at breakfast but might not be so easy throughout the rest of the day. Do you think it would have a negative effect If I were to leave it sitting for a few hours rather than consuming it immediately?

    Thanks,

    Robert.

    CW: I think that will be ok. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than eating junk. You could eat a handful of fresh berries or raw carrots at that time of day instead.

  23. Whats your input on taking protein shakes during the undereating phase?
    Is it ok that i take one shake in the morning and one in the afternoon?
    And do you suggest that i take my whey protein with milk or water?

    CW: If you train during the day, one scoop of whey protein after is a great idea. Mix it with water only.

  24. Here’s my current workout during the warrior diet:
    3 rounds of: max pushups, then however many pushups i do, do 3 times jump squats, then jump rope for about 1-2 minutes then run 30 second sprints. I take a break every 3 days.

    Would this workout routine be considered “overtraining” and should i take whey protein before and after the workout.

    CW: It’s only overtraining if your performance isn’t increasing. Yes, take one scoop of whey after your workouts.

  25. Chad, I’m interested to know if you’re still on the Warrior Diet. Why or why not? Is the Warrior Diet recommended for your HIAH program? Using the Warrior Diet during the HFT portion of HIAH seems like it could be a disaster…

    You’ve changed my outlook on fitness and health. Thanks for everything!

    CW: I follow a WD-esque eating plan, however, I’m not trying to gain a lot of mass. Yes, the WD can work with HIAH. The key is to do your workout around 6pm, and then have your “feeding phase” last from 7-10pm.

  26. Chad is there a brand of digestive enzymes you recommend? there’s so many out there I’m not sure which brand is quality…

    CW: Digest Gold + Probiotics by Enzymedica is a good one.

  27. CW: tried this diet plan for 3 days.. amazing. can this be done regularly you think? or was it meant just for 7 day “cleanse”?

    CW: I think you’re referring to my “How to Get Ripped with Food” plan. That is just a cleanse/detox type program. If you follow it often your metabolism will shut down. Do it no more than once every 8 weeks. This diet can be performed indefinitely.

  28. Hi Chad,

    I love the idea of the Warrior Diet, and for those interested in a more scientific appraisal of it i suggest Ori’s Maximum Muscle, Minimum Fat book, as well as Martin Berkhan’s Leangains site, Bert Herring’s Fast-5 ebook (its free!), and Brad Pilon’s Eat Stop Eat ebook.

    Anyway, to get to my point, for someone like myself who is hard weight training 4-days a week for a few hours each time in the evenings, what do you think about the following versions of the Warrior Diet (in chronological order of release):

    T-Nation’s Testosterone Guide to the Warrior Diet: http://www.t-nation.com/free_online_article/sports_body_training_performance_diet_mass/testosterones_guide_to_the_warrior_diet

    Wesley Silveira’s (aka Iron Addict) Metabolic Rebound Diet: http://www.ironaddicts.com/store/products/Iron-Addict%27s-Metabolic-Rebound-Diet–.html

    Michael Keck’s Modified Warrior Diet: http://articles.elitefts.com/articles/nutrition/the-modified-warrior-diet/

    CW: Yes, there are many versions of the WD out there. I recommend training in a fasted state, then having whey protein immediately after with some carbs (I currently use organic cherry juice). Then start your 3-hour feeding window. I’ll cover this in greater detail very soon.

  29. Hey Chad,
    Cool article. I got a couple of questions though.
    1. I thought this diet is meant for the long term, why are you telling people that posted before me that it’s a cleanse meant to be followed for 7 days?
    2. My current training looks like this:
    Everyday I do 100 push-ups, 50 pull-ups divided throughout the day.
    I also add in there 50 handstand push-ups 3 days a week and 50 squat jumps the other 3 days of the week. The final day I take a break from all the body weight exercises and clean and press. Now my question is, how do I incorporate a post-workout meal when my training is divided throughout the day??
    Thanks a lot Chad,

    Tito

    CW: Tito, that above comment you’re referring to was my mistake because I assumed the reader was talking about my “How to Get Ripped with Food” plan. That is a cleanse. It’s not for long term because it’s way too low in calories. Your thyroid and metabolism would begin to shut down after a week.
    The WD on the other hand can be used indefinitely.

  30. Thanks for the reply Chad, I just thought that this is the Warrior diet. Isn’t it basically the same diet as leangains but with vegetables during your fast? People have been on that and managed to gain muscle. Nonetheless, how would you tailor this so that it can work in the long term? Would you decrease the hours in the fasted state??
    Thanks again,
    Tito

    CW: I’m not familiar with leangains, but it could be similar. All the variations on the original WD are, of course, close to what Ori prescribed. For muscle gain, I use BCAAs and intermittent periods of whey protein during the controlled fast. Then I add more carbs post workout, etc. I’ll cover that soon.

  31. Wow, i dont know how many times Chad must have said the version of the Warrior Diet he laid out is a short term diet just for detox purposes, yet people still dont seem to be picking that point up!

    Just wanted to say Chad, i’m looking forward to your expansion on how the Warrior Diet can be modified and used for hard training.
    It gets alot of flack for not being conducive for muscle growth and hard training, but Wesley Silveira worked it just fine and Michael Keck seems to be doing well on it.

    CW: The “How to Get Ripped with Food” plan is a detox. This article lays out the long term approach. Sorry for the confusion.

  32. Hey Chad! I’m a HUGE fan of everything you have out etc.. But I have a problem with something you said… You said that this diet isn’t good for the long term, your thyroid will shutdown along with metabolism etc.. but people like ori who invented this diet do it long term and an even stricter version of nothing but one meal a day with NOTHING else ( Greg Plitt – AND Herschel Walker ) they both maintain a very low body fat % and Herschel has been eating like this since he was 16 years old, so hes been eating like this not for a week or two every couple months or so but for about 31 years straight, he was one of the best athlete’s to ever walk the planet and still is… And Greg Plitt has arguably the best looking male model body in the world.. I’m not trying to argue with you or say that your wrong, I just think that this diet can and WILL do wonders in the long term, I don’t think any negatives will come from it other than if your desire is to NOT reduce fat, increase anti aging hormones, extend life expectancy, reduce inflammation and look like a whale. And I also realize you probably will never read this because its a new comment on an old post… but all this is, is food for thought on maybe the research in metabolism shut down, thyroid etc is wrong.

    CW: You’re right, sorry for the confusion. Those comments when I mentioned your thyroid shutting down was aimed at people asking about my “How to Get Ripped with Food” plan. That’s a 7-day detox that shouldn’t be performed more than once every 8 weeks.
    However, the Warrior or Waterbury Diet can be used indefinitely so I agree with you completely.

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