3 Day Military Diet Plan Review: Lose 10 Pounds in a Week?
Need to lose weight fast?
One way you may be able to drop as much as 10 pounds in a week is to try the military diet, also known as the "3-day diet."
Make no mistake; this is a crash diet.
That means that while it does work for short-term weight loss, it is not an option for keeping weight off over the long term.
Still, if you are in a pinch, it might be just what you need.
In this article, I am going to tell you everything you need to know to successfully lose weight with the military diet.
But first, a little background.
How Did the Military Diet Come About?
There is a rumor that the military diet was developed by US military nutritionists to help soldiers quickly get into shape, making you think this is an army diet.
This is not true at all.
First of all, think about what it means to be "in shape."
Simply losing 10 pounds is not the same thing as getting into shape.
Crash diets are notoriously unhealthy. They involve severe calorie restriction.
While that works to burn fat and lose water weight for some time, it will not help you to gain muscle mass, nor is it a fantastic source of nutrition.
So how did the military diet really get developed?
If you want to enlist in the military, there are a number of physical requirements you need to meet, one of which is a strict requirement on weight.
If you are above the upper limit, you cannot enlist. Being even a pound over the limit can disqualify you.
Naturally this means that military hopefuls sometimes find themselves with a deadline to lose weight fast.
To that end, it is sometimes necessary to try and lose up to ten pounds over the course of a week - and thus the creation of the military diet.
KEY POINT: The military diet was not actually developed by military nutritionists. It is simply a way to lose weight quickly.
The most likely connection to the actual military is a means for prospective enlistees to lose weight fast to meet qualification requirements.
Who Can Use the Military Diet?
You do not need to be trying to get into the military to use the military diet.
Anyone who is in reasonably healthy condition can safely do it over short periods of time.
If you do have serious health issues, you may want to stick with a more gradual approach to weight loss.
You should also not use the military diet if you have unrealistic expectations.
Remember, this is not a long-term weight loss solution.
This diet can help you to shed a few pounds to fit into that bridesmaid’s dress which is a size too small in time for your friend’s wedding.
But it is not going to result in long-term, ongoing weight loss.
Many people gain the weight they lost right back again after they are done with the diet.
This is in part because much of the weight which is lost is typically water weight, not actual fat.
Even if you do not gain back all the weight, you should not repeatedly engage in this kind of extreme diet in order to keep losing weight.
If you do, you will be depriving your body of nutrition. You also may damage your metabolism.
If you are looking for a long-term weight loss solution, I recommend a low-carb diet, which is both healthy and sustainable.
If however your expectations are realistic, and you understand that the military diet is ideal only for short-term occasional use, then it may be ideal for your needs.
KEY POINT: The military diet is not designed for long-term weight loss. It can help you drop a few pounds quickly, but you need to pick a healthier, more sustainable diet for long-term weight loss.
What Does the Military Diet Entail?
With the military diet, you follow a strict diet for 3 days in a row.
You then take a 4 day break, eating as usual.
If necessary, you then repeat the cycle, dieting for another 3 days.
You then take 4 days off again.
Hence the name 3-day Military Diet.
You really should not do this more than a couple of times, and it is preferable to only follow the diet for a week.
I will get into the reasons more in just a bit.
What is the 3-day diet phase like?
During this phase, you will stick with a meal plan which restricts your calorie intake for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
You are not permitted to eat any snacks.
During the 3-day period, you will eat between 1,100-1,400 calories per day.
For reference, the average man needs to eat 2,500 calories per day to maintain his weight, while the average woman needs to consume around 2,000 calories per day to do the same.
If the average man wants to lose weight at the rate of one pound per week, he needs to drop to 2,000 calories per day.
The average woman must drop to 1,500 calories per day to do the same.
This gives you a frame of reference to understand just how quickly you can drop weight when you are eating 1,400 calories or less.
It is recommended that you check a weight loss calculator and input your age, sex, height and activity level to find out your own calorie requirements before dieting.
After the 3-day period is complete, you may resume a normal unrestricted diet.
You should however aim to stick with healthy, low-calorie foods if possible.
KEY POINT: On the military diet, you cycle 3 days on a calorie-restricted diet, and 4 days off.
You can rinse and repeat several times if necessary.
How Does the Military Diet Work?
Now that you know what you can expect from the process, you are probably wondering how and why this helps you to lose weight.
Well, I am not going to beat around the bush.
If you search for scientific studies recommending the military diet, you are not going to find anything.
That is probably because this is a crash diet, and therefore not really something researchers are going to want to focus their time on.
Most scientists are going to want to invest their energy in studying diets which are safe and sustainable for long-term weight loss.
That being said, the military diet is supported by simple math.
Let’s imagine for a moment that you are an average man, and that you need to take in 2,500 calories per day to perfectly maintain your current weight.
This is a balanced equation. You are burning 2,500 calories per day and you are eating 2,500 calories per day.
These cancel each other out. There is no net gain or loss.
But imagine you drop down to 2,000 calories per day.
You are still burning 2,500 calories per day, but you are eating 500 fewer than you are burning.
So that is a net loss of 500 calories that your body needs to take from somewhere else. This results in burning fat for energy.
Now imagine you drop down to just 1,400 calories per day.
You are now looking at a deficit of 900 calories per day that your body needs to take from its own fuel reserves.
You can see why this must necessarily result in weight loss. Energy after all is neither created nor destroyed.
NOTE: Caloric restriction may work in the shorter term, however over time the body’s metabolism adapt by lowering appropriately to food consumption (10).
This is the body’s survival mechanism and you won’t burn more fat while eating less as your metabolism is lowered.
Some people who use the military diet make additional claims that the food combinations featured in typical military diet meal plans promote faster weight loss by increasing your metabolism.
But this does not make any sense, considering that there is no scientific evidence that such food combinations exist.
The other reason this claim cannot be true has to do with the composition of the foods which are typically consumed on the diet.
While on the military diet, it is typical to eat foods which are high in carbs and low on protein.
But on the military diet, you are not fasting at all. You are simply eating fewer calories.
There is no science which asserts in any way that calorie restriction has the same benefits as fasting.
There is one more reason why the military diet scientifically can help you lose weight - but it has nothing to do with burning fat.
When you cut down on your calorie intake, your glycogen stores drop.
This results in shedding excess water weight (9).
This can actually reflect quite impressively when you look at your reading on the scale, and it may mean that smaller clothes fit you better for a time.
But because you did not actually burn fat to lose that weight, you will gain it back once you resume your normal diet.
The most dramatic weight loss typically occurs in people who do have excess water weight to lose.
That means that those dramatic results also tend to be the most fleeting.
So to summarize:
Reasons the military diet may work based on science:
- You are losing water weight because of the calorie restriction (but you will soon gain it all back).
- You are eating fewer calories than you are burning. Mathematically, that energy has to come from somewhere, and it will come from your body’s own fat stores. This is true in the short term before your metabolism adapts.
Myths about the military diet:
- Some people think the food combinations in the 3-day diet can help them burn fat faster. If anything, the opposite is true.
- Another myth involves intermittent fasting. This has no basis in reality because the military diet does not entail any fasting.
KEY POINT: The military diet is not backed by scientific studies, and much of the reasoning about why it appears to work is faulty.
That said, if you are eating less energy than you are burning, mathematically speaking, you must end up burning fat to supply that energy while your metabolism have not adjusted.
Much of the weight lost on this diet also comes in the form of water weight.
While that is a very real phenomenon, it is also temporary.
Can You Lose 10 Pounds in a Week?
One of the reasons the military diet took off is the popular claim that you can lose up to 10 pounds in a week by following it.
Is it true? Well, for some people, yes, for others, no.
You might lose 10 pounds on this diet if you are overweight to begin with and you restrict your calories quite significantly.
If you are already close to your ideal weight, however, you probably are not going to drop 10 pounds.
If you do drop 10 pounds, a lot of it will be water weight, as discussed previously.
Once you go back to your normal diet, the weight will come back.
KEY POINT: You may or may not lose 10 pounds over the course of a week.
If you do though, expect to gain most of it back again shortly afterwards.
How Safe is the Military Diet?
How safe the military diet is all depends on how long you decide to do it.
If you are restricting it to a very short time period (preferably a week), it is unlikely that any sort of grave harm will befall you, assuming you are healthy to begin with.
If however you decided to try to use the military diet over an extended time period, you could become deficient in key nutrients.
There are a couple of reasons this is true.
The first is that the diet is severely restrictive in terms of caloric intake, and the second is that it typically involves a fair amount of junk food.
Junk food amounts to empty calories, and may also be harmful if it is high in sugar or omega-6 fatty acids.
Also, caloric restriction on the long-term undesirably lowers metabolism (10).
KEY POINT: The military diet should be safe for most people if the proper timeframe is observed.
Make sure you only ever do this as a short-term diet. Quit within a week if you can, or a couple of weeks at most.
Never attempt to use this or any other crash diet for long-term weight loss, or you risk nutritional deficiency.
Sample Meal Plan for the Military Diet
If you do want to rapidly shed a few pounds through the military diet, what kind of meal plan can you follow?
You will notice that breakfast and lunch are pretty much interchangeable.
You can add or remove foods or interchange them as necessary to meet the calorie count you have decided on.
Below you can see a sample meal plan for Day 1 of the military diet.
- Slice of toast
- 1 egg
- 1 cup cottage cheese
- 1 cup of tea
- 1 cup of tuna on a slice of toast
- 1 egg
- 1 hot dog without bun
- 1 cup carrots or other vegetables
- ½ cup ice cream
Here is a sample meal plan for Day 2 of the military diet.
- 1 banana
- 5 crackers
- 1 egg
- 1 cup of tea
- 5 crackers
- 1 slice of cheese
- 1 banana
- 1 slice toast with tuna (1 cup tuna)
- 1 cup broccoli
- 1 banana
Below is a sample meal plan for Day 3 of the military diet.
- 1 apple
- 1 slice of toast with peanut butter
- 1 cup of coffee with or without cream
- 1 cup of cottage cheese
- 1 egg
- 1 cup green beans
- 3 ounces of any meat of your choice
- 1 apple with peanut butter
You will notice some of these foods are unhealthy, like hot dogs (which are processed meat), and ice cream (which is full of sugar).
I have put these foods in the recommended meal plan for the simple reason that they are typical of the military diet, and I want to give you an idea for the diet in its standard, original form.
That being said, you do not need to eat any unhealthy foods at all.
Remember, scientifically there is no evidence which states that any particular food combination promotes a faster metabolism.
So there is nothing special about ice cream, hot dogs, and bread.
For that reason, you should feel free to replace them with healthier alternatives.
Just make sure you check the calorie count when you do this.
After you have completed the 3 days, you can resume your "normal" diet for the next 4.
I put "normal" in quotation marks because there are caveats.
If for example your "normal" diet is ridiculously high in calories and junk food, resuming it is just going to undo all your hard work from the previous three days.
In fact, it is recommended that you try to keep your calories down around 1,500 for those four days.
You do not need to be totally strict about it, but you should aim for it.
Plus, you need to make sure you are not tempted to binge to make up for your lost calories and spent discipline.
If all goes well, hopefully at the end of the week you will discover that you have shed the unwanted pounds.
If you still want to continue trying to lose weight, you can repeat the diet for another week or so, but at that point I would recommend you quit.
What if you still have more weight to lose at the end of a couple of weeks?
You cannot continue on the crash diet, so I highly recommend a low-carb diet which is healthy and sustainable for long-term use.
You can read all about low-carb diets and why they work here.
KEY POINT: The foods and beverages included in the military diet are quite common and affordable.
You will not be eating a lot of food on days 1-3, but you should lose weight because of the calorie restriction.
Try and get your nutrition through healthy fruits and vegetables, and make sure you are getting your protein.
Is Caffeine Allowed on the Military Diet?
This is not a diet which requires you to skip out on caffeine.
You can drink coffee and tea, and are even encouraged to do so.
Remember, caffeine can actually promote faster metabolism and help you lose weight.
You should not add sugar or artificial sweeteners to your coffee or tea.
If you do need to sweeten your beverage, a good alternative is a natural sweetener like stevia.
I have seen some recommendations that you skip adding cream to your coffee, but I am not sure that this is important, considering I have seen the same sources advise ice cream for dessert.
If you want cream in your coffee, go for it.
As to soda, you should steer clear of the types which include a lot of added sugar.
These sodas are low in calories and can satisfy your craving. Avoid other sweeteners such as aspartame
Remember, the military diet is not an exact science.
If you want to modify the diet slightly to fit your needs, you should be just fine so long as you keep your calories restricted to the required levels.
It is the calorie restriction rather than the specific foods which promote weight loss.
KEY POINT: If you want to drink caffeinated beverages like coffee or tea, go for it.
Sodas loaded with sugar should be avoided however because of the high calorie content. Save your calories for nutritional foods.
Can Vegans Use the Military Diet?
Sure. Again, all you need to do is keep your calorie intake low while attempting to stay reasonably nutritious with the foods you are consuming.
So if you need to replace meat in the diet, what you can do is substitute in lentils, beans or tofu.
Vegetarian rather than vegan? Try adding more cheese. Nuts are also a good option for increasing your protein.
Make sure when you replace one food with another that you recalculate the calories to ensure that you are staying within the limits of the diet.
Military Diet Pros and Cons
Now that you know more about the military diet, let’s briefly go over its advantages and disadvantages.
Military Diet Pros
1. The military diet is easy to follow.
The meal plans are quite simple, and so is the thinking behind why this diet works.
Following through does not entail a lot of planning.
You do not need to learn how to make any new fancy recipes.
You are just eating really basic foods in really small amounts for a few days.
2. You can make easy food substitutions and still stick to the diet.
If you want to adjust the diet to fit your needs and preferences, you can do so with ease so long as you recalculate the calories.
That makes this a friendly option for vegans, vegetarians, and others with special dietary restrictions and requirements.
3. The foods are cheap and easy to find.
Some diets force you to go out of your way to shop for rare and exotic ingredients that you cannot easily find at your local supermarket.
That is not the case with the 3-day diet.
On the military diet, you are eating foods which are extremely common, most of which you probably already have waiting for you in your kitchen.
4. You can lose weight quickly in a pinch with this diet.
If you do need to lose weight fast so you can meet a military requirement or fit into a tight dress for a special occasion, the 3-day diet may make a lot of sense.
5. You only need the willpower to restrict your eating for several days.
Longer-term diets and even some short term diets require extended discipline and commitment to get results.
Even some crash diets require you to restrict your eating for a week or more.
With the military diet, you just need three days of discipline in a row.
You can then take a break for four days. This makes it more likely you will succeed with the military diet than you would with another.
KEY POINT: Despite the military diet’s drawbacks, it does have some benefits for short-term urgent weight loss needs.
It is cheap, simple, and does not require a lot of discipline to see it through.
Military Diet Cons
1. The diet is not nutritious.
It severely and unnatural restricts your calories, while also curtailing nutrition.
In fact, some of the commonly recommended foods are flat out bad for you, like ice cream.
This is a waste of calories. It would be better to eat healthy foods.
In fact, I recommend replacing some of the unhealthy foods with healthier alternatives which are still low in calories.
But even if you do this, the diet is still too restrictive to give your body the nutrition it needs.
2. You will be low on energy while you are restricting your calories.
Do not expect to do a lot of intense exercise while you are on the 3-day diet, at least the portion which entails calorie restriction.
This is not to say you cannot work out at all, but you will probably feel quite weak.
3. It is no fun restricting your calories.
Not getting to eat as much food as you want is a pain; there really is no getting around it.
It does require discipline, even over a short time period, and you probably will not enjoy it.
4. Math is involved.
A lot of people hate calculating calorie counts because it requires math.
While the math involved is not challenging, it does consume some time and energy at the grocery store and later when you are preparing your meals.
5. The diet is not safe and sustainable for long-term weight loss.
The fact that this diet is too unhealthy to use over the long-term really is a big restriction in its use.
If you have a lot of weight to lose, you will have to choose a different diet.
6. Since much of the weight you lose is water, you will gain it all back swiftly after the diet is complete.
Dropping 10 pounds in a week is very encouraging. Gaining it all back over the coming weeks is not.
7. It is easy to walk into this diet without realistic expectations.
This is an avoidable drawback, but it is worth mentioning how problematic it is to try a diet without really understanding it.
If you have read this entire article top to bottom, you should have your expectations reasonably aligned with reality.
But it is easy to fool yourself.
You should only try this diet if you understand that it is for short-term use and that the results are temporary.
Otherwise you may be tempted to do it repeatedly over a long time period, which could have adverse health effects.
KEY POINT: Even though the military diet can help you shed a few pounds fast, it is quite detrimental if it is followed for more than a week or two.
Best Recommended Alternative for Long-Term Weight Loss: A Low Carb Diet
If you are serious about long-term weight loss, you need to make a commitment to a safe, sustainable, healthy long-term diet.
Your best option both for rapid weight loss and for overall health is a low carb diet.
How far you go with this is up to you.
You can just reduce your carbs while increasing fat, or you can go with a very low carb high fat (LCHF) diet.
On a diet like this, you reduce your intake of breads, pastas, and other grains. You also eat very little sugar, if any.
You then up your intake of other healthy food like meat and dairy, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds.
You eat more healthy fats as well (it is a myth that fats are bad for you).
If you get your carbs down enough, you can eat a ketogenic diet where your body is principally burning fat for energy instead of carbs.
This state is called "ketosis."
Some people believe ketosis is unsafe because they think that the brain require glucose as fuel from carbohydrates.
Additionally, a low-carb diet has the following health benefits, all of which are backed by scientific research trials:
- Increase your HDL cholesterol, which in turn reduces your chances of getting heart disease (13, 14).
- Raise the amount of LDL cholesterol in your body while simultaneously reducing the particle size (15). This is another way to reduce your chances of a heart attack.
- Reduce your triglycerides (16), another marker for cardiovascular disease.
- Reduce your blood pressure, yet another cardiovascular disease risk factor (17).
- Combat metabolic syndrome. The risk factors for metabolic syndrome are high triglycerides, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, low HDL, and obesity. All of these risk factors are mitigated through a low-carb diet, which prevents metabolic syndrome in turn.
- Control your insulin levels, preventing and treating the progression of diabetes (18). This works by providing your body with less glucose. In some cases, a low-carb diet controls diabetes so effectively that it is possible to reduce the dosage of your medication or stop taking it completely.
- Shed excess water weight. While the military diet can help you to get rid of excess water weight, a low-carb diet can do the same thing. When your insulin levels are properly regulated, as by a low-carb diet, your kidneys are able to function better. This results in less water retention.
- Increase satiety so that you are less likely to overeat, preventing obesity and facilitating weight loss (19).
- Improve your mood if you suffer from anxiety, depression, or another mood disorder (19).
- Lose weight rapidly and effectively over an extended time period (20, 21, 22). You can even get rid of stubborn belly fat (23). This type of fat is extremely unhealthy, associated with a range of health disorders including inflammation, insulin resistance and metabolic dysfunction (24). Inflammation is associated with many age-related disorders, so reducing it has a slew of other health benefits.
- Treat epilepsy, effectively reducing seizures, and in some cases even eliminating them (25).
- Prevent Parkinson’s disease (26).
- Bulk out if you are working out and eating more protein on a low-carb diet (27).
As you can see, there are many reasons other than just weight loss to try low-carb!
Even though it is a big commitment, you will find that you can still enjoy many of your favorite foods.
Besides, the health benefits and weight loss are worth it.
KEY POINT: A low-carb diet can provide you with rapid weight loss and excellent health benefits.
It is safe and sustainable for the long-term. So if you are looking for enduring weight loss, consider low-carb instead of the military diet.
Conclusion: The Military Weight Works to Drop a Few Pounds Fast, But the Results are Temporary and the Diet is Unsustainable
Can you lose 10 pounds in a week with the military diet?
Possibly, but you will gain them back fast. You also cannot use the military diet for long-term weight loss.
So while it might help you to get ready for enlistment or a special event, it is not a solution for permanently reducing your weight.
For that, you need a diet which is nutritious and which supports your long-term health, like a low-carb or ketogenic diet.
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