Yes, the 3 Day Military Diet Works … Kind of?

The military diet has some big claims.

Supposedly, you can lose tons of weight by only dieting for 3 days.

To be clear, this diet doesn’t help you lose weight in 3 days alone (no diet can). Instead, it’s supposed to be done for 3 days, followed by 4 days off, and repeated.

lose fat

It’s a really simple (“military” or “army” style) menu with some substitutions to help add variety.

They claim you can lose up to 10 pounds a week or 30 pounds per month (with dieting only 3 days a week), which leaves me pretty skeptical.

Does the diet work? For most people, that math doesn’t really add up. We’ll review that in a moment – first, let’s look at what this diet is.

3 Day Military Diet Menu Plan

The diet is simple enough, with a different menu for each of the three days. These items make for a pretty simple shopping list.

Here’s what the menu looks like:

Breakfast Lunch Dinner
Day 1 Coffee, 1 slice toast, 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 1/2 of a grapefruit. Coffee, 1 slice of bread, 1/2 cup tuna.

 

3 ounces of meat, an apple, 1/2 a banana, a cup of green beans, and a cup of vanilla ice cream.
Day 2 1 slice toast, 1 egg, 1/2 a banana 1 cup of cottage cheese, 1 hard-boiled egg, 5 saltine crackers 2 hot dogs (plain), 1/2 cup carrots, 1 cup broccoli, 1/2 a banana, and 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream
Day 3 1 slice cheddar cheese, 5 saltine crackers, 1 apple 1 slice toast, 1 egg 1 cup tuna, 1/2 of a banana, 1 cup vanilla ice cream

That’s what you eat for 3 days. Then, you take 4 days off, and repeat the process until you’ve lost weight.

3 Day Military Diet Substitutions

Let’s be honest, these food items are pretty bland. Thankfully, there are some substitution options you can use to mix things up. These can also make it vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, etc.

Here are some examples of what you’re allowed to swap:

  • Grapefruit for 1/2 Tsp. Baking Soda (in Water)
  • Peanut butter for another type of nut or seed butter (almond, pumpkin, etc.) or hummus or bean dip.
  • Bread for calorie-equivalent servings of sunflower seeds, whole grain cereal, yogurt, or a protein bar.
  • Tuna for sushi, tofu, cottage cheese, chicken, or nuts.
  • Green beans for other green veggies.
  • Meat for beans, mushrooms, or tofu.
  • Banana for papaya, apricots, apple sauce, or kiwis.
  • Carrots for squash, beets, peppers, or celery.
  • Broccoli for any green veggie.
  • Cheese for eggs, ham, or cheese substitute.
  • Eggs for a cup of milk, a chicken wing, bacon or nuts.
  • Crackers for rice cakes.
  • Ice cream for yogurt or juice.

Here’s the Problem

Simply put… I have some issues with this diet plan.

It can probably help you lose weight, but I wouldn’t recommend it over more healthy options (examples further down).

Let’s start with the weight loss numbers claimed: 10 pounds in a week or 30 pounds in a month. We’ll ignore the fact that the weekly weight loss doesn’t even add up to the monthly total.

One pound of fat is equal to about 3,500 calories. Dieting 3 days per week, you’d have to eat 35,000 calories less than usual to lose 10 pounds of fat.

If you’ve ever counted calories before, something probably already smells fishy. For those 3 days, you’d need to eat nearly 12,000 fewer calories than usual to hit these numbers.

You’ll never eat that many calories to begin with unless you’re Michael Phelps during training. Most people eat around 2,000 calories per day. It’s just not possible to make this add up (and it wouldn’t be safe anyway).

On the positive side, I’m sure most people will still lose some weight on this diet (1 pound per week might be a more reasonable assumption).

Here are my other issues with the 3 day military diet:

Coffee

For starters, what’s up with having 2 cups of coffee on day 1 and none for the other two days? That sounds like a miserable setup for caffeine withdrawal.

Truth is, you can drink black (or artificially sweetened) coffee anytime you feel like it. Caffeine has been shown to help with weight loss, but it doesn’t need to be part of your meal plan. There’s no reason not to have it on certain days (coffee won’t hurt anything).

Ice Cream & Crap Carbs

Ice cream for dinner? Every day? That’s a lot of empty calories that could have gone towards better (more filling) foods – not to mention the carbs. Combined with saltine crackers and toast, these carb sources are possibly the worst of any diet ever.

Baking Soda?

You’re allowed to substitute grapefruit with… Baking soda?

The claim is that the baking soda somehow regulates your body’s pH in the same way as grapefruit.

That should be a major red flag. Your body’s pH is regulated by your kidneys and hypothalamus. You can’t change your pH, regardless of what you eat. This myth is absolute pseudoscience and untrue.

Some of these substitutions make no sense, but this one takes the cake.

4 Days Off

Why follow such a terrible, torturous diet for 3 days, then take 4 days off before starting again?

I’m all for cheat days, but this is way too much. You might as well follow a more balanced diet for 6 days and have one cheat day. It’ll be a lot easier on your body.

The Big Question: Does the 3 Day Military Diet Work?

With all of those issues addressed, you’ll certainly be eating fewer calories than most people at the end of each week – and that will probably help you see some weight loss results.

In that sense, this diet works. But if you’re expecting to lose the advertised amount of weight (like what’s in before and after pictures that circulate), you’re in for complete disappointment. 10 pounds will likely take you several months, not a week.

Thankfully, there are better options that are easier to follow and produce greater results.

Better Options

Okay, so the 3 day military diet isn’t exactly the best thing since sliced bread (although they have you eating plenty of it).

What should you do instead?

There are plenty of better options. I’ve used most of these myself to lose weight, and these actually have support from science.

Intermittent Fasting

In a way, the 3 day diet is a form of intermittent fasting – but it can be done so much better.

If you eat clean, healthy foods for 3 days a week you can see substantially greater results.

Here’s my guide to intermittent fasting. Also, here are my before and after results for when I tried it out myself.

3 Week Diet

Don’t let the name fool you – the 3 Week Diet has nothing to do with the military diet.

It’s not free, but it’s a much more intensive course that’s actually effective. If you’re going to spend your time dieting, it should be something that has a record of delivering actual results.

21 Day Fix

21 Day Fix is another diet program by Beachbody. It comes with portion control containers to give you an allotted amount of each food group each day.

If it fits in the container (and is one of the many approved foods), you can eat it. It’s also built with an exercise program to help cover both bases.
Any of these options would be decent alternatives.

If you decide to try the 3 day military diet anyway, let me know your results in the comments below!

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