Shaun Ward MSc ANutr
The Warrior Diet was created in 2001 by a former member of the Israeli Special Forces called Ori Hofmekler.
It is a form of intermittent fasting, which is where there are long periods of time where food is not consumed, followed by short “eating windows” where food is eaten.
In the case of the warrior diet, it is based on what how people think ancient warriors used to eat - essentially fasting throughout the day and then feasting at night. The typical fasting period for this method is ~20 hours.
However, unlike traditional intermittent fasting methods, warrior dieters are allowed small amounts of dairy products, hard-boiled eggs, raw fruits and vegetables, and non-calorie drinks, during “fasting” periods.
Such a diet may be undertaken for many reasons, but usually, especially in the case of the Warrior diet, is for weight loss.
Advocates of the Warrior Diet claim that this method can easily burn fat and also improve mental function such as daily energy and concentration levels.
How The Warrior Diet Works
Below we've broken down exactly how it all works:
Week 1: Detox
- Fast for 20 hours per day (although vegetable juices, broth, dairy, hard-boiled eggs, and raw fruits and vegetables are allowed in small amounts)
- Follow this by a 4 hour eating period, consisting of predominantly plant proteins (legumes/beans), whole grains, cheese and cooked vegetables
- Drinks should come from either coffee, tea, water, or milk
Week 2: High Fat
- Same fasting rules as in week 1
- Follow this by a 4 hour eating period, consisting predominantly of lean animal protein, cooked vegetables and nuts
- Grains and starches are to be avoided
Week 3: Concluding Fat Loss
This week is slightly more complex, cycling between high carbohydrate for 1-2 days and then low carbohydrate for 1-2 days.
On high carbohydrate days:
- Same fasting rules as in weeks 1 and 2
- Follow this by a 4 hour eating period, consisting predominantly of animal protein, cooked vegetables, and one main carbohydrate source such as corn, potatoes, pasta, barley or oats.
On low carbohydrate days:
- Same fasting rules as in weeks 1 and 2
- Follow this by a 4 hour eating period, consisting predominantly of 8-16 ounces (227–454 grams) of animal protein with a side of cooked, non-starchy vegetables
- Grains and starches are not to be eaten during these days, although a small amount of fresh tropical fruit can be eaten
The Potential Benefits of The Warrior Diet
Below is a list of every potential benefit that's backed by credible scientific research:
It May Cause Weight Loss
As intermittent fasting requires people go long periods of the day without food, it is very effective at reducing daily caloric intake and possibly stimulating weight loss.
However, there is nothing inherently special with this type of eating method, other than the fact that it might be more structured for some people.
Outside of calorie intake and energy balance, long-term scientific reviews do not find that intermittent fasting provides superior weight loss results compared to other calorie-matched dietary interventions.
In other words, calorie restriction is equally as effective with or without fasting .
This being said many reports state that people generally find it easier to under-eat when they are only “allowed” to eat for a small portion of the day, hence why ~75% of intermittent fasting trials observe a statistically significant weight reduction.
Even better news, as fasting increases the expression of the key drivers of fat metabolism, such as Pparα, Fgf21, and Pgc1α, it is more likely that lost weight will be fat-based rather than from other energy stores .
It May Lower Inflammation
Studies have demonstrated that intermittent fasting may be an effective way to reduce inflammation in the body.
Traditional intermittent fasting, which schedules for 16 hours of fasting per day, has shown to decrease the amount of certain pro-inflammatory molecules such as TNF-α and IL-1β that can promote inflammation .
The benefits are thought to stem from the way our genes evolved for millions of years, as studies on hunter-gatherer societies suggest that humans evolved in environments where they intermittently experienced extended time-periods with little or no food.
During long periods without food, a process known as autophagy is thought to be upregulated. Autophagy is an evolutionarily conserved lysosomal catabolic process by which cells degrade and recycle their damaged or harmful intracellular components such as:
- Damaged organelles
- Misfolded or mutant proteins and macromolecules
This enables cells to recycle their building blocks, renovate their cellular composition, and allow them to adapt to stress . It even appears that the body will initially transiently increase stress levels in the body as a response to fasting, but this will ultimately improve the protective mechanisms to stressors within cells in the long-term.
Much is still to be learned by autophagy, but in animal models it appears that its initiation from fasting increases longevity by up to 80% .
It May Improve Glycemic Control
Likely due to the reduced frequency of meals, and thus less fluctuations in blood sugar levels throughout the day, many studies have found that intermittent fasting can improve blood sugar control in diabetics .
However, a more remarkable finding has been that by going long periods without food, the body may be able to promote β-cell generation, which are the cells within the pancreas that are responsible for secreting insulin. By doing so, this may restore insulin secretion and recover glucose homeostasis .
Further, in animal models, fasting can inhibit any potential deterioration of β-cells.The reason for this protective effect is unknown, but speculated to be due to its beneficial effect on reconstructing the gut microbiota .
It May Improve Brain Function
In animals, various methods of intermittent fasting can clearly enhance brain function, as indicated by performance improvements in tests of sensory and motor function .
These improved brain responses to fasting are hypothesized to be associated with increasing the synaptic plasticity and production of new neurons from stem cells .
Particularly interesting with regards to adaptive responses of the brain to limited food availability during human evolution is the role of brain-derived neurotrophic factor.
Studies have revealed that intermittent fasting can increase brain-derived neurotrophic factor expression in several regions of the brain. This is a growth factor protein that at least partially mediates the enhancement of synaptic plasticity, neurogenesis, and neuronal resistance to injury and disease .
Not only this, but brain derived neurotrophic factor may alter signaling in the brain to positively influence appetite, activity levels, glucose metabolism, as well as cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems  – which adds to the reason it can aid weight loss and glycemic control.
Human clinical studies are definitely needed for better analysis, but animal studies have also indicated that, compared to standard control diets, intermittent fasting results in less neuronal dysfunction and degeneration, and fewer clinical symptoms in models of neurodegenerative diseases .
Warrior Diet Negatives
Below is a list of everything we believe could be viewed as a negative:
It May Not Be Sustainable For Some People
One of the most obvious limitations of the warrior diet is the social implications that come with restricting the time “allowed” to eat meals to just a 4 hour period.
This may be difficult for many people to stick to in the long-term, especially when participating in normal social activities like going out to breakfast or lunch.
As diet sustainability and consistency is really the number 1 determinant for the success of any diet, this is a serious issue that people may want to consider before starting such an eating plan.
It May Not Be Suitable For Athletes
Intermittent fasting may be a good protocol to improve one’s body composition, but it isn’t necessarily the best option for athletes concerned with optimizing their performance.
The main factor against intermittent fasting for athletes is that the limited eating window will not allow an athlete to maximize their anabolic responses, specifically regarding muscle protein synthesis, which requires multiple distributed protein feedings throughout the day.
This is because increases in muscle protein synthesis from a single meal generally only last ~3 hours before returning to baseline, which has been termed the “muscle full” effect. For this reason, it is advised that athletes consume a protein source (~30 grams) every 3-4 hours in order to continually keep muscle protein synthesis, and anabolism, as high as possible throughout a 24-hour period .
Based on this, although intermittent fasting can still increase anabolism and improve recovery, it may not be the most optimal method in which to do so.
Along with this, as the timing of competitive events and training sessions cannot be fully controlled by an athlete, they risk not being able to consume the required pre- or post-exercise exercise meals if they fall outside of the specified eating windows.
The warrior diet is a form of intermittent fasting, where people are only allowed small amounts of certain foods for 20 hours of the day, followed by an evening feast for the remaining 4 hours.
As is the case with all forms of intermittent fasting, there is evidence it can indirectly lead to weight loss, and improve inflammation, glycemic control, and brain function.
The sustainability of the diet will vary dramatically depending on an individuals lifestyle, but if can fit into ones daily schedule, there is no reason not to recommend such a diet to people looking to improve their health.