I anxiously checked the time at the top of my computer screen as the hunger pangs continued to set in. 10:25. 10:27. Time seemed to slow as if in a warp and all I wanted to do was eat. I pictured the grilled chicken breast and vegetables I’d prepared and packaged neatly into Tupperware warming in our office microwave. My mouth actually salivated just a little as I imagined biting into the meal. The only thing stopping me was the thought that if I caved a little early now, I’d be just as hungry if not hungrier later. The “no snacking” rule continued to hang over me like a dark cloud. And this was only day one on the Laird diet.
Call it a guilty pleasure, but I’ve got a thing for experiential prose – the kind where writers essentially torture themselves by eating something they don’t want to or going to a dangerous place they don’t belong for a story. In recent weeks I’ve also found myself grubbing at Chick-Fil-A more often than I’d like. So I guess it was a combination of thinking self-inflicted pain could make for a funny read and wanting something drastic to whip me back into eating healthy that compelled me to suggest in our weekly editorial meeting I was willing to subject myself to eating like Laird Hamilton for a month. I even thought it’d be easy. I was wrong. It was goddamn torture. And it was only for two days.
Hamilton may be best known for being a big wave pioneer and foil/SUPing extraordinaire, but of late it’s he and wife Gaby Reece’s expertise in the realms of fitness and nutrition that’s garnered the attention of mainstream outlets from GQ to the New Yorker. His diet has been called unorthodox and intense. In practical terms, though, Laird’s body is what allows him to perform athletic feats into his mid-50s and helping that body run as efficiently as possible makes good sense.
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The look after 10 jumps underwater in the deep end (13ft), underwater swim across the pool and back (one breath), 10 push ups on land. . . all with a 65lbs weight vest. NEVER TRAIN IN THE POOL ALONE. #dosomethingforyourself #move #breathe #workhard @xptlife 📸: @kennacolbs
I had an inkling from the beginning that eating like Laird would be a challenge, but in truth, I didn’t know what it’d entail in real time. Knowing the man likely uses much of the product with his name on it, I reached out to the folks at Laird Superfood to see if they could enlighten me a bit. Here’s what I got back:
Upon rising, Laird drinks a glass of water mixed with Activate Daily Jumpstart by Laird Superfood.
Laird will enjoy three shots of espresso with any Laird Superfood creamer – he likes to switch up the flavors between the original and the turmeric creamers. Occasionally, Laird will add half a teaspoon of coconut oil and ghee, along with a scoop of creamer. He also opts to use the Performance Mushroom Powder in his morning coffee.
- Lunch (beginning at noon or 1 p.m.):
This is typically Laird’s first meal of the day. Laird will eat a small amount of high-quality animal protein paired with vegetables.
- Protein choices in rotation: Chicken, turkey, red meat, lamb, buffalo, eggs.
- Vegetable choices: Colorful options like kale, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, squash (kombucha, butternut, etc.), swiss chard, spinach, brussels sprouts, beets, garlic, celery, sprouts, bok choy, cucumbers, avocado, rapini, eggplant, etc.
- Typically limits the number of carbs (like potatoes) and grains he consumes.
- Laird opts not to eat too much dairy and, if he does, it’s raw and unpasteurized.
- He uses three main oils: coconut, olive, and avocado.
In the evening, Laird drinks a Kombucha or two, otherwise, he drinks water, coffee or Chaga mushroom tea combined with shilajit resin, a black tar made from 100 percent plant-based ionic minerals. (When I first read this I thought this meant not eating dinner, but other info available here explains Laird, in fact, eats dinner. He isn’t crazy.)
- Once or twice a week, Laird will do a small fast, perhaps eating only one meal per day at dinner.
- Another day of the week, he may not eat any animal protein and only eat vegetables for the day.
- Suggested Habits:
- No alcohol.
- No dessert.
- No snacking, unless it’s macadamia nuts or pili nuts.
- Drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Hydration is key to optimum performance, recovery, and flexibility – try to incorporate sauna sessions into evening routine and use Hydrate Laird Superfood products to intake minerals.
Due to some constraints, I was forced to adapt some of the parameters of Laird’s diet. For instance, I don’t have an espresso machine at home. So, I figured I’d sub that for a cup of French press coffee. I also don’t have access to Chaga mushroom tea or shilajit resin, so those had to be cut. Luckily the folks at Laird Superfood were kind enough to send over some of the products mentioned above to try (thanks, guys!) so that made things a little easier. “We look forward to checking out your article!” they said in what looking back now I’m realizing must have been sort of a, “Good luck, dummy, you’re going to need it.” Or maybe I’m projecting.
In brief, it appears that the spirit of the Laird diet is this: high-fat content, virtually no sugar, not even alcohol or fruit (in an interview with GQ, Laird said fruit is meant to be eaten seasonally), no dairy (unless it’s raw), vegetables, protein, low carbs, no bread, and no solid food until lunch.
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That last bit is what ultimately did me in. I fancy myself a reasonably healthy person. I enjoy salads often, stay away from potato chips and soda, and hit fast food joints only on occasion (read: Chick-Fil-A). But, breakfast – e.g. toast, oatmeal, or something substantial – has always been a staple for me. Fast forward to day one, and even after making a coffee cocktail with turmeric creamer (which is delicious, by the way) around 7 a.m., I felt myself getting hungry by 11. And without being able to snack save macadamia nuts (I subbed for cashews here) all I could think about and talk about was how hungry I was. I was informed by people who’d actually dieted before that being hungry is just the nature of being on a diet, but with nothing to prove and no performance or weight loss goals myself – the idea was just to do this for shits – my initial plan to last thirty days quickly turned into two weeks max.
By day two, I already had a new appreciation for Laird’s discipline and commitment to his diet. In an interview with sports journalist Graham Bensinger in 2018, Laird explains that an espresso cocktail with his creamer, coconut oil, and raw butter can keep him performing well into the early afternoon.
“I probably start with 50 or 60 grams of fat in the morning that I consume as a beverage with espresso in it, and I can go till one o’clock in the afternoon at full speed,” he says.
Not me. Come 11 a.m. that second day, again I was fucking starving and had reduced the newly self-negotiated constraint of two weeks down to one. “I can make it a week,” I told myself on the drive home from the office. It’s really not that bad. Then the nail in the coffin: when I got home my wife spontaneously decided she’d make a pan of beautiful brownies – something she never does. The smell of the oven was overpowering. I ate six. It was the ultimate crash and burn failure.
I presume many of our readers are healthy folk – maybe you eat even cleaner than Laird. And I hear your criticism and keyboard clicking already. “Only two days?! What a wimp!” And you’d be right. I’ll be the first to admit that I lack discipline. Plus, two days is hardly long enough to get over the hill to really notice a difference.
My counterpoint would be this, though: in my case, a radical lifestyle change overnight (e.g. not eating breakfast, not drinking, not snacking, eliminating sugar, dairy, and bread) seems to be a good way to set yourself up for failure. Not that people don’t do it every day, but a gradual transition into eating like Laird would have dulled the shock to the system – especially the psychology of suddenly not being able to eat X anymore.
Laird himself supports this idea. In an interview with GQ, he explained, “The biggest mistake anyone can make is being too strict. That stress far outweighs the value of what you’re doing. There’s a disciplined way to do things.”
So, in the weeks since trying to adopt Laird’s diet 100 percent, I’ve instead picked and chosen what works for me and learned from the experience and I do feel healthier and cleaner as a result. It hasn’t made me a better surfer, but I’m noticing I have more energy throughout the day. Namely, I’m using Laird Superfood’s creamers, eating a smaller breakfast each morning (either a bar or piece of toast), and hydrating more often than before, occasionally with dehydrated coconut water. And I guess that’s the most important lesson here – the perfect diet is the most sustainable one that just becomes how you eat every day. Pick and choose what works for you from people who know what they’re talking about, avoid trends for trends’ sake, and understand what your body needs. As Laird says, “Our bodies are smarter than we often give them credit for.”