The Warrior Diet | T Nation
- December 01, 2020
Every once in a while, I’ll run into someone with a new idea about how to train or eat that’s so contradictory to everything I think I know that I’ll want to close my eyes, plug my ears, and bury my head in the pillow so I don’t have to listen. After all, I’m just getting comfortable with what I think I know. I don’t like having my world shaken up any more than necessary.
Once in a while, though, I’ll listen. I may not buy — lock, stock, and barrel — what the person is saying, but if what they have to say makes me think, then I’ve been more than rewarded for my time.
Such was the case in my conversation with Penthouse health and fitness editor Ori Hofmekler. Ori is a bodybuilding fiend — a hound, if you will. I’ve never met him face-to-face, but from what Charles Poliquin tells me, the guy is an absolute physical rock, and I listen to rocks. After all, nature doesn’t just confer “rockdom” on people — they have to earn it through hard training and rigorous dieting.
What Ori told me was so different, so open to criticism by 99 out of 100 nutritionists, self-proclaimed or otherwise, that I didn’t know if I wanted to print it. Still, what he said intrigued me on certain levels. He discussed not only diet, but also history and anthropology, with some healthy doses of psychology and biology.
I’d like you guys out there to read this and tell me what you think. And, if you have enough questions and there’s enough interest in general, I’ll talk to Ori again.
T: Okay, Ori. Lay it on me. What’s your “Warrior Diet” all about?
OH: This is more of an opinion or a concept rather than completely scientific research, but it’s based on opinions and a lot of science, which I hope to verify in the future. The idea is very simple. It’s based on my own experience and somehow, because I was so interested in the effect, I did my own historical, anthropological, and scientific research. It’s largely based on the romantic notion of the warrior. In fact, my diet is called the “Warrior Diet.”
T: Warriors? Are you talking about modern warriors or ancient warriors?
OH: Ancient warriors, actually. What I’m talking about is a way of life where, basically, the main goal is to follow your instinct — not to go according to any authority or what people tell you to do, but to reach a very effective response through your instincts. I’m talking about hunger and satiety. No diet that I’m aware of today is really working on that. Most of them are designed according to some kind of a theme or a goal that’s based on control. Whether it’s counting the calories or the balance between the macro ingredients, from the Zone to Dan Duchaine’s ketogenic diet, just about every diet you can think of is about control.
This diet is based on the assumption that your body has the instinct, like any other instinct, to control itself and to manipulate it very well. The other big advantage of this diet is that it takes advantage of something that no other diet does — the empty stomach. Exciting things can happen when your brain barrier is open and you can manipulate your hormones.
We already know that working out on an empty stomach in the morning stimulates more weight loss than if we ate before. This diet basically guarantees you six to eight hours a day of fat-burning hormones running in your body. Only in the ketogenic diet do we have a very similar affect, but the ketogenic diet has a lot of downsides to it. Again, it’s based on an unnatural denial of instincts. Mentally, it can fuck you up completely, and it could really fuck up your ability to deal with stress. I think the mental deprivation plays a big part in what I should talk about.
In essence, the “Warrior Diet” will guarantee you a fat-burning hormone in your system for at least six to eight hours, which no other diet does. And last thing, the diet is based on a one meal a day principle. It’s against all the rules. The meal is to be eaten at night. It could even be late at night; it doesn’t matter. Ideally, it’s right after a workout. It sounds kind of bizarre — you could raise a lot of questions about resting metabolism and basal metabolism, and you could argue that most people won’t be able to handle it, and stuff like that.
T: I’m flabbergasted, and some sixth sense of mine is telling me to run, but I’d like to hear your explanation.
OH: Okay, I’ll try to run through the introduction. A hundred thousand years ago, we reached the peak development of our body, genes, and instinct. Human beings haven’t changed at all since then. The only thing that has changed is that we’re living in a much more crowded civilization. In order to control civilization, you have to create rules. The side effect of these rules is that you basically control a very primitive instinct of every human being. And, of course, there are two main instincts: to survive, and to multiply. They’re very well connected, and every time you deprive a human being from expressing his instinct, he’s fucked up. I mean, I’m not the first one to talk about this. Freud started a revolution with his theory about the inhibition of sex drives and stuff like that. But it’s not just about sex.
Now (I’m trying to jump forward a little bit here) we are living in a culture that basically teaches you how to live a straight line — that means in a very equal, almost mathematical equation. We are told the good things, the bad things, and how to act. But the most dangerous person in a society is a person who is open to expressing his instinct. Then you’re going to fuck anyone who is moving on the streets with a nice ass. You say anything that you have on your mind. And you beat the shit out of people who piss you off.
T: We know people like that.
OH: Yeah, and we sometimes kind of like them. There’s one more instinct that combines them all together, and I shall have to try to explain it. Nobody, ever, in any dictionary, accurately defines the term “romanticism.” There’s a Romantic period in history. There’s the word “romance” between people. There’s a romantic attitude, romantic music, and we still don’t know exactly what it’s about. So this was one of the things that intrigues me all the time, and I think true romanticism is an instinct. And it’s almost parallel to what I call the “warrior instinct.” It’s funny. The kids have this romanticism more than anyone else, and it’s often killed during the process of growing up. But when you break the rules of any established set of rules, you’re often displaying romantic sensibilities. People who are against the rule have this romantic aspect to them. If you, as a writer, go and write something completely anti-industrial and create something new, you committed a romantic act. Romanticism is not just between men and women. The last love between Romeo and Juliet was so romantic because their families were enemies, because they had to break the rules. If they did not have to break the rules, nobody would know about Romeo and Juliet. But again, it’s not just between men and women or relationships; it’s simply going against the rules to create a new set of rules, because you believe in what you’re doing. That’s what makes a figure a romantic hero.
T: But can you give me some examples of modern romantic figures?
OH: I would say, in a way, that I see Einstein as a romantic hero. Again, he went against the rules, created some theory that nobody believed. And when later asked, “What would you do if years later they would find out that your theory of relativity does not work?” you know what his answer was? He said, “Then I’ll feel sorry for God almighty that such a beautiful theory does not work.” It’s not just that he went against the rules and created a new theory; he also believed in the classical Greek tradition, the Roman tradition that what’s beautiful is good, what’s good is beautiful.
And that’s basically the same philosophy behind bodybuilding, which makes it different from any other sport. Any other sport is about achievement of a competitive goal. You run faster. You jump higher. Or you’re a better player in some kind of a game. It doesn’t really matter how you look. In bodybuilding, it’s an absolutely classical example of this Roman classical or Greek classical thought. When you’re beautiful, you’re good, you’re strong.
T: Can you then give some examples of modern warriors?
OH: There are no modern warriors. That’s the problem. I think that even the Army, as far as I know it, is a short-lived kind of atmosphere for warriors with the assumption that, if you want to train people to be warriors, you have to give them war, or a feeling of war. So basic training is about abusing the body, making it hard, getting you to go through a time of starvation, deprivation of sleep, shooting above your head, and making sure that you really are ready to encounter real war itself. Eventually, it does work because it triggers the basic instinct of the warrior of survival. But you don’t need a war to be a warrior. All you need is to trigger the instinct, maybe from a different direction. Instead of shooting at people and jumping through the typical martial arts that millions of people are doing today, maybe all you need to do is trigger a completely different mechanism that would give you the feeling of a warrior and the mechanisms to make you feel alert all of the time.
I want to give you one more example. One hundred years ago, there was still a semblance of chivalry left over. People were born to an aristocratic family. They’re trained to do sword fighting, fencing, whatever, and what defined a gentleman was his ability to defend his honor. If somebody offended your wife or girl, you offered them a duel with a sword or a gun. They had to be ready at any time physically, and personally, to defend their honor. Allowing themselves to degenerate into couch potatoes was unthinkable. Of course, that phenomenon has disappeared forever. I don’t mean that men have to go to war. But the ability to fight for your honor is something that’s disappeared today, and so, too, has the need to stay in some semblance of shape to be able to fight and protect your honor.
For many years, I’ve been obsessed with the first drawings done by simple cultures. You look at the Egyptians. You look, for example, at the Minoans. The Minoans were ancestors of the Greeks and the Romans. Even the Philistines in Israel who came to Islam, which is a very interesting story by itself, are part of the Minoic people who escaped through the sea and penetrated the Mediterranean, and actually conquered and beat all Egypt for a while. They were very strong people, but a different culture than the Mediterranean and the Egyptian. The main difference is that the Egyptian drawings and sculptures, with the exception of just one pharaoh, are all very soft. And some of them look completely feminine with big tits. Especially Tutankhamen — you know, the husband of Nefertiti, the most beautiful queen in Egypt.
Ramses was the only pharaoh who looked like a warrior in the ancient drawings. He wasn’t such a great warrior. He gave himself more credit than he deserved. But his life was different. The other pharaohs used to sit at home. They were grain eaters, almost modernist in comparison with today, and they suffered from the same diseases that people suffer from today. I believe they also suffered from a lot of high estrogen as a side effect of the high amount of gluten that they used to eat, but that’s another story. You look at the Minoic people, and the Greek people after that, and the Romans after that, and you see only hard bodies on men. Very athletic. And it’s not just a coincidence. You can say, “Well, maybe it’s a style of drawing.” I don’t think so. If it appears again and again for hundreds of years, it means something.
This issue of grain is a big clue. Grain, and especially wheat, was a bigger thing in Egypt. It appears in the Bible. So while the soft aristocrats ate grain and bread and cakes, it was the slaves who ate meat. And the Minoic — and then the Romans, Greeks, and Israelis — were mostly shepherds. They used to wander with their sheep. So their basic nutrition was meat, olive oil, and wine. It’s a different concept, but it leads to another thing. Look at the Islam religion, for example. Every Muslim fasts for one month, but what they call “fasting” actually is eating only once a day, and at night. I truly believe, according to my experience and research, that it’s left over from a very old tradition of warrior armies — like Mohammed, who was one of them and conquered North Africa — tribes of wild Arabs completely wandering. They didn’t have land. They wandered and conquered and stole from one another until they united together and conquered all of North Africa and created the whole Muslim empire.
These Arabs were wanderers. They usually didn’t have land. They moved from one place to another with camels. They were all warriors and ate only at night. When the Israelis left Egypt, the first thing they complained about was the lack of food. They could’ve crossed the desert in two months, but it took them 40 years because God wanted to teach them how to be free. But to be free, they had to adopt the concept of a warrior life. You defend your life or yourself. You pick up your own food, and you’re deprived most of the day. You camp only at night. You eat only at night. Look at wild Arabs today in the desert — they look like rocks. Same people. When they move to the city, they look like rolly pollies. I always wondered about the reason. I believe that I now know.
T: But to be a true warrior — someone who needs to endure physical hardship, or even an athlete who needs to compete — you need some sort of glycogen storage, right? And that’s hard to do when you eat only once a day.
OH: You’re reaching a very important point. You’ve got to eat in such a way that you’re capable of fighting for two hours straight, or wrestling or marching for hours on end, or being without food, or whatever. When I was a Navy SEAL, that’s what we trained to do. By not eating, we learned to stretch our glycogen reserves. Those who train on empty, more and more and more, will find out that they have more and more glycogen reserve ability in their muscles and liver. The last time I looked up the research — I think it was a year ago — sedentary persons with what was thought to be about 200 or 300 calories of available glycogen reserve could stretch it up to 2,000-3,000. Some people even had 5,000 calories of glycogen reserve. There’s a whole area of science about the situation of a body under glycogen depletion, and it’s so relative. But one thing’s for sure, as long as you are glycogen depleted — what I call fasting — your insulin sensitivity gets higher and higher, as does your protein efficiency. Sometimes, it goes 30-50% higher. That means that, after fasting, your protein efficiency could be 30-50% higher. You can eat less than 30% and still digest as much protein.
T: So what you’d do is take somebody who’s used to eating six times a day, and then have them start stretching the amount of time between feedings?
T: So try not eating breakfast until 10 o’clock in the morning?
OH: Exactly. Believe me, I do understand the logic behind six small meals a day. I completely understand the logic and respect it. That’s probably about what slaves used to be fed when they worked. But what you miss by doing that, I think, is much greater than what you gain. There’s also a lot of science, and I will come to it later. But the one thing diets tell you is to not overeat or undereat — especially over eat. In my concept, overeating and undereating are very natural cycles of a human being. As hunters, predators, and maybe collectors, human beings used to overeat and sometimes, of course, undereat. There’s more and more research supporting that overeating is very anabolic, especially after the state of fasting. Besides insulin sensitivity and the ability to stretch protein efficiency, simply the volumizing effect of a muscle pump and everything else is much stronger after overeating.
T: So is the ultimate goal of one phase of this diet to actually work down to one meal a day?
OH: That’s the ultimate goal, yes, but there’s room for some leeway, depending on an individual’s goals or circumstances. For instance, even I introduce small protein meals during the day at times.
T: So you can eat a little during the day?
OH: Absolutely. You can eat whatever you want, as long as you don’t eat any carbohydrates that will drive up insulin. Moreover, I’m just working out another aspect, which is the brain. How many real diets are working on your brain? Furthermore, many supplements are far more effective on an empty stomach. For example, two to four grams of glutamine on an empty stomach can boost your GH in one hour by 30-50%. I mean, if you don’t have an empty stomach, you can’t do that. In any other diet, you basically shut down your brain and make yourself much more stupid than you should be. Much less alert and much more stupid. The biggest problem with the diet, at least initially, is the cortisol. People who start it immediately will feel distress and an accumulation of cortisol. But the funny thing is the adaptation to cortisol like to anything else.
T: Let me address what seems like two apparent contradictions. You said that this diet is more targeted toward being instinctive, but eating less frequently doesn’t seem to be instinctive. Does it?
OH: Okay, that’s the biggest argument. You’re right. I truly believe, and I will try to prove, that after two weeks of trying it, you won’t be hungry during the day. And instinctively — when you really reach this time of eating at night, not just when you want to eat — you know exactly what you want. Your priority will be right, and it’s not because you have a notebook telling you what you should eat today. Naturally, you first want to have a lot of protein — veggies and carbs will come after that.
T: So it’s your contention that this instinct is there, but we’ve lost it and need to be retrained.
OH: Exactly. I think that’s the way we were meant to be. I mean, we are very similar to predators. Predators — wild, free predators — don’t eat when they’re not hungry. Take the same predator. Put it in captivity, whether it’s a wild cat or a wolf, and it gets crazy. They eat non-stop, like human beings. They have no instinct to stop.
T: And they act like prey.
OH: Yes, they act like prey. I believe that, historically, humans are the same. They were very busy during the day. It’s the “fight or flight” instinct. The brain was in peak operating efficiency, adrenaline was high, and they were lean and mean. They were hunting and surviving, fighting for their life. When they hunted the food, they made sure in the evening, when they were rested, that was the time to eat.
T: So initially, you categorize many of the other popular diets as being diets of denial. But this, too, is a diet of denial. But only initially, until you get used to it…
OH: Well, yes. Of course, there’s always an assumption that they’re in a kind of denial because you have to go through some kind of discipline in order to adapt. But my emphasis is, whatever conventional diet you go on — even six meals a day — you’re never, never satisfied. Show me how, on the six meals a day plan, you can eat as much as you want. No, you have to stop. You have to stop after reaching a certain amount of calories or a certain portion has been eaten.
Yes, the warrior diet is based on the idea that you should have the instinct to be busy and productive and alert. And, if you decide to sit the whole day at home, that means you gave up the ability to be alert; you no longer fight to get money or food, and you no longer hunt. This is what happens to men when they become civilized, when they lose the romantic flavor.
T: I do notice that, most of the time, because I’m so busy, I have to remind myself to go eat something. I mean, it just escapes my mind. So what I’m getting from all of this, as you train your body — if your theories are correct — in time, you will train your body to be able to not feel these needs to eat, and you’ll be able to work through those because your body systems will have adapted to this concept. And because of our intensely busy day, and the empty stomach, and dealing with the energy levels that we derive from being a little bit hungry, it will feel invigorating.
OH: That’s exactly right.
T: I just thought of something interesting. At my feet, at this moment, is a Staffordshire bull terrier. He’s 50 pounds of muscle. Extremely powerful. Not an ounce of fat. Striations everywhere, and he free eats. He eats whatever he wants, but he’ll eat about once a day…usually at night.
OH: Okay, you’ve got the answer. He’s a free animal. I believe that truly free people do not usually eat more than once a day. In classical Roman times, for the 300 years from 100 BC — which is the classical time of Julius Caesar — until almost the decadent era of the 2nd century, the Romans used to eat once a day. You can see it also in the figures and drawings of the emperors. Romans used to be lean and mean, including Julius Caesar himself. When they crossed the 1st century, the decadent period started, and they started to behave like people do today. You can literally see the difference on the size of the emperors. It’s very interesting.
T: I have one more question, otherwise I’m approaching overload. I get the gist of this. I understand. So this diet would then be a diet for life, essentially, and not just a short period of time?
OH: I truly believe so. The other day, I watched a TV program featuring great champions and fast runners and sprinters from the ’70s — Olympic champions. They all look like shit now. They look like shit because they didn’t have a way of life. As long as they needed to get results, they were in good shape. But after that, they got tired and out of shape. So here I’m offering an alternative that anyone can do. I know that it’s going to be hard, and what I want to do is lead them step by step. First of all, break the breakfast. And then we show them how to find an alternative to lunch.
T: It’s all very interesting. I’m wondering, though, if things like meal replacements have a place in your diet.
OH: Listen, I’m actually eating more protein now than ever. When I’m talking about one meal a day, it’s a triple dinner. I sometimes get home, let’s say 10pm, and eat three meals, one after the other. I have no problem with this. Besides, I’m not talking about the complete cessation of food during the day. It depends very much on you and your individual needs. Your body, however, will tell you exactly what it needs. If mine, on the rare occasion, tells me that I can’t wait until evening to have protein, I may eat like half a chicken during the day, or drink a meal replacement.
T: So what you’re saying is that, as long as I had my protein, I could follow it up with three pizzas?
OH: Exactly. I’m telling you, TC, it will work. It’s not a diet that’s ketogenic or based on suffering and you count the hours. With the “Warrior Diet,” every day has a happy ending.
T: Well, I’m intrigued by it, because it would certainly make my life easier. I’m always worried about finding the time to eat. I forget all of the time.
OH: In the future, I’ll show you that, as you forgo these useless meals, your insulin sensitivity goes up, as does your protein efficiency. Furthermore, there’s another aspect that I want to discuss with you. It concerns lactic acid. Lactic acid is a big enigma. Up ’till now, the industry’s been against it. They give you all of these products to buffer it. Lactic acid — I’ll prove, and now I’m really serious — is going to be the miracle drug. Like Pyruvate was going to do for fat burning, lactic acid would do much more than that. Also, lactic acid — we already know, especially on an empty stomach — could boost growth hormone much higher.
T: Sure, there’s a direct correlation between lactic acid and growth hormone.
OH: That’s true. But the important concept is lactic acid efficiency. Warriors, even without a war, could build up lactic acid efficiency, turning lactic acid into an energy-producing and fat-burning agent. It absolutely increases your ability to react under stress. And lactic acid accumulates much more after fasting, much more than after eating.
So basically, you have a lot of advantages here that no other diet could give you. But I repeat the last thing. Even if you have a sense of freedom once a day, which I employ at night, that will be good enough. I truly and honestly believe that most diets have no sense of freedom at all. Yes, you eat six meals a day. But do you really enjoy them so much? Do you stop when you really want to stop? Does your body know what you really want?
Another thing that I want to emphasize is related to instinct. Every time you fulfill an instinct, I believe that there is a feeling — not just a sense of pleasure, you know — but some kind of high, whether it’s satisfaction from food or satisfaction from sex. It’s funny…after an intense workout, you feel this kind of high because of the endorphins. Could it be that just performing an intense workout is based on the warrior instinct? Could it simply be that we’re so deprived of action that we’re compelled to bodybuild?
By now, you’re either ready to string Ori up and dismiss him as a heretic, or put him on your shoulders and parade him around your room (after throwing away your noon-time meal, of course).
Again, by no means do we advocate this type of diet…yet. It is, however, intriguing, and I hope that you’ll at least think about some of the things he said and share your thoughts with us. After all, no free thinker would do otherwise.