Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Book Review: The Warrior Diet by Ori Hofmekler

I finished reading The Warrior Diet by Ori Hofmekler about 3 weeks ago. So I've had some time to try it out. To be honest, while a good deal of the book is devoted to the diet, a good 1/4 of the book talks about working out. In this context the book details not so much a diet or eating program but a way of living and thinking.

The basic premise of the book is similar to what I've heard about the Paleo Diet. Basically if you aren't familiar with that particular viewpoint, it works something like this. Modern society, with its abundant food and all of the chemicals that go into creating and cultivating it, has basically stripped humans of the diet they were intended to eat. By having an endless, readily available, and highly synthetic food supply, we have created many of the health issues we now experience like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and cancer. By moving to a diet that emulates the foods and portions that our ancestors ate we can eliminate many of the ills we suffer. In this regard the Paleo Diet and The Warrior Diet agree. Where they differ in small detail is the types of foods that are eaten. Where they differ in larger detail is the size, timing and spacing of meals.

The Warrior Diet advocates what the author Ori Hofmekler (a sort of latter day renaissance man, being an author, former soldier, a painter, and a scientist) calls the "Warrior Cycle." The cycle is made up of an "undereating phase" where minimal calories are consumed in the form of fresh organic fruit and vegetable juices, some nuts such as raw, organic almonds, fresh water, poached or boiled eggs, whey or milk protein shakes. The goal is to simply sustain and not to satisfy your body's hunger until the evening meal.

The evening meal is what is called the "overeating phase." During this phase, you are allowed to eat as much as you can until you are full. But there are some caveats about what to eat and in what order that are pretty detailed. Too detailed to describe or explain adequately on my blog. But the basic gist of this approach is to consume most of your calories during the overeating phase prior to retiring.

The reason Hofmekler gives for this constant cycling from undereating to overeating is that this is probably the way our ancestors ate when they awoke each morning confronted with the task of finding food. Throughout the day they ate enough to sustain their hunt and feasted at night when they caught their prey. Hofmekler posits it is the cycle of eating that allowed their bodies to remain lean and their systems to purge the toxins of eating and living from their systems more frequently and easily. He makes a strong case for the toxic build up seen in people living modern societies being caused by the practice eating large meals throughout the day which do not allow our bodies time to cleanse themselves. Couple this with the advent of readily available processed foods in super sized portions and the current obesity epidemic becomes completely understandable when viewed through Hofmekler's eyes.

I tried the diet for about a week. I found it doable but difficult. Especially for an active triathlete. After 3 days I was so hungry no amount of juice, fruit and nuts was going to sustain me until dinner. I will admit Ori does advise more food during the undereating phase for active people and professional athletes. But even with this in mind, I was not able to train at pre diet levels. I just found the choices presented in the diet's undereating phase too limited for me to sustain the level of training I was accustomed to. What surprised me was that while I had no problems with the hunger portion of the day, by day 5 I had lost my desire to train. To me this was a sign of nutrient imbalance. This is not to say Hofmekler's claims of clarity and more energy were wrong. I had plenty of that. What I lacked was desire to go outside and work out. I also lacked the desire to work out inside. So I knew something for me was amiss nutritionally. I wound up after a week of eating more in the "spirit" of The Warrior Diet than in actual hard core practice by keeping the food I consumed during the day on the lighter and rawer side. But I didn't restrict my caloric intake in any way going back to a more intuitive consumption pattern which I felt was already working for me.

I also found it somewhat hard to consume the lions share of my calories in one meal. Eating so many calories at one time not only started to make me nauseous, but also tended to make it hard for me to sleep unless I had my main meal earlier in the evening. To be fair, this could have contributed to training lethargy I experienced. But I also found having such a large meal earlier, due to the prep time necessary, also conflicted with the timing of my evening workouts. In theory, I think The Warrior Diet offers some insights which are worth considering in anyone's fitness journey. I would recommend the book on the soundness of some of Hofmeklers diet insights alone. However, in practice for my training requirements, I found the way of the warrior not so much my personal cup of tea.

If you want to see some of my personal thoughts on eating click here.


BRFOOT said...

Thanks for the quick review of this book. I read Friel's paleo diet book for athletes. I think the general premise is correct. But where I think they miss the boat is that the food "industry" evolved out of need. Some of our hunter/gatherer ancestors figured out they could eat tubers for example or that they could grind up corn and make flour etc...then someone figured out a way to streamline the process. This is what lead to all the chemicals to increase yield. I think we should look at other animals and see how they eat to better understand what and how we should eat. They don't meal plan so to speak. The grazers, graze meaning that fruits and veg. which should probably be the bulk of our diet are grazed on throughout the day. But when the opportunty presents itself, ie:antelope at the pond, we attack and gorge. Now if you have been grazing all day you won't gorge on so much meat. Very simplistic explanation but I think it makes the point. The one thing that the Paleo book does bring up that is an interesting point and Chuckie V talked about it a while back is the drinking of another mammals milk. Kind of weird if you think about it. But I love cereal.

ace said...

These days I've grown fond of hemp milk. :) It is a little richer than soy or rice milk and not as sweet as fruit juice. Yes I have been known to use fruit juice on my cereal instead of "milks." Not that bad actually.