The Warrior Diet: Switch on Your Biological Powerhouse For High Energy, Explosive Strength, and a Leaner, Harder Body
By Ori Hofmekler
Blue Snake Books, 2nd ed., 2007
Reviewed by Selina Rifkin
Let’s be clear, the purpose of The Warrior Diet is not to lose weight. This way of eating is largely directed at people who are already very active, and is about their feeling great and having their edges honed sharp. That being said, the overweight person who chooses this diet would probably lose some of the extra pounds. But it’s not easy. Hofmekler was a member of the Israeli Special Forces and still works out hard every day. His methods are demanding even by the standards of experienced trainers and weight lifters, and he goes for the long, lean, functional body, rather than bulk. His exercise routine is detailed in the book, but is not required for the diet.
The diet itself revolves around the idea that our ancestors did not eat three square meals a day. Hofmekler gives detailed accounts of what and when the Romans and Greeks ate, and their attitudes about food. He points out that hunter-gatherers would have feasted on meat when available, and that many generations of humans have experienced cycles of abundance and scarcity as far as food is concerned. The warrior diet makes deliberate use of this pattern to stimulate the body to heal and rejuvenate. The pattern of eating is as important as the food choices.
The eating cycle Hofmekler advocates seems at first to be in opposition to common dietary advice: One eats very lightly during the day and heavily at night. The day-time regimen can be a pure fast of water only, but Hofmekler himself considers this to be extreme. One eats lightly enough to still experience hunger, however; and unless one is an extreme athlete, carbohydrates are not allowed. During the fasting period, one is urged to consume vegetable juices either from a juicer or blender and light proteins, such as yogurt, kefir or whole eggs. Live foods are emphasized for their enzymes, but Hofmekler never mentions the enzyme inhibitors found in some raw foods. Coffee is fine, as is lots of water. While he calls this fasting, one could also view it as a series of small meals, which is often recommended for weight-loss.
The evening feast has specific rules:
- Start with subtle-tasting foods and move to stronger flavors.
- Include a wide variety of tastes, colors and textures in your meal.
- Stop when you feel satiated or when you feel more thirsty than hungry.
Hofmekler’s diet choices are generally WAPF-friendly, but with some glaring exceptions. His “avoid” list includes refined flour and sugar, margarine and hydrogenated oils, soy powders, commercial whey powders, too much polyunsaturated oil, and synthetic supplements, but includes exaggerated concerns about mercury in fish oils. He loves juicing, but is clear that some vegetables need cooking—particularly the cruciferous ones. He believes that meat should also be cooked for better assimilation. Except for salads, all evening vegetables should be cooked.
Hofmekler highly recommends fermented foods of all kinds for their enzyme benefit, and is also fond of bone broth. He has nothing nice to say about pasteurized dairy and cites raw milk as beneficial. He has no objection to salt, but says that sea salt is vastly better. However, Hofmekler also recommends raw nuts and seeds and loves to eat unsweetened dry cereal at the end of the meal. And while he gives a qualified plug for saturated fats and approves of butter and cocoa butter, all the recipes at the end of the book are low-fat, calling for lean cuts of meat, skinless chicken breast, non-fat cheeses and non-fat dry milk powder.
Hofmekler says his diet will work without the workout, but it is unclear how his method of eating is terribly different from calorie restriction, or simply eating more healthy, nutrient-dense food. While his method could benefit an overweight, but otherwise healthy person, it could mean trouble for someone with unstable blood sugar, or a family history of diabetes. He correctly states that during fasting, insulin levels go down and growth hormone is released. But he incorrectly states that insulin resistance is reduced during fasting, when in fact, numerous studies show that fasting increases insulin resistance.
Overall, the diet is interesting, but seems of limited value to anyone who actually wants to lose weight. Furthermore, for those of us not in the business of waging war, but, say, raising children, it is a distinct advantage to nourish ourselves and our families with three or even four satisfying meals during the day. Being slightly hungry all day is a good way to stay lean, mean and aggressive. . . and anti-social. For those who are healthy and looking for an edge, this diet could be modified to include high quality saturated fats and soaked seeds, while omitting raw egg whites, but for the rest of us, it gets a thumbs down.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly journal of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2008.