A 3-day-a-week diet? How the Military diet eating plan works

Here’s the first thing you need to know about the Military diet: Despite the name, it has nothing to do with the military. According to the Military diet website, “It is called the Military diet because it takes discipline and stamina to achieve results, just like in the military.” You might also see Military diets called the Army diet, the Navy diet, the 3-day diet or the 3-day Military diet.

The Military diet is a three-days-on and four-days-off low-calorie eating plan. For three days, you follow a strict meal plan that includes so-called fat-burning foods and claims to combine foods in ways that boost metabolism. For four days, you can eat whatever you like. You’re encouraged to keep your calories under 1,500 on those days to maintain your progress. You repeat the cycle until you reach your goal weight.

How does the Military diet work?

You follow a structured diet that provides 1,100 to 1,400 calories per day for three days (men can have 100 more calories). It includes proteins, fat, dairy, eggs, grains, fruit, vegetables, vanilla ice cream, water and coffee. You can choose Military diet substitutions if you have dietary restrictions or prefer vegetarian or vegan options.

The Military diet purports to show you how to lose weight fast. Advocates say you can lose 10 pounds in three days and that it’s one of the best diets for rapid weight loss that doesn’t require weight-loss pills or supplements.

What does the research say about the Military diet?

“There is a dearth of research regarding the military diet so its safety and effectiveness are not known,” Jen Bruning, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, told TODAY.

Weight loss on the Military diet might not last. “Weight loss would likely be due to severe calorie restriction and water loss, and is very likely to be regained once the diet is no longer being followed,” Bruning said.

Is the Military diet a good choice for you?

Dietitians who spoke to TODAY don’t recommend it. “If you want to go on this diet, don’t. That’s the quickest summary I can give you,” said Bonnie Taub-Dix, a registered dietitian and author of “Read It Before You Eat It: Taking You from Label to Table.” “It says you can lose up to 10 pounds in a week. When would that ever be a healthy thing to do? It’s a sure sign to stay away.”

Bruning agrees: “Due to its severe calorie restriction, lack of research and lack of nutritional adequacy, I cannot recommend the Military diet.”

It has its fans, though, with 78,000 people who like the Three Day, Military Diet Facebook page and 50,000 posts on Instagram tagged #military diet.

You may be interested in it if you want to lose weight quickly and you like a regimented diet. If you don’t like the restrictions, you might find it hard to follow.

If you try it, you’ll want to make sure you get the nutrients you need on the “off” days. “The restricted-day meal plans do not contain enough calories to supply all essential nutrients to the vast majority of people,” Bruning said.

What do you eat on the Military diet?

For the 3-day Military diet menu, you follow these meal plans for losing weight:

DAY 1 (1,400 calories)


1/2 grapefruit1 slice of toast (whole-wheat preferred)2 tablespoons of peanut butter1 cup caffeinated coffee or tea


1/2 cup of tuna1 slice of bread or toast (whole-wheat preferred)1 cup caffeinated coffee or tea


3 ounces of any type of meat1 cup of green beans1/2 banana1 small apple1 cup of vanilla ice cream

DAY 2 (1,200 calories)


1 egg1 slice of toast (whole-wheat preferred)1/2 banana


1 cup of cottage cheese1 hard-boiled egg5 saltine crackers


2 hot dogs (no bun)1 cup of broccoli1/2 cup of carrots1/2 banana1/2 cup of vanilla ice cream

DAY 3 (1,100 calories)


5 saltine crackers1 slice of cheddar cheese1 small apple


1 hard-boiled egg (or cooked however you like)1 slice of toast (whole-wheat preferred)


1 cup of tuna1/2 banana1 cup of vanilla ice cream

For the next four days, you can eat what you like, ideally keeping calories under 1,500 per day. You repeat the three-days-on and four-days-off cycle until you reach your goal weight.

While that program may sound appealing, it could have some drawbacks. “It discourages lifelong good eating habits to be on a diet for three days and eat what you want for four days,” Taub-Dix said.

Is the Military diet effective long-term?

No. It’s not intended as a long-term diet. Military diet results are designed as a way to lose weight quickly.

Talk with your doctor before starting the Military diet or any other diet — your doctor can recommend the best eating plan for you, based on your health needs.

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