The Agoge Diet: Your Complete Guide

If you have been on the internet or the diet circles long enough, you may have heard of the Agoge Diet.

Like many others, you have probably not given it much thought and simply dismissed it as one of the many fad diets out there.

However, let’s not be too hasty to judge a diet that we don’t know much about. Instead, let’s dig deeper and find out what the Agoge Diet is and whether or not it has enough merit for real world application.

What is the Agoge Diet?

Unlike diets like the paleo or ancestral diet that aims to mimic the eating habits of our paleolithic forebearers and ancestors, the agoge diet is allegedly based on the eating and training habits of Spartan warriors.

An enticing claim is that the diet and the training protocols that it allegedly imposes helps to shred body fat, particularly belly fat, and accelerate muscle growth. Bold claims.

But let’s be honest, who out there didn’t watch 300 and instantly want to look like Gerard Butler? If it’s possible to do, why not give it a go?

So, what does the Agoge Diet actually involve? Well, that is quite difficult to summarise.

Where does the Agoge Diet come from?

Give the diet a google and your results will come back kind of mixed. There are a number of different interpretations of the diet.

Some say it was created by British physician Michael Mosely although this has been difficult to verify.

Others say it’s an entirely low carb diet high animal protein diet, however, there are just as many websites that also claim it is entirely plant protein and vegetable-based.

Another result is actually just a company called Agoge Diet that asks you to fill out a form to receive a meal plan without even telling you what that meal plan will actually look like.

What can be confirmed is that Agoge simply means aggressive. Young Spartan children were allegedly put through an agoge training plan to help prime them for the unprecedented conditions that an adult Spartan Warrior went through later in their life.

Intense training, and optimized nutrition, all aiming to support a healthy body and mind, and excellent muscle growth.

The Agoge Diet Tenants

In modern times, the agoge diet seems to follow certain tenants, although these are slightly different depending on what source you look at. The common tenants are:

  • Eat every 4 hours
  • Eat lean protein with every meal. Chicken, fish, lean beef, egg whites.
  • Eat 3 servings of vegetables with every meal.
  • 40% of your calories must come from healthy fats.
  • Cheat on your diet if you like, but only within 3 hours of a strenuous workout. You must earn that cheat meal.
Protein rich food

On the surface, it’s not too different from most high-fat/low-carb diets. Just somewhat more flexible with regards to your carb intake and placing more focus on training as well as dieting. If you want a treat, you better work for it.

By increasing the protein and fat intake the diet is aiming to promote more fat burning during the day over glucose or carb. But this is advertised with the usual misinformation of ‘fat burning must mean fat loss’, which is never always the case.

If you’re burning more fat than carbs, all you’re doing is promoting the use of a different energy source in your body. Your body is always cycling through creatine, carbohydrate, and fat.

Depending on the intensity of your exercise or activity you will be using more of one than the other. The only way that fat burning will equal fat loss is with a caloric deficit.

Related: CrossFit is a great way to create that caloric deficit

Agoge Diet Benefits

1. No Calorie Tracking Required

What the agoge diet doesn’t seem to promote over most aggressive diets is a particular calorie intake.

Google ‘aggressive diet’ and you’ll likely come across many sub-1200 calorie diets. Which, from a nutrition standpoint, is pretty aggressive for most adults.

Especially considering, at the lower end, the average sedentary adult woman burns 2000 calories on any given day.

One of the benefits of the Agoge diet is that it seems to forgo a prescribed calorie intake. And that is likely because it places equal emphasis on being active.

You need to be aggressive with your training as much as you do with your diet. Just look at the cheat day tenant. You can have your cake, but you best be sure you have worked hard in the gym beforehand.

Most people are put off by the thought of calorie tracking. It can be seen as somewhat disordered to count every individual calorie to achieve a desired weight or physique goal.

It can be quite impacting on one’s quality of life.

Especially if you eat out often and can’t weigh the food you eat in restaurants. Having that removed from a nutrition plan can be incredibly appealing.

2. Low-carb, High-protein Diet

Another benefit of the Agoge Diet is its promotion of high fat and protein intake. Both fat and protein are known to be highly satiating. You’ll feel fuller for longer.

Emphasizing high fat and protein intake as well as high regular and intensive activity will likely cause the average person to end up in a caloric deficit without really thinking about it, resulting in fat loss.

But it’s not just a low body fat percentage that made the spartan warriors so impressive in combat, it was the fact that they were strong and athletic as well.

A high protein intake is incredibly important for the promotion of muscle hypertrophy. The growing of muscle fibers.

You might be able to train for combat, but if you’re not giving your body the essential building blocks it needs to grow muscle then your work in the gym is effectively a waste of time.

Eating large amounts of protein with every meal not only keeps you full, so you’re not putting on too much fat, but it ensures there are enough amino acids in your system to repair and grow the muscles you’ve worked whilst training.

Agoge Dieting Is Hard Work

Essentially, the Agoge Diet is just an aggressive Body Recomposition plan.

A body recomp plan is another term for losing fat and building muscle at the same time. This involves planning your calorie intake well enough to ensure you are eating at maintenance and creating a deficit through activity to lose body fat.

But not such a big deficit that it robs the body of energy to build muscle mass effectively.

This is a challenge for most people. And a lot of work.

It can be difficult to dial in your calorie and protein intake correctly to achieve the best of both, but the agoge diet seems to give the participant enough guidance to make it achievable without trying to major in the minors and hit every individual calorie and gram of protein.

Just work hard. Eat enough. And you should get there.

If you’re not seeing results, you’re probably not working in the gym enough. So, work harder.

If you’re not losing any body fat, perhaps you’re not working hard enough to warrant your cheat meals. So, either work harder or don’t cheat. It really seems to be all about work ethic.

Guys working out in the gym

So, is the agoge diet manageable for the average Joe? Can we all really be Spartan warriors? Or should we be looking elsewhere?

It really depends on a few things.

The agoge diet demands hard work. Not just from a nutrition perspective, but from a training perspective as well.

Even with the cost of living rising across the world, most people can switch up their food shop and buy lean protein and vegetables. Therefore, achieving the right macro split is easy enough.

Even eating every 4 hours is doable with enough foresight and planning.

However, many hours a week in the gym? Probably not.

Especially considering most people work long hours every day. The age-old tenant of ‘no pain, no gain’ is all well and good, but most people don’t have the time to dedicate 4, 5, or 6 days a week to the gym.

You might be able to be Agoge with your diet, but not everyone can train like a Spartan warrior.

That’s not to say that people can’t hit the gym a few days a week. But most are lucky to fit an hour in the evening. Let alone plan for several hours in the gym to prepare themselves to have birthday cake with their kids.

So, for the average working adult, agoge dieting is likely to be a bit too agoge to stick to. It doesn’t read like a plan that has sustainability built into it.

Agoge Diet Alternative

If fat loss is the goal, or if you want to work on a body recomp plan of losing fat and gaining muscle at the same time, there are other options.

One of the benefits of the agoge diet is that it doesn’t require analytical calorie tracking. If that appeals, intermittent fasting (IF) will likely tick that box for you too.

Woman looking at the time while intermittent fasting

You don’t need to track your calories with IF. You can simply set an eating window which more often than not puts you into a caloric deficit. Leading to a drop in body fat.

Agoge also promotes a low carb intake. Those who are pre or currently diabetic find it important to limit their carb intake to promote better insulin sensitivity. If that is appealing to you, those who practice intermittent fasting find that they also improve their insulin sensitivity due to the smaller eating windows.

And finally, the high amounts of activity paired with agoge/low carb diets can lead to a reduction of visceral fat. This is the harmful fat that sits in the abdomen and surrounds your organs.

Intermittent fasting can also lead to a reduction of visceral fat in a similar way to many ketogenic diets due to the small eating windows reducing the number of carbohydrates consumed within the day.

Bottom Line

If time is a barrier to you currently achieving your goals, the agoge diet isn’t recommended.

But a lack of time doesn’t mean you can’t start somewhere. If you do have a fat loss goal, consider Intermittent Fasting from the agoge diet.

If you’re in the gym already, you’re probably already eating enough protein to support your training. Just switch up your eating window and the fat loss will likely follow too.

You might not be drafted into the next Spartan war. But you’ll probably look good. And that counts for something.

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Mike Julom, ACE CPT

Mike is an ACE Certified PT and a CrossFit Level 1 Trainer. He is an avid lover of all sports. Basketball, tennis, athletics, volleyball, soccer, squash, golf, table tennis, even darts, you name it! He's a very active CrossFit athlete and has been WOD'ing for over 7 years. With such an intense fitness regime, Mike has learned to take care of his body physically, nutritionally, and spiritually. Mike founded ThisIsWhyImFit as a way to share his vast knowledge of exercises, diets, and general fitness advice.

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