What Is the Military Diet and Is It Safe? Here's What a Dietitian Says

You can come across a new diet every day if you search for your health on the internet. Unfortunately, generally, these diets do not align with science-based facts and don't have healthy and nutritive aspects. The military diet, or the 3-day diet, is also one of them. In this article, we will focus on what this diet offers and why you shouldn't follow it for healthy and sustainable weight loss.

Being an essential physiological aspect and a fundamental behavior of living organisms, nutrition is also a scientific field. Meaning, that nutritional recommendations should depend on scientific facts. However, today, we face too many wrongs and random suggestions when it comes to weight loss. Unfortunately, the military diet is no exception.

What is the military diet?

The military diet, also called the 3-day diet, is a short-term, very restrictive diet that claims to help you lose up to 10 pounds (4 kg) in a week. However, don't be fooled by its name — the selected foods have nothing to do with the military and are seemingly picked at random.

This diet consists of 3 days of restrictive eating followed by a 4-day rest. Then, the cycle is repeated.

However, there is no scientific basis behind this nutritional model, and it may cause health problems. Moreover, it is possible to regain the weight lost after this diet cycle.

Day 1Day 2Day 3
  • ½ grapefruit
  • 1 slice toast
  • 2 tbsp peanut butter, ideally salt-free and sugar-free
  • 1 egg
  • 1 slice toast
  • ½ banana
  • 5 saltine crackers
  • 1 slice cheddar cheese
  • 1 small apple
  • Lunch
  • ½ cup tuna
  • 1 slice toast
  • 1 cup cottage cheese
  • 1 hard boiled egg
  • 5 saltine crackers
  • 1 hard boiled egg
  • 1 slice toast
  • Dinner
  • 3 ounces any meat
  • 1 cup green beans
  • ½ banana
  • 1 small apple
  • 1 cup vanilla ice cream
  • 2 hot dogs (without bun)
  • 1 cup broccoli
  • ½ cup carrots
  • ½ banana
  • ½ cup vanilla ice cream
  • 1 cup tuna
  • ½ banana
  • 1 cup vanilla ice cream
  • Military diet explained

    This diet provides a very low caloric intake of around 1,000–1,200 kcal. This calorie amount is lower than most people's basal energy expense. The first rule of any healthy diet is to not let the caloric intake drop below the basal metabolic rate, which is the essential calorie and nutrient needed for the physiological functions of the body at a resting state. If you want to maintain a healthy metabolism and sustainable weight loss, you should restrict your calorie intake moderately.

    Secondly, when we examine this diet list, it can be easily seen that there is a random selection of foods, even if each of them is healthy individually.

    You don't need to eat half of a grapefruit with a slice of toast, and there is no reason to eat 1 cup of tuna with 1 cup of ice cream for dinner.

    It is clear that this diet, which was written without any scientific basis behind it, has no benefit in the long term, although it may make you lose weight in the short term. A weight loss diet does not mean a healthy diet. When our bodies are in any form of calorie restriction, we lose weight.

    However, if we do not do this in a healthy way, we may lose our muscle mass and face many negative health conditions, such as irregularities in our body's digestive system and deterioration in vitamin-mineral balance and blood values.

    Possible side effects of a restrictive diet

    The potential side effects of a restrictive diet include:

    • Malnutrition. Severely restricting calorie intake can result in inadequate consumption of essential nutrients, leading to malnutrition. This can affect your health and wellness, including the immune system, bone health, and reproductive health.
    • Muscle loss. In an attempt to meet energy needs, the body may start breaking down muscle tissue for amino acids, which can lead to muscle wasting. After such a restriction, you can end up with weakness, fatigue, and a decline in overall physical function.
    • Metabolic changes. A very low calorie intake can slow down your metabolism as the body tries to conserve energy. This can make weight loss more challenging for you in the long term and can lead to a rebound effect when you get back to your eating routine.
    • Hormonal imbalances. Unhealthy nutrition habits can disrupt hormonal balance, affecting the production of hormones, such as insulin, thyroid hormones, and reproductive hormones. Severe calorie restriction can lead to especially irregular menstrual cycles in women.
    • Psychological effects. Besides all this, this type of diet can nourish neither your body nor your soul. Your mental health may be negatively affected by restricting your calorie intake and food choices. This may lead to eating attacks, deterioration of your relationship with food, disturbed body image, and eating disorders in the future.

    Moreover, it is seen that this diet contains many processed foods, such as hot dogs, crackers, and so on. It is difficult to understand why these foods, which should not be included in a healthy and balanced diet, are included in this diet list. It is known that processed foods release reactive oxygen molecules that cause oxidative stress in the body, have negative effects on immunity, and can contribute to cardiovascular diseases, digestive system problems, and some cancers. Of course, occasional consumption of these foods can be tolerated within a general healthy diet. However, it should not be among the 'recommended' foods in a diet plan.

    The last words on military diet

    Unfortunately, the diet industry is a field open to sensationalism by exploiting people's emotional and physical needs. It is the responsibility of both healthcare professionals and you to protect yourself from such unhealthy suggestions and practices. The best thing you can do is consult healthcare professionals who are experts in the subject for information related to your health.

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