Jocko Willink: A Navy SEAL’s Diet and Workout Routine

Last Updated: January 15, 2023

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With the constant influx of fad diets from influencers and self-proclaimed experts all around the world, we’re left wondering which ones actually work. Their great bodies lead us to believe that they might have some truth to their claims. Most of the time, though, we can’t be sure whether it’s a sincere concern for public health or just another marketing scheme.

A Bit About Jocko Willink

Jocko Willink is an American retired naval officer who served with the Navy SEALs.

Jocko Willink brings with him a whole other level of credentials compared to typical influencers, though, what with his past as a US Navy SEAL commander. With that alone, it seems there is a level of trust established with his thoughts on diet and exercise, radical as they may seem. He reveals these thoughts through his podcast and best-selling books.

His mantra: Discipline equals freedom. 

It’s not surprising that he believes this having been part of the military. According to him, the reason for this is that discipline helps you focus more on the task at hand and not on what you’re going to do and how you’re going to attack it. Discipline helps you do your tasks more efficiently.

This discipline works itself into Jocko Willink’s diet and workout routine. If you’re looking for a great way to increase your productivity, not only in your health and fitness but also in your everyday work life, read on to find out how Jocko Willink stays in shape.

If you aren’t sure of who Jocko Willink is, but you’ve landed on this page. Here’s a short video:

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So, What Does Jocko Willink's Diet Look Like?

The first radical piece of advice Jocko Willink gives out: reject free food. Your work pal comes into the office one day bringing a box of pizza and donuts — you know, to be a good officemate. To Jocko Willink, really, all that does is tempt you into eating unhealthy.

So, instead of reaching for that slice of pizza… you say no.

That, to me, was a crazy concept. Being a believer of free food, I would jump at any opportunity I could get. I’d even go to free taste booths in supermarkets first before buying the things I actually need.

When you think about it, though, you start to realize how undisciplined you are with what goes into your body. You aren’t even that hungry sometimes, but when any food is presented to you, if you’re like me, you won’t have it in your heart to reject it.

Discipline, in terms of dieting, is something that most people think only applies to those who want to lose weight. However, our diets affect our overall health, whether we’d like to lose weight or not. Jocko Willink does not encourage removing completely junk food from our diets, he also wants us to control when we eat.

Fasting, which is not eating much (or anything at all) for a certain period of time, is a concept that most people think of as an unhealthy fad diet. In reality, ancient humans went for days without food when they didn’t have anything to hunt or gather. The human body, in essence, is prepared to go on fasts. After all, we are The Ultimate Primate.

Jocko Willink doesn’t believe that you should be eating every 3 hours. He even goes so far as to believe that the human body can survive without food for up to 30 days. He puts this to the test by doing 24-hour fasts every other week, and 72-hour fasts every 3 months.

The Roots: How Did Jocko Get To This Concept?

This fasting habit of his didn’t start quite intentionally, though. When he was in the Navy SEAL, he’d find himself training in the field with heavy things to carry around. With this routine, he’d usually put food at the bottom of his list of things to carry, so he’d be eating 500 calories a day without thinking about it. He’d also find that he’d feel more energized.

The next time you are tempted to eat a snack, think about your hunger levels. Are you really hungry, or do you just feel like eating?

Giving in to this temptation is dangerous as this can create a habit of snacking, which we all know is such a hard habit to break out of. If you really can’t take it, you can munch on some sunflower seeds or drink tea to increase your fullness. This is what Jocko Willink does on his fasts.

There are different types of fasts. Some of these include the OMAD fast (one meal a day), which is where you fast for 23 hours and eat for 1 hour. Some other alternatives to the 24-hour fast are the 20:4 fast (4 hours of eating, 20 hours of fasting) and intermittent fasting, where you eat for 8 hours and fast for 16 hours. 

The closest to the normal eating pattern is intermittent fasting, as your sleeping hours can count as the fasting period. I’ve also done intermittent fasting for around 6-months  and have found that my energy levels improved greatly. I talk a little bit about it on my post that I previously did on doing fasted cardiovascular exercise.

Research has shown that intermittent fasting can be an effective tool for weight loss, according to the Business Insider. It can also increase boosts of energy, muscle recovery, and can improve sleep patterns.

Okay, we now know when to eat according to Jocko Willink. But what exactly does he eat?

Jocko goes for a paleo diet, although it doesn’t seem intentionally Paleo. He simply cuts down on carbs and sugars heavily. He goes so far as to call donuts “poison.” To some extent, that is true. Sugars are very addictive.

He also prefers clean protein and vegetables. He doesn’t do this for the trend of Paleo; he simply believes that he feels better with this diet. The summary: meat, vegetables, nuts, and some fruit.

Here's The Specifics: What Does Jocko Willink Eat?

  • Meat (Grass-fed beef, Free-range poultry, fish)
  • Vegetables (Yams, beets, turnips, carrots, onions, garlic, celery root, horseradish, ginger, parsnips and green leafy vegetables)
  • Nuts
  • Fungi (mushrooms!)
  • Eggs
  • Dairy (Full-fat butter, yogurt, cream, cheese)
  • Fruits, occasionally
  • Tea

On The Other Hand, Food That Jocko Willink Avoids: 

  • Junk food (Obviously!)
  • Refined foods (Includes refined sugars and salts)
  • Processed foods (Canned foods, cereals, biscuits and processed oils such as vegetable, soybean and canola oil)
  • Grains (Wheat, rice, corn)
  • Potatoes
  • Legumes (beans)
I’m sure this is a struggle for people who are always on the go. Fast food is usually full of carbohydrates and processed foods, so how are you to stop yourself from eating these, especially if you’re going out to a social gathering? The simple answer: prepare.
If you’re going out with friends, check out the restaurant’s menu first to see if there are any healthy options. If not, bring your own food. It sucks, I know! However, there is freedom in being this disciplined, as you have fewer choices and are able to just focus on having a great time with your friends. 
Sometimes, though, you can’t anticipate where you’re going, so just bring nuts with you all the time. 
As for cheat days? Jocko Willink, unsurprisingly, does not believe in them. Some people preach the 80/20 rule, which is to follow your diet 80% of the time and cheat 20% of the time. Jocko is against that as he believes you’ll be going down a slippery slope, stating you should go for the 100% rule, maybe even 99%. 
Keen to hear more on this topic? Check out the video below from Jocko Podcast:

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What Does Jocko Willink's Workout Routine Look Like?

Although Jocko Willink still has a pretty great workout routine, it’s not as groundbreaking and as detailed as his diet is. His philosophy of discipline definitely still stands, especially with him waking up at 4:30 in the morning. According to him, the top SEALs got up the earliest.

He does this everyday to stay accountable, and to show respect to fallen solders. You can see this on Instagram, daily.

This won’t be the easiest feat in the world, especially if you’re someone like me who struggles to get to bed early. This is why, if you’re going into this lifestyle, you go in it 100%. Always prepare so you take the path of least resistance. This means laying your workout clothes and shoes out so you don’t have to think too much in the morning.

Jocko Willink, surprisingly, doesn’t urge you to workout every day.

He believes in taking rest days, providing a workout plan that is only 4 days a week.

For his warm-ups, he does some pull-ups, planks, and yoga stretches to get his blood flowing. Some typical movements, such as burpees and jumping jacks, are also included into the routine. It’s quite admirable how simple his workout is, as you don’t need much equipment really. All you need is the discipline to do them.

He does core exercises on all 4 days, such as crunches. He also does HIIT training, which is basically getting super intense in a short amount of time. To “cool down”, you can do some sprints to include some HIIT training. Any kind of workout will work, really, as long as it’s intense and quick. Circuit training is great for this.

Here’s an in-depth video where Jocko talks about his training:


Jocko Willink proves to be someone who is simply sharing his lifestyle for the world to adapt if you want to. He does not seem to be someone with a fad diet or a product to market; he simply shares what he knows, especially from his experience in the Navy SEAL.

He definitely stays simple, with the core philosophy of discipline as a way to make things much easier. That’s not to say doing his diet and workout routine is easy, though. You should be able to prevent yourself from giving in to your old habits of snacking.

You should also be wary of his diet, as some people, especially those with low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), might find that cutting out carbs would be detrimental to their health. Always consult with your doctor before changing your diet drastically. This article was simply an informational piece on one of the most inspiring people I’ve happened to find.

Ultimately, it comes down to your lifestyle preferences. Experimenting around won’t hurt, as long as you monitor your health. Settle on something that is enjoyable and healthy for you. I wish you the best on your search for the perfect diet for you!

If you want to know more about Jocko, you should check his #1 Best Seller – Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy SEALs Lead and Win. 

The book was written alongside Leif Babin, it is about two U.S. Navy SEAL officers who led the most highly decorated special operations unit of the Iraq War demonstrate how to apply powerful leadership principles from the battlefield to business and life. 


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