What is the 3 Day Military Diet?

Picture of a man eating an apple looking at his phone.
The 3 Day Military Diet plan has very strict guidelines for the menu plan.

Surprisingly surviving the test of time, the 3 Day Military Diet is another fad diet, dating back to 1985. Copies of the "3 Day Diet" continue to float around cyberspace, promising quick weight loss, cleansing, lower cholesterol, and increased energy. However, there is no evidence to substantiate the science behind the claims of a "unique metabolic reaction."

Those who follow this plan consume the suggested diet for 3 days on (hence, the name of the diet) and 4 days off where you can eat normally. The diet plan generally advises a between 800-1100 calories daily for the "on" days, and suggests that for best results dieters stick to between 1,300-1,500 calories on their "off" days.

Can you really lose 10 pounds in 3 days on the Military Diet?

The 3 Day Military Diet meal plan promises that you can lose up to 10 pounds in three days. On day 1 of the 3 Day Military Diet meal plan you consume around 1,400 calories, on day 2 around 1,200 calories, and on day 3 around 1,000 calories, although realistically, most of that weight is likely due to fluid loss and not the desired fat loss. Additionally, to achieve the proposed loss, exercise is only suggested but not required in the 3 Day Military Diet meal plan - a key factor in sustained and successful weight loss plans.

A diet plan that restricts your caloric intake to eating less than 1,000 calories each day has the potential to lower metabolism so when you resume a normal diet you gain the weight back even faster.

Do Cleansing and Detox Diets Work for Weight Loss?

There is no scientific evidence that "detox" (short for detoxification) or "cleanse" diets result in rapid weight loss or have any health benefits, says Heather Mangieri, RDN, LDN, a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and founder of Nutrition CheckUp in Pittsburgh.

If you're considering a cleanse diet as a way to lose weight, you could be outsmarting yourself. "Cleanse diets can set you up for failure by slowing your metabolism and making you crave everything you just gave up," says Keri Glassman, RD, CDN, founder and president of A Nutritious Life, a nutrition practice based in New York City. Moreover, cleanse diets don't help you or your body develop healthy eating habits. And what's worse, they could deprive your body of essential nutrients.

Can you substitute items on the 3 Day Military Diet Plan?

The 3 Day Military Diet is a very specific food plan that must be followed precisely. Portions must be eaten exactly as specified and dieters are warned not to overeat -- otherwise the promised 10 pound weight loss may not be achieved. Likewise, dieters should not under-eat, even if they are not hungry. However, there are a few substitutions that may be allowed for vegetarians and vegans, and those with dietary allergies or strong preferences. Substitutions must have the same number of calories as the original item. Aside from listed substitutions, there are no alternatives permitted.

In addition to its strict daily food prescription, dieters drink plenty of water or drinks that do not have any calories before and after each meal. Dieters can also drink as much caffeine free herbal tea as they desire, but they may only use stevia as a sweetener.

Snacking is not permitted, unless you save an item from one meal and eat it in between, but you may not add anything to the diet plan.

QUESTION

According to the USDA, there is no difference between a “portion” and a “serving.” See Answer

Day 1 menu of the Military Diet plan

Breakfast

  • 1 cup black coffee or tea, with caffeine (with stevia if desired – this is the only acceptable sweetener) (substitutions: green tea, sugar free hot chocolate, sugar free Red Bull – these are all sources of caffeine).
  • ½ grapefruit.
  • 1 slice toast (substitutions: 1/8 cup of sunflower seeds, 1/2 cup of whole grain cereal, 1/2 high protein bar, 1/4 cup of yogurt with 1/2 teaspoon of flax seeds. You can also substitute one tortilla or two rice cakes instead of bread).
  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter (substitutions: the same amount of almond butter, cashew butter, pumpkin butter, soy butter, sunflower seed butter, hummus or bean dip or 2 tablespoons of plain sunflower seeds).

Lunch

  • ½ cup tuna (substitutions: any very lean meat, cottage cheese, chicken, tofu, or almonds, or 1/2 an avocado plus 2 tablespoons of hummus.
  • 1 piece toast
  • 1 cup black coffee or tea, with caffeine and stevia if desired

Dinner

  • 3 ounces any type of meat (substitutions: vegetarians or vegans can use lentils, beans, tofu, or Portobello mushrooms as meat alternatives).
  • 1 cup green beans (substitutions: the same CALORIE amount of lettuce, tomatoes, spinach or any other green vegetable).
  • 1/2 banana (substitutions: 2 kiwis, 1 cup of papaya, or 2 apricots. Plums, grapes, and apple sauce also work as long as it’s same number of calories).
  • 1 small apple (substitutions: plums, peaches, grapes, zucchini, pears or dried apricots).
  • 1 cup regular vanilla ice cream (substitutions: 1 cup of fruit-flavored yogurt or apple juice. Strawberry, vanilla or banana flavored almond milk. (Do not substitute chocolate almond milk. Vegans can use dairy free ice cream. Do not substitute low fat ice cream.)

Day 2 menu of the Military Diet plan

Breakfast

  • 1 egg - substitutions: one cup of milk, one chicken wing, 1/4 cup of seeds or nuts, 2 slices of bacon, or 1/2 cup baked beans for vegetarians and vegans.
  • ½ banana.
  • 1 slice toast.

Lunch

  • 1 cup cottage cheese (substitutions: PLAIN Greek yogurt, ricotta cheese, cheddar cheese, eggs, or ham. For vegans and vegetarians, tofu, or 1 cup unsweetened soy/hemp/almond milk and 2 tablespoons hummus).
  • 1 hard-boiled egg (substitution: 1/2 avocado).
  • 5 saltine crackers (substitutions: rice cakes or the same calorie amount of quinoa or couscous).

Dinner

  • 2 hot dogs (without bun) (substitutions: turkey dogs, soy dogs, tofu dogs, bratwurst, luncheon meat, deli meat, or baloney. Vegetarians and vegans can substitute beans, lentils, Portobello mushrooms, or plain tofu. Make sure it’s 300 calories worth.).
  • 1 cup broccoli (substitutions: green or greenish vegetables like cauliflower, spinach, Brussels sprouts or asparagus).
  • ½ cup carrots (substitutions: squash, parsnip, beets, celery, and bell pepper).
  • ½ banana.
  • ½ cup regular vanilla ice cream.

SLIDESHOW

Top Diets: The Best Dieting Tips Ever for Weight Loss See Slideshow

Day 3 menu of the Military Diet plan

Breakfast

  • 5 saltine crackers.
  • 1 slice of cheddar cheese (substitutions: egg, cottage cheese or ham, or nondairy, vegetarian cheese substitutes with calcium such as soy cheese, soy milk, cabbage and tofu).
  • 1 small apple.

Lunch

  • 1 hard-boiled egg (or cooked however you like), (substitutions: 1 cup of milk, one chicken wing, 1/4 cup of seeds or nuts, or 2 slices of bacon. Vegans and vegetarians, 1/2 avocado or 20 almonds).
  • 1 slice toast.

Dinner

  • 1 cup tuna (substitution: 1/2 cup canned chickpeas)
  • ½ banana
  • 1 cup vanilla ice cream

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Does the 3 Day Military Diet work? Is It Safe?

The 3 Day Military Diet plan may be dangerous or at least, harmful to your metabolism. According to Cindy Moore, former director of nutrition therapy at The Cleveland Clinic, "The only reason it causes weight loss is because it is so low in calories, not because of any food combinations or metabolic reactions."

Following a plan with fewer than 1,000 calories a day concerns Moore. "The plan yields about 1,000 calories a day which has the ability to lower metabolism so when you revert back to normal eating, you regain weight even quicker."

Moore adds that the diet, "sets up a vicious cycle of being hungry during the restrictive three days and most likely overeating on the off days."

Additionally, because the 3 Day Diet is so low in carbohydrates, it's likely the initial weight loss is primarily water weight, as carbohydrates encourage your body to retain water. As soon as the dieter goes back to consuming a normal amount of carbohydrates, the water weight comes back.

Weight loss is possible on the 3 Day Diet, but only because it is very low in calories. Going back to so-called "normal eating" does little to promote a healthier lifestyle; instead the pattern promotes undesirable yo-yo dieting or an on-again off-again approach to weight management that is not successful long term.
Bottom line? Keep looking for a well-balanced weight loss plan that controls calories every day, such as Mediterranean, Vegetarian, or Vegan, or low-fat diets.

Can exercise help you lose more weight on the 3 Day Military Diet?

While the 3 Day Military Diet does not specifically require exercise, they recommend walking 20-30 minutes every day while you’re on the diet. If you already participate in an exercise program before you start the diet, you can keep doing it. But because the calorie counts are so low on the Military Diet, you may feel dizzy or weak during exercise and should stop any activity if this occurs.

Getting more exercise allows you to eat a wide variety of healthy foods rather than restricting your dietary intake as required by the Military Diet plan. My Plate is a good place to start. Print out a list of nutritious foods you should eat and put on your refrigerator so the whole family can remember to eat healthy foods. Fad diets promise you will lose weight fast, however; you just don't get enough calories, electrolytes, and minerals.

Who does the 3 Day Military Diet?

The name of the diet makes it sound as if it were created for the military, but the diet is not associated with any branch of the military. It is called the Military Diet because of the discipline it takes to follow.

The diet may appeal to people who need to lose a few pounds in a short time, and are not interested in counting calories or preparing meals. According to the Military Diet web site, they state their diet may be considered a "fad diet" because it’s meant to be followed for a short time, like a fad. It seems to be intended for last-minute weight loss, such as before a wedding or vacation. Because it is so strict and limited, it takes out the guess work so dieters do not have to weigh or measure foods, count calories, or spend a lot of time on food preparation.

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Medically Reviewed on 11/12/2019
References
ChooseMyPlate. USDA.
<https://www.choosemyplate.gov/>

LaMotte, Sandee. Military diet: 3-day diet or dud? 8 March 2018. 11 November 2019. <https://www.cnn.com/2017/06/30/health/3-day-military-diet-revealed/index.html>

Military Diet. What is the Military Diet? 2019. <https://themilitarydiet.com>
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