What is The Military Diet? Benefits & Drawbacks

What would you do if someone told you that you could lose weight while eating hot dogs and ice cream? Well, Military diet promises just that. This three-day plan claims to help you lose 10 pounds in a week. But does this diet work or is it all a hoax? Let us find out.

What is the military diet?

The military diet is a 3-day diet which helps you lose10 pounds in a week. This diet involves three days of restrictive eating and four days of rest. This process can be followed by repeated cycles of three days of diet and four days off. The proponents of the military diet claim that it was designed by the nutritionists of the US military to get their soldiers in shape. However, this is not true. This diet does not have any military origins.


Some other people also claim that the military diet is supported by the American Heart Association, the Mayo Clinic, and the Birmingham Hospital. These claims are also baseless. This diet is also known as the Navy diet, the army diet, and the ice-cream diet.

How does the military diet work?

The military diet involves a very low-calorie diet plan. The dieters are supposed to consume 1400 calories on day one, 1200 calories on day two and 1100 calories on day three.

The foods recommended in this diet are supposed to be chemically compatible and are supposed to help in fast weight loss. No snacks can be included in the military diet plan.

You are supposed to follow this diet plan for three days and take a break for four days. During the four days, you should continue to eat healthily and keep your diet intake low.

The diet plan

Day 1

  • Breakfast: ½ grapefruit, one slice of bread/toast with two tablespoons of peanut butter or almond butter, and one cup of coffee or tea.
  • Lunch: One slice of bread/toast, ½ can of tuna, and one cup of coffee or tea.
  • Dinner: Three ounces of any meat, one cup of green beans, one small apple, ½ banana, and one bowl of ice-cream.

Day 2

  • Breakfast: One egg cooked (no added oil or butter), one slice of bread/toast, ½ banana.
  • Lunch: One cup of cottage cheese, one hard-boiled egg, five saltine crackers.
  • Dinner: Two hot dogs (no buns), one cup of broccoli, ½ cup of carrots, ½ banana, and one bowl of ice-cream.

Day 3

  • Breakfast: One slice of cheddar cheese, one small apple, and five saltine crackers.
  • Lunch: One egg (cooked), and one slice of plain toast.
  • Dinner: One cup of tuna, ½ banana, and one bowl of ice-cream.

You must drink plenty of water during the diet. You can have tea or coffee on day one as long as there is no sugar and creamer added to it. Alcohol is a definite no-no as wine and beer tend to contain a lot of calories.

Day 4 to day 7

From day 4 to day seven you are permitted to have snacks and food as per your choice. However, you must limit your calorie intake to 1500 a day. While no snacks are allowed during the first three days, you can have healthy snacks for the last four days of your diet. Here are some healthy options for snacks –

  • Sliced apples with peanut butter
  • Vegetables with homemade ranch, spinach, and hummus
  • Saltine crackers

The military diet plan lasts for one week. You can repeat the diet plan as many times as you like till you reach your goal weight.

Military diet shopping list

Since this diet involves eating specific foods, it easy to shop in advance for the week. You need to buy fruits, vegetables, and minimally processed meats. Here are the foods you must buy for a successful military diet –

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Oranges
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Carrots
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Hot dogs (minimally processed)
  • Eggs
  • Bread (whole grain)
  • Saltine crackers
  • Peanut butter
  • Cottage cheese
  • Cheddar cheese
  • Vanilla ice-cream

The pros and cons of military diet

Potential benefits

1. Weight loss

Average, healthy men or women need between 2000 to 2,600 calories per day. The military diet involves eating 1400 to 1100 calories per day. So, when you eat much lesser than the amount needed by your body, you are bound to lose weight. However, this is not the healthiest way to lose weight. It is also not very sustainable to follow this diet in the long run. When you follow such a restrictive diet, you are bound to cheat on your diet plan.

Military diet infographic

2. Includes several fruits and vegetables

The military diet involves eating healthy veggies like carrots, broccoli, and beans. Fruits like bananas and apples are also a part of this diet plan. Fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber, so they improve satiety and prevent cravings. You can also substitute these fruits and vegetables with other healthy fruits and vegetables as long as the total calories consumed are unchanged.

3. Moderately high in protein

People who eat more protein feel more satisfied at the end of the meals, and they tend to avoid snacking between meals. Protein also helps in preventing muscle loss. Studies have shown that inadequate protein during dieting can increase craving which can cause you to overeat. Military diet includes several high-protein foods like eggs, meats, fish and cottage cheese.

4. Similar to intermittent fasting

A military diet is a form of intermittent fasting (IF), and it confines all meals to a small window of time each day. Studies have found that intermittent fasting has positive effects on weight loss.

5. Low-cost diet

The military diet does not involve any fees. You can find all the information about this diet online. Many websites offer recipes and advice on what to eat during the off days. The food is easy to find at the grocery store, and there is very little cooking or food preparation needed.

Drawbacks of military diet

1. Includes processed foods

The military diet involves eating many processed foods like bread, peanut butter, hot dogs and ice-cream, which ideally should not be a part of a healthy diet. The military diet involves restricting calories, but it does not seem to focus on eating nutrient-dense foods. Calories from processed foods are what we would typically call empty calories.

2. Can cause starvation mode response

If the calories we consume are too low, our body goes into starvation mode. During starvation mode, the metabolic rate of our body slows down, and this causes the body the burn fewer calories. When we consume fewer calories over a period, our body perceives this as a threat to survival. Hunger increases and the body starts using fewer calories for critical metabolic processes like tissue repair, digestion, libido, hormone production, and cognitive function.

3. Not sustainable

A healthy diet involves improving eating habits and incorporating them into our daily lives. Military diet is deficient in calories, and it also excludes complete food groups from the diet. You can not sustain this diet in the long run.

Does military diet plan work?

According to the followers of the military diet, you can lose 10 pounds in one week. Well, it is possible to lose this much weight in you follow a restrictive diet. However, most of the weight that you lose is water and not fat. When we restrict carbs and calories, the glycogen stores in the body decline and this leads to a drop in the water weight.

However, when you go back to your old eating habits, you are likely to gain all the weight back. If you are serious about losing weight and keeping it off, the military diet is not for you.

Is military diet safe?

The military diet involves just three days of restrictive eating, so it is unlikely to cause lasting harm. However, if you follow this diet for months, you are at risk of developing nutritional deficiencies. When you limit your intake of fruits and vegetables, you will not get enough fiber, antioxidants, vitamin, and minerals in your diet on a daily basis.

This diet also limits the intake of dairy products, which means you are likely to be low on calcium, vitamin D and potassium as well. Lack of whole grains can also lead to a deficiency in vitamin B and fiber. Lack of enough calories over a period can lead to low energy levels. Cravings, muscle weakness, headaches, difficulty in concentrating, poor sleep and digestive issues are some of the other side effects of military diet.

Attempting high-intensity workout on such a low-calorie diet can be harmful. It may lead you to become light-headed and fatigued. You may also see a loss in muscle in the long run.


Final thoughts

Military diet is a three-day low-calorie diet plan. It involves eating between 1100 to 1400 calories for three days. Though it helps in weight loss, most of the weight loss is water weight. People tend to regain all their weight after they resume their regular diet. This form of dieting can have a negative impact on your metabolism.

It also leads to side effects like muscle fatigue, headaches, difficulty in concentrating and poor sleep. So, it is best to avoid a military diet and go for a more sustainable weight loss programme.


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