However, it's safe to say that no one really knows the origin of the military diet, Yurechko said, as it is certainly not approved by the military. But if you are still a tad bit curious about taking this diet out for a spin, we spoke to some experts on the subject to make sure you have all the ins-and-outs. Here are some takeaways to keep in mind.
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.
Dairy products contain varying amounts of lactose (milk sugar), which slows down weight loss. What’s more, part of the protein in milk generates a significant insulin response, which can have the same effect. Consequently, cutting back on dairy products may accelerate weight loss. This applies especially to dairy products typically lacking in fat, such as regular milk and various yogurts, but be careful with full-fat dairy such as cream and cheese all the same. And don’t forget whey protein powder, which is pure milk protein.
Greek yogurt is an extremely satiating breakfast or snack, thanks to its thick, creamy texture and a whopping 17 grams of protein (nearly three times more than is in an egg, in fact). A study from the journal Appetite found that people who ate a high-protein yogurt snack three hours after lunch felt fuller and ate dinner later than the other participants. And on top of that, other studies suggest that the acids produced during yogurt fermentation might help increase feelings of fullness.
The 2003 research indicated that exercise is a top weapon against visceral fat, backed up by a 2011 study which found that aerobic exercise is basically a magic bullet. Aerobic exercise is known to most people as cardio — activities such as running and cycling, as opposed to resistance training (where you lift heavy stuff around). While participants in the study worked fairly hard (jogging 20km per week at a high intensity), the researchers said lower-intensity but longer workouts should have similar benefits.
Yancy WS Jr, Westman EC, McDuffie JR, Grambow SC, Jeffreys AS, Bolton J, Chalecki A, Oddone EZ, “A randomized trial of a low-carbohydrate diet vs orlistat plus a lowfat diet for weight loss,” Arch Intern Med. 2010 Jan 25;170(2):136-45. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20101008?itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum&ordinalpos=2.
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!
“For weight loss, it’s important to eat foods with plenty of protein and fiber to keep you full throughout the day and prevent you from overeating. I like to recommend opting for plant-based proteins, since they tend to have fewer calories than their meat counterparts,” says Rizzo. A 1/2 cup of cooked lentils has 12 grams of protein for just 140 calories. It's super versatile and can be added to grain bowls, salads, soups, and more.
According to registered dietitian Andy Yurechko, an outpatient GI dietitian at Augusta University Medical Center in Georgia, the military diet is a low calorie, (only 800-1,200 calories are recommended) a low carbohydrate, moderate protein, and moderate fat regimen type of diet that is observed for three days out of the week. You are restricted to 1,500 calories for the remaining four days of the week, Yurechko explained, and no foods are off limits.
It usually takes three to four days for your body to go into ketosis because you have to use up your body's stores of glucose, i.e., sugar first, Keatley says. Any major diet change can give you some, uh, issues, and Keatley says he often sees patients who complain of IBS-like symptoms and feeling wiped out at the beginning of the diet. (The tiredness happens because you have less access to carbs, which give you quick energy, he explains.)
Perhaps the biggest benefit of this type of diet is the potential for weight loss, given that currently over 70 percent of the United States population is either overweight or obese, according to the NIDDK. The NIDDK reports that people who initially lost 15 to 25 percent of their body weight within six months might be able to maintain a 5 percent weight loss over a period of four years. (2) The catch here is that exercise and permanent lifestyle changes must be made for such effects to stick — and there’s no evidence the military diet leads to sustainable healthy habits that result in maintainable weight loss.
In a recent study in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, Weiss and his colleagues found that participants performed worse on high-intensity cycling and running tasks after four days on a ketogenic diet, compared to those who’d spent four days on a high-carb diet. Weiss says that the body is in a more acidic state when it’s in ketosis, which may limit its ability to perform at peak levels.
Military diet-approved foods aren't what you'd typically think of as "diet" fare, including hot dogs, toast, ice cream, and canned tuna, says registered dietitian Brooke Alpert. See the full breakdown of the diet meals below. These same meals are prescribed for everyone observing the diet and are carefully planned out so you don't overindulge or stray off the diet (since you can only eat the foods recommended below), says Alpert.
When in the hospital, glucose levels are checked several times daily and the patient is monitored for signs of symptomatic ketosis (which can be treated with a small quantity of orange juice). Lack of energy and lethargy are common but disappear within two weeks. The parents attend classes over the first three full days, which cover nutrition, managing the diet, preparing meals, avoiding sugar and handling illness. The level of parental education and commitment required is higher than with medication.
When you're headed to the market, make sure to focus on the usual healthy fare, since you'll need at least a week's worth of food. But for the planned meals specifically, here's what you'll need to add to your 3-day military diet shopping list: 1 grapefruit, 4 slices of whole-wheat toast, 3 eggs, 2 cups of coffee, 11/2 cups tuna, 2 tbs peanut butter, 3 oz meat, 1 cup green beans, 2 bananas, 2 small apples, 2 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream, 1 cup cottage cheese, 10 saltine crackers, 2 hotdogs, 1 cup broccoli, 1/2 cup carrots, and 1 slice cheddar cheese. Chances are, you have a lot of this already in your kitchen.
Again, there’s an easy short answer: Yes. By drastically limiting your calorie intake, your body is burning more than it’s taking in, and you’ll shed pounds quickly, possibly even that 10 pounds in one week that others who've tried the diet have claimed. However, the diet itself is only designed to last one week. If you're looking to get a jump start on your weight loss journey, it can be a good place to begin. But if you're looking to make healthy changes in your life, longer-term solutions might be the better fit.
A website called TheMilitaryDiet.com offers the full menu for three days of dieting. It’s important that you eat exactly what the diet instructs on those three days, according to the website, although there is a substitutions list for those who don’t like the suggested foods. This is important, according to the site, because the diet is designed to “kick start your metabolism and promote fat burning.” Unfortunately, no scientific studies can back up the claim that certain foods can boost your metabolism.
Some diet plans, such as the MIND diet and the DASH diet, are meant to focus on certain areas of health — and weight loss may be a bonus. Others are created with weight loss as a primary goal. “It is important to remember that we are all very unique individuals,” says Kyle. “We all have different states of health and different lifestyles, which could affect what diet plan is best for us. That means that you should not be considering what is working for your friends or family members — and instead should pay attention to what works for you individually.”
Being seriously committed to this type of eating, I've found it helpful to have a ketone blood tester to check on where I'm at, at different points. The breath and urine testers are a waste of money if you want accurate testing. The tester I found, and believe is the most accurate and least expensive is called Keto Mojo. It tests both ketones and glucose and if you purchase it from them, you're guaranteed to be able to purchase ketone test strips for only .99 cents, instead of the $2.00 to $7.00 each, as I've seen them listed for on the internet.
Eggs are rich in high-quality protein, fats and essential nutrients, like vitamin D and choline. It's the protein, and the time of day we tend to eat them, that especially makes them a powerhouse for weight loss. Eating a high-protein breakfast promotes weight loss, because protein increases satiety while regulating hunger and appetite hormones, helping fend off your hunger until lunchtime. One study found that eating eggs for breakfast left people feeling more satisfied than those who had bagels—which helped them eat less throughout the day.
The Keto diet emphasizes weight loss through fat-burning. The goal is to quickly lose weight and ultimately feel fuller with fewer cravings, while boosting your mood, mental focus and energy. According to Keto proponents, by slashing the carbs you consume and instead filling up on fats, you safely enter a state of ketosis. That’s when the body breaks down both dietary and stored body fat into substances called ketones. Your fat-burning system now relies mainly on fat – instead of sugar – for energy. While similar in some ways to familiar low-carb diets, the Keto diet’s extreme carb restrictions – about 20 net carbs a day or less, depending on the version – and the deliberate shift into ketosis are what set this increasingly popular diet apart.
Basically, the effect of exercise on our weight is vastly overrated. That’s why it’s only number 15 on this list. There are other things you need to take care of first. It’s not a good idea to eat bad food, drink sugar water (so-called “sports drinks”) or be on medications which force you to exercise for hours daily just to compensate. Metaphorically that’s like digging a hole, into which you put your ladder, on which you stand and paint the basement-level windows of your house.
There are theoretically no restrictions on where the ketogenic diet might be used, and it can cost less than modern anticonvulsants. However, fasting and dietary changes are affected by religious and cultural issues. A culture where food is often prepared by grandparents or hired help means more people must be educated about the diet. When families dine together, sharing the same meal, it can be difficult to separate the child's meal. In many countries, food labelling is not mandatory so calculating the proportions of fat, protein and carbohydrate is difficult. In some countries, it may be hard to find sugar-free forms of medicines and supplements, to purchase an accurate electronic scale, or to afford MCT oils.
The study authors believe that sleep deprivation can cause your body to produce extra hunger hormones (like ghrelin) and fewer satiety hormones (like leptin). This means you’ll feel hungrier and have a harder time controlling your cravings once they hit. Most adults should aim for at least 7 to 9 hours of shuteye per night, per the National Sleep Foundation’s recommendations.
Many people claim success with this diet, but nutrition experts caution against following the plan for a long-term period. Starvation or fasting diets have been debated often, and support is still anecdotal. While this diet may meet your initial weight loss goals, it's not a long-term, sustainable lifestyle (the website itself says that it's about quick fixes and providing support in a weight loss emergency).
There is a substantial market for products which claim to make weight loss easier, quicker, cheaper, more reliable, or less painful. These include books, DVDs, CDs, cremes, lotions, pills, rings and earrings, body wraps, body belts and other materials, fitness centers, clinics, personal coaches, weight loss groups, and food products and supplements.