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Complete Guide to the Military Diet

The exact origins of the military diet are unclear, as no identifying information has been found regarding the promoters of this diet. As you probably know by now, this diet has no connection whatsoever to the U.S. military. Military nutritionist Patricia Deuster said in an interview with CNN that she had never heard of this military diet and that it bore no resemblance to the military food that our troops actually eat. One look at a Navy SEAL nutrition guide authored by her will confirm this. We can see that real military food is meant to be much more substantial than this diet in terms of nutrient and energy content. (Navy Seals, CNN)

In its various incarnations, it has been known as the Navy diet, the Army diet, the ice cream diet, the three-day diet, and a few others. It would seem that this is a fad diet that has been recycled many times with many different monikers. And like most fad diets, it is only useful in the short term. Whatever you call it, it is just the same low-calorie diet. Its intended purpose is simply to produce rapid weight loss, with seemingly little regard for the well-being of the user.

How Many Calories are Allowed?

The so-called “military diet” involves limiting your caloric intake to 1100-1400 per day during the first three days. Military diet days four, five, six, and seven are “off days.” You are allowed 1500 calories on off days. This is certainly not enough for soldiers involved in strenuous activity. In fact, it’s not even enough for the average person. Men require about 2500 calories a day, while women generally require about 2000. In the military diet, day one contains a total of 1400 calories, while day two contains 1200, and day three contains only 1100. (Healthline)

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How Many Calories Do You Need?

According to government nutritionists, the exact amount of calories needed to maintain body weight varies considerably among people of different ages, sexes, and activity levels. Naturally, a person who is more active on a day to day basis will require more calories to make up for those that are burned off. Likewise, a less active person will need fewer calories. Age is a factor because metabolism tends to shift as people age. Sex is a factor because there is a natural difference in the metabolic rates of men and women.

For example, a moderately active male between the ages of 21 and 25 requires about 2800 calories per day. A moderately active female of the same age group requires about 2200. Very early in life, these differences are less pronounced. For instance, a moderately active male of age six requires 1600 calories. A moderately active female of the same age requires 1400.

As you can see, the difference is much slighter. If you go back all the way to age two, we see that there is no difference at all in metabolism. After age six, we see another set of years in which the recommended caloric intake for moderately active boys and girls are the same. At age nine, the 200-calorie difference returns and becomes more pronounced over time. This can be explained by the early effects of puberty.

From the ages of 12 to 18, we see no change in the caloric intake requirements for females. At the same time, those of males go up very significantly during the same period. After that, the differences in caloric intake between the genders will usually differ by 400-600 calories. (USDA, Health.gov)

As for the effects of age, we can see that the caloric requirements for both sexes reach a peak in the 21-25 age range (2800 and 2200). Note that there are 3500 calories in a pound. From there, both begin to decrease. By age 76, male caloric intake requirements drop down to 2200 while female requirements drop to 1800. The level of activity plays a prominent role, which is much more straightforward. The more active you are, the more calories you need. Studies have shown that high caloric intake was linked to mild cognitive impairment in aging people. However, the link was not wholly conclusive. This same link did not exist among subjects with moderate and low caloric intake levels. (Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease)

Military Diet Claims

Many claims are made regarding the military diet. But does the military diet work? Can this diet really help you lose weight in three days, as it claims to?

Claim 1: Many people lose up to ten pounds (4.5 kg) in 3 days.

The most common claim is that you can lose up to ten pounds in three days. This claim is not fully supported by the military diet reviews. We say that because although it is possible to lose weight in three days, and in these amounts, most people do not get those kinds of results. Out of the four reviewers selected at random, not one of them actually lost ten pounds (though one of their grandmothers did). For most people, it seems like five pounds a week is more the norm.

The verdict on this one is clear: this claim is technically true but is misleading. If our sample is accurate, your chances of actually losing ten pounds a week are about 16% (100% divided by six, for a one in six chance). Accordingly, your chances of only losing 5-6 pounds are about 50%.

Claim 2: Many people have been able to lose 30 pounds after doing the military diet for 30 days.

To lose 30 pounds in a month, you would have to lose approximately 7.5 pounds a week for four weeks in a row. While this is certainly possible, it would be tough. Achieving the first claim and losing seven to ten pounds in one week is hard enough, but to follow such a routine for four weeks in a row would be neither realistic nor healthy.

This claim is much like the first. It is not technically false but is misleading. Your chances of actually losing 30 pounds in a month on this diet seem very low, and it looks like it would make for a very miserable month even if you are successful. And apart from that, it is probably not safe to lose that much weight in a single month.

Most health professionals think that it is not healthy to lose more than two pounds in a single week. While they do often recommend that an obese person should attempt to lose ten percent of their body weight, this is intended to be done over about six months. Also, losing weight too quickly has been shown to have adverse effects on the body.

The second study cited below shows these effects in great detail using a variety of variables. They compared the results of low-calorie diets (LCDs) with very-low-calorie diets (VLCDs). The military diet would be considered a VLCD. They had the test subjects follow their respective diets for five weeks, followed by four weeks of normal eating. After this, they tested the subjects again to see how well they maintained the results of their diets. The study found that there was not a big difference between the rates of weight regain, but they did find that those who participated in the VLCD had an increased amount of muscle loss. (Obesity)

In the study, this phenomenon is referred to as FFML or “fat-free mass loss.” It’s a fancy way of saying that extremely-low-calorie diets will cause you to lose weight that isn’t necessarily fat. You want to lose fat, not water or muscle, so this is a problem. This can be understood by realizing that food is merely energy. When the body does not need to use that energy right away, it stores the energy as fat. Once these fat reserves begin to be depleted, however, the body will start drawing energy from other sources. Most often, this will amount to a loss in muscle mass. In the study cited below, this phenomenon was observed and documented in laboratory rats. Using both lean and fattened rats, the researcher found that the lean rats would lose a lot more mass than the fattened rats, even when their differing initial sizes were taken into account. (The Journal of Nutrition)

There’s also water weight loss to be considered. The human body is composed mostly of water, and it tends to be a carrier of energy and many other things. As the body uses energy, it also tends to use its excess water. What this means is that most of your military diet weight loss is not entirely beneficial, because you are losing more than just fat. Some of what you are losing is muscle, which you probably want to keep, and some of it is only excess body fluids.

Another factor to take into account is metabolism. When the body is fasting, it naturally slows its metabolism to get the most out of its limited calorie consumption. This could be compared to the act of driving slowly when you are low on gas. This means that the body will burn its military diet calories much more slowly, thus slowing your weight loss considerably. When this factor is taken into account, it seems that there is no way that we can credibly believe claim number two. (CABI)

Claim 3: The diet does not require strenuous exercise.

It is claimed that this diet does not require any strenuous exercise to be effective. This one needs minimal discussion because it is obviously true. It goes without saying that, if you starve yourself, you will definitely lose weight. Human physiology makes that an absolute certainty. And it naturally follows that you will not need to exercise for that to happen. So while this claim is valid, it is merely stating an undeniable biological fact that has nothing to do with the military diet itself.

Claim 4: The diet does not require any supplements or prescriptions.

It is claimed that this diet requires no supplements or pills. It is an obvious-no brainer based only upon the human body’s need for fuel. Drugs don’t change the fact that your body needs fuel to keep running, although certain medications can affect your metabolism.

Think about it: this miliary diet is basically a near-starvation diet. Mixing such a regimen with some medications (or even some over the counter diet products, ) could be potentially dangerous. Let’s think about stimulants, for example, which characteristically speed the metabolism of the user. We already know that the body will slow its metabolism as its energy reserves run low. Obviously, the body does that for a good reason. It doesn’t take too much imagination to think of how it could be harmful to artificially speed your metabolism at a time when the body is already depleted of nutrients. (European Journal of Pharmacology)

Claim 5: The diet is composed of foods that are intended to kick start human metabolism and help you burn fat more quickly.

It is claimed that this diet is composed of foods that will positively affect metabolism.

Presumably, this is intended to counteract the decreased metabolic rate associated with fasting. The foods included in this diet are meant to work together in a way that jump-starts the weight loss of the user. To analyze this, we will need to look at each individual component of the diet. The standard military diet consists of:

  • Grapefruit
  • Tuna
  • Toast
  • Peanut butter
  • Coffee or tea
  • Small amounts of meat (any type)
  • Green beans
  • Bananas
  • Apples
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Eggs
  • Cottage cheese
  • Saltine crackers
  • Hot dogs
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cheddar cheese

As you can see, the first item on the list is “fatty fish.” This talks about fish that contain omega-3 fatty acids, a substance that has been shown to have a whole range of health benefits. In particular, these fatty acids have been shown to have a beneficial effect on the heart and its related systems. This link was first discovered by examining populations that had a diet high in omega-3’s. The incredibly low rate of heart disease among native peoples of the north (Inuit, Chukchi, etc.) is a big part of what clued scientists in about omega fatty acids and their benefits. They have been shown to have an effect on the body’s metabolism, so they are worth examining in greater detail. (Current Pharmaceutical Design)

The only kind of fish listed on the military diet is tuna, so we must ask ourselves if tuna contains omega-3 fatty acids. The answer is yes, but not enough. According to Starkist, the omega-3 levels of their product are somewhat variable. This seems to mirror the claims of many canned tuna critics who say that it is not a reliable source of omega-3 fatty acids. According to the company, Starkist tuna contains between 90 and 140 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids per serving.

So, how much omega-3 should someone eat in a single serving? For our answer, we turn to a report from the National Institute of Health. This report says that a child who is one year old or less should ideally have about 500 milligrams (0.5 grams) per day. For children of ages one to three, the ideal amount goes up to 700 milligrams. At four to eight years of age, the number goes up to 900 milligrams.

After the age of nine, we see a difference in the requirements for males and females. This is because of the general fact that men tend to require more protein than women. From ages nine to thirteen, there is a difference of 200 milligrams (1200 for males and 1000 milligrams for women) between the amounts recommended. From age 14 onward, the requirements plateau and remain steady at 1600 milligrams for men and 1100 milligrams for women. (Office of Dietary Supplements)

The military diet involves only two servings of tuna in three days. The amount specified is precisely “one cup.” There are four servings in one cup of tuna. At 90-140 milligrams per serving, that adds up to 360-560 milligrams over 3 days. This, in turn, figures up to about 120-186 milligrams per day. This is so far below the recommended daily intake rates that I doubt one would see any real benefit from it.

In addition to this, it has also been proven that canned tuna will gradually lose much of its fatty acid content, which includes omega-3’s like linolenic acid. The authors of this study show a detailed analysis of how the fatty acids break down over time. After six months, they are almost entirely gone. This removes one of the main benefits of canned tuna, that being its long shelf life, and calls its healthful benefits into question. (Journal of Food Lipids)

So the answer to this question is: no, the tuna contained in the military diet will not help you lose weight simply because the servings are too small to actually give you the omega-3 fatty acids that constitute its primary benefit.

The next item on the list is MCT oil. This is an oil extracted from coconut or palm oil. Since this is not included in the military diet, we can quickly move past this one. Though it should be noted that coconut oil is much healthier than hydrogenated oil.

The next item is coffee. This one is included in the military diet because of its high caffeine content. Caffeine actually does increase your metabolic rate significantly. We believe we can safely say that this component of the military diet is included for that apparent reason.

Although caffeine is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive substance, it is not necessarily always safe. It has been linked to specific health problems in the past, but conclusive research is lacking in this department.

Mainly, it is associated with the same issues that most stimulants present when used regularly. Of course, a cup of coffee isn’t nearly as strong as many artificial stimulants. However, it can still have similar effects over time. The study below shows that excessive caffeine can lead to insomnia, diuresis, and gastrorrhea. Gastrorrhea is a condition in which the stomach secretes large amounts of gastric juices and/or mucus. Diuresis is an excess in the body’s production of urine. Foods that promote the production of urine are called diuretic foods. There is a medical condition called caffeinism, which includes all these symptoms, as well as tachycardia (abnormally fast heart rate), tremors, nervousness, and extreme irritability. (Journal of Food Safety)

While caffeine does increase metabolism, its most noticeable effects are exerted upon the central nervous system. The results of caffeine upon the brain are well-studied and reflect this stimulants’ long history of human use. One interesting thing is the fact that caffeine affects every individual just a little bit differently. Caffeine causes the brain to produce noradrenaline by activating the neurons (brain cells) associated with these chemicals. It also seems to affect the release of dopamine. (Brain Research- Brain Research Review, Caffeine for the Sustainment of Mental Task Performance, Journal of Food Safety)

The next food on our list of fat-burning foods is the egg. These are included in the military diet. Eggs have many well-researched health benefits, and one of those is that they have a positive impact on the rate of caloric consumption. This happens because the eggs have a high protein content, and this protein is quite pure. As it digests, it triggers an increase in the body’s metabolism as the extra proteins are absorbed. This increased caloric burn accounts for a reduced feeling of hunger, which certainly helps when dieting. Based on some sources, eggs can increase the human metabolic rate by 20-35% for several hours after eating. (European Journal of Nutrition, Journal of the American College of Nutrition, International Journal of Obesity)

Claim 6: The diet is the best method to lose a lot of weight in a minimal amount of time.

The next claim is that the military diet is the most effective way of losing weight in a short amount of time. This claim is fallacious, however, because it is not a good idea to lose a large amount of weight in a short time in the first place. Based on the reviews and studies that we have already examined, it is safe to say that a person should not lose more than two pounds per week because it will result in muscle loss, excessive fatigue, and a loss of body water that only masquerades as real weight loss. Therefore, this claim is definitely wrong because it is based on an unhealthy premise, to begin with.

Claim 7: The moderately high level of protein found in this product will help to reduce hunger.

It is claimed that the moderately high protein content of this diet will help to reduce hunger. When determining the validity or invalidity of these claims, we could look at it in one of two ways. On the one hand, the diet does have a moderately high protein content relative to its total calories, and it has been shown in studies cited above that a big dose of protein will kick start the metabolism into high gear, thus why bodybuilders and other workout enthusiasts will often make use of a high-protein diet. On the other hand, the amount of actual protein that this diet provides to the body is so small that it is not likely to make a big difference.

So out of 7 claims that we have examined, here are the results:

Claim 1: 10 pounds in three days: True but misleading.
Claim 2: 30 pounds in a month: Possible but not feasible or advisable.
Claim 3: No exercise necessary: True.
Claim 4: No supplements necessary: True.
Claim 5: Foods working together to boost metabolism: False. Only two or three components of this very sparse diet are capable of achieving the desired results.
Claim 6: Best way to lose weight very quickly: False, as the very premise of this claim is unhealthy.
Claim 7: Protein controls hunger: True but only to a small extent. The diet is too sparse to provide the protein needed for the hunger-suppressing effect.

The Difference Between Noom and Other Plans and Programs

When it comes to learning how to eat and how to live for weight loss, Noom works from a psychological perspective. According to the Chief of Psychology for Noom, Dr. Andreas Michaelides, “By understanding the past behaviors and attitudes of all types of users, we know the best way to meet our users where they are in their journey to help them maximize their change of long-term weight-loss success.” Noom, as a weight-loss platform, uses the power of food logging, among other advanced technologies, to teach simple, key behaviors for lasting change. Behavior changes that include self-efficacy, motivation, and knowledge are just the start of how psychology can interact with food, so you lose more weight in a way that lasts a lifetime.

Noom works with tech-based tools partnered with support from real-life coaches in a structured program that connects the user with the social support and positive reinforcement needed to change behavior in a way that increases the likelihood of success.

Not all dietary changes are for everyone, and no two weight-loss plans should be the same, which is precisely how Noom works. By identifying specific areas where changes can be made to reach goals of weight loss and health improvement successfully, users realize where their best changes are to be made and how those changes are incorporated into a lifestyle they can adopt for the long-term.

The Military Diet and Metabolism

There is no proof of this diet being able to affect metabolism in the way described by proponents. The only thing seen in the diet that would have any noticeable effect would be the caffeine. But, the diet does nothing that a cup of coffee or tea wouldn’t do on its own. Eggs have been shown to increase the body’s metabolism, but only for a few short hours. This is, again, why eggs are popular for pre-workout meals. However, the small amount of egg that is consumed in the military diet is unlikely to trigger any significant increase. When bodybuilders use eggs for a metabolic boost, they tend to eat a decently large serving. Eating an egg every day or two is not likely to help.

There are actually several ways to increase your metabolism. For this list, let’s focus on those that produce natural weight loss and are considered safe.

  • High-Protein Diet

A large dose of protein produces a temporary metabolic boost because of the extra energy that the body needs to process those proteins – a fact that was discussed previously. Here is a study that goes into much more detail about the effects of protein on human metabolism. (Nutrition and Metabolism)

  • Spicy Foods

Foods that are very hot and spicy will also increase metabolism. This is done through a chemical called capsaicin. It is found in peppers, horseradish, ginger, and mustard. This one really shouldn’t be surprising. The burn that these foods produce is not just a physical reaction but a metabolic one as well. It is worth noting that this method does not work well unless you get a considerable amount of capsaicin at one time. So don’t try this method unless you really like spicy food. It should be noted that ginger is also one of the diuretic foods. (British Journal of Nutrition, Physiology and Behavior)

  • Adjusting Your Sleeping Habits

There is a pretty well-proven link between lack of sleep and a decrease in metabolism, manifesting as obesity. When you don’t get enough sleep, your metabolism drops, and you don’t burn calories as quickly or effectively. (International Journal of Endocrinology, PNAS)

  • Coconut Oil

We touched on this topic early. Coconut oil is a medium-chain fat, as opposed to butter and most cooking oils, which are long-chain fats. Many are also trans fats or saturated fats. Studies have shown that medium-chain fats like coconut oil have a much more significant impact on human metabolism than long-chain fats. In the study cited below, medium-chain fats were found to increase metabolism by up to 12%. The long-chain fats only raised metabolism by about 4%. This is one reason that coconut oil is so much healthier than hydrogenated oil.

Coconut oil should be used sparingly as a method of natural weight loss because it is still fat. But, if you are going to fry something in oil, this is one of the healthiest options. (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)

  • A Good Workout

It is a scientific fact that the body’s metabolic rate will noticeably increase during and after intense physical activity. Doing a workout is not only a way to keep in shape, but it’s also a good way to boost your metabolism before eating so that you will burn off the calories that much quicker. We can see from the research that this benefit is most pronounced with a high-intensity workout such as a sprint. (International Journal of Sports Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, Sports Medicine Open, Reproduction Nutrition Development)

  • Water

Believe it or not, water can also speed up your metabolism. Studies have shown that those who drink water primarily will experience a temporary increase in metabolism after drinking a moderate amount of water. According to one of these studies, just 500 milliliters of water was enough to increase the metabolic rate by about 24%. By adding a large glass of water before each meal, you will certainly intake more than enough to see a boost. (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, International Journal of Obesity, JCDR)

Did you know you can take control of the foods you eat to lose weight so you don’t have to skip every food you love and stick with hot dogs and ice cream. Sure, you can have those on your Noom plan, but you can also have so many foods you love.

Military Diet Substitutions

We need to look at the substitutions that are allowed within the rules of this diet. The inventors of the diet offer the user a choice of replacing some foods with others. The military diet with substitutions is somewhat different from the military diet without them. Mainly, they differ in nutritional content.

The first one involves grapefruit. Since some people really don’t like grapefruit, and some other people can’t eat it because it interferes with certain medications, they offer a substitute. That substitute is….half a teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water. At the risk of sounding biased, this sounds a little silly. Up until now, the claims of the military diet’s proponents have at least been plausible, but this is a bit far-fetched. However, in the interest of fairness, we must look at all the possibilities. It is claimed that a glass of this soda water will give you the same benefits as a grapefruit. So, we can ascertain the truth or falsehood of this claim by researching the health benefits of both grapefruit and baking soda (or sodium bicarbonate, to be more exact).

For starters, grapefruit is very low in calories, making it an excellent choice for dieting. It is a good source of vitamins A and C and is thus a good source of energy. Grapefruit also has a very low glycemic index rating. This means that unlike some fruits, grapefruit is unlikely to be dangerous for diabetics or others on a low-glycemic diet. It is known to have minimal effect on blood sugar and insulin levels.

In fact, regular consumption of grapefruit is even said to decrease one’s likelihood of getting diabetes or heart disease. This second claim is definitely valid because grapefruit contains a lot of potassium. Potassium has been shown to have a positive effect on heart health because it opens up the arteries, increasing blood flow.

As such, it should be included in any heart-healthy eating plan and is also an excellent addition to a low-glycemic diet. Grapefruit also contains a number of antioxidants. These have a large variety of health benefits. One of them called lycopene has been shown to lower the risk of cancer when eaten regularly. (Medical News Today, Harvard Health, Archives of Internal Medicine, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition)

Baking soda is not without a few health benefits of its own. When added to water, baking soda constitutes an old remedy that has been used for the treatment of indigestion, heartburn, arthritis, and infection. It can also be used as a dietary aide. Part of its efficacy lies in the fact that it is a powerful but non-toxic base. Therefore, it does a good job of neutralizing acids without being excessively harsh. It also sends a signal to the body’s cells that there are no problems.

This is handy for doctors because specific autoimmune responses sometimes need to be suppressed. Autoimmune diseases like arthritis can supposedly be treated or at least mitigated by regular consumption of baking soda. It is, in effect, a way to trick the body into thinking that there is no problem and thus no need for a response. Sodium bicarbonate has also been found to be effective in the treatment of kidney disease. It was found in the study that baking soda slows renal degradation and makes for more effective nutrient use. (Medical News Today, The Journal of Immunology, Electrolytes and Blood Pressure)

So as we can see here, these two substances are both medically useful. However, it is understandable that their functions are entirely different. Neither of these substances has any real nutritional value anyway. Baking soda works not because of its own chemical content (as many medicines do) but by affecting the body’s cells and tricking them into reacting in specific ways. Caffeine, on the other hand, is a stimulant that triggers the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and noradrenaline. It doesn’t take a doctor to see that these substances are not analogous.

While it is believed that baking soda can increase the efficiency with which the body uses its nutrients, it has no real nutritional content in and of itself. Its sole purpose in the diet is apparently to create a more alkaline environment in the human body. Supposedly, a more alkaline body environment is better for burning fat. This claim has no basis in science because the body naturally regulates the PH (acidity level) of your blood by using urine as a medium to excrete excess acids or alkaline substances. As a result, the body maintains a blood PH of between 7.35 and 7.45. This means that human blood is slightly alkaline, to begin with. While there is some evidence for the idea of alkalinity increasing metabolism, nothing that you eat is likely to change your blood’s PH level that much. (Medical News Today)

Here we can see an example of how the makers of this diet have tried to borrow ideas from virtually every other diet out there. This claim that grapefruit or baking soda will increase your weight-loss rate by affecting the body’s alkalinity is not new. Another diet that makes use of this idea is called (appropriately enough) the alkaline diet. As stated before, this one does have some basis in science, but it is very different from the military diet. The alkaline diet generally calls for avoiding caffeine and meat, as well as animal products such as eggs. Since the military diet includes coffee, tuna, and eggs as significant components, the creators of the military diet likely borrowed this idea without correctly understanding it.

The next substitution says that you can replace the toast with one of the following:

  • 1/8 cup of sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup of whole-grain cereal
  • 1/2 high-protein bar
  • 1/4 cup of yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of flax seeds
  • One tortilla
  • Two rice cakes

This seems to at least be sensible at first, as the bread is mainly a source of carbohydrates and (to a lesser extent) a source of dietary fiber. Bread can contain a little bit of protein, but not enough to matter. A tortilla is an obvious choice for a substitute because it is basically just a different form of bread. Rice cakes or cereal would seem to serve much the same purpose due to their high carbohydrate content.

Flax seeds make some sense to include in a diet, as they contain a relatively high level of omega-3 fatty acids (discussed earlier). Studies done on animals have shown that a diet high in flaxseed will cause a distinguishable increase in the omega-3 (linolenic acid) content of the resulting meat. (Journal of Animal Science)

However, one must wonder how flax could be seen as an equivalent substitute for bread. It is relatively low in carbohydrates and relatively high in protein. It does offer fiber and several other minerals. This means that the substitute is actually more healthy than the original choice. But, you can’t make a sandwich on flaxseed.
(Nutrition Data)

The next bread substitute is yogurt. This one makes no sense because it contains little carbohydrate and no dietary fiber to speak of. While this is not an unhealthy food by any means, its inclusion as a bread substitute is puzzling. Yogurt’s primary health benefit is its protein content, so how does it substitute for a piece of toast? There is evidence to suggest that yogurt is helpful for the prevention of inflammation, and evidence shows that it can be useful for constipation. Still, we don’t see anything that makes it equivalent to a slice of toasted bread.

Next up, we have sunflower seeds. These seeds contain many useful nutrients and are definitely not a bad thing to include in a diet. They contain protein, fiber, zinc, folate, vitamin B6, vitamin E and phosphorous. Also, they help the body to better process carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. They do this because they contain a large amount of vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), which is something that the body needs to process food adequately. Once again, no reason to think that this makes a good substitute for bread. (Food and Nutrition, MedlinePlus)

Finally, there’s the protein bar. This makes some sense, as such bars contain a lot of carbohydrates and other forms of energy. Still, the high protein content again makes us wonder how this is supposed to do the same thing as a slice of toast.

The next substitution involves peanut butter. The military diet’s proponents claim that you can use almond butter, cashew butter, pumpkin butter, soy butter, sunflower seed butter, hummus or bean dip in its place. We do not think any serious research is required to see how unscientific this is. They have basically assumed that anything called “butter” is the same, regardless of what it is made from. All of these are just plant-based butter. All plants are different and have different uses, so it’s hard to believe this one.

We are told next that you can substitute green tea for the coffee or tea. This one also requires little comment, but for the opposite reason. These three things are so similar that no comparison is necessary. However, it is worth noting that the military diet allows energy drinks as long as they are “sugar-free.” They recommend this on the basis that it contains few calories and lots of caffeine. This proves that the only purpose for the inclusion of the tea and coffee is to provide an artificial energy rush through the use of a stimulant since the substitution of sources apparently doesn’t matter.

But more importantly, there is an inherent contradiction here. On the same page, we see that artificial sweeteners are referred to as a bad thing. Yet, the diet allows the use of sugar-free energy drinks, which contain artificial sweeteners. In particular, aspartame, a substance that is highly controversial because of its alleged adverse effects on human health. While some researchers have dismissed these concerns as an “internet conspiracy,” here is a study that conclusively linked aspartame to heart disease. The second study links aspartame to memory loss and learning disorders. (CMAJ, Pharmacology Research)

There are several other military diet substitutions, and most of them are similarly hard to comprehend. To describe every one would be tiresome to the reader, and I think we have seen enough on this subject anyway.

Military Diet – Vegetarian and Vegan Plans

When speaking of substitutions, we must also consider the vegetarian and vegan crowds. While they may not be the majority, there are definitely enough to make this an essential factor. As it happens, there is a military diet for vegans and a military diet for vegetarians as well. In this version of the diet, animal products are replaced with plant-based proteins like beans and tofu.

Detailed Look at the 3-Day Military Diet

We have already looked at some of this diet’s components in detail, so let’s cover the ones that we missed before.

Peanut butter

Peanut butter is a common dietary component for several good reasons. One is the fact that it contains a lot of protein without a large amount of fat. As such, it does a good job of helping the body to forget hunger. As shown earlier, it is a proven fact that a hefty dose of protein contributes to feelings of being full. Due to this factor, it has been proven to be effective in weight-loss efforts. Peanut butter also contains vitamin E, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin B6 in significant amounts. As such, it is a good dietary supplement all on its own.

Green beans

Green beans are undoubtedly good for you in every way, especially if they are fresh rather than canned. They are very low in calories and are high in carbohydrates, potassium, and fiber. They contain magnesium, iron, calcium, phosphorus, vitamin A, vitamin K, and folate. One interesting fact about green beans is the fact that they can actually become more nutritious when cooked, according to some studies. (International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition)

Bananas

Bananas are another particularly healthy food. The majority of their benefits come from their high potassium content. Potassium plays an essential role in regulating bodily fluids, excretion, muscle activity, and nerve functions. A look at their nutritional profile shows that they also contain a lot of fiber and vitamin C, with a little bit of protein and smaller amounts of other nutrients like vitamin B6, manganese, magnesium, folate, vitamin A, and iron. They have been shown to have a wide range of health benefits, especially when eaten green. Their only risk factor also comes from their high potassium content, which can interfere with the working of certain medications. (Prilozi)

Apples

Apples are so healthy that it is cliche at this point to point out the old welsh saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” However, it is apparently accurate because this fruit is packed with healthy benefits. Its high amount of antioxidants probably have a lot to do with those benefits. One of those benefits was proven by a Harvard study that found one of the antioxidants contained in the apple to be very effective in reducing the cellular death rate of inflamed neurons. Another study found that those who ate apples daily had significantly lower cholesterol than those who did not.

Vanilla ice cream

Ice cream has little to no nutritional value. It is high in calories, high in fat, and high in sugar, making it an unlikely choice for diet food. (NutritionData)

Cottage cheese

Cottage cheese is actually somewhat healthy. While most people do not think of any type of cheese as healthy, cottage cheese tends to be very high in calcium and moderately high in protein (no surprise, considering that cheese comes from milk). It is also high in vitamins A and B, making it a reasonably good choice for diet food.

Saltine crackers

Like bread, saltines are simple carbohydrates and fiber, included in the diet for the sake of energy. These are unlikely to affect the results of the diet very much.

Hot dogs

Obviously, this food stands out as an unlikely choice. Analyzing this particular item is problematic because there are so many different types of hot dogs. From a nutritional standpoint, hot dogs offer very little. They do have a relatively high protein content, but apart from that, they are just fat and sodium with very little else. We honestly don’t know why this would be included. This is supposed to be a very low-calorie diet, and this is hardly a low-calorie food. On the low end, hotdogs have about 60 calories apiece, but those are the “lean” products that are made of better quality meat. Your average hot dog has about 140 calories each.

Broccoli

Broccoli has too many health benefits to list. For a start, broccoli has very few calories while at the same time being packed with nutrients. Surprisingly for many, broccoli actually has a lot of vitamin C, as well as copious amounts of vitamins A and E. And since vitamin C is an antioxidant, that ties it to a whole host of other benefits. This is, therefore, extremely antioxidant-rich food. Extracts of broccoli are currently being used in cancer research as well.

You might be wondering why broccoli is not sweet if it contains large amounts of vitamin C. That is because it also includes a compound called sulforaphane. As the name suggests, it is a sulfur-containing compound, and it is this which gives broccoli the bitter taste so despised by children all over the world. But it is well worth getting over that dislike because sulforaphane also fights cancer by inhibiting its growth. (The Journal of Nutrition)

Also, broccoli is effective against diabetes when given to hyperglycemic rats. Perhaps one of broccoli’s most important benefits is the protection of the gut from various microbes and toxins. Several studies have shown this claim to be accurate. (Preventive Nutrition and Food Science, Journal of Functional Foods)

Carrots

Carrots are also very healthy. They are high in fiber and “good” carbohydrates and are also an excellent source of vitamin A. They are antioxidant-rich – containing large amounts of beta carotene, which is converted by the body into vitamin A. (Healthline)

Cheddar cheese

Like most cheeses, this one has a high calcium content and a little protein, but not much else. It is most likely included as a filler and possibly a secondary source of calcium.

Military Diet DOs and DONT’s

Thought leaders who follow and stand behind the military diet have gathered a list of DOs and DON’Ts that may help you follow the plan, if desired, that much easier.

DO’S:

  • Do follow the plan to the letter. There is no need to tweak it, change it, or modify it. Except for the previously discussed food substitutions, just follow the diet as it is written. Ultimately the success or failure of the diet will vary from one person to the next, but based on the information we’ve presented, following the military diet to the letter may not be a healthy option.

Response: This is a contradiction because these same people say that you can substitute any food of equal caloric value.

  • Do be prepared to tough it out. You probably will get hungry, but you’ll only need to feel this way for a few days. You can do it! Use it as an opportunity to develop compassion for hungry people who are not surrounded by piles of calories every day.

Response: They are basically telling you to starve yourself even if it is unpleasant, and to think about hungry people in underdeveloped countries as a way to justify it to yourself. And when they tell you that it’s only for three days, it’s a little bit deceptive. Military diet day four is not much more pleasant than military diet day three, because you can still only have 1500 calories. You just have a choice in what those calories will be.

  • Do follow a sensible diet after you have completed the three-day military diet. A 1500 calorie per day plan is recommended for the rest of the week. In this way, you can use the 3-day military diet plan as a launching pad to better nutrition in the long run.

Response: Since the military diet gives you 1100-1500 calories a day, it isn’t really a three-day diet. You are actually dieting all seven days of the week, it’s just that the requirements are much more specific for the first three days. A military diet with substitutions can hardly be called exact science.

DONTs

  • Don’t snack; many diets allow for snacks, but the military diet plan does not. Stick with the three meals for three days, and you’ll see yourself getting skinnier. Adding calories will just slow down fat loss and make all the trouble less worth it.

Response: This is a no-brainer. More caloric intake equals less chance of losing weight. But as we have already learned, not all calories are equal, and not all weight loss is equal.

  • Don’t forget to add an extra 100 calories a day if you are a man. Men need more calories than women.

Response: For a diet that is supposed to be strict, there sure are a lot of adjustments. And again, this is a no-brainer.

  • Don’t be tempted to overeat on your military diet four days off – you’ll only undo all your good work, and you won’t get the skinny results you wanted.

Response: This is just duplicating the “Do,” which says not to snack. It means pretty much the same thing.

There have been no direct studies done on the military diet. As such, we have had to research its components and principles rather than looking at the diet itself. The only thing to be said about this diet is that you almost certainly will lose some weight with it. Still, it will come at a price that is unnecessarily high and potentially dangerous in the long term. It is a fact that lower caloric intake will inevitably result in weight loss. Indeed, that is the one thing that is absolutely sure to cause weight loss. At most, this could be useful as a short-term solution, but it would have to be one of the least preferable diets seen. Does the military diet work? Yes, but not as they say. There are better options to choose from.

Questions and Answers (QA)

Q: Does the military diet work?
A: Based on the structure of the military diet, you will consume few enough calories to promote weight loss. With the addition of exercise, you may find you need to add calories to meet your body’s needs.

Q: Does the 3-Day military diet work?
A: The 3-Day military diet is another name for the military diet. Yes, reducing caloric intake drastically will promote weight loss.

Q: What do you eat on the military diet?
A: The approved food list for the military diet includes bananas, carrots, grapefruit, eggs, hot dogs, whole-wheat bread, ice cream, and coffee.

Q: How many calories on the military diet?
A: You consume between 1100 and 1400 calories a day for three consecutive days. After the initial three days, it is suggested to keep caloric intake at 1500 calories.

Q: What to eat after the military diet?
A: There is no maintenance phase for the military diet. The suggested 1500 calories should be spread across lean proteins, a rainbow of vegetables, and complex carbohydrates.

Q: Does the military diet work for everyone?
A: No, the military diet will not work for everyone. People who are already at a normal weight or who eat fewer than 1500 calories a day already may not see any change in weight.

Q: Can you do the military diet back to back?
A: It is always best to check with your doctor before making long-term changes to your diet. However, many people are able to do the military diet in the long term simply because they only have to follow a strict menu for three days out of the week.

Q: How much weight do you lose on the military diet?
A: Everyone is different. However, some people report losing up to 10 pounds in three days.

Q: Who started the military diet?
A: The military diet has been around for so long, no one knows where it started. There’s a resemblance between the diet plan and other fad diets like the cabbage soup diet.

Q: Do military personnel eat the military diet?
A: No, the US military does not eat based on the rules of the military diet.