What Is the 3-Day Military Diet?

3 day military diet

 Verywell / Debbie Burkhoff 

At Verywell, we believe there is no one-size-fits-all approach to a healthy lifestyle. Successful eating plans need to be individualized and take the whole person into consideration. Prior to starting a new diet plan, consult with your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian, especially if you have an underlying health condition.

What Is the Three-Day Military Diet?

The 3-Day Military Diet, also known as the "3-Day Diet," is a quick weight-loss program that includes three days of a specific, very low-calorie eating plan followed by four days of a less restrictive, low-calorie plan.

Proponents of the Military Diet claim you can lose up to 10 pounds a week or 30 pounds in a month while eating foods like vanilla ice cream and hot dogs. The diet claims that combining specific foods can boost metabolism and burn fat. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this.

What Experts Say

"This diet cycles on for three days and then off for four days with the 'on' days only providing about 1,100 to 1,400 calories and then the four 'off' days still only allowing 1,500 calories. This is extremely restrictive and not enough energy for most people."

Kelly Plowe, MS, RD

The 7-Day Diet Plan

On the three "on" days of the plan, foods are quite limited. On the "off" days, there is a little more variety, such as in this example.

  • Day 1, on: Toast with peanut butter; tuna; grapefruit; hot dogs, broccoli; ice cream
  • Day 2, on: Cottage cheese, banana; steak, green beans; hot dogs, apple
  • Day 3, on: Grapefruit, hard-boiled eggs; hot dog, green beans; cottage cheese, saltines
  • Day 4, off: Yogurt parfait; salad topped with protein; shrimp and zucchini pasta
  • Day 5, off: Oatmeal with nuts and berries; chicken stir-fry with brown rice; bean and beef chili; ice cream
  • Day 6, off: Vegetable omelet; tomato soup with whole grain bread and low-fat cheese; salmon with quinoa and kale
  • Day 7, off: Whole-grain toast with nut butter, fruit; spinach salad with chicken; pork tenderloin with root vegetables

What You Can Eat

The Military Diet consists of a three-day eating plan of three meals a day with no snacks, followed by four days of slightly less restricted eating for three meals and two snacks.

Approved Foods

For the first three days, followers will eat foods from a very strict list. These are referred to as the "on" days and range from 1,100 to 1,400 calories per day. Food to eat include:

  • Peanut butter toast
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Cottage cheese
  • Grapefruit
  • Tuna
  • Meat
  • Hot dogs (no bun)
  • Saltine crackers
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Broccoli
  • Green beans
  • Coffee
  • Ice cream

Followers then take four days off from the extreme restrictions and limit their daily caloric intake to 1,500 calories of preferably healthy food.

What You Cannot Eat

Limited substitutions are allowed on the plan as long as meals stay within the calorie guidelines for the first three days. On the "off" days, followers are advised to consume 1,500 calories per day of a less restrictive diet, ideally choosing healthier, whole foods over processed foods. However, here are some generally not recommended foods:

Alcohol

  • Wine
  • Beer
  • Spirits

Some Dairy

  • Milk
  • Cream (in coffee)

Sugar

  • White or brown sugar
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Agave

The cycle is intended to be repeated until the person's goal weight is reached. From there, the program recommends adhering to the guidelines outlined in the four-day plan, which encourages healthier foods.

How to Prepare the Three-Day Military Diet & Tips

The Military Diet strongly encourages portion control and calorie restriction. For the first three days, all calories are accounted for unless you make substitutions, which must be measured and calorie-counted. For the next four days, it is recommended to keep a food log and count calories.

The Military Diet is a strict, low-calorie eating plan that involves specific foods purportedly designed to "work together to jumpstart weight loss," however, there is little to no evidence to back this claim.

While some foods like grapefruit or caffeinated beverages like coffee have been associated with weight loss, there is no research to show that combining the specific foods listed on the Military Diet can rev up your metabolism to speed up the weight loss process.

To make matters more confusing, there is no one "official" source for the Military Diet. Along with multiple websites dedicated to the diet plan, there are also several books.

Though restricting calories to 1,500 per day can promote weight loss, a short-term diet that emphasizes unhealthy processed foods like hot dogs is not an ideal solution for overall health and weight management, particularly if the cycle is repeated.

Pros of the Three-Day Military Diet

There are few pros of the three-day military diet.

  • Provides a structured plan: The diet promises quick weight loss and provides a structured plan to achieve it, which helps to take the guesswork out of dieting.
  • May induce weight loss: Weight loss can be a pro, but only when done sustainably. The weight loss that results from this diet is unlikely to be sustained.

Cons of the Three-Day Military Diet

Like most fad diets, the 3-Day Military Diet has more drawbacks than benefits.

  • May not provide enough nutrients: The diet is highly restrictive, includes nutrient-poor processed foods, and may not provide enough calories to sustain energy throughout the day. It is not considered a healthy diet plan.
  • Likely to regain weight: Because the meal plan is specific and strict, it doesn't allow the follower to learn internal hunger cues or meal plans after the goals are hit. This will likely result in weight regain.
  • Not a long-term solution: Proponents of the 3-Day Military Diet claim that quick weight loss can be achieved on the plan. However, even if you lose a few pounds, it was likely just water weight. The diet is restrictive and an unrealistic way of eating for the long term.
  • No scientific evidence: The Military Diet claims to be one of the best "natural diets." However, this is not rooted in scientific evidence.
  • Promotes unhealthy foods: The diet encourages the consumption of hot dogs, a heavily processed, unnatural food. Processed foods contain ingredients that may increase your risk of cancer and heart disease when consumed in excess.
  • Promotes unhealthy eating habits: The Military Diet also encourages unhealthy eating habits, which could cause some people to choose unprocessed foods over natural, whole foods or lead to disordered eating.

Because hot dogs and ice cream are high in calories and saturated fat, consuming too much over time may lead to weight gain and increase your risk of heart disease.

Is the 3-Day Military Diet a Healthy Choice for You?

For short-term weight loss, the 3-Day Military Diet is reportedly effective, but any weight loss experienced on the plan is likely to be regained once you resume a normal diet.

The Military Diet isn't a long-term weight loss solution or a healthy eating plan, nor does it teach necessary skills like healthy meal planning and preparation, which can help support sustained weight loss.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) dietary guidelines include recommendations and tips for a healthy, balanced diet which should include a variety of vegetables, fruits, grains, lean meats, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, dairy, and oil.

The USDA also provides calorie ranges for adult men (2,200 to 3,000 calories per day) and women (1,600 to 2,200 calories per day) for weight maintenance, but also stresses that this number varies based on age, sex, weight, and activity level. Use this calculator to determine the right number of calories for you.

The 3-Day Military Diet does not adhere to USDA guidelines and it is not considered a healthy eating plan for weight loss or long-term weight management. The eating plan is not recommended by nutrition experts since it could create unhealthy eating habits and lead to unfavorable health outcomes.

A Word From Verywell

If you're wanting to lose weight and improve your overall health, consider meeting with a registered dietitian or making small changes to your daily habits. Find the right eating plan for you and put a reasonable healthy plan in place you can stick to. It may take some effort in the beginning, but you're more likely to achieve sustainable results, especially if you prioritize regular exercise.

Remember, following a long-term or short-term diet may not be necessary for you and many diets out there simply don’t work, especially long-term. While we do not endorse fad diet trends or unsustainable weight loss methods, we present the facts so you can make an informed decision that works best for your nutritional needs, genetic blueprint, budget, and goals.

If your goal is weight loss, remember that losing weight isn’t necessarily the same as being your healthiest self, and there are many other ways to pursue health. Exercise, sleep, and other lifestyle factors also play a major role in your overall health. The best diet is always the one that is balanced and fits your lifestyle.

4 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. Silver HJ, Dietrich MS, Niswender KD. Effects of grapefruit, grapefruit juice and water preloads on energy balance, weight loss, body composition, and cardiometabolic risk in free-living obese adultsNutr Metab (Lond). 2011;8(1):8. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-8-8

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  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Ninth Edition.

By Malia Frey
 Malia Frey is a weight loss expert, certified health coach, weight management specialist, personal trainer​, and fitness nutrition specialist.