Today, more and more people start changing their lives. Stressful lifestyle, unhealthy eating habits, lack of sleep and physical activity – all these factors may lead to dangerous diseases. To improve their health, many people start with improving their nutrition.
In the modern world, there are hundreds of potentially effective dietary plans, such as the paleo diet or the keto diet, and it may be quite difficult to choose the best one from such a great variety of them.
You could try following the Warrior Diet, which is claimed to help with not only weight loss, but also health maintenance.
What is the Warrior Diet and How Does it Work?
The warrior diet is a type of intermittent fasting (IF). This type of fasting has skyrocketed in popularity because of its profound effects on weight loss and body composition. The science community has also endorsed intermittent fasting for its health benefits on the heart, brain, and other organs.
The warrior diet is a type of intermittent fasting developed by Ori Hofmekler, a renowned author in the world of health and fitness. Hofmekler created the diet in 2001 after years of observing himself and his colleagues in the Israeli Special Forces.
This protocol involves extended periods of fasting and short periods of feasting. The feasting portion of the warrior diet is quite literal. Dieters are encouraged to eat 85 to 90 percent of their calories during this window, which can be up to 1,800 calories in one sitting for someone on a typical 2,000 calorie plan or up to 2,700 calories in one sitting for an active person who needs 3,000 calories per day.
It’s important to note that the warrior diet isn’t based on science in the clinical sense. Instead, it is recommended by Hofmekler’s based on the tactics he used to stay fit during his time in the military.
What Are Its Benefits?
The Warrior Diet does not have any research to back up its exact methods, but intermittent fasting does.
Though the Warrior Diet is a bit more extreme than other, more common types of IF like the 16:8 method, it’s simply a stricter version of this method.
For this reason, we can all agree that the benefits linked to intermittent fasting may also apply to the Warrior Diet. In general, all forms of intermittent fasting can help you live a healthier and longer life by doing the following:
1. Changing Cell Functions, Genes, and Hormones
When you fast, your body initiates repair processes on a cellular level and modifies hormone levels to access stored body fat easily. The following changes can be observed:
- Blood insulin levels drop significantly to promote fat burning (1).
- Blood levels of growth hormone increased up to 5-fold to facilitate fat burning, muscle gain, and several other benefits (2, 3, 4, 5).
- The body induces cellular repair processes like the removal of waste products from cells (6).
- There are also beneficial changes in genes and molecules related to longevity and protection against diseases (7, 8).
2. Lowering Insulin Resistance and Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
Who doesn’t know type 2 DM? It has become incredibly common in the past few years! Its main feature is high blood glucose levels in the context of insulin resistance. Anything that decreases insulin resistance should help lower blood glucose levels and protect against type 2 DM.
Good thing, IF has shown major benefits for insulin resistance, which led to an impressive reduction in blood glucose levels. Human studies showed that IF could help reduce fasting blood glucose by 3-6% and fasting insulin by as much as 20-31% (9). Evidence in rats also showed that IF could be protective against kidney damage, which is a common serious complication of DM (10).
3. Reducing Oxidative Stress and Inflammation
We all hear about antioxidants every now and then! It appears to be one of the most talked-about topics in the health industry today, along with the many products being advertised for it.
Oxidative stress, which is an imbalance between the production of reactive oxygen species or free radicals and antioxidant defenses, is known to cause aging and several chronic diseases (11). It involves free radicals, which damages important molecules like DNA and protein (12).
Did you know that apart from taking supplements, you can enhance your body’s resistance to oxidative stress and help fight inflammation by doing intermittent fasting? A growing number of studies can help support these claims (13, 14, 15, 16).
4. Improving Heart Health
Heart diseases have always been one of the world’s biggest killers (17)! Many risk factors are associated with either an increased or decreased risk of heart disease. Animal studies on IF have shown to improve these risk factors, including blood pressure, cholesterol levels, blood triglycerides, blood glucose levels, and inflammatory markers (18, 19, 20, 21).
5. Preventing Cancer
Fasting initiates cellular “waste removal,” known as autophagy (22). Cells break down and metabolize broken and dysfunctional proteins that accumulate inside the cells. Evidence showed that increased autophagy might offer protection against cancer (23).
Fasting also has beneficial effects on metabolism. Animal studies indicate that this can help cancer, too (24, 25, 26, 27)! What’s more, is that IF has also shown to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy on human cancer patients (28).
6. Delaying Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s is a common neurodegenerative disease. There is no cure available for this disease yet, so prevention is very critical. A study in rats shows that IF can help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s or reduce its severity (29). Also, in a series of case reports, daily short-term fasts were proven to help improve Alzheimer’s symptoms in 9 out of 10 patients (30). Other studies suggest that fasting may also offer protection against other neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease (31).
7. Promoting Brain Health
IF is known to improve several metabolic features, which are important for brain health, this includes less oxidative stress, less inflammation, and low blood glucose levels and insulin resistance. Many studies in rats have proven that IF can help increase the growth of new nerve cells for better brain function (32).
It can also increase the levels of a hormone known as the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) (33, 34). A deficiency of this hormone has been implicated in several other brain problems and depression. Other evidence revealed that IF could help protect the brain from the damage caused by strokes (35).
8. Prolonging Life Span
One of the most exciting benefits of IF is its ability to extend your lifespan! Rat studies have shown that IF can extend lifespan in the same way as continuous calorie restriction (36). In some of these studies, the effects were dramatic. Rats that fasted every other day lived 83% longer as compared to those who did not fast (37).
Although this is far from being proven in humans, IF has become very popular among the anti-aging crowd.
The Warrior Diet and Weight Loss
Many people are interested in IF for weight loss (38). It can help you slim down by making you eat fewer meals so you will end up limiting your calorie intake. Also, IF enhances hormone functions to facilitate weight loss.
Decreased levels of insulin along with higher levels of growth hormone and norepinephrine will increase the breakdown of fat for energy. For this reason, short-term fasting will help increase your metabolic rate by 3.6-14%, helping you burn more calories (39).
A 2014 review of literature mentioned that IF could cause weight loss of 3-8% over 3-24 weeks (40). People also lost 4-7% of their waist circumference or belly fat. Another review study also pointed out that IF caused less muscle loss as compared to continuous calorie restriction (41).
One study, which closely mimicked the Warrior Diet (fasting for 20 hours), found that people who consumed meals over four hours in the evening experienced more weight loss than those who consumed the same amount of calories in meals throughout the day.
What’s more, those who ate one meal per day showed significantly reduced fat mass and greater muscle mass (42).
However, although reducing calorie intake is the most common outcome of the Warrior Diet, some people following this eating pattern could technically consume too many calories during the four-hour overeating period and experience weight gain.
How to Start The Warrior Diet?
The Warrior Diet has a simple premise: you under-eat during the day and then eat your main meal, with most of your calories, at night. Ori Hofmekler says you shouldn’t feel “starved” while fasting as you are allowed to eat certain foods every couple of hours to satisfy your hunger. During the four-hour “overeating” phase, your main meal should consist of healthy, nutrient-rich, unprocessed foods.
To help get your body acclimated to this, there are three phases, each with their own intermittent fasting meal plan:
Phase 1: Detox Your Body
The first phase lasts one week. During your 20-hour fasting window, you can only eat and drink the following:
- Water, coffee and tea. No sugar and only a small amount of milk.
- Raw fruits like peeled apples, banana, kiwi, berries, grapefruit, orange papaya, mango, peach, pineapple, melon. Eat grapes and watermelon only after a high protein dinner.
- Vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, onions, cucumber, mushrooms, sprouts, zucchini, carrots, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, spinach, okra, and spaghetti squash.
- Vegetable carrot, parsley, or celery juice
- Plain yogurt
- Clear soup broth
- Salad with mixed greens and vegetables from list above
- Salad dressing. Use olive oil and vinegar only.
During the four-hour feeding window, you are allowed the following for your main meal:
- Salad with olive oil and vinegar
- Steamed vegetables
- Beans or legumes. Lentils, mung beans, black beans, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and edamame are highly recommended.
- Grains such as wild rice brown rice, barley and quinoa. No wheat products.
Phase 2: High-Fat Foods
Like the first phase of this diet, the second phase lasts one week and allows the same foods.
During your four-hour overeating phase, your intermittent fasting meal plan may include the following:
- Steamed vegetables
- 4 to 6 ounces of protein from chicken, fish, turkey, lean beef, eggs, plain yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, feta cheese, goat cheese or parmesan cheese
- One handful of nuts, such as almonds, pecans, walnuts or pistachios
- Avoid any grains or starches in this phase
Phase 3: Vary Your Diet
This phase lasts one week and alternates between high-protein days and high-carbohydrate days so you don’t feel deprived. Once it’s over, you will repeat the process starting with Phase 1.
Your intermittent fasting meal plan will consist of one to two days of eating low-carb, high-protein foods, followed by one to two high-carb days.
On high-carb days, your under-eating schedule will remain the same as above. For your main meal, you can eat the same foods as during Phase Two. The difference is that you are only allowed one main carbohydrate, such as:
- Sweet potatoes
- Butternut squash
On high-protein days, your under-eating schedule remains the same. During the four-hour eating window, you can eat a salad with oil and vinegar, followed by 4 to 6 ounces of protein and vegetables. No carbohydrates are allowed on these days.
There are no set calorie counts or serving sizes on the Warrior Diet. You start your under-eating phase when you wake up, eating every couple of hours from the approved list.
Make sure you don’t binge eat during your four-hour feeding window as you could end up gaining weight. Eat one serving of your main meal and then take a 20-minute break to give your body time to process satiety-related signals. This also helps train your body to know whether you’re still hungry or not. Stop eating when you feel pleasantly satisfied.
Avoid highly-processed foods, fried foods, artificial sweeteners, chemical additives and foods containing hormones. Steer clear of beer and other alcoholic beverages, except for one glass of wine at dinner. Take a daily multivitamin to prevent nutrient deficiencies.
Some people find that intermittent fasting energizes them, while others say it makes them irritable or lightheaded throughout the day. Remember, the best diet plan is one that you can stick to over the long term.
Are There Side Effects?
The Warrior Diet may lead to side effects, some of which could be severe. Potential side effects include (43):
- Low energy
- Extreme hunger
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
- Hormonal imbalance
- Weight gain
In addition, many health professionals argue that dieters will not get enough nutrients when following an intermittent fasting plan like the Warrior Diet.
However, as long as healthy, nutrient-dense foods are chosen and calorie needs are met, nutrient needs can be covered by carefully planning your food choices when following the Warrior Diet.
Other Cons of the Warrior Diet
- It’s Difficult to Follow
- It May Cause Disordered Eating
- Nutrient Deficiencies
- It’s Not Recommended for Many People. The Warrior Diet is not a way of eating that everyone should follow. This type of intermittent fasting is inappropriate for many people, including:
- Women who are pregnant or nursing
- People with diseases like type 1 diabetes, heart failure or certain cancers
- Extreme athletes
- People with eating disorders or a history of disordered eating
- People who are underweight
Moreover, some research suggests that intermittent fasting can affect women’s hormones more than men’s (44).
Some women may be able to fast intermittently without negative effects. However, some may experience unpleasant side effects like insomnia, anxiety, missed periods and reproductive health disturbances.
To sum up, this nutrition plan is gaining popularity among the dieters, however, there is no scientific background for you to understand whether it is really effective or not. Moreover, there are a number of side effects, which could lead to serious health issues.
Just because this meal plan works for others, it doesn’t mean that you’ll get the same results. For that reason, before you start following the warrior diet, it is highly important to consult a health professional.