When it comes to experimenting with new diets and ways of eating, people often look for the most unique and extreme options, such as the paleo diet or the Zone diet.
This is because they are regularly perceived to be the most effective, either because of how strict you have to be to follow them, or simply because they make wild claims that science hasn’t yet had the opportunity to disprove.
When looking for unique or extreme diets, perhaps none fit the bill quite as well as the Wim Hof diet, a nutrition plan associated with the controversial Wim Hof Method.
This is a diet that requires an incredible amount of discipline yet touts a massive number of benefits for those who follow the complete method.
In today’s article, I want to try and help you get a better understanding of exactly what the Wim Hof Method involves.
From who created it to the benefits it claims to offer and how realistic your chances of success are, we will look at every aspect of the routine.
So, for anyone thinking about trying the Wim Hof Method for themselves, this should help you to understand exactly what you are getting yourself in to.
Who Is Wim Hof?
Wim Hof is a Dutch extreme athlete, also known as “The Iceman”.
Born in Sittard, Limburg in The Netherlands on the 20th of April 1959, he has become infamous for his incredible physical achievements and feats, which have led to him holding numerous world records.
Many of these feats have to do with his ability to withstand extreme temperatures, often while performing strenuous physical activity.
He has previously climbed Mount Kilimanjaro wearing only shorts and shoes, run across the Namib desert without any water, and run a half marathon barefoot inside the Arctic Circle.
He holds 20 world records for standing in extreme temperatures in different conditions and swimming under ice.
He also holds the world record for the longest ice bath, with a duration of 1 hour, 53 minutes, and 2 seconds, which he set in 2013.
Wim Hof is also known for his ability to hold his breath for extended periods of time. This is something he attributes to a breathing technique he developed based on Tibetan Tum-mo meditation.
The Wim Hof Method
The Wim Hof Method revolves around the incorporation of the Wim Hof Breathing Technique into a routine that includes cold therapy, diet, fasting, meditation, and stretching.
It is claimed that following this method offers numerous benefits, both physical and mental.
Among the most touted benefits are an ability to boost physical recovery time, improve sleep and physical performance, increase creativity, focus, and mental clarity, and reduce stress.
He has established the Innerfire organisation to pass these techniques, as well as his strict diet regime, on to other people hoping to replicate both his methods and results.
To date, the organisation has trained more than 10,000 people.
Wim Hof’s Diet Plan
The Wim Hof diet plan is unique in that it heavily prioritises carbohydrates above all else, bucking most modern trends.
The overall recommended daily intakes, according to the plan, are roughly 70% carbohydrates, 20% fats, and just 10% protein.
The bulk of the food and drink he consumes are similar to many other diets, including things like fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, pasta, soup, water, green tea, and coffee.
However, he also includes beer as a daily staple in his diet, which is almost unheard of in the world of fitness and nutrition.
While the Wim Hof diet plan gives the user a fair amount of freedom to pick the foods that they personally enjoy, there are some foods that are specifically recommended to be avoided if you want to achieve maximum benefits from the method.
These include any processed, refined, or genetically modified foods (GMOs), artificial ingredients, hydrogenated fats, sugar, and meat, especially if it contains any added antibiotics or hormones.
In addition, he recommends against using supplements of any kind.
Is Wim Hof Vegan?
Most available information suggests that Wim Hof is vegetarian but will often follow a completely vegan diet for extended periods.
While Wim Hof himself has never provided clarification on the point, it is known that he does not eat meat, although this is for moral reasons, as opposed to health concerns.
Wim Hof Fasting Routine
While the contents of the diet are incredibly important, so is the method of dieting that Wim Hof uses, as he is a strong advocate for a practice known as intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting involves abstaining from eating or drinking anything for extended periods, then consuming all of your nutrients in a short space of time.
It is a technique that has been shown to have benefits for weight loss, as well as helping with conditions such as arthritis and cancer.
Wim Hof’s personal intermittent fasting routine sees him fast for 16 hours and then eat for 8.
He consumes a single full meal each day, usually after 6pm, and accompanies it with a glass of beer. He never consumes breakfast and survives purely on small, natural snacks and water throughout the day.
He will occasionally fast for longer periods, although he has never gone into detail regarding how long of often he will do this for.
He has previously released a challenge on YouTube encouraging his followers to perform a 24 hour fast once per week, and the more committed to do a 24 hour fast each Monday with him for a month.
Wim Hof Daily Routine
While the cornerstones of the Wim Hof Method are fairly clear, to execute them effectively requires a clear understanding of each of the principles.
In addition, Wim Hof also follows a somewhat regimented daily routine, which he feels leaves his body in the best position to reap maximum rewards from his methods.
His day usually begins with an early wake up, that he aims to synchronise with the sunrise.
He then practices yoga and meditation, before working on his stretching and breathing techniques. He will then finish off this part of his day with an ice bath.
Wim’s afternoons are usually then dedicated to his business and teaching. However, he tries to keep the environment in which he works as stress free as possible.
Any time during the afternoon that he has free will usually be spent relaxing or meditating in his garden. If time permits, he will often attempt to squeeze in a second ice bath.
Of an evening, he makes sure he has plenty of time for his family, particularly his wife. They will cook and relax together, helping to create a sense of peace and happiness.
He finds activities like reading and stretching are among the best to help him unwind, before he goes to bed around 10pm.
Wim Hof feels stretching in the morning is essential, as it helps to get the blood flowing and improve your circulation.
He suggests doing your stretching through yoga routines that work the entire body, such as the child’s pose and forward and back bends, as well as exercises like bicycle crunches and planks.
In addition to the morning stretching routines, Wim also likes to stretch in the evening when possible as well, as it helps to relieve any tension that has built up in the muscles throughout the day, as well as disperse any by-products, such as lactic acid.
Following his morning stretching, Wim suggests going straight into practicing the Wim Hof Method breathing techniques that he has developed from Tibetan Tum-mo meditation.
The Wim Hof Method breathing technique first requires you to find a quiet location where you can make yourself comfortable, either while laying or sitting down.
You will then proceed to take 30 to 40 slow, steady, normal breaths, which are neither deep nor shallow.
As you take each breath, visualise the oxygen saturating the cells around your body. After the final exhalation, proceed to hold your breath for as long as you can.
Using a timer during this period is a great way to keep an accurate gauge on how you are progressing.
When you feel a gasp reflex and can’t hold your breath any longer, take a long, slow breath that lasts for 10 seconds, then hold this in for a further 15 seconds before releasing.
This constitutes your first complete circuit of the Wim Hof Method. You now need to perform the routine an additional 4 times.
Immediately upon completing your 5th circuit of the breathing techniques, Wim Hof recommends meditating for at least 5 minutes, although longer periods are better if they are at all possible.
There is no particular type of meditation recommended here, you just need something that makes you completely calm and relaxed.
The aim of this is to put your entire central nervous system in a completely stress-free state.
A similar process of meditation should then be performed again in the afternoon and in the evening immediately before bed.
If possible, either the morning or afternoon session should be performed in a relaxing, outdoor environment, such as a garden, to help you get plenty of fresh air in your body.
Cold Therapy: Cold Shower or Ice Bath
Wim Hof is a huge advocate of adding cold therapy to your daily routine, due to the perceived benefits it offers in terms of relieving muscle soreness and reducing inflammation within the body, the latter of which is a central component of the Wim Hof Method.
While a traditional ice bath is his usual recommendation, during the Winter months he personally likes to use the river on his property.
He feels this makes it a better use of his time, as he can simultaneously make the most of cold therapy while getting in touch with nature.
He does state, however, that if neither of these options are available, a cold shower will suffice as a suitable alternative.
Is The Wim Hof Method Effective & Are There Any Risks?
There is a great deal of debate on how effective the Wim Hof Method is when looking at it from a scientific standpoint.
A number of doubts have been raised about the validity of its claims, while there are also concerns about potential dangers associated with following the method.
While some elements of the method have been proven, such as intermittent fasting, and benefits including relieving stress and improving circulation have been confirmed, many of the other claims remain unsubstantiated.
The general consensus among the scientific community is that, when used sensibly, the Wim Hof Method can be used to offer a number of benefits. However, they also suggest that the measures shouldn’t be taken to extremes, and users should be realistic about their expectations.
Some users who did take the method to extreme levels to try and replicate the feats of Wim Hof himself unfortunately died while swimming in 2015 and 2016.
Since then, Wim Hof himself has been forced to issue a disclaimer stating that the method should not be used to perform certain physical activities.
The Wim Hof Method and the diet associated with it are certainly a unique approach that won’t be suitable for the majority of people.
To follow the method in its entirety, you need to have complete dedication, as well as a naturally strong body and immune system.
That said, even while many of the claims associated with the method remain unsubstantiated, it does offer a number of benefits that can be confirmed to be true.
In reality, those looking to make the most of the benefits associated with the Wim Hof Method certainly have nothing to lose by giving it a try.
What is important is that you remember to keep your expectations grounded and don’t take unnecessary risks trying to repeat the extraordinary feats that Wim Hof himself has accomplished.
If you make sure to properly research the particular benefits you are attracted to and confirm they have been scientifically proven, then the Wim Hof Method could actually be a great way to improve your discipline and enhance your quality of life in a variety of ways.