Nutrition

The Military Diet: Does It Actually Work?

May 23, 2017 — by Matt Theis0

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Nutrition

The Military Diet: Does It Actually Work?

May 23, 2017 — by Matt Theis0

The Military Diet promises to make you drop 10 pounds in only a week, but is this actually realistic or just another over-hyped fad diet?


The Military Diet is a relatively popular meal plan which is designed for maximum weight-loss.  It promises weight-loss in the neighborhood of 10 pounds in a single week.

Needless to say, this is quite a bold claim.  The Grapefruit Diet seemed like it was promising too much and that was 10 pounds in closer to 2 weeks.  So is there really anything to the Military Diet?

In this article we’ll tackle questions like:

  • What Is The Military Diet?
  • How Does It Work?
  • Will It Work For Me?

And a whole lot more.  Okay then, let’s get started…

What Is The Military Diet?

What Is The Military Diet

Despite rumors that the Military Diet was crafted by “top military nutritionists” specifically to get soldiers into shape quickly, it’s origins are not actually associated with any branch of the Armed Forces.  The term “military” has a nice ring to it and makes for a catchy name.

And hey, the Military Diet is VERY popular so whether the name makes any sense is pretty irrelevant.  The truth is nobody really knows where it came from…

So what is it?

It’s a diet plan that involves sticking to a strict low-calorie meal plan for 3 days, followed by 4 days off.  Then you repeat as many cycles as it takes to hit your ideal body weight.

Although several variations exist at this point, the core tenets of the Military Diet remain the same.  In general, it emphasizes:

  1. SERIOUS Calorie Restriction
  2. Intermittent Fasting
  3. So-Called “Fat-Burning” Foods

That first one–the fact that the diet involves placing yourself in a large calorie deficit–is really the key.  Here’s the most common Military Diet meal plan…

3 day Military Diet plan


Day 1

Breakfast

½ Grapefruit (25 calories)

1 Slice Of Toast (75 calories)

2 Tablespoons of Peanut Butter (180 calories)

Black Coffee (Optional) (5 calories)

Lunch

1/2 Cup Of Tuna (100 calories)

1 Slice of Toast (75 calories)

Black Coffee (optional) (5 calories)

Dinner

3 Ounces Of Meat (120 calories)

1 Apple (75 calories)

½ Banana (50 calories)

1 Cup Green Beans (35 calories)

1 Cup Vanilla Ice Cream (140 calories)

Total (885 calories)

Day 2

Breakfast

1 Slice Of Toast (75 calories)

1 Egg (80 calories)

½ Banana (50 calories)

Lunch

1 Egg (80 calories)

1 Cup Cottage Cheese (200 calories)

5 Saltine Crackers (40 calories)

Dinner

2 Hot Dogs (No Bun) (300 calories)

½ Cup Of Carrots (25 Calories)

1 Cup Broccoli (30 Calories)

½ Banana (50 Calories)

½ Cup Vanilla Ice cream (140 Calories)

Total (1070 Calories)

Day 3

Breakfast

1 Slice of Cheddar Cheese (100 Calories)

5 Slatine Crackers (40 Calories)

1 Apple (75 Calories)

Lunch

1 Egg (80 Calories)

1 Slice Of Toast (75 Calories)

Dinner

1 Cup Of Tuna (200 Calories)

½ Banana (50 Calories)

1 Cup Vanilla Ice Cream (140 Calories)

Total (760 Calories)

The Military Diet is designed to be a 3-days on, 4 days-off diet.  That means you abide by the meal plan above for 3 consecutive days, then abide by a relatively normal diet on the other days.

This is similar to intermittent fasting in the sense that you’re severely restricting calories for a specified amount of time and cycling on and off periodically as needed.

How Does The Military Diet Work?

How Does The Military Diet Work

The reason the Military Diet works is because you’re serverely restricting calorie intake.  The foods that you’re eating are pretty irrelevant.  So is the fact that you’re intermittent fasting.

There are no magic fat-burning foods or magic fasting intervals.  It just comes down to calories in vs calories out.  That is, if you eat significantly less calories than you burn on a daily basis, you’ll lose weight.

In fact, if you take a look at the meal plan above, only one of the days has you eating just over 1000 calories.  Day 1 is around 900 and Day 3 is closer to 750.  If you eat a normal (2000-2500 calorie) diet, you’d be placing yourself in a 50% caloric deficit.

Now, the only reason this diet may actually be possible to adhere to is that you just need to go 3 days and then you can eat normally.  Unfortunately, the average person may be tempted to overeat on those days to compensate for the 3 days of seriously under-eating.

Eating more than normal for the 4 days that you’re “allowed to” pretty much defeats the purpose of the diet in the first place, because you’re just replacing the calories you cut.

If you want the diet to actually work, you need to make sure you don’t eat more than normal on the 4 days following the 3 days of the actual diet.

Is There Any Research?

Military Diet Research

There’s are no studies pertaining to the Military Diet specifically, but there is a TON of research proving that restricting calories results in weight-loss.

One study actually compared calorie-shifting (intermittent fasting) to normal calorie restriction and found that weight-loss and fat-loss were the same for both.

Another study which compared the degree of weight-loss between subjects consuming calorie restricted diets with different macronutrient compositions found that calorie restriction reduced fat-mass and body weight in all groups, regardless of macronutrient composition.

In other words, it doesn’t REALLY matter what food you eat.  What matters is the total amount of calories.

Perhaps the most well-known example of this this principle at work is Mark Haub, a Nutrition Professor at Kansas State who was able to lose 27 pounds while eating a diet consisting of Twinkies and Doritos.

How is this possible?  Well, it’s actually pretty simple.  Haub estimated that a man like him would typically need to eat about 2600 calories a day, so he limited himself to 1800 calories a day.  In other words, he took in significantly fewer calories than he burned, day after day, for several weeks.

The foods that you’re consuming on the Military Diet have nothing to do with the actual weight-loss.  No, grapefruit doesn’t burn fat.

What Kind Of Results Can I Except From The Military Diet?

Military Diet Results

Assuming you currently eat something like 2000 calories a day, you can definitely lose some weight on the Military Diet.  How much weight you lose depends on how much of a calorie restriction 1000 calories a day is for you.

If you eat 2000 calories at your current weight (and it stays the same), and the Military Diet has you eating 1000 calories a day, that’s a 1000 calorie deficit.  There are roughly 3500 calories in 1 pound of fat.  Assuming you ate normally (not too much) on the 4 off-days, then repeated the cycle, you’d lose roughly 1 pound a week.

Of course that’s just an example.  If you eat more than 2000 calories a day on average, you can lose more than 1 pound a week with The Military Diet.

Can you lose 10 pounds in 1 week?  It’s possible, but mostly because of water loss.  Research has shown us that low-carb diets are associated with loss of water weight.  The lower your carb intake, the more water weight you’ll lose.

So, if you dramatically cut your total calories, including carbohydrates, you could potentially lose 10 pounds in a week.  As soon as you start eating carbs again, however, the water weight will return.

You could realistically lose a pound or two of fat a week on this diet.  It’s not healthy to lose 10 pounds a week though, nor is it sustainable.

Is It Safe TO LOSE WEIGHT FAST?

There’s nothing “unsafe” about the Military Diet.  The really danger is just in wasted time and frustration because, unless you modify your eating habits for the long-term, you’ll probably just regain the weight after the diet.

The Bottom Line

The Military Diet is basically like any other diet that involves severely restricting your calories.  There’s nothing inherently special about it.  There’s no such thing as “fat-burning foods” and intermittent fasting isn’t a better weight-loss strategy than ordinary calorie restriction.

Still, if you feel like you need to adhere to a particular diet, go for it.  You could just restrict your calories yourself though…


Matt Theis

I'm Matt, Founder of Momentum Nutrition and SuppWithThat.com. I've spent the better part of the last decade researching and experimenting in the areas of fitness, nutrition, and supplementation, and this is where I write it all down.