Overall, the military diet is a pretty low-calorie plan, considering dieters are encouraged to consume approximately 1,400 calories on day one, 1,200 calories on day two, and roughly 1,100 calories on day three, explains JJ Virgin, a board-certified nutrition specialist. (Here's what you need really to know about counting calories.) The foods on the plan are supposedly "chemically compatible," she says, and are said to work together in order to promote fast weight loss. When you are on the diet you are supposed to follow it for three days in one week, she adds.
Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, and author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet and Belly Fat Diet For Dummies, feels similarly concerned. "A restrictive diet that does not promote the nutritional value of foods and is only focused on calories, such as the Military Diet, may promote weight loss at the expense of health," she says. "This diet is not sustainable and any weight loss will most likely be regained quickly." She even cautions that the diet may ultimately lead to weight gain down the road. "A drastic reduction in calories will promote weight loss, however restricting calories this low may promote a loss of both lean body mass (muscle mass) as well as fat mass, which makes it easier to regain the weight as soon as you return to normal eating habits."
Here’s the hard truth—the Military Diet is the quintessential definition of a “fad diet,” and it’s an eating plan that I would not recommend or advise anyone to follow. Not only does it provide inadequate nutrients, but the diet’s food choices and food group servings do not follow the guidelines that research suggests to maintain health and prevent disease.
Fitness trainer and fat-loss coach Ivica Fridrih (@ivicafridrih on Instagram) posted this diagram to show how you can lose fat and leave restrictive diets behind. It illustrates the good old 80/20 rule, in which 80 percent of the time you focus on healthy, whole, unprocessed foods. Then the other 20 percent leaves room for the treats you love (like pizza and wine!).
The nutritional highlight of the diet is protein. Where calories, vitamins and minerals may be missing- protein is a priority. Protein is included heavily in all three meals every day. When following a low-calorie diet, protein can really help your body preserve your muscle and metabolism, boosting your weight loss success. This is a positive aspect of the diet.
Low-calorie diets usually produce an energy deficit of 500–1,000 calories per day, which can result in a 0.5 to 1 kilogram (1.1 to 2.2 pounds) weight loss per week. One of the most commonly used low-calorie diets is Weight Watchers. The National Institutes of Health reviewed 34 randomized controlled trials to determine the effectiveness of low-calorie diets. They found that these diets lowered total body mass by 8% in the short term, over 3–12 months. Women doing low-calorie diets should have at least 1,000 calories per day and men should have approximately 1,200 calories per day. These caloric intake values vary depending on additional factors, such as age and weight.
While 1,200 may be the right number for some, it can be super restrictive for others, says Jaclyn London, MS, RD, CDN, Nutrition Director at the Good Housekeeping Institute. Try basing your meals and snacks off this plan and double up on veggies at any opportunity — more fruit at snack time works too! You can also add an extra ounce or two of protein at all meals if you find yourself feeling hungry. The combo of fiber from produce and lean protein makes this an adaptable strategy that’ll help you lose weight safely — one meal (and snack) at a time!
While many people turn to artificial sweeteners in a misguided attempt to whittle their waistlines, those fake sugars are likely to have the opposite effect. According to researchers at Yale, artificial sweeteners are actually linked with an increased risk of abdominal obesity and weight gain, possibly because they can trigger cravings for the real stuff and spike insulin levels in a similar fashion to real sugar.
The foods in the 3 Day Military Diet may have some metabolic benefits. High protein foods have thermal effects; therefore, you see eggs, tuna, peanut butter, and meat in the plan. High-fiber foods also boost your metabolism, hence the appearance of some vegetable and fruits in the diet. Foods high in calcium are also linked to faster fat burning, therefore, the diet includes ice cream, cottage cheese, and cheese.
Ketogenic diets are, however, a well-established way to help control Type 2 diabetes, and the plan has for nearly 100 years been used to reduce instances of childhood epileptic seizures. Some scientists also think the high-fat diet may hold promise for staving off Alzheimer's, and there are some early indications it might help improve certain cancer treatment outcomes when used in conjunction with drugs. (Harper is part of a research team investigating how the diet might help boost treatment among people with breast cancer.)
If you've got more than a few pounds to lose, consider meeting with a registered dietitian or making small changes to your daily habits to lose weight and keep it off. Remember, your health is too important to trust it to a nameless, faceless fad on the internet. Find the right diet for you and invest a little time and effort into putting a reasonable healthy plan in place. Is it more work in the beginning? Yep! But you're far more likely to achieve sustainable results.