Elson M. Haas coined it the “warrior’s diet” in his book Staying Healthy with Nutrition. He lists it right alongside vegetarianism, veganism, and the raw food diet. He also notes that the warrior’s diet is the one that he personally follows.
THE WARRIOR’S DIET
This diet consists of small meals every 2-3 hours. Some people call this grazing.
“Warriors” will consume things like nuts, fruits, vegetables, avocados, and beans throughout the day. Large meals are usually only eaten as a celebration or ritual (eg, when eating with family or friends at the end of a hard day).
There are a few benefits to eating this way.
1. It encourages the concept of seeing food as a fuel source. The raw act of providing your body with the nutrients it needs to continue functioning optimally.
2. It encourages a healthy concept of social eating: sitting at an occasional large meal and eating slowly, savouring food, and the lingering enjoyment of other people’s company and good conversation. I’ve had meals where, by the time everyone’s plate is empty, it’s 4-5 hours later and time to start preparing the next meal. Those are the best.
3. It doesn’t slow you down. Large meals can limit your daily activities and productivity because a lot of energy and blood are required by the liver, stomach, and intestines in the digestive process. This is partly why we often feel sluggish or tired after a big meal. Smaller meals don’t have this effect. So it’s easy to for me to stay on the move, keep physically active, and sustain high levels of productivity.
4. Over time, this diet increases your metabolism. Your body learns that the next meal is not far, so it burns what you feed it for immediate energy instead of storing it as fat for long-term use.
MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE
This warrior’s diet is not something I am strict about in my daily life. I started eating this way because I will actually get hungry in 2-3 hour increments. I eat small meals because I fill up quickly.
When sitting at a larger meal (say, at a restaurant), I tend to eat much more slowly and much less because my stomach isn’t used to taking in a lot at once. I will give away half of my food or I will take it home.
I have also learned to be very selective about what I eat first, since I know I am not likely to finish my entire plate. I’ll eat all of the fresh vegetables, most of my protein, and by then I only have a little room for carbs – just about the amount my body needs for the next 3 hours. So for me it works.
I’ve found this way of eating to be the natural adaptation of what my body demands in response to my running and training schedules. On sedentary days, my body still requests constant food to keep up with my metabolic demands. I usually have my first meal at around 7 am and my last meal at around 9 pm.
Personally, there is one aspect that I add to the warrior’s diet: food combining. I don’t eat individual snacks like raw veggies or a single handful of almonds. Every time food enters my mouth, it contains all the elements of a full meal: carbs, protein, and fat (in smaller quantities, and sometimes if it’s late at night I will cut the carbs). So I may have something like a hard boiled egg (protein) with some avocado (fat) and fruit (carbs).
Here are some examples of things that I mix and match.
- mini can of tuna
- small portion of meat (like grilled chicken breast)
- protein powder
- whole wheat bread
- root vegetables (carrots, yams, etc)
- olive oil (usually as a salad dressing)
- nuts or seeds
Going four hours or more without eating can lead to:
- Muscle loss
- New fat
- Slower metabolism
- Increased cravings and overeating
FOR OPTIMAL WEIGHT LOSS
If weight loss is a concern, keep in mind that it takes approximately 15-20 minutes for your food to travel from your mouth to your stomach, which is why we are told to wait 15 minutes before going for a second helping.
Your stomach contains stretch receptors that are connected to your brain. These are the receptors that send the signal saying that you are full. If we don’t give them enough time to activate, we will overeat.
I believe that true, healthy, and permanent weight loss often includes an altered perception of the role of food. For me, food is not JUST a fuel source. It’s also a source of pleasure.
Contrary to what most people believe, this pleasure is not experience through increased quantities. It comes as a direct result of decreasing quantities, and dramatically increasing quality. Weight loss will follow.