Diet and Nutrition

What Is the 3-Day Military Diet?

What Is the 3-Day Military Diet?

The military diet is a diet pattern intended to help you lose weight. You will have to engage in a 3-day restrictive diet followed by 4 days of the normal diet, and repeat the cycle again. It is considered an extreme diet because it is a systematic guide with plenty of food restrictions. The focus of the diet is a reduction of calorie intake, and to some people, the amount required to cut is pretty significant. The military diet is popular for its promise to help you ‘lose 10 pounds in a week or 30 pounds in a month.’

One of the positives of the military diet is that no particular food or drink is forbidden. It does not instruct you to exercise, or take pills or herbal supplements. It is obviously natural, inexpensive, and could be easy compared to other diets.

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You will probably lose some weight as the diet is very strict, but it can take a lot of willpower and commitment.

The origin of the term ‘military diet’ is unclear. It did not come from US Armed Forces or any military organization. Note that in the military, food closely resembles that eaten by the general population and is not that restrictive. The only difference is that they have MREs (Meal, Ready to Eat) when deployed outside the base. MREs are known for having a wide variety of food and having relatively high calorie counts. It is not known why and where the now-popular ‘military diet’ got its name.

How to start the military diet

The overall focus of the military diet is days of reduced calories followed by days of normal dieting, and repeating the cycle again.

The military diet has two parts: The first 3 days and then the next 4 days. The first three days are restrictive in calories, allowing you to eat only about 1000 to 1300 calories per day. Then, you will stick to your usual healthy diet for the next 4 days.

During the first three days, you can only have three main meals (or two main meals) and no snacks. There are no ‘forbidden’ food items in the diet, so you can eat anything within reason. The only rule to follow is the calorie limit. Men are typically allowed more calories than women due to metabolism.

Now we will discuss a sample meal menu for the first three days. In practice, most items in the food plan are easily accessible and common. It is also not monotonous, which is the problem with other diets that promote or center on a particular food, like cabbages (cabbage soup diet) or lemons (lemon cleanse).

By adhering to a strict amount of calories, your body will be forced to burn its own fat. The items here are very common, wholesome, and full of vitamins and nutrients you need.

Here is an example of a military diet menu.

Breakfast

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. You may want to consume the most amount of your calories for breakfast to keep yourself moderately full throughout the day. Say no to white bread, cream, sugar, or fat (butter, margarine, or oils) as these may serve as a waste of calories.

Here is a list of some low-calorie nutrition-packed breakfast items, along with their calorie counts, that can keep you satisfied until lunch.

Day 1

  • 1 slice of Wholegrain toast with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter: 300 calories
  • 1/2 Grapefruit: 50 calories
  • 1 cup of coffee or tea, or limitless coffee or tea without sugar or cream: 2-10 calories

Day 2

  • 1 slice of toast (whole grain): 110 calories
  • 1 hard-boiled egg: 78 calories
  • 1/2 banana: 52 calories

Day 3

  • 1 slice of cheddar cheese: 115 calories
  • 5 crackers: 45 calories
  • A small apple: 95 calories

These breakfast items are filling and will give you much-needed morning energy. As your beverage, choose coffee or tea without sugar (or with very little sugar) or cream. 

Lunch

It’s easy to binge during lunch, especially when you choose items like sandwiches. Many commercial or fast food sandwiches (with cheese, meat, and dressings) often pack 600 to 700 calories or more.

Sandwiches, particularly fast food, are not recommended in the military diet. Instead, eat these nutritious but low-calorie items for lunch.

Day 1

  • A slice of whole grain toast: 110 calories
  • 1/2 cup of tuna: 60 calories (tuna in water, not oil)
  • 1 cup of coffee or tea: 2-10 calories

Day 2

  • 1 hard-boiled egg: 78 calories
  • A cup of 2% milkfat cottage cheese: 204 calories
  • 5 crackers: 45 calories

Day 3

  • 1 slice of toast: 110 calories
  • One egg to your liking: 78-90 calories
  • 1 slice of cheddar cheese: 115 calories

Dinner

Waiting for dinner will seem like forever. When you’re on the military diet, you should eat an earlier dinner at 5 or 6 pm. Don’t eat microwaveable dinners, which can have 600 calories or more. Here are some easy-to-do dinners that pack a lot of taste but are low in calories.

Day 1

  • 3-oz (85 grams) serving of turkey: 88 calories
  • 1 cup of green beans: 31 calories
  • 1 small apple: 95 calories
  • 1/2 banana: 52 calories
  • 1 cup Vanilla ice cream: 140 calories

Day 2

  • 2 hot dogs without bun: 151 calories
  • 1/2 cup of carrots: 41 calories
  • 1/2 cup of broccoli: 17 calories
  • 1/2 banana: 52 calories
  • 1/2 cup of vanilla ice cream: 70 calories

Day 3

  • A cup of tuna: 120 calories
  • 1/2 banana: 52 calories
  • 1 cup of vanilla ice cream: 140 calories

These food items can give you a rough idea in terms of calorie intake. No snacks are allowed. The only things you can have liberally are water, and coffee/tea with no sugar or cream.

It helps to shop for food in advance before going on the diet to get your mindset ready.

Does the 3-day military diet work?

The military diet states that it can make you lose 10 pounds in one week. Note that the optimal rate of weight loss is just a pound per week. Although the intended results of a 3-day military diet results are tempting, they are not supported by any studies or experiments.

So why might the military diet work? Note that it asks you to eat only 1000 or 1300 calories per day for 3 days, which is considered very low and will not meet the body’s standard calorie requirements. The recommended calorie intake for men is 2400-2600 and 1600-2000 for women. There is a deficit in calories when you stick to the military diet, which makes it work.

By making do with fewer calories, your body is forced to burn up fat resulting in weight loss. However, be careful when you stop the diet, because your body will be looking to gain lost weight back after it has been restricted of calories.

You might read that the military diet works because the diet involves chemically-compatible foods, the 3-day diet modification helps prevent slowing down of metabolism, or it is inspired by eating practices of members of the armed forces.

Understand that the military diet does not emphasize or focus on a particular food, so it has nothing to do with chemical compatibility.

About its effect on metabolism, it’s a claim that has not been proven and tested. Its ‘military’ origins are also questionable.

Note that the military emphasizes on quality (and quantity) of food because of its implications in the morale of troops. Many service members do a lot of physically demanding work on the field and will require more calories than the average person.

With all of that considered, restricting caloric intake will make your body lose weight. However, too few calories is dangerous and can harm your health. This is the benefit of the 3-day military diet formula.

So does the military diet work? Yes, depending on how you stick to your plan. The calorie deficit can make you lost weight for sure, but it will test your willpower and it may not produce dramatic results.

It all depends on you.

Should you try the military diet?

The military diet sounds a lot easier compared to other diets out there. It is not complicated, and there is a good chance that you will lose weight since you will eat so few calories for a good chunk of the week.

If you are otherwise healthy and really want to lose weight, the military diet is worth a try. Note that it takes a lot of willpower just to make it within the daily calorie limit. The amount of food you are allowed to eat during meals is often too little to be satisfying. If you are used to eating between meals, be prepared to spend 3 days without snacking. However, do not necessarily expect to lose 10 pounds in a week.

Trying the military diet might be your option if you want to lose weight quickly for an event, such as fitting into a dress or looking your best for summer. It is also a chance to exercise your calorie counting ability, too, and it will help you learn which foods are satisfying without wasting too many calories.

If you have the determination to resist cravings and can control food intake, the military diet might be for you. Although it requires massive cuts on calorie intake, the military diet is not a 100% guaranteed way to lose weight quickly.

How to improve results of the military diet

It is not easy to limit your meals to small servings, so just stick to the calorie limit and you will be fine. Another important thing to do is to limit yourself to 3 restrictive dieting days. Doing more than that can cause health problems.

Always identify things that are seen as a waste of calories, such as sugary drinks and alcohol. Note that drinks are often culprits, as a few sips can put a lot of calories in your body. Some examples of caloric drinks include lattes, blended coffees or teas, soups, sodas, energy drinks, and dairy. To be safe, just drink water or tea. You can incorporate fresh citrus into your waters or teas with minimal addition of calories.

Salt and sugar will make you crave more food. Avoid things that are too salty or too sweet. It is a reason why artificial sweeteners are not allowed in this diet.

In practice, the only thing you have to worry about military diet is limiting calorie intake. Make sure to count calories. To avoid consuming too much, stay clear of foods with lots of fat. Another good tip is to stay away from places or events that can make you eat. It will really help if you eat only at home, where you will have better control over calories and will not be tempted by other things.

Lastly, you may experience better results in your military diet by accompanying it with some light exercise. Exercise is often a chore, but it can boost your metabolism and can help you lose weight. Try basic and easy exercises first, such as briskly walking, swimming, jumping rope, or lifting hand weights. Spend at least an hour doing active exercise and sweating it out. Try to exercise on days that you are not restricting your caloric intake so your body has ample energy.

Although the military diet claims to produce excellent results, don’t go into it with that mindset. There is no proof that it can help you achieve the feat of losing 10 pounds in a week. It is also somewhat easy to make mistakes during the 3-day diet period since you’re so restricted. You may lose weight as soon as your first or second week. However, it is a tough diet to keep up and might be best as a short-term fix.

Key Takeaways

  • On the military diet, you are to restrict caloric intake for 3 days, then eat normally for the rest of the week.
  • During the restrictive period, you're allowed 1000-1300 calories a day.
  • It's important to be creative with your food choices so you don't get bored of the diet.