What's the Military Diet, and Does It Really Work?

Medically reviewed by Natalie Butler, RD, LD on September 26, 2016Written by Diana Wells on September 26, 2016
military diet

The military diet is a three-day diet plan that promises rapid weight loss. Despite the name, it has no connection to the military.

The military diet is also called the three-day diet. That’s because the plan has a cycle of three days on a strict diet, followed by four days off with fewer restrictions. The idea is that you continue this cycle until your goal weight is achieved.

The military diet claims that you can lose up to 10 pounds per week. But the first three days of the diet cycle are very strict. It then advises that you eat 1,500 calories or less on the four days off.

Here’s a look at the benefits, risks, and whether or not the military diet really works for weight loss.

Military diet sample plan

The military diet gives you a very strict meal plan with less than 1,400 calories per day. The following is a sample of a one-day meal plan:

  • Breakfast: One piece of toast, one hard-boiled egg, half of a banana, and 1 cup of tea or coffee (no sugar or creamer).
  • Lunch: One cup of cottage cheese, a hard-boiled egg, five saltine crackers, and a cup of tea or coffee (no sugar or creamer).
  • Dinner: Two hot dogs minus the bun and condiments, 1/2 cup of broccoli, 1/2 cup of carrots, and 1/2 cup of vanilla ice cream.

On the military diet plan, you can drink all the water you want. If you need sweetener in your coffee or tea, the diet does allow for a small amount of stevia.

There’s also a list of recommended food substitutions in order to accommodate any food allergies or other dietary restrictions you may have.

You’ll follow this plan strictly for three days. But after the initial three days, you can’t go out and eat whatever you want. The other four days of the week aren’t really free days, but you have more freedom in your food selections.

The diet requires that you keep your calorie count below 1,500 during the four free days. According to the diet plan, once you complete the first week, it can be repeated for multiple weeks until you reach your goal weight.

What are the benefits of the military diet?

There are some benefits to following the military diet, compared to other diet plans. The first is that it’s only three days at a time. For many people, this is more manageable when it comes to eating a strict, low-calorie diet.

The military diet is also inexpensive. In fact, it doesn’t cost anything. You don’t have to join a club or support group, buy any special foods, or buy supplements. The foods in the diet plan are all things you can get at your local grocery store.

Another benefit is that it’s easy to prepare the foods you’ll eat on the diet plan. Most food items are eaten as they come, without any mixing and very little cooking or preparation. That’s because anything you add to the food will also add calories.

You will lose some weight if you follow the diet plan. How much weight you lose and how long you keep it off depends on your body type and the types of food choices you make once you reach your goal weight and shift back to eating a more normal diet.

What are the risks of the military diet?

Medical professionals will tell you that the best way to lose weight and keep it off long-term is to make permanent diet and lifestyle changes that you can safely maintain. Restrictive diets like the military diet may help you lose weight initially. But they would be difficult to maintain and may cause health issues if you continue the diet for a long period of time.

It’s not safe to lose a lot of weight quickly. In a rapid weight loss plan, you’ll most likely be losing more water and lean tissue than fat. Fat is what we need to lose to get to a healthy weight, so a slow and steady approach will accomplish that goal more effectively than rapid weight loss.

There are rapid weight loss plans that are medically approved to help those that have serious health issues due to obesity. But even these are just for a brief period of time and need to be closely monitored by a doctor. These plans are usually then followed by a more manageable long-term diet and exercise plan, along with lifestyle changes.

Should you try the military diet?

You shouldn’t start any extreme diet like the military diet without first consulting your doctor.

Generally, you shouldn’t try the military diet if you:

  • have any serious medical conditions
  • have diabetes
  • are pregnant or breast-feeding
  • have a history of eating disorders

Bottom line

The military diet may help you lose some weight in a short period of time. But it’s not a diet that you should maintain for an extended period. The secret to successful long-term weight loss is to change your habits and eat a healthy diet. You should also exercise regularly.

In order to lose weight and fat, you need to burn more calories than you take in. Doing this at a slow and steady pace is a better option to help you reach your weight loss goals and maintain your new, healthy lifestyle.

Q:

What are some alternative, healthy ways to diet, instead of following a rapid weight loss plan?

A:

When you want to lose weight the healthy way, replace all sugar-sweetened beverages — sweet tea, sweetened coffee, juice, and soda — with unsweetened tea, water, sparkling water, and black coffee to reduce empty calorie intake and inflammation. Some alternative ways to promote healthy weight loss include replacing your current breakfast with a fruit and vegetable smoothie, making half of your lunch and dinner fruits and vegetables, and replacing packaged and processed snacks with real foods like 1 ounce of almonds with 1/2 cup blueberries, or raw veggies with hummus.

Natalie Butler, RD, LD Answers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.
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