Friday, October 7, 2011

CW Nutrition: The Abs Diet & The Warrior Diet

(Note: See Speaking of Food for an introduction)

About six years ago my first taste of a mainstream diet plan began at a point in health where I wasn't necessarily looking to lose weight, but would consider anything that might healthily help me look a little more like Michaelangelo's statue of David.  After some research (aka Googling for on-line reviews) I settled for the Abs Diet.

Yes, it makes the stereotypical, grandiose promises of X pounds in Y days, but the book is a healthy read.  It's principals are not as shallow as the glossy title and advertising suggest, even if the macho lingo seems directed toward a pack of jocks in heat.  The text provides a sensible, well-rounded diet and exercise plan that one could easily live by indefinitely.  But you have to buy into conventional (food pyramid) wisdom.

When it comes to the USDA's food pyramid, the main reference point for most food-related CW, a "balanced" diet is more politically correct than it is healthy.  The United States Department of Agriculture is lobbied by all of the livestock and plant farmers under its umbrella and still gets to tell us what we should eat.  Smells like a conflict of interest if there ever was one.

An overwhelming majority of conventional nutritional guidelines are based on studies funded by the very industries that produce the foods.  "Got Milk?" for instance. . . or this interesting story about how pomegranates became a superfood.

In our consumer-driven society all a producer has to do is dig until they find a scientist who can find a positive aspect to their product. Then they can relentlessly promote and advertise that slice of optimism until it becomes CW, or maybe even a pop culture craze (like Acai berries now in everything from pills to tea.)  Clever marketing can build a castle of fortune on a grain of truth.

There was a time when even cigarettes were healthy.  Interestingly enough, the government is suing Pom Wonderful for misleading the common man.  Sorghum bran may be more scientifically justifiable as rich in antioxidants, but it isn't sugary, wouldn't sell in a sensuously lumpy bottle, and just doesn't sound as chic.

Since commercial-based CW is hardly reliable, and I've been full of questions ever since I picked up my first Curious George book, I eventually became interested in less conventional approaches to nutrition.  I don't remember how I first got wind of it, but I decided to test The Warrior Diet.

The book was actually one of the most dubious I've read, with very little in the way of scientific or common-sensical merit.  The fact that the author (Ori Hofmekler) had previously worked for distasteful publications and had a sinister monkey look on his face in all of the book's exercise illustrations didn't help his credibility with me.  He wasn't my kind of role model in any dimension.

His theory goes something like this-  cave men and Spartans must have never eaten breakfast since Captain Crunch and Eggos weren't around back then. They would travel long distances by foot on a daily basis, looking to spear their dinners.  By the evening they'd kill a deer or a turkey, then cook it over an open fire and totally pig out before slipping into restful sleep. . . . so that must be how we are meant to eat.

Basically,  fast all day then make up for it during a 4-hour no-holds-barred feeding window every evening.  There were a few guidelines for stuffing your face:  lead off with leafy greens to make a bed for all the meat you can manage, and only then top off your stomach with sweets (if you must.)

These are the guidelines quoted from the Warrior Diet website:

1. Eat One Main Meal at Night
There is evidence that humans are nocturnal eaters, inherently programmed for undereating and toiling during the day, followed by overeating and relaxing at night.
2. Go Low on the Food Chain
Researchers believe that the human genome is programmed for a late Paleolithic world. As hunter/gatherers we're better adapted to pre-agricultural food– i.e. chemical-free fruit, vegetables, roots, sprouted legumes, nuts, seeds, fertile eggs, marine food (wild catch), and dairy from grass fed animals.
3. Exercise While Undereating
It has been established that we are inherently carrying survival mechanisms that benefit us when triggered by physical or nutritional stress such as exercise or undereating. Combining exercise with undereating will amplify the beneficial mechanisms of both – increasing our ability to utilize energy, improve strength and resist fatigue.
The thought of giving my willpower a daily 20-hour workout while looking forward to indulging carelessly for 4 hours, all to look like a character from The 300 sounded appealing, so I gave it a try.

I handled the fasting part handily, but ingesting enough calories within 4 hours to make up for it proved a challenge.  You know that cranial haze that you get after a big thanksgiving dinner?  I was dealing with it nightly.  That kind of mental fog is the last thing a small-time poet with a full-time job needs during his off-hours.  Working out after a 20 hour fast wasn't working for me either.  My calves started cramping at night. . . . like they were trying to eat themselves.
Without the intermittent insulin surges that come with the bad advice to eat 5-6 mini-meals a day and "stoke the metabolic fire" (per the CW  in the Abs Diet) I had exceptional mental clarity during the day, but felt physically sluggish.  Without a whole lot of excess weight to lose, I shed a few pounds and then plateaued.

I don't think Ori totally missed the mark.  Going "low on the food chain" is good advice.  There's solid research that I'll get to later suggesting that exercise on an empty stomach can be very effective, and that fasting is a healthy practice.  It's just that what we eat is much more important than his book suggests, and trying to stuff an entire day's calories into 4 hours is mind numbing.  It gets old fast. . . . unless you enjoy feeling like a zombie that just swallowed a cinder block.  Vampires and werewolves are more in-vogue anyway.

Needless to say, I didn't last long as a Warrior, but moved on to a plan grounded in more solid research-  coming soon. . .  

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you that we should just look on what we eat and exercise regularly.Everyone know what is healthy for them. Its just a matter of discipline.


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