What Is the Military Diet? Dietitians Weigh In on This Controversial 3-Day Meal Plan
The Military Diet sounds like an intense yet efficient way to lose weight. After all, people in the military are in great shape and need a proper diet to fuel their rigorous training. Upon further inspection, however, the Military Diet may just be another fad diet with lofty claims and potentially dangerous side effects.
What Is the Military Diet?
The Military Diet, found on themilitarydiet.com, is a meal plan that has grown in popularity over the last couple years. The program bills itself as a "rapid weight-loss plan" that promises to help you lose "up to 10 pounds in one week without strenuous exercise or prescriptions." It's actually a three-day meal plan that outlines specific foods you are supposed to eat, including grapefruit, eggs, toast, peanut butter, tuna, coffee, green beans, bananas, apples, and saltine crackers. Although some substitutions are allowed, the plan is pretty strict about what you can and cannot eat.
Here's an example of what day one of the three-day diet looks like:
- 1/2 grapefruit
- 1 slice of toast
- 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
- 1 cup of coffee or tea with caffeine (no cream or sugar, only sweetener can be Stevia)
- 1/2 cup of tuna
- 1 slice of toast
- 1 cup of coffee or tea with caffeine
- 3 ounces of any type of meat
- 1 cup of green beans
- 1/2 banana
- 1 small apple
- 1 cup of vanilla ice cream
How Does the Military Diet Claim to Work?
The diet says it will help you lose weight by putting you in a calorie deficit: day one is about 1,400 calories, day two is about 1,200 calories, and day three is about 1,100 calories. On your "off" days, which are four days, you're still supposed to only eat 1,500 calories or fewer. If this seems like too few calories to eat each day, especially if you're active, that's because it is.
"Something this restrictive is definitely not sustainable and borders on being unhealthy," New York City-based dietitian Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, told POPSUGAR. "It's a bit scary that the 'off days' are 1,500 calories, which may still be a restriction compared to what some people eat in a normal day."
Registered dietitian Amanda Baker Lemein, MS, RD, LDN, agreed. "Overall, I think this diet is another form of highly restrictive crash dieting," she told POPSUGAR. "I do not recommend these types of diets as they are usually lacking in many important nutrients, like fiber and micronutrients, and they are so low in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables."
Is It Possible to Lose 10 Pounds in 1 Week?
Aside from the potential dangers of eating so few calories in one day, another issue with the Military Diet is that it claims to help you lose up to 10 pounds in a week. For people looking to lose 10 or more pounds, this may seem like an easy solution. But these lofty promises are too good to be true. For starters, every body has a unique set of calorie needs; Amanda explained that it's impossible to predict how much weight someone will lose in a certain amount of time.
And aside from being unpredictable, losing that much weight in a short period of time is potentially dangerous.
"Although losing 10 pounds is one week is highly improbable, anything is possible, but it's absolutely not recommended," Natalie said. "Losing that much weight that quickly will definitely mess with your hormones and metabolism, which is bad for long-term weight loss." She added that when you lose weight that quickly, you will also inevitably lose muscle.
Should I Try the Military Diet?
In short: no. It's too restrictive, unsustainable, and potentially dangerous.
"Please, please don't do this diet; it's not safe or healthy," Natalie said. "Although I don't love many popular diets, there are others that have been proven to work and are healthier, like Weight Watchers or intermittent fasting. Better yet, meet with a registered dietitian to help you lose weight and make lasting behavior changes."
With these types of crash diets, even if you do lose a little bit of weight in a week or so, you will most likely gain it all back as soon as you resume your normal eating habits. If you're looking for a way to lose weight and keep it off for good, the Military Diet is not the way to go.
"My advice is to look to more sustainable methods for weight loss, including eating more nonstarchy vegetables, appropriate amounts of protein and fat, avoiding added sugars and refined grains, and perhaps consulting a registered dietitian to learn what an appropriate weight-loss plan would be for you as an individual," Amanda advised.