Hardcore Intermittent Fasting
Bad to the Bone: 480 BC, Greek Triremes in action at the Battle of Salamis (above). 120 feet long, its unprecedented propulsive power was achieved by the arrangement of 170 oarsmen in three tiers along each side of the vessel—31 in the top tier, 27 in the middle, and 27 in the bottom. Ori’s physical archetypes manned the oars.
Let’s get serious!
Intermittent fasting has gotten a lot of deserved attention. I got onboard with intermittent fasting fifteen years ago when I struck up a friendship with Ori Hofmekler. For two years I cohosted a weekly radio show with Ori, the inventor of the intermittent fasting concept. Intermittent fasting sprang full-blown and solely from Ori’s eclectic brain. Ori is an artist/warrior, an ex-Israel Defense Force commando that went on to become one of the world’s leading satirical artists.
Ori’s artwork was stunning and biting and appeared regularly in the New York Times, Time, Newsweek, US News & World Report, the Daily Mail, Der Spiegel, and the London Times, to name but a few. Ori had to quit art when he began to go blind in one eye, a story in and of itself. He then turned his full attention towards the construction of the perfect human: Ori’s ideal physical archetype was not athletic, it was military.
People think of Ori as the nutritional innovator – which he most certainly was, however, his nutrition was an outgrowth of, and meant to support, his unique and demanding approach towards physical training. The Warrior Diet was devised to compliment and augment Ori’s unique approach to resistance and cardiovascular training. Ori’s training sought what Heavy Hands inventor (and my aerobic mentor) Dr. Len Schwartz, labeled Long Strength. Strength should be divided into three generalized categories…
- absolute strength, maximum payloads pushed and pulled for short distances with no regard for velocity
- explosive strength, moderate payloads moved for low reps over long distances using maximum velocity
- sustained strength, strength endurance, light payloads moved for long durations using various velocities
Ori had physical ideals and archetypes: he sought to replicate the capacities and physiques of Greek rowers (480 BC) and Roman foot soldiers (500 AD) These men were whippet lean, on average 5-5 in height, weighing 70-kilos, 145-pounds, walking around with 6-8% body fat percentiles. The soldiers lugged 25% of their bodyweight (10 kilos, 33-pounds) in armor and weaponry with every step they took, on every forced march, with every charge, while locked in life-or-death hand-to-hand combat, they were weighted down.
A Grecian rower pulled a heavy oar through the water in timed coordination with 169 other rowers. The Trireme rower needed to be adept at both long-distance grinding and short distance sprinting. The rowers used steady-state flow when rowing for distance, the same rowers pulled violently, burst-style, when engaged in sea combat with enemy ships.
The continual lugging and use of armor and weaponry, the continual leg drive, the arm and back pulling on oars - coupled with the sparce organic diets, sculpted these men. Super lean, super-fit, super capable, on land or sea. These men were able to “put out” for extended durations and then able to put out even more, much harder and faster, when combat demanded explosive bursts and flurries.
Imagine a 145-pound Roman soldier completing a 20-mile forced march (carrying 25% of their bodyweight) and then going directly into hand-to-hand combat with a tribe of 250-pound berserker Vikings high on mushrooms swinging swords, clubs, and axes. Life-or-death battles with axes and swords do not have time limits, time outs, or injury substitutions. They might last all day or last for days. What type of physique was built doing this type of work, year after year, decade after decade?
Ancient soldiers and sailors ate organic and ate sporadically
Young Ori thought, how can modern man replicate the ancient warrior’s physique and performance? The Grecian sailor and Roman soldier ate intermittently, depending on daily circumstance; they all ate organic because organic was all that there was, everything was organic in ancient times. Because of the unique physical stresses and the unique dietary stresses, these soldiers developed what Ori labeled super muscle, hybrid muscle fiber that enabled them to grind for extended periods yet also be adept and able to ‘burst,’ put out maximally during land combat or sea battles. These men fought for a living and their lives depended on their degree of fitness.
The capabilities of the Grecian Trireme rowers are legend: they set time and distance records for fighting ships of this type that have never been equaled or exceeded. Greek rowers were not starved and beaten slaves; they were free men that got a cut of the confiscated spoils. They had tryouts to win a seat as a rower. In combat situations, a Trireme would ram enemy ships at top speed with copper or iron-tipped prows. The sailors ate an all-organic diet and developed the same hybrid muscle fiber as the Roman soldier.
Ori developed training protocols using modern tools and modes to replicate the stresses the ancient warriors encountered. He sought to trigger the growth of hybrid muscle fiber. I remember one Ori drill where he rode an exercise bike for 40-minutes, this while he continually pumping 10-pound dumbbells, alternating overhead presses with curls and front raises, keeping the bells in motion the entire time. I told him I couldn’t do match what he did, just trying to mimic his hand movements empty-handed.
The Warrior Diet sought to emulate the organic diet of the ancient warriors. In addition to insisting on all-organic content, Ori zeroed in on something dietary experts had not given much thought: meal frequency. Everyone everywhere ate ‘three square meals,’ breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Bodybuilders ate smaller amounts more frequently. That was about the extent of meal frequency thought. Here came Ori going, hey! we eat way too much of the wrong type of food and we eat way too often – and by the way, breakfast is the worst meal of the day!
My first thought was, who is this bomb thrower?! I have always had a soft spot for radicals, assuming they can back up their radical contentions. Ori won me over with the logic of his strategy and my own experiences with his unique approach. He was reviled by all the smart people. His critics sputtered out the usual pablum used by those defending “smelly little orthodoxies,” to use George Orwell’s phrase. “Unhealthy,” “Potentially dangerous.” “Reckless and unscientific.” On and on went the criticism of intermittent fasting. Time has proven him correct and them to be predictable reactionaries.
Ori sought the same nutrient purity the ancients had, optimally, all organic all the time. As a species, we are poisoned by the impure fuel we consume, foods we were never designed to run on. Ori contends humans are toxic, inflamed, doused in the chemicals, preservatives, and Trans fats. Detoxification is a major goal of the Warrior Diet. During the Controlled Fasting portion of the Warrior Diet many processes occur…
The Controlled Fasting Phase
- Detoxification: if not interrupted every few hours with a new influx of new food, the body cleanses and corrects itself. Given time, the body fully and completely digests and distributes nutrients.
- Refill the “enzyme pool”: the Warrior Meal always commences with raw food. Lipase is created when leafy greens and raw vegetables are eaten on an empty stomach, thus creating potent digestive enzymes.
- Insulin stabilization: long periods of non-eating allow overworked, overwhelmed insulin receptor sites to clear, regaining function: eliminate sweets, alcohol, refined carbs, and manmade insulin-spiking foods.
- Glucagon increases: Glucagon stimulates the burning of body fat. Glucagon appears in mirror-image to insulin: when insulin predominates body fat is created; when glucagon predominates body fat is burned.
- Growth Hormone is released: the body is stingy with it’s GH. It will only release it when certain stresses and preconditions are met. Intense training coupled with precision nutrition is optimal for GH release.
The Over-Compensation Phase
- Accelerates the metabolism: a body deprived of food for 22 hours “gears up” to digest incoming raw vegetables, then protein, and starch carbs. Foods hard to digest create a desired metabolic spike.
- Fight bad gut bacteria: every Warrior Meal starts with raw food, i.e., salad greens, raw vegetables, seeds, or nuts. Raw food replenishes digestive enzymes optimizing digestion and gut health.
- Replenishes depleted glycogen and amino acids: controlled fasting depletes glycogen and muscle amino acids – now add in the depletion factor of hardcore training – the Warrior Meal heals.
- Causes the basal metabolic rate to rise: Warrior dieters will often break out in a sweat as they work their way through the extended meal, an outward manifestation of an increase in core body temperature.
- Accelerates hardcore workout recovery: nothing heals a body battered by an effective hardcore workout faster than a big influx of quality calories - followed by 6-8 hours of deep REM sleep.
Ori suggests those interested in trying his approach start with a big “window,” a long period of time to consume food. Over time, shorten the window until you arrive at a lone, extended meal. While he is flexible on the duration of the food window, he is insistent that food be organic: jettison fast food, refined carbs, sweets, alcohol and other insulin-spiking food and drink (fruit juice spikes insulin through the roof.) Replace these empty calories with nutrient-dense organic foods.
Once you nail down the food purity the detox process commences. Over time, shorten your food window. And don’t forget: 3-5 days a week are dedicated to some type of intense training. Optimal results are only achieved if a killer training regimen is combined with this Spartan (literally) famine-then-feast dietary regimen.
No cheat days on the Warrior Diet. This is a lifestyle that goes on seven days a week. Ori champions a replenishment “meal” - but don’t expect him to recommend bacon, eggs, and waffles: Ori’s idea of a replenishment meal is a 30-gram whey protein shake and a handful of seeds or nuts.
The Warrior Diet is harsh. That’s one of the reasons they call it the Warrior Diet and not the sissy-pretend diet. If you decide to give it a try don’t dilute the harshness; don’t dilute the Spartan nature of this inherently tough approach. Don’t turn Ori-style intermittent fasting, 30-year-old single-malt scotch, into the dietary version of Lite Beer. Don’t soften its hard tenants, don’t round out Ori’s harsh edges in order to make it more user-friendly and “doable” Tamper with the protocols and eviscerate the results.
About the Author
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door and now IRON COMPANY. He’s also the author of multiple books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others. Read the Marty Gallagher biography here.