What Is the Military Diet, and Can It Help You Lose Weight?

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One of the top searched diets on Google today, The military diet has actually been around for years. The plan is designed to promote quick weight loss, with the website stating that followers can expect to lose up to 10 pounds in one week without strenuous exercise or prescriptions. The entire three-day plan is available online for free, no subscription or login needed, and there is no book or product to buy.

Sound too good to be true? Here’s what you should know before you decide whether or not to give it a go: exactly how to start it, what you can and can’t eat, and if it can lead to long-term weight loss.

It’s a 3-day-on, 4-day-off strategy

On the military diet, you follow a strict meal plan for three days in a row. Day one of the plan provides 1,400 calories, day two 1,200 calories, and day three 1,100 calories. For the following four days, you can eat anything you’d like. However, the plan’s proponents advise sticking to 1,500 calories or less for the best weight loss results. You continue to follow the three-day-on and four-day-off cycle for as long as it takes to hit your goal weight.

The food is pretty “diety”

Exactly what to eat on each of the three days is laid out in detail on the website. The plan is very basic and includes many foods eaten by themselves. For example, on day one, dinner is two hot dogs (no buns), 1 cup of broccoli, ½ cup of baby carrots, half of a banana, and a half cup of vanilla ice cream. Day three’s dinner includes one cup of tuna, half of a banana, and a cup of vanilla ice cream.

The website lists substitutions for a vegetarian and vegan version of the plan, with swaps like tofu instead of hot dogs, and vegan ice cream. If other substitutions need to be made, the site emphasizes replacing foods based on the same number of calories, not the same portion size. For example, if you’re gluten-free, the crackers you eat in place of the five saltines included on days two and three should provide the exact number of calories as the saltines, regardless of the new portion.

 Black coffee with or without stevia is also allowed, and drinking water throughout the day is encouraged. Seasonings aren’t allowed, other than salt, pepper, lemon juice, Mrs. Dash, and very small amounts of low-calorie condiments, like mustard and Frank’s hot sauce. Alcohol is nixed during the three-day phases, but can be consumed on the four off days of the week.

Exercise is encouraged

Despite the low calorie level, the plan’s supporters recommend walking 30 minutes per day five days a week. If you’re already following a cardio/weight lifting/circuit program before you start the diet, they advise continuing. They do state though that if your workout makes you feel dizzy or weak, you should slow your exercise during the three-day phases.

The military diet hasn’t been studied

The plan’s website states that the diet is safe and effective, but there are no published studies to provide information about the average weight loss, potential health outcomes, or the rate of weight loss maintenance versus regain. The plan’s website also states that the diet combines calorie restriction with what they refer to as “chemically compatible foods” designed to work together and jump-start weight loss, but this hasn’t been researched. They also claim that unlike other diets, this plan doesn’t slow down your metabolism—again, this hasn’t been backed up by studies.

The diet wasn’t created by the military

The plan’s website states that the diet was not developed by a team of military scientists. It is called the military diet because of the discipline and stamina required to achieve results. (For these reasons, it is also known as the navy or army diet.) The site also states that the diet has evolved over time, but does not directly answer who created the plan in the FAQ section, and there are no health experts listed on the site.

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