Does the Military Diet Work? (3 Day Military Diet) - Old School Labs
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Home » OSL Blog » Does the Military Diet Work? The Truth Revealed

Does the Military Diet Work? The Truth Revealed

May 24, 2019

What if you could lose weight without giving up ice cream and hot dogs? Believe it or not, that’s a real thing. With the military diet, you can drop up to 10 pounds in a single week. Best of all, it doesn’t involve ready-made meals or miracle slimming pills. But does it really work?

There’s little evidence to back up these claims. While it’s possible to lose weight on this plan, the results are temporary. The only way to keep the pounds off is to keep eating clean once you’re off the diet.

Eager to learn more? Let’s see how the military diet works and what to expect!

What Is the Military Diet?

Did you know that more than 95% of diets fail? That’s right! The vast majority of dieters gain back the lost weight within one to five years.

If fad diets worked, you would already be lean. Assuming that you know a thing or two about nutrition and clean eating, you’re probably not a fan of crash diets. Perhaps you carry a few extra pounds and want to get rid of them before summer kicks in. Or maybe you need a quick boost of motivation to jumpstart your weight loss.

That’s where the military diet comes in.

Diet program
The military diet serves as a quick boost to weight loss.

Also known as the 3-Day Diet, this low-calorie eating plan only lasts for three days. You do need to eat clean over those three days though. The first three days require a strict menu, while the other four are more flexible in terms of food choices.

Despite its name, this diet has nothing to do with the military. It was never used to help soldiers get in shape or recommended by nutritionists in the Army.

The proponents of the Military Diet claim that anyone can lose up to 10 pounds in as little as one week and up to 30 pounds in one month while on this diet. It’s designed for those who want to lose weight fast for special events, photo shoots, or competitions.

Unfortunately, these statements lack scientific proof. In fact, low-calorie diets usually do more harm than good. These slimming plans have been linked to metabolic damage, muscle loss, fatigue, poor workout performance, hormonal imbalance, and more. But we’ll tackle these issues later.

How Does It Work?

The three-day military diet is based on a combination of low-calorie, metabolism-boosting foods that ignite weight loss, according to its advocates. As you probably know, these claims have no real meaning and are nothing but a marketing gimmick. If you get leaner while on this diet, it’s because of the low-calorie intake.

The first three days can be excruciating as you must limit your food intake to 1,100 to 1,400 calories per days. As a bodybuilder or regular gym goer, you need a lot more calories to build and preserve lean mass. The harder you work out, the higher your calorie intake should be.

Low calorie
Just like any common diet, the military diet is a low-calorie one.

A 160-pound athlete training 1.5 to 2 hours five to six times a week needs 3,520 to 3,840 calories per day. Depending on their body weight, training style, workout frequency, and fitness goals, most athletes need at least 1,800 to 2,000 calories a day — even when cutting.

What Doctors Say

According to Dr. Theodore Shybut at Baylor College of Medicine, athletes require two or three times more calories than the average person. Famous bodybuilder Tom Platz, for example, increased his carb intake to 300 grams a day while preparing for the 1980 Mr. Olympia. That’s 1,200 calories from carbs alone! Yet, he was in the best shape of his life when he competed in Sydney, Australia.

The military diet is extremely low in calories and unsustainable in the long run. Plus, it’s restrictive and difficult to follow, especially if you’re physically active. However, this weight loss plan is unlikely to cause a lot of damage in just one week.

Very-low-calorie diets (VLCDs) and low-calorie diets may help with fat loss, according to a 2014 review published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The downside is that dieters are more likely to regain the lost weight.

High-protein diets, on the other hand, make it easier to maintain your weight. Protein is known for its ability to preserve lean mass, suppress appetite, and increase satiety while stimulating thermogenesis.

Military Diet Menu: What Can You Eat?

Wondering what to eat while on the military diet? Well, there’s a set menu for the first three days, so your food choices are limited. Let’s break it down!

The first three days on the military diet are quite restrictive.

#1 Day (1,400 calories)


  • A cup of coffee / tea (unsweetened)
  • 1 bread slice + 2 tbsp of peanut butter
  • 1/2 grapefruit


  • A cup of coffee or tea (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 cup tuna
  • 1 slice of toast


  • 1 cup of vanilla ice cream (that’s right!)
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1 apple (make sure it’s a small one)
  • 3 oz meat + 1 cup green beans

#2 Day (1,200 calories)


  • A cup of coffee or tea (unsweetened)
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1 hard-boiled egg + 1 slice of toast


  • A cup of coffee or tea (unsweetened)
  • 5 saltine crackers
  • 1 cup cottage cheese + 1 hard-boiled egg


  • 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1/2 cup broccoli + 1/2 cup carrots
  • 2 bunless hot dogs

#3 Day (1,100 calories)


  • A cup of coffee or tea (unsweetened)
  • 1 apple
  • 5 saltine crackers
  • 1 oz cheddar cheese


  • A cup of coffee or tea (unsweetened)
  • 1 egg
  • 1 slice of toast


  • 1 cup vanilla ice cream
  • 1/2 banana
  • 1 cup tuna

Feeling disappointed? At first glance, this menu makes you think about those skinny girls who eat next to nothing. Yet, it’s popular in the fitness community.

The military diet is challenging but achievable with planning and discipline.

The coffee and tea are optional. Just make sure you don’t add sugar, artificial sweeteners, milk, or flavorings.

Keep your food intake under 1,500 calories a day over the next four days. Feel free to eat anything you wish as long as it fits your calorie budget.

Are Food Swaps Allowed?

If you’re allergic to peanuts, lactose, dairy, or gluten, feel free to make food swaps while on the military diet.

Almond butter is a good substitute for peanut butter on this diet.

Hummus and almond butter, for example, are good substitutes for peanut butter. Vegans can replace tuna with tofu, almonds, Portobello mushrooms, or lentils as long as they don’t exceed their daily calorie allotments. If you’re a vegetarian, swap tuna and meat for chicken, cottage cheese, or other types of fish.

Tofu is a good replacement for dairy on the military diet.

Those who are allergic to milk and dairy can opt for tofu and soy, almond, or hemp milk. Avocado can replace eggs. If you have a gluten allergy, eat rice cakes or quinoa. Beware that couscous isn’t gluten-free.

Most foods allowed on the military diet can be replaced with other products. The key is to eat just the right amount in order not to exceed your calorie goals. Feel free to swap ice cream for yogurt, apples for plums or zucchini, eggs for nuts, seeds or even bacon, and toast for seeds or whole grains.

Make sure you get the math right. Weigh your food and determine the exact number of calories in each serving. Avocado, for instance, is higher in calories than hard-boiled eggs.

boiled eggs
A hard boiled egg has 77.7 calories.

A large avocado has 322 calories, while a hard-boiled egg boasts 77.7 calories. This means that you can only eat a quarter of avocado instead of an egg.

What Does Science Say?

There are no studies on the three-day military diet. However, the foods allowed on this plan have been subject to research. Coffee, tea, cottage cheese, eggs, broccoli, and tuna, for example, may help with weight loss in one way or another.

Let’s take a look at some of these foods and how they affect your body weight.

Cottage Cheese and Weight Loss

One cup of low-fat cottage cheese boasts 28 grams of protein, 6.1 grams of carbs, 2.3 grams of fat, and just 163 calories. It also provides 29% of the daily recommended selenium intake, 30% of the recommended daily allowance of phosphorus, and 14% of the daily recommended amount of calcium.

Low in calories and high in protein, cottage cheese fills you up quickly without adding inches to your waist. According to a 2012 study in the journal Obesity, protein suppresses appetite and increases the feeling of fullness. By including cottage cheese in your diet, you’ll end up eating less without even realizing it.

Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is low in calories, high in protein, & quite satisfying

Additionally, protein requires more energy to digest than fats and carbohydrates. As a result, it increases your body’s core temperature and helps you burn more calories throughout the day. At the same time, it helps build and preserve lean mass, which can further increase your metabolic rate. The more muscle you have, the higher your energy expenditure.

2011 Nutrition Study

A 2011 study published in The Journal of Nutrition assessed the effects of dairy foods and protein on body weight. Researchers have found that higher protein and dairy intakes may improve body composition aka muscle-to-fat ratio when combined with strength training. Dieters who consumed dairy products lost more trunk fat and visceral fat than those who ate less protein and no dairy foods.

Cottage cheese is an excellent source of casein, a slow-digesting protein. This means that it fuels your body over several hours and may help reduce catabolism. Since it takes longer to digest, it increases satiety and curbs hunger to a greater extent than other proteins.

Can Eggs Help You Get Leaner?

Eggs have been a bodybuilding staple for decades — and for good reason. A large hard-boiled egg has only 78 calories and more than 6 grams of protein. Plus, it’s a good source of vitamin C, iron, and calcium. Several studies conducted over the years have linked eggs to weight loss.

Eggs have been a bodybuilding staple since the golden era.

In an eight-week study, subjects who ate eggs for breakfast as part of a low-fat diet experienced a 16% reduction in fat mass, a 34% decrease in waist circumference, a 61% decrease in body mass index, and 65% greater weight loss compared to those eating bagels in the morning.

Another study, which was published in The European Journal of Nutrition in 2013, indicates that eggs are more filling than breakfast cereals and croissants. Furthermore, they reduce the desire to eat and suppress hunger.

Due to their high protein content, eggs can boost your metabolism and improve your body’s ability to use energy. Plus, they’re cheap and easy to prepare.

Vince Gironda, the Iron Guru, recommended low-carb diets long before they became popular in the bodybuilding and fitness community. His daily meals included dozens of eggs and copious amounts of steak cooked with butter. Vince was also a proponent of eating whole eggs and not egg whites because the fats in the yolk were thought to increase the testosterone level in the body due to the saturated fats in the yolk.

Bodybuilder Vince Gironda
Bodybuilder Vince Gironda was one of the early advocates of a low-carb diet.

Eggs are a powerhouse of nutrition and can streamline your weight loss efforts. The military diet, though, only includes one egg a day, so it’s unlikely to have any impact on metabolism or satiety.

What about Tuna?

Just like eggs and cottage cheese, tuna is high in protein and low in calories. Its nutritional value varies among brands. In general, it provides around 290 calories and 54 grams of protein per cup. Choose tuna canned in water, not oil, to cut back on empty calories.

Tuna is high in protein, low in calories, & a good source of omega 3-s.

Tuna is chock-full of good fats, especially omega-3s. As the journal Nutrients points out, omega-3 fatty acids may facilitate weight loss, especially when combined with diet and exercise. Clinical research has linked omega-3s to visceral fat loss, lower cholesterol levels, reduced inflammation, and improved cardiovascular health.

The 3-day military diet limits tuna intake to half a cup per day, so it only offers low doses of omega-3s. Consider taking dietary supplements to keep your heart healthy and speed up fat loss. Vintage Balance™, a complete Omega 3-6-9 formula, delivers a potent combination of good fats and vitamin E. It’s made with organic flaxseed oil, borage oil, and marine lipid concentrate, with no fillers and trans fats. Also, canned tuna is very low in fat so it will not provide a significant amount of fats including the important omega-3 fats.

Let’s Talk about Coffee

This weight loss plan allows dieters to drink coffee and tea on a daily basis. For best results, choose green tea, which is high in antioxidants and exhibits anti-obesity effects. Both coffee and green tea will raise your metabolism, helping you burn more calories at rest.

Coffee is a great option to boost metabolism and result in fat burning at rest.

A single dose of caffeine (100 milligrams) can boost your metabolic rate by up to 4%. Repeated caffeine administration can raise your energy expenditure by up 8% to 11%. The downside is that drinking too much coffee can give you jitters and cause arrhythmia, poor sleep, muscle tremors, or restlessness.

Additionally, some individuals are more sensitive to caffeine than others. In their case, even drinking small amounts of coffee may cause nausea, increased heart rate, stomach upset, nervousness, irritability, and other adverse reactions. Others simply don’t like coffee.

What’s Wrong with the Military Diet?

The military diet does include a number of foods that can make weight loss easier but misses a few important points. First of all, it says nothing about macros or food quality. The whole idea behind this plan is to limit your calorie intake. You’ll get less than 80 grams of protein on most days, which should be enough to make you think twice about going on this diet.

The foods substitutions on this plan don’t make sense either.

Why would you swap grapefruit for baking soda? Almonds, which are promoted as an alternative to cottage cheese and meat, have a completely different nutritional makeup. Meat and cottage cheese are relatively low in calories and high in protein, while almonds boast a high fat content and little protein.

More Problems

Another problem is the limited number of foods. You’re only allowed to eat small amounts of fruits and veggies, which can lead to nutritional deficiencies. Not a single day on this diet meets the daily recommendations for vegetables and fruits.

Your daily protein comes mostly from things like ice cream and hot dogs. The only exceptions are tuna, avocado, and eggs. The military diet includes meat but doesn’t specify what kind of meat.

Protein sources
The military diet includes mean and other sources of protein.

On top of that, most meals are high in lactose and gluten. Sure, you can make food swaps, but this requires a lot more planning.

The three-day military diet actually goes against all principles of military nutrition. Serving in the army is mentally and physically draining, so you can’t expect to perform at your peak while on a crash diet. In fact, malnutrition has been linked to poor military performance. Even a 24-hour ration pack is more nutritious compared to this diet.

Does It Work?

Low-calorie diets promote weight loss, but this doesn’t mean they’re safe or balanced. The results don’t last, so you’ll likely gain the weight back once you return to normal eating. Plus, working out may be difficult due to fatigue and low energy.

The military diet simply doesn’t make sense from a nutritional standpoint. You could just as well try the cabbage diet or starve yourself to cut calories. That’s the last thing you want considering how much time and effort go into your workouts.

There are better ways to torch fat and keep the pounds off. First of all, follow the basic rules of workout nutrition. Maintain a high protein intake, choose your carbs wisely, and fill up on heart-healthy fats. Plan your meals around your training sessions. Carb cycling can help too.

vintage burn
Vintage Burn will increase fat burning without affecting your lean muscle mass.

Consider taking a fat burner to speed up your progress. Vintage Burn™, for instance, will kick start your metabolism and increase fat burning without affecting lean mass. For best results, pair it with a quality protein supplement and commit to clean eating.

Disclaimer: None of the individuals and/or companies mentioned necessarily endorse Old School Labs or COSIDLA Inc. products or the contents of this article. Any programs provided for illustration purposes only. Always consult with your personal trainer, nutritionist and physician before changing or starting any new exercise, nutrition, or supplementation program.
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