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.

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.

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.

Though the program might lead to weight loss, in general, when you lose weight quickly, it's water weight, not fat loss. In fact, some experts say you can lose up to 5 pounds of water weight in a day. While proponents of the 3-Day Military Diet claim that it's more than just water weight that's lost on the plan, there is no research to support this.

The origin of the 3-Day Military Diet is unknown. Some sources claim that the diet was created by nutritionists working for the United States military as a way to help soldiers quickly lose weight. However, the diet is not affiliated with the military or any U.S. government institution. It is widely speculated that the diet, similar to other fad diets, was created by a marketing specialist and not a dietitian.

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

What Can You 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.

For the first three days, followers will eat foods from a very strict list including peanut butter toast, hard-boiled eggs, cottage cheese, grapefruit, tuna, meat and hot dogs (no bun), saltine crackers, bananas, apples, broccoli, green beans, coffee, and ice cream. These are referred to as the "on" days and range from 1,100 to 1,400 calories per day.

Followers then take four days off from the extreme restrictions and limit their daily caloric intake to 1,500 calories of preferably healthy food. "Off-day" meals could include items such as a yogurt parfait, a salad topped with protein, or shrimp and zucchini pasta.

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.

What You Need to Know

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.

What to Eat
  • Meat

  • Vanilla ice cream

  • Bananas

  • Hot dogs

  • Eggs

  • Saltines

  • Cottage and cheddar cheese

  • Bread

  • Broccoli

  • Apple

  • Tuna

  • Grapefruit

  • Green beans

  • Black coffee

What Not to Eat
  • Alcohol

  • Milk or cream (in coffee)

  • Sugar

  • All other foods (for the first 3 days)

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.

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Could promote quick weight loss

  • Structured eating plan can be easy to follow

Cons
  • Not scientifically proven

  • Contains some nutrient-poor, processed foods including hot dogs and saltines

  • Does not promote intuitive eating

Like most fad diets, the 3-Day Military Diet has more drawbacks than benefits. The diet promises quick weight loss and provides a structured plan to achieve it, which helps to take the guesswork out of dieting.

But 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. Also, because the meal plan is specific and strict it doesn't allow for the follower to learn internal hunger cues or learn how to meal plan after the goals are hit. This will likely result in weight regain.

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), 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.

Health Benefits

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 at first, it was likely just water weight. In most cases, followers are likely to end up gaining it back later because the diet is restrictive and an unrealistic way of eating for the long-term.

Health Risks

The Military Diet claims to be one of the best "natural diets," however, this is not rooted in scientific evidence. 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.

The Military Diet also promotes unhealthy eating habits, which could cause some people to choose unprocessed foods over real, whole foods or lead to disordered eating.

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.

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Article Sources
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