What it's like to eat like Warren Buffett for a week
Reported by Bob Bryan
Warren Buffett's diet of sugary soda, junk food, and limited vegetables has reached legendary status.
The Berkshire Hathaway CEO drinks about five cans of Coca-Cola products a day, constantly munches on candies, and uses so much salt that John Stumpf, the former Wells Fargo CEO, said it was like a "snowstorm."
Overall, I just tried to maintain the general attitude by which the man himself defines his diet.
"I checked the actuarial tables, and the lowest death rate is among 6-year-olds, so I decided to eat like a 6-year-old," Buffett told Fortune. "It's the safest course I can take."
The cornerstone of the Buffett diet: Cherry Coke.
In 2015, Buffett told Fortune he was "one-quarter Coca-Cola."
Buffett said he favored either Diet Coke or Cherry Coke and had at least five cans of the soda a day.
I decided to opt for exclusively Cherry Coke throughout the week, as I'm not the biggest fan of the taste of plain Coke. I am, however, a fan of cherry and cherry-adjacent soda products like Dr. Pepper.
I also couldn't purchase cans of the stuff at my local grocery store, but a two-liter works out to 5.6 cans a day, within the ballpark of Buffett's consumption. Thus, I decided to go with one of these each day.
If you're wondering, that works out to 252 grams of sugar a day from the Cherry Coke alone. That's right - I got 84% of my recommended daily carbohydrate intake from just the sugar in the Cherry Coke.
I didn't initially do the math on the sugar content of the Cherry Coke, believing it was better to go into the week with a bit of blissful ignorance. While I had assumed it would be rough consuming all of the syrupy-sweet drink, I couldn't anticipate the full devastation the Coke would have on my mood.
On the first breakfast of the week, I was nervous but had a supply of foolish confidence in my ability to handle what was ahead.
In the HBO documentary "Becoming Warren Buffett," the legendary investor said his breakfast each day came from McDonald's and was dictated by the stock market.
Typically, Buffett gets breakfast once the market is open. If stocks are up, he gets a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit. If they're down, he opts for a cheaper breakfast of two sausage patties. If the market is flat, as it was Monday morning before the open, he goes for the sausage McMuffin.
I get to work around 7:30 a.m. ET every day, meaning I had to base my McDonald's selection on the premarket futures, which tend to be a bit harder to gauge. Regardless, I decided to try to factor in a bit of qualitative analysis based on the overseas markets and the previous day's close (and, by the end of the week, what I could tolerate).
The first breakfast wasn't too challenging. The biggest issue was the lack of coffee, as Buffett doesn't drink the stuff.
I decided to front-load the Cherry Coke to get the caffeine I usually got from my coffee while also preventing myself from drinking soda well into the night.
Additionally, I'd decided to keep track of my weight each morning and night. For the calorie counts, the Cherry Coke totals are added to the count at dinner, since they were dispersed throughout the day.
Breakfast, Day 1: McDonald's sausage, egg, and cheese McMuffin; Cherry Coke
Breakfast calories: 470
The Cherry Coke hit me like a ton of bricks.
I don't drink much soda - I drink mostly water and coffee at work - so the sudden increase in the amount of corn syrup in my diet made me feel incredibly sluggish. Plus, the sugar high was so off the charts that I almost felt the tingle of the carbonation in my fingers as I was typing.
Then again, I also put down half of the two-liter before 11 a.m. in an attempt to front-load the caffeine.
My inner child was excited to have ice cream in the middle of the day. The chili-cheese dog excited me less.
The bun on the Dairy Queen dog was spongy, but not like an angel food cake - like an actual kitchen sponge. The hot dog tasted very salty.
The sundae was delightful. Buffett says he typically gets cherry syrup on his DQ sundaes, which was not an option at my Manhattan location. I did get his preferred chopped nuts on top.
I was feeling pretty weighed down at this point. I don't have a big lunch most days - a salad at most - so the extra calories and copious sugar made me feel bloated.
Lunch, Day 1: Dairy Queen chili-cheese dog; strawberry sundae with chopped nuts; Cherry Coke
Lunch calories: 650
I cheated a bit on dinner for the evening, getting chicken parmigiana — which Buffett usually has as a side. (!)
By the evening I was feeling a bit better, possibly because I finished the coke around 2 p.m.
The big test was running. I typically try to run four to five miles a day after work, and I was dreading how I would feel. I imagined keeling over and puking into the East River.
To my surprise, it was fine. I was probably a step slower than normal, but I didn't feel too awful.
Dinner was heavy - I couldn't finish the whole serving - but at the end of Day 1, I was doing half decent.
Dinner, Day 1: Chicken parmigiana with penne from Famous Calabria Pizza
Dinner calories: about 1,500
Total daily calories: 3,520
The second day started much better.
I lost sleep on Sunday night worrying about the challenge ahead, but after feeling decent at the end of the day, I got a good night's sleep.
Stock futures were up on Tuesday, so I decided it would be fair to get a bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit. Coming from the South, I preferred this option over the semi-soggy McMuffin from the day before, and I felt confident as I tucked into breakfast and the second giant bottle of Cherry Coke.
Breakfast, Day 2: McDonald's bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit; Cherry Coke
Breakfast calories: 450
For lunch, I went for a burger — another Buffett favorite.
Now, many of my coworkers said I cheated by going with Shake Shack instead of some local restaurant, but you know what? I was the one suffering, and I deserved a slight luxury.
Another signature Buffett trait is an excess of salt, as John Stumpf, the former Wells Fargo CEO, once described.
"When the food comes, Warren grabs a salt shaker in his left hand and one in his right, and it's a snowstorm," Stumpf told Bloomberg in 2014.
So I threw a little extra sodium on the french fries before dipping them in the chocolate shake.
Lunch, Day 2: Shake Shack ShackBurger; french fries; chocolate milkshake; Cherry Coke
Lunch calories: 1,710
By Tuesday afternoon, I was ... not feeling well.
Dear God did I make a mistake.
Again, I attempted to front-load the Cherry Coke, and by 2 p.m. I was more than two-thirds of the way done with the two-liter. Not only that, but the heavy meal - especially the milkshake - was crushing my will to live.
I was jittery, grumpy, exhausted, unfocused, and downright distraught. The sugar from the Coke was causing surges and drop-offs in energy.
The increase in meat consumption was making me sweat more than usual (weirdly enough, from my kneecaps, of all places). The bloating was making my back hurt. I was a wreck after less than 48 hours.
Tuesday night might have been my low point, as evidenced by my sad dinner spread.
In the middle of my run that evening, I texted a coworker expressing my dismay at my physical state. I was going noticeably slower than I had the day before, and I couldn't make myself run faster. My legs simply wouldn't move as I wanted.
Upon getting back to my apartment from the run, I was, as my notes say, "**WRECKED**" by stomach cramps. My roommate walked in as I was sitting on our couch doubled over and asked me whether I was sure I wanted to keep going.
I finally got myself together, and, unable to muster the strength to figure out a proper meal, I just made two hot dogs and ate some Utz chips - another brand Buffett loves.
I went to bed Tuesday night feeling much less enthused about the prospects for the rest of the week.
Dinner, Day 2: Two Hebrew National kosher hot dogs; Utz kettle chips; See's Candies peanut brittle
Dinner calories: about 650
Total daily calories: 3,710
Another day, another bacon, egg, and cheese.
Honestly, given the recent rise in the stock market, Buffett must be getting sick of these biscuits by now.
I decided to try to space out the Cokes more evenly to avoid the crashes. (Spoiler: It didn't work.)
Breakfast, Day 3: McDonald's bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit; Cherry Coke
Breakfast calories: 450
For lunch, I went back and found one of Buffett's go-to lunch orders at Gorat's, an Omaha, Nebraska, institution.
I ordered an open-faced turkey sandwich with bacon and Thousand Island dressing from Eisenberg's, a local sandwich shop.
I was served a closed-faced, sliced turkey sandwich with bacon and Thousand Island dressing. I wasn't going to split hairs, so I took it back to the office as it was.
The meal was finished off by fries and some Cherry Coke.
You may ask: "Bob, did you put extra salt on the fries like you said Buffett always does?"
My answer? Yes, I did. Hope you're enjoying my suffering so far.
Lunch, Day 3: Turkey sandwich with bacon and Thousand Island dressing from Eisenberg's Sandwich Shop; french fries; Cherry Coke
Lunch calories: about 900
Dinner on Wednesday was veal parmigiana with an indulgence: a Hawaiian Punch. I can't prove Buffett likes fruit punch, but, hey, it was my favorite when I was 6.
I walked home on Wednesday and then went for a run.
I felt as if the sugar, syrup, and grease leaked from my belly to my legs. Children were passing me on the street during my walk home, and I'm usually a fast walker. Imagine having maple syrup in your joints and muscles - that's what I felt like.
Dinner, Day 3: Veal parmigiana from Nonna's LES Pizzeria; water
Dinner calories: 1,060
Total daily calories: 3,310
Futures were down, so I ordered two sausage patties for breakfast. But upon arriving at work, I realized the McDonald's workers gave me only one.
I'm still not sure whether the single patty was a good or a bad thing, but it did give me a bit of a break from heavy meals.
Also, it made me realize that McDonald's sausage by itself is not very good. Who could've guessed?
Breakfast, Day 4: McDonald's sausage patty; Cherry Coke
Breakfast calories: 174
This may be the point to mention that I've done terrible things to my body before — and this was the worst.
I'm no stranger to massive dietary changes - I gained 36kg in university and then lost 20kg in three to four months after I graduated.
That is to say: I've done some terrible things to my body via my diet before.
Even at my heaviest, I never felt this run-down. The weird thing though was that I was still hungry at every meal.
Maybe it was the chemicals from the processed food?
I was running out of idea at this point on Thursday, and honestly, I was busy with work, so I just gave up and got McDonald's.
Fun fact: Buffett once used coupons to buy Bill Gates lunch at McDonald's.
Oh, another reason this was such a terrible idea: I cover policy here at Business Insider, including healthcare and taxes - and, of course, I decided to try the Buffett diet on the week that Republicans again attempted to repeal Obamacare (no, the irony did not escape me) and rolled out their most detailed tax-reform framework yet.
This meant that amid my midafternoon sugar crash, I was typically forced to pull myself out of the fog and write something of substance.
To be fair to myself, I did write a considerable amount over the five days. You'd have to ask my editor Brett whether my diet hurt the quality of my writing, but I stand by everything I published.
Lunch, Day 4: McDonald's Quarter Pounder with cheese; french fries; Cherry Coke
Lunch calories: 870
Buffett once ordered a country- (or chicken-) fried steak with Jay-Z, so I had to get it for a meal.
I really like country-fried steak (see my previous comment about being from the South). This one was from Cowgirl in the West Village.
Buffett isn't a big fan of broccoli, much less collard greens, so I did cheat a bit. But, c'mon, actual collard greens at a restaurant in the North? I had to try them.
Alas, they were bad.
I went with a coworker and couldn't finish the steak and mashed potatoes - not to worry, salt was added in extreme amounts - prompting her to call me "weak." I replied I would take the leftovers home and finish them later (we were eating fairly early), but I happened to "forget" the bag as I left.
In a surprise to probably no one, the gravy sat heavy in my stomach. Walking to the subway, I was happy there was only one day left, but I felt terrible.
Dinner, Day 4: Country-fried steak with mashed potatoes, gravy, and collard greens from Cowgirl; water
Dinner calories: 1,540
Total daily calories: 3,484
Of course Buffett eats ice cream for breakfast. Of course I was the idiot who saved it for the last day.
Remember what I said about getting used to it? Not so much on Friday morning.
I have never enjoyed ice cream less. That's really all I have to say about this meal.
Breakfast, Day 5: Ben and Jerry's Phish Food ice cream; Cherry Coke
Breakfast calories: 870
What if Buffett just says he eats all of this food to make other people like me buy it and boost his investments' sales?
Buffett owns Dairy Queen and holds considerable stock in McDonald's and Coca-Cola. Sitting down for my final lunch, I realized I probably made the guy a lot of money that week.
The thought struck me mid-bite of an M&Ms Blizzard: I was a sucker.
Buffett is a self-mythologizer - a folk hero who presents himself as a kind grandfather but has made it in the vicious investment world. He's a ball of contradictions and social oddities.
I couldn't put it past him to deceive the few interviewers he trusts to cast the glow of the cult of Buffett.
On the other hand, surely people see him at these restaurants. He wouldn't lie about his diet just to get a few suckers to boost his sales, would he?
Lunch, Day 5: Dairy Queen chili-cheese dog; french fries; M&M Blizzard; Cherry Coke
Lunch calories: 1,400
Here's all of the Cherry Coke I consumed during the week.
The sugar-and-caffeine crash came easier by Friday. I had learned how to manage the timing and frequency of the Coke intake to make sure I had a solid energy reserve all day.
But I still felt awful after I finished a bottle.
Here's some fun math on the amount of Cherry Coke I consumed in the week:
• Total amount: 10liter
• Calories: 4,500.
• Sugar: 1,260 gram
• Caffeine: 1,020 milligrams, or 204 a day. (An average cup of coffee, has 95 to 165 milligrams.)
For dinner, I went with a few coworkers to Smith & Wollensky, Buffett's favourite New York City restaurant.
Buffett comes here once a year for a dinner, at which a lucky bidder joins the Oracle of Omaha himself. In 2016, the meal went for $3.4 million. All the proceeds are given to charity.
I was joined by four of my coworkers to bask in the final meal of my epic run.
I contacted the restaurant earlier in the week to say what we would be there for, and the staffers did everything to make my experience as authentic as possible.
We sat in the private alcove where Buffett sits when he visits, with a full glass wall looking into the kitchen. There was a plaque with Buffett's name on it and a letter from him framed on the wall.
I asked our waiter, Baci, who had served Buffett on his trip to NYC in August, to bring me what the man ate. This was a mistake.
We started with something off-menu called the "seafood bouquet." It featured lobster, shrimp, and lump crab meat. The seafood was divine - though it was chilled, and I typically enjoy seafood hot.
I began to feel a bit uneasy as I dined on the appetizer, thinking back to everything I had put down that week. I wanted to have an authentic meal at a favorite location of Buffett's, but could I survive to the end?
Also, I must admit here that I broke the Buffett rules by having a bit of wine. But it was the end of the week, and can you really blame me?
Next, the steak: a 900g Colorado rib-eye.
In what can only be compared to the primitive tomahawk of a caveman, the mighty Colorado rib-eye emerged on a plate still sizzling. At that point, a glorious, freeing sense of debauchery overtook me, and I laid all of the terrible meals of the last week to the side.
The steak was a knockout.
For the first three-quarters, I consumed it with reckless abandon, ignoring the inevitable food hangover that was surely coming. The rib-eye was cooked to perfection and cut beautifully, and it contained just the right amount of fat.
When I hit the wall - and I hit it hard - there was an overriding sense of disappointment that I simply couldn't finish the meal.
The final tallies for dinner were, in a word, monumental.
I wasn't even drunk from the wine, but the meal knocked me out. I was struggling to form coherent thoughts as all the blood ran from my brain to my stomach, attempting to handle the influx of fat, protein, and sugar.
My coworkers and I ambled toward the station, and I felt dazed. We decided against a post-dinner drink, and wandering off from the rest of the group, I felt unsure on my feet.
I huffed and puffed my way back to my apartment, sweating pure steak grease.
Upon making it back, I collapsed on the floor of my living room. I dozed off for a little over an hour, trying to pretend my stomach wasn't bursting at the seams.
Dinner, Day 5: Seafood bouquet, Colorado rib-eye steak, hash browns, creamed spinach, and coconut cake from Smith & Wollensky; red wine; water
Dinner calories: 3,343
Total daily calories: 6,513
What did I learn?
Let's get this out of the way: Don't eat like Warren Buffett unless you are Warren Buffett.
The man himself says to be yourself instead of copying him. This applies not only to investing, but to dieting as well.
My experience was miserable, and I realized why I committed myself to eating healthy when I moved to New York. Being sluggish and moody during the day just isn't fun.
It's also a good lesson in recognizing limits. Buffett apparently has none; I very much do.
And, finally, I now understand Buffett's investing strategy perfectly!
I just have a few extra kilograms to work off and a good story.
Average calories a day: 4,107.4
Total calories over five days: 20,537
Weight gain, Monday evening to Friday evening: 1.8kg
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