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The Warrior Diet

The Warrior Diet

  • March 12, 2021
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The Warrior Diet

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The Warrior Diet & Workout

Ori Hofmekler is a very lean and fit former columnist for Penthouse magazine, a world-renown artist (his paintings are best known for their political satire), and the founder and Editor-In-Chief of the men’s health and fitness magazine Mind & Muscle Power. He eats three square meals a day – all in the evening at one sitting. He calls it the “Warrior Diet,” and he’s convinced that most of us, men and women, would be better off eating the same way. He also offers a line of Warrior supplements.

The Diet

Hofmekler couches his diet in terms of “natural wisdom” and the instinctive eating cycle of the ancient warrior. He also includes the concepts of freedom — to eat as much as you want in one large meal (as long as you follow the Warrior Diet rules) — and spirituality. “Many people have long believed that one can only experience a deep spiritual awareness when fasting,” Ori writes.

I don’t quite see it that way, however. In my view, the Warrior Diet is basically an extension of the concept of training on empty. Ori says controlled fasting 16-18 hours a day “guarantees hours of fat burning.” (See our FAQ page for a discussion of training on empty; I don’t buy it.)

Hunger, says Hofmekler, “triggers the Warrior Instinct.” It makes you “sharper, more alert, more energetic, and more adventurous.” Still, if you must, he says it’s okay to have some “live” raw fruits or vegetables, and even a small portion of protein during the “undereating phase.” (For my review of the research on fasting, see “Fasting” and “Starve & Get Fat” in chapter 7 of The Lean Advantage 2.” Most authorities agree: Fasting is generally a bad idea.)

That doesn’t mean I believe Ori has nothing to offer. Clearly, he does. I encourage people to read his book,  The Warrior Diet (Dragon Door, 2001); it’s very well written and fun to read. If Ori’s diet appeals to you, try it. It obviously works for him. He’s very lean, small but muscular, in the Bruce Lee mold. He must be doing something right. His diet will probably work for others as well – if they can stick to it.

Based on my research, many of his ideas are on the mark. Here’s three noteworthy examples: 

He eats mainly whole foods and avoids highly processed foods, especially refined carbohydrates. (He does believe in nutritional supplements, preferably his own, but he claims they’re derived from whole, live foods.) 

The Warrior Diet isn’t necessarily high carbohydrate, but Ori realizes that active people need plenty of carbohydrates for energy and to supply the needs of the brain. “The Warrior Diet is definitely not about carb-deprivation,” he writes. “In my opinion, the fact that warriors in the past were in such great shape had a lot to do with their high-carb consumption.” 

Hofmekler also understands that deprivation often leads to uncontrolled bingeing. That’s part of the rationale for his “overeating phase” in the evening. “If you don’t let your body overeat when it needs to,” says Ori, “it’s going to haunt you.”

If you try the Warrior Diet, let me know how it goes, but not until you’ve been on it for at least six months.

The Workout

What intrigues me most is The Warrior Workout, which Ori explains in the book and demonstrates in two excellent videos. Ori says he trains for “function – not fashion.” His goal is to achieve the “functional body” of an ancient warrior. He’s after balance, speed, explosiveness, strength and endurance.

What’s more, he not only wants to achieve that level of conditioning, he wants to maintain it over the course of a lifetime. (I like that.) “A progressive training routine will only be successful if you can live with it;” says Ori, “it should energize you and help trigger your ‘Warrior Instinct,’ with the drive to continually improved yourself. Without this, sooner or later you’ll burnout.”

“Sports training in ancient Greece and Rome was based on exercises that mimicked warfare or hunting activities,” writes Ori.  He recommends – and follows – an exercise routine which does basically the same thing, using modern-day equipment.

Sounds interesting, and it is.

We can’t go over Ori’s workout here, but we can discuss some of his training principles.

Don’t Train to Failure

Training to failure, says Ori, “is not a warrior way.” For a warrior, “failure was not allowed,” because it meant death. A warrior trains to avoid failure, to succeed, to prevail.

For Ori, not training to reach failure is a state of mind. “When you train your body to avoid failure, you’ll learn by trial and error how to keep moving and improving, without losing control,” says Ori. “If you train to reach failure, you will fail.”

Ori occasionally fails, of course, but his objective is always to train one rep short of failure. That’s what keeps him in control and gives him the drive to keep improving. “You should at all times feel you can ‘kick ass,’” says Ori.

I agree. As I’ve often said, failure breeds failure. Success breeds success.

Prioritize and Keep Workouts Short

Ori values strength over size. He wants leanness, without “unnecessary bulk.” His top strength-training priorities are strong joints, and a strong back. That’s what a Roman soldier needed, says Ori, to carry “40–60 pounds of arms and equipment on his back while marching thirty or forty miles a day… fight for hours, and then set up camp.”

“Joint strength,” says Ori, “depends on the strength of essential muscle groups and tissues.” So it should come as no surprise that he favors basic exercises such as the chin-up, press, squat –and especially the deadlift. Without going into specifics, I will tell you that his manner of performance is unique and challenging. Moreover, he doesn’t believe in sitting around. His workouts are short, intense and easy to follow.

Again, sounds okay to me. I would do it somewhat differently, but that’s what makes it interesting. There are many good ways to train.

Train for Strength and Explosiveness

Ori says his training routine is built on “body function, not body parts.” An ancient warrior engaged in combat needed to be both “strong and quick.” Says Ori: “Fighting face-to-face often required the ability to push and pull strongly, as well as master explosive stabbing or slashing movements.” His purpose is not to prepare for a fight, but it is intended to make one strong and agile.

He lifts heavy weights for five or six reps — “don’t waste your time with light weights,” says Ori, “or you might as well do something more useful, like washing dishes or gardening” — and uses giant or supersets to provide volume. In a marked departure from the ordinary bodybuilding routine, he also includes explosive whole-body strength moves such as the clean and press or push press. What’s more, he does frog jumps, high jumps, kicks and sprints. He even does one-leg jumps, which he demonstrates impressively in his videos.

Once more, no arguments here. Although one-leg jumps aren’t on my agenda, regular readers know that I’m a strong believer in the quick lifts. (I love my kettlebells.) I would, however, warn people with bad knees or joint problems to approach explosive exercises with great caution.

Train Under Controlled Fatigue

As I’m sure you realize by now, Ori is a tough guy. That’s what this principle is about: training to be tough. Ori says, “Being able to function properly when fatigued was critical to a warrior.” As the name suggests, this concept involves continuing to train when you’re tired, just as a warrior would continue to fight – or suffer the consequences.

As noted above, Ori frequently includes giant or supersets in his workout, which is an example of controlled fatigue training. The “monstrous superset” for the lower body is one of many examples given in the book. It’s a doozy. It takes 3 to 5 minutes, but Ori assures his readers that it will feel a lot longer. 

Choose a comfortable weight; don’t start too heavy, because you might not be able to complete this “giant superset.” Begin with the front squat; do 8 to12 reps. Return the bar to the squat rack, take a couple of deep breaths, and do 8 to 12 back squats. Now, without stopping, go to the hack squat machine and do 5 to 6 reps, followed by 3 to 5 half reps. But your not done yet! Go back to the squat rack and do lunges, 8 to 10 reps for each leg. And finally, end with 3 to 5 sissy squats. Clearly, it’s a concept out of Nietzsche’s school of “that which doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.”

Warrior aerobics is another example of controlled fatigue. Aerobics, according to Ori, should be done before resistance training. The idea, of course, is to get used to training through fatigue. He uses sprint intervals on the treadmill and stationary bicycle for this purpose. Obviously, rowing or any type of aerobics could be used for the same purpose.

Don’t get the idea from this that he recommends long drawn-out workouts. As mentioned earlier, he believes in keeping workouts short. The time frame Ori generally recommends is 20 to 45 minutes. “There’s enough research that shows how after 45 minutes of intense, resistance training, there is a decline in blood testosterone,” Ori writes. “You should finish your workout while your hormones are at a peak level.”

I’ll have to think about controlled-fatigue training. But there’s no doubt that it makes sense if your goal is the equivalent of preparing for battle. The question is whether it will make workouts so aversive that you’ll be reluctant to come back for more. If that’s the case, you might want to take a pass on controlled fatigue, or use it on an occasional basis only. Ori says controlled-fatigue training can be done once a week, or more often if you like. It’s your choice.

That’s it. Pretty exciting, I believe you’ll agree.

The book has been revised by the author.  We’ve heard that it’s available directly from him – you’ll have to find his web.

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