In case you missed it, here’s my past review of the Warrior Diet from “Stuff We Like” (or in this case, don’t like.)
The Warrior Diet by Ori Hofmekler
You may remember Ori Hofmekler from the interviews he did with T-mag a couple of years back and as the former editor of the now defunct Mind and Muscle Power magazine. In those early interviews with us, Ori talked about what he called the "Warrior Diet." The premise is simple: eat almost nothing all day, then eat a very large meal at night. Doing this, says Ori, will make you lean and muscular, a modern day warrior.
The book on this controversial diet is now available, along with a couple of training videos featuring Ori himself. Let’s take a closer look at each.
The Warrior Diet
The book begins with praise from many popular fitness personalities and diet gurus, including Pavel Tsatsouline, Charles Poliquin, Brian Batcheldor, John Davies, and Udo Erasmus. Sounds pretty hopeful, but we know a few of these people and, well, they don’t eat this way. Thus begins the theme of this review: everyone agrees Ori’s ideas are fascinating, but no one actually follows them. (Many of these guys also used to be featured in Ori’s magazine, so maybe they were just being nice to the boss, I don’t know.)
The book is a bit scattered, jumping from Greek and Roman history lessons, to recipes, then back to exploring the ideals of Romanticism. In between the parts that have virtually nothing to do with diet, Ori provides chapters on training, a Q and A section, what to eat in the undereating and overeating phases, and a chapter on supplements. (Surprise! He has his own line of “Warrior” supplements, including colostrum, emzymes, minerals, and a “male performance” product in which he doesn’t list the ingredients.)
Ori says you can munch on some raw veggies and enjoy some fruit juice during the day, but you should eat only one big meal at night. The nighttime feeding session should start with raw vegetables, then continue with cooked veggies and protein, and then finish with some traditional carb sources. Most of this food stuff should be organic or free range. This is not an “eat anything you want” diet. Ori argues against consuming too many sugars and other simple carbs.
Several things to discuss here. I have no doubt a diet like this will help you get lean. After all, if your maintenance level of calories is 3000 per day, but you have to get all 3000 in one meal, then you're probably going to fall short. Also, by the time you get to the majority of the carb intake, you're going to be pretty full already so carb intake will naturally be reduced.
That brings us to one of many inconsistencies in the book. Ori blasts other diets like the Atkins Diet and says that carbs are the main fuel source for the brain (which is debatable), but then he suggests a diet where you’re basically in a ketogenic state most of the day. Huh? Did I miss something?
He also says that protein is a “top priority,” but then suggests a zero protein diet all day and one meal in the evening — where you’d have trouble getting in all your protein goals if you go by the overfeeding rules. Then he says that if your goal is to gain muscle, eat two grams of protein per pound of bodyweight. That’s means I’d have eat over 400 grams of protein in one meal at the end of the day. First, that’s almost impossible. Second, although I believe a person can absorb and utilize a lot of protein in one sitting, I’m not so sure about 400 grams!
As you can see, this diet is not designed for bodybuilders or people who want to gain muscle mass. Yes, I think you'll get lean on this diet, but forget about building a lot of muscle. Based on the feedback we've received here at T-mag, out of those who tried the diet when it was first introduced, about half failed miserably. Those that stuck with it lost weight, but reported no muscle gains. That's not a scientific study or anything, just some info we've gathered based on reader feedback.
Ori is also a big fan of hunger. Although he says that you’ll adapt to once-per-day eating, he talks even more about the virtues of being hungry. “Wild cats look their best when they are hungry — so do you,” he writes. He says that frequent eating causes all sorts of problems and leads to sluggishness, while being hungry triggers alertness, creativity and “freedom.”
Now, I do understand where he’s coming from here. A high GI carb meal for breakfast or lunch will lead to a “bonk” by early afternoon. Likewise, a very large meal can leave you feeling tired and mentally foggy. But that doesn’t mean you should skip those meals, just make better food choices! Ori is throwing out the baby with the bath water. And I’m not too convinced that hunger is a virtue or a “sign of health.”
There’s also a lot of talk about cleansing and detoxifying, those new age buzzwords which, to me, are kind of meaningless. Like most people who throw around these terms, Ori never really said what all these toxins are, but he does sell a supplement to protect you against radioactive fallout. Really.
I do agree with Ori on several counts: 1) sugar is bad, 2) soy is best avoided, and 3) probiotics and phytonutrients are important. That’s about it.
In short, this book is very interesting and a good read, but the diet itself is goofy and based more on new-age spiritualism and wonky history than science. However, if you do want to try the diet, then I suggest you pick up the book instead of just relying on the limited info available in the interviews.
The Warrior Workout Videos
Although The Warrior Diet book covers training in detail, there are two companion videos. The quality and production of the videos are very good. Ori’s Israeli accent is thick but you can follow it if you pay attention.
The focus of Warrior Training is on functional strength. Strength training is composed mostly of compound free weight movements with a few machines and resistance band exercises thrown in. Ori suggests that your training session be under 45 minutes, preferably 15 to 20 minutes. The cardio portion basically involves doing sprints (while on a stationary bike or treadmill), followed by more moderate activity, and then sprinting again.
The training is mostly aimed at newbies and I like the fact that he includes pull-ups, front squats, and deadlifts — exercises most beginners neglect. He also demonstrated some interesting ab movements that’s I’ve since tried and liked. Most of the exercises come in “giant set” fashion and often you begin with pre-exhaustion movements.
Later, Ori says, "There is no substitute for the leg extension." (Something tells me Poliquin didn't catch that part before he praised the book and videos.) Ori says to always do cardio first before weight training and always stretch afterward or you'll make yourself weak. I can hear Ian King swearing all the way from Australia.
But again, that’s about as far as my “niceness” can go. I had several problems with his training ideas. First, he said never to train to failure. I don’t think even Ori believes this. Why? Because he also suggests a lot of partial rep movements at the end of regular sets. In his demonstrations at least, he often had to have a spotter help him get the last rep. We call that failure. And why use partials and half-reps unless you’ve reached a point where you can no longer use the full range of motion?
I’m also not crazy about his suggested training split. For example, he splits shoulder work into two consecutive days, doing presses and upright rows on one day and lateral raises and bent raises on the next. Paired with the inclines and clean and presses he suggests, I think the shoulders are getting hit too hard and too often, while other movements like horizontal rowing are all but neglected.
Finally, Ori's form is not always that good although he verbally stresses good form. It's almost painful watching his butt come off the bench while he struggles to press 135 pounds. The rest of the video provides a few bodyweight-only exercises like one leg squats and a variety of bent leg "frog jumps" and one legged hopping which looked positively exhausting. The man is obviously in great cardiovascular shape.
In short, unless you’re a total beginner who’s never stepped in the gym before, I don’t think you’ll need the videos. The illustrations in the book are adequate. But if you don’t know a front squat from a back squat, then the vids will help.
Summary: You may be wondering, "We know how Ori eats and we know how Ori trains, so what does his body look like?" Well, you can't judge a person's level of knowledge by their physical appearance alone. After all, genetics and steroid use play pretty big roles when it comes to appearance and we know plenty of bodybuilders who look great but don't know shit about training. Likewise, there are a lot of training gurus out there who aren't very muscular at all.
Ori is in great shape for a middle aged guy. He looks better than 99% of other men his age. He’s very lean and his muscles are sharply defined. In fact, when he demonstrates an exercise and his muscles contract, he looks like a walking anatomy chart. Standing relaxed he looks like he’s in good shape. Wearing street clothes he doesn’t look like he lifts weights at all. That’s okay, he’s not a bodybuilder. He doesn’t want to look that way and admits to be naturally lean anyway saying it’s very easy for him to lose weight.
The point is, if your goal is to look big in a T-shirt, then this isn’t the diet or workout for you. If you want to be thin and functional, yeah, it’s an okay program and better than eating junk food and sitting on the couch all day.
For me, well, I want to look fairly big and symmetrical and weigh between 200 and 220 pounds. The Warrior Diet and workout won’t get me there or keep me there. If you like the compact and lean look, then give it a shot. If you want to stretch the sleeves of a large T-shirt, then there are much better diet and training plans available.