Does the 3 Day Military Diet Work?
Are you tempted to try the Military Diet? The quick weight loss program, sometimes called the “3 Day Diet,” is incredibly popular on the web. But does the Military Diet work?
According to the some Military Diet reviews, you can lose up to 10 pounds per week or 30 pounds in a month while you eat foods like vanilla ice cream and hot dogs. Sounds attractive, huh? Well, there’s a catch.
How Does the Military Diet Work?
The Military Diet—which has no affiliation with the military— is a “combination of low-calorie, chemically compatible foods designed to work together and jump-start your weight loss.” At least that’s what the diet website says.
As a certified weight loss expert, however, I can tell you that those words are simply a marketing gimmick with no real meaning. There is no science or data provided on the website to back up these claims.
The program requires you to eat a very strict list of food for three days (your “on” days), then take four days off. The complete 3-Day Military Diet Plan looks like this:
Military Diet Day One (1400 calories):
- Breakfast: one slice of toast with two tablespoons of peanut butter, half grapefruit, black coffee or tea
- Lunch: one slice of bread or toast, one half cup tuna, black coffee or tea
- Dinner: Three ounces of meat, one cup of green beans, half banana, one small apple, one cup vanilla ice cream
Military Diet Day Two (1200 calories):
- Breakfast: one slice of toast, half banana, one cooked egg
- Lunch: one cup cottage cheese, one hard boiled egg, five saltine crackers
- Dinner: Two (bunless) hot dogs, one cup brocolli, half banana, one cup vanilla ice cream
Military Diet Day Three (1100 calories):
- Breakfast: one slice of cheddar, one small apple, five saltine crackers
- Lunch: one slice of bread or toast, one cooked egg
- Dinner: one cup of tuna, half banana, one cup vanilla ice cream
Limited substitutions are allowed on the plan as long as you stay within the calorie guidelines.
On your “off” days, you are advised to consume 1,500 hundred calories per day.
So why is the diet so popular? And who made this diet an internet sensation? It is unclear who is actually behind the plan. The language on the site and the “contact” portal would lead you to believe that there is an actual diet expert available to answer questions or offer more details about the Military Diet. But I tried reaching out to them (anonymously) on several occasions and no one ever replied. My best guess is that it is a marketing specialist—not a nutrition specialist—that developed the website to generate income from paid advertisements.
Does the Military Diet Really Work?
The Military Diet is a calorie restriction program. When you cut calories and create an energy deficit, your body burns fat as fuel and you lose weight. So will you lose weight on the Military Diet? Yes, you probably will. But you are also likely to put the weight back on when the program is complete.
Here’s what you need to know before you try the program:
- This is NOT a three day diet. There are no days off. The plan actually requires you to restrict your food intake all the time. The site says that you have three days “on” and 4 days “off”, but on your off days you are limited to 1,500 calories. Healthy food recommendations are provided for your off days. But anyone who can eat healthy portion-controlled meals doesn’t need a special hot dog and ice cream program for weight loss. They should just stick to the nutritious diet they’re already on.
- Suggested foods may cause weight gain. Even if you lose a few pounds at first, you may end up gaining more weight later. Why? The Military Diet teaches you to eat foods that can cause weight gain later—like hot dogs and ice cream. Portion control is strongly encouraged, but most of us get lazy about measuring food portions after a while. Eating too many hot dogs and too much ice cream is not only unhealthy, but can easily cause weight gain in the long run.
- The Military Diet is simply calorie counting in disguise. The Military Diet is no different from any other plan that requires you to count calories to lose weight. On your three days “on” the calories are counted for you, but only if you eat the bizarre combination of foods that are suggested. If you substitute any food on your three days “on” you are required to measure your food and count calories. On your four days “off” you are also required to keep a food log and count calories.
- Natural diet claims are questionable. The diet claims to be “one of the best natural diets.” They recommend that dieters avoid artificial sweeteners because they “aren’t good for you.” But then the site goes on to include foods like hot dogs and crackers in the daily meal plans. These are foods that are heavily processed and contain ingredients that have been associated with an increased risk of cancer and heart disease.
- There are better versions of intermittent fasting. Recently, the Military Diet began provided scientific evidence to support their program. The problem is that the science is about other diets, not about this 3-day program. For example, the website cites research conducted by nutrition scientist Krista Varady. But her research was conducted to support her diet (The Every Other Day Diet), not the Military Diet. There is some science to support intermittent fasting, but none (that I’ve seen) to support a hot-dog and ice cream based plan.
- What about water weight? The site claims that when a dieter loses weight on the diet, it “is not just water weight.” But there is no further documentation provided to support that statement. I’m not sure why a dieter would believe that claim without significant evidence to prove otherwise. In general, when you lose weight quickly—it’s water weight. In fact, experts say you can lose 5 pounds and even up to 20 pounds of water weight in a day. There are much safer ways to lose water weight than eating hot dogs.
A Better Military Diet Alternative
If you need to lose weight quickly, you can use any diet that cuts calories. But you’re likely to put the weight back on (and possibly gain more) unless you learn to eat portion-controlled, nutritious meals for the long term. On the Military Diet you’re not likely to learn those skills. And I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to go on a diet, I want to keep the pounds off for good.
So which 3-day diet is more likely to work? The two eating plans that I use if I need to slim down after a vacation or before a big event like a photo shoot or a special party are this 3-day cleanse diet and this 1-week plan. There are no special foods required and they are really simple to follow. Most importantly, they teach you to eat the foods that will give you the body you deserve—lean, slim, tight, and most importantly, healthy.
A Word From Verywell
If you’ve got more than a few pounds to lose, consider meeting with a registered dietitian or making small changes to your daily habits to lose weight and keep it off. Remember, your health is too important to trust it to a nameless, faceless fad on the internet. Find the right diet for you and invest a little time and effort into putting a reasonable healthy plan in place. Is it more work in the beginning? Yep! But you’re far more likely to achieve sustainable results.