Warrior Diet: Pros, Cons, Sample Meal Plan, and More

The Warrior Diet has emerged as a compelling approach to nutrition, focusing on undereating within 20 hours and overeating for the remaining 4 hours.

In this detailed exploration, we will discuss everything you need to know about the Warrior Diet, shedding light on its benefits and drawbacks and offering a comprehensive guide on implementation.

What Is the Warrior Diet?

The Warrior Diet is a distinctive form of intermittent fasting,1 marked by a 20-hour undereating period followed by a condensed 4-hour eating window. This dietary approach seeks to copy the types of food and our ancestors’ eating times, especially the warriors.

The diet’s philosophy centers around whole, unprocessed foods, fostering a mindful approach to eating within the restricted time frame. The Warrior Diet’s unique approach aligns with the historical feasting habits of warriors, suggesting that this eating pattern optimizes metabolic functions and supports weight loss.

However, as the historical background suggests, this type of diet is suited for those who are unable to eat proper meals throughout the day, hence the overeating during the night and eating little portions of food throughout the day, which reduces the benefits of fasting, if that’s what you’re after.

Potential Benefits of the Warrior Diet

Here’s the thing: there are no studies specifying the benefits of the warrior diet, but I will be discussing potential benefits, focusing on its low-caloric intake during the 20 hours or the intermittent fasting state.

Weight Loss and Metabolic Health

The Warrior Diet’s primary appeal lies in its potential for weight loss and improved metabolic health. Adopting a 20-hour fasting window shifts the body towards using stored fat for energy, contributing to significant weight loss.

A meta-analysis study on intermittent fasting, with data from 2009-2019, shows promise for treating obesity,2 with reduced risk for cardiovascular diseases. The same data was gathered from both healthy individuals and those with diabetes.

According to the same study, subjects’ caloric consumption often ranges from zero to 25% of caloric needs during fasting and up to 125% of regular caloric needs during refeeding.

Autophagy and Cellular Repair

Another feature of the warrior diet is its ability to trigger autophagy, a cellular recycling process that eliminates damaged components and promotes cellular repair. This process is linked to longevity and a reduced risk of age-related diseases.

There is a bunch of scientific data that backs the benefits of intermittent fasting3 and calorie restriction4 for autophagy, not only in the brain but also in other tissues.

However, these studies also suggest that prolonged calorie restriction may result in excessive autophagy response that may pose side effects.5

Improved Cognitive Function

Intermittent fasting has been associated with increased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF),6 a protein linked to cognitive function.

The reduced levels of BDNF7 have been linked to reduced synaptic plasticity, memory, and learning as well as increased risk of cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, which makes maintaining it a crucial part of healthy aging.

Prevents Inflammation

The Warrior diet does not encourage eating processed foods and starchy ingredients, which can cause inflammation.8 Instead, it focuses on a holistic approach to health, and experts suggest increased fruits, vegetables, protein, and proper hydration when doing it.

Downsides of the Warrior Diet

the warrior diet includes nuts and fruits

Nutritional Deficiencies

With a condensed 4-hour eating window, there’s a risk of not meeting daily nutrient requirements. This limitation necessitates meticulous meal planning to ensure the intake of essential vitamins, minerals, and other vital nutrients.

Adaptation Challenges

Transitioning into the warrior diet can pose significant adaptation challenges. The initial stages may be accompanied by side effects9 such as hunger, fatigue, and irritability as the body adjusts to the prolonged fasting period.

While these symptoms are temporary, it’s essential to know how to combat them to avoid any complications.

Sustainability Concerns

The 20:4 fasting window demands a disciplined lifestyle and may conflict with various schedules and preferences. Individual lifestyles and commitments influence sustainability.

While you can adjust the fasting time, meeting the right daily nutritional goals in 4 hours is a challenge, and other fasting enthusiasts even choose a 24-hour alternative fasting instead of the warrior diet for a more direct approach.

Potential Negative Impact on Fasting Benefits

The whole point of intermittent fasting is letting the body shift its focus on fat metabolism due to the absence of food. Still, the warrior diet allows little food intake throughout the day, which may alter the expected results from intermittent fasting.

Overconsumption or poor food choices during this period might also compromise the positive effects on weight loss, metabolic health, and autophagy.

Sleep Disturbances

Consuming large meals close to bedtime may disrupt sleep patterns10 and hinder the body’s natural circadian rhythm. Sleep quality is essential for overall health, and individuals considering the warrior diet should be mindful of meal timing to mitigate potential disruptions to sleep.

Not for Everyone

Like other methods of fasting, the warrior diet is not suitable for specific populations, including the following:

  • Pregnant and lactating women
  • Children
  • People with eating disorders
  • People with metabolic diseases or are under medications
  • Underweight individuals
  • People with thyroid issues
  • People with hormonal imbalances

We highly recommend consulting your healthcare provider before initiating any fasting to ensure safety.

How To Do the Warrior Diet: Foods to Eat and Avoid

In this section, we will help you transition your way to the 20:4 undereating and overeating period. The foods listed are just a few examples, but you should focus on high-nutrition foods.

Also, when breaking a fast, remember to start with a light meal, like a clear broth and a light salad, and rest for about 15-20 minutes to allow your stomach to adjust before eating more foods.

Week 1: Detox

During the first week of the Warrior Diet, the focus is on detoxification and establishing a foundation for the subsequent stages. The emphasis is on cleansing the body by avoiding sugars, candies, and sweeteners.

Foods for the 20-Hour Undereating Period:

  • Clear broth
  • Small portions of raw fruits and vegetables.
  • Salads with minimal olive oil and vinegar dressing.
  • Dairy products like plain yogurt.
  • Hard-boiled or poached eggs.
  • Tea, coffee with milk, and fresh juices.

Foods for the 4-Hour Eating Period:

  • Steamed vegetables such as broccoli, zucchini, carrots, and spinach.
  • Beans and legumes like lentils, black beans, kidney beans, and edamame beans.
  • Grains include brown rice, barley, and quinoa (avoiding wheat).
  • Hummus.
  • One ounce of goat cheese, yogurt, feta cheese, ricotta, poached eggs, or kefir.

Foods to Avoid:

  • Sugars, candies, sweeteners, unprocessed foods, and fried foods.

Week 2: High Fat

While still incorporating the raw fruits, vegetables, and dairy from Week 1, introducing high-fat foods such as meat, fish, poultry, nuts, and seeds becomes prominent. These high-fat options aim to regulate the satiety hormone leptin, contributing to a sense of fullness during the fasting phase.

Foods for the 20-Hour Undereating Period:

  • All foods from Week 1.
  • A handful of nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans).
  • High-fat foods like nuts and seeds to help regulate leptin (satiety hormone).

Foods for the 4-Hour Eating Period:

  • Everything from week 1, replace the beans and legumes with meat, fish, and eggs for added protein.

Foods to Avoid:

  • Starchy or sweet foods during the evening overeating period.

Week 3: Fat Loss Initiation

The third week of the Warrior Diet introduces a more structured approach to fat loss initiation. This stage alternates between high-carb and high-protein meals, creating a cyclical pattern to stimulate metabolic responses.

Foods for the 20-Hour Undereating Period:

  • All foods from previous weeks.

Foods for the 4-Hour Eating Period:

  • All foods from Week 1.
  • A rotation of high-carb and high-protein meals based on the following cycle:
    • 1–2 days of high carbs.
    • 1–2 days of low carbs and high protein.

High Carb Options:

  • Corn, oats, grains, lentils, quinoa, barley, beans
  • Sweet potatoes, potatoes, pumpkin, peas, beets, butternut squash
  • Vegetables and fruits, especially berries, apples, bananas

After Week 3, individuals are encouraged to rotate between the phases according to their needs. Including a glass of wine with a high-protein meal is permitted, but other alcoholic beverages, especially beer, are advised against.

Additionally, the Warrior Diet recommends using nutritional supplements such as multivitamins, minerals, and amino acids to support overall health during this intermittent fasting regimen.

Warrior Diet Meal Plan

Since you know what and when to eat them, this section is more specific to the menus you can copy when starting the warrior diet. We will provide a sample meal plan for the first and second weeks.

DayUndereatingOvereating
Week 1
SundayHandful of raw almonds or walnuts. Sliced raw fruits such as apple or pear. A small cup of plain yogurt. Boiled eggs. Small portions of salads. Teas, black coffee with no sugar, and fresh juices  Mixed bean salad with olive oil and vinegar dressing. Quinoa and vegetable stir-fry. Hummus with carrot and cucumber sticks. One ounce of goat cheese.
MondayLentil soup. Brown rice with steamed broccoli and zucchini. Greek salad with feta cheese. Hard-boiled egg.
TuesdayChickpea curry with spinach. Barley salad with cherry tomatoes and olives. Cottage cheese with sliced fruits.
WednesdayVegetarian sushi rolls with avocado and cucumber. Wild rice with mixed vegetables. Caprese salad with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Poached egg.
ThursdayVegetarian sushi rolls with avocado and cucumber. Wild rice with mixed vegetables. Caprese salad with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Poached egg.
FridayMixed bean and vegetable stew. Quinoa and roasted vegetable salad. Greek yogurt with honey. Handful of raw almonds.
SaturdayEggplant and chickpea curry. Brown rice with sautéed spinach. Caprese salad with balsamic glaze. Hard-boiled egg.
Week 2
SundaySame as week 1 but add nuts and seedsGrilled chicken breast with lemon and herbs. Quinoa and roasted sweet potato. Greek salad with olives and feta cheese. Steamed asparagus.
MondayBaked salmon with dill sauce. Cauliflower rice with mixed vegetables. Spinach and strawberry salad. Boiled egg.
TuesdayStir-fried tofu with broccoli and snow peas. Brown rice noodles with sesame ginger sauce. Caprese salad with buffalo mozzarella. Handful of raw almonds.
WednesdayTurkey and vegetable skewers. Quinoa salad with cherry tomatoes and cucumber. Cottage cheese with mixed berries. Poached egg.
ThursdayGrilled vegetables and chicken skewers. Quinoa and asparagus salad. Cottage cheese with sliced peaches.
FridayBaked cod with lemon and herbs. Cauliflower mashed potatoes. Greek salad with grilled shrimp. Poached egg.
SaturdaySame as week 1, but add nuts and seeds

Disclaimer: While others recommend eating little bits of food during fasting, we believe you would benefit more by completely fasting and saving all the calories for your evening meals.

The Bottom Line

The warrior diet is an ancient way of undereating and overeating and has both benefits and drawbacks. While it is known to be beneficial for weight loss, there are more direct ways to achieve this, like 16/8 intermittent fasting, alternative-day fasting, or the 5:2 diet.

If you want to try this, consult your healthcare provider to ensure safety.

Frequently Asked Questions

Warrior diet how long to see results?

Some may notice changes, such as improved energy levels and weight loss, within the first few weeks. However, significant results, including body composition changes, may take months.

How effective is the warrior diet?

Studies suggest intermittent fasting, like the Warrior Diet, can be effective for weight loss and metabolic health. It may contribute to fat loss, improved insulin sensitivity, and other metabolic benefits.

How many calories on warrior diet?

The Warrior Diet doesn’t prescribe specific calorie limits during overeating, emphasizing quality nutrition over strict calorie counting. However, the undereating phase typically involves consuming minimal calories from raw fruits, vegetables, and light protein sources.

How long should you do the warrior diet?

You should do the warrior diet for at least 3 weeks, as they suggest, and the maximum timeframe depends on your goals, results, and preferences. Some individuals adopt it as a long-term lifestyle, while others use it periodically for specific benefits.

References

1Vasim, I., Majeed, C. N., & DeBoer, M. D. (2022). Intermittent Fasting and Metabolic Health. Nutrients, 14(3). https://doi.org/10.3390/nu14030631

2Welton, S., Minty, R., Willms, H., Poirier, D., Madden, S., & Kelly, L. (2020). Intermittent fasting and weight loss: Systematic review. Canadian Family Physician, 66(2), 117-125. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7021351/

3Shabkhizan, R., Haiaty, S., Moslehian, M. S., Bazmani, A., Sadeghsoltani, F., Bagheri, H. S., Rahbarghazi, R., & Sakhinia, E. (2023). The Beneficial and Adverse Effects of Autophagic Response to Caloric Restriction and Fasting. Advances in Nutrition, 14(5), 1211-1225. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.advnut.2023.07.006

4Bagherniya, M., Butler, A. E., Barreto, G. E., & Sahebkar, A. (2018). The effect of fasting or calorie restriction on autophagy induction: A review of the literature. Ageing research reviews, 47, 183–197. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.arr.2018.08.004

5Shintani T, Klionsky DJ. Autophagy in health and disease: a double-edged sword. Science. 2004 Nov 5;306(5698):990-5. doi: 10.1126/science.1099993. PMID: 15528435; PMCID: PMC1705980.

6Seidler, K., & Barrow, M. (2022). Intermittent fasting and cognitive performance – Targeting BDNF as potential strategy to optimise brain health. Frontiers in neuroendocrinology, 65, 100971. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yfrne.2021.100971

7Huo L, Zheng Z, Lu X, Wu F, Ning Y, Zhang XY. Decreased Peripheral BDNF Levels and Cognitive Impairment in Late-Life Schizophrenia. Front Psychiatry. 2021 Jun 22;12:641278. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.641278. PMID: 34239458; PMCID: PMC8257950.

8Martins, G. M. D. S., França, A. K. T. D. C., Viola, P. C. A. F., Carvalho, C. A., Marques, K. D. S., Santos, A. M. D., Batalha, M. A., Alves, J. D. A., & Ribeiro, C. C. C. (2022). Intake of ultra-processed foods is associated with inflammatory markers in Brazilian adolescents. Public health nutrition, 25(3), 591–599. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1368980021004523

9Shalabi, H., AL-Zahrani, F. A., Alarbeidi, A. H., Mesawa, M., Rizk, H., & Aljubayri, A. A. (2023). Intermittent Fasting: Benefits, Side Effects, Quality of Life, and Knowledge of the Saudi Population. Cureus, 15(2). https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.34722

10Patterson, R. E., Laughlin, G. A., Sears, D. D., LaCroix, A. Z., Marinac, C., Gallo, L. C., Hartman, S. J., Natarajan, L., Senger, C. M., Martínez, M. E., & Villaseñor, A. (2015). INTERMITTENT FASTING AND HUMAN METABOLIC HEALTH. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 115(8), 1203. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jand.2015.02.018

Mag. Stephan Lederer, MSc. is an author and blogger from Austria who writes in-depth content about health and nutrition. His book series on Interval Fasting landed #1 on the bestseller list in the German Amazon marketplace in 15 categories.

Stephan is a true man of science, having earned multiple diplomas and master's degrees in various fields. He has made it his mission to bridge the gap between conventional wisdom and scientific knowledge. He precisely reviews the content and sources of this blog for currency and accuracy.

Click on the links above to visit his author and about me pages.

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