Most of us who want to lose weight want to do it quickly.
Well, you might have just found a way.
What if I told you that you could lose 10 pounds in 1 week while you can still eat hot dogs and ice cream, would you believe me?
Well, this is what the 3-day military diet plan promises.
The "diet" claims that it can help you lose weight very quickly—in mere 3 days.
10 lbs in 3 days to be exact.
I mean who doesn’t want to lose 10 pounds in a week?
We all do.
Whether losing that much weight so quickly is healthy or not-- it sounds very enticing to many of us.
At least to me.
But the question is, does this diet actually work? If so, what's the catch? Is it even safe to try?
I think most of us would be asking those questions—rightly.
To answer those critical questions, I dug far into science, to get to the bottom of the military diet.
What is the military diet?
There are many varieties to the Military diet that circulate from person to person on the internet.
The 3 day diet also goes by many names including:
- Fax diet
- Army diet
- Navy diet
- Cleveland Clinic Diet
- AHA Diet
- The Military diet
- 3 day Military diet
They all claim to help you lose 10 pounds in less than a week.
How does the diet work?
This diet involves a 3-day low calorie meal plan followed by 4 days with fewer restrictions.
Before we get to the actual diet plan, let's take a look at how it got started.
How did the 3 day diet plan come about?
No one knows for sure, what the origin of the 3 day diet is and who started it.
Some believe the diet goes way back to the 1980s when these kinds of diets were faxed from person to person. That’s where it also got the name Fax Diet because offices everywhere were inundated with anonymous faxes touting this ‘magical diet’ that can help you shed 10 pounds in just three days.
Others say it's one diet that's been popular among some military personnel who need a quick weight loss fix before their biannual fitness assessment that tests whether they are within the weight standards.
Because failing this physical 3 times in a 4 year period can result in discharge, people on the borderline on weight uses a trick such as this to drop a little extra before stepping on the scale.
But it's by no means recommended, endorsed or used as a diet standard in the military.
It's just a trick of the trade for the assessment; nothing more, says a commentator on one diet blog entry.
While others believe they are medically ordained, yet no evidence was found.
Many versions of the 3 day military diet claim to have been created by one medical institution or another; however, no medical institutions have ever been known to come forward to claim responsibility for, or even to recommend one of these diets.
What's more interesting is that the 3 day diet has been named after one of those institutions such as Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, American Heart Association, British Heart Foundation, but none of these institutions has acknowledged their involvement.
In fact, they have done the opposite.
They all firmly deny being associated with the diet and have gone out of their way to inform dieters that the diet didn't originate form them.
Which sets a big red flag.
So, does this diet really work?
If these health conscious institutions don’t want to be associated with the diet, maybe there is a reason.
It must not work, or it must be unhealthy or not safe.
I wouldn't be surprised if either is found to be true.
The most common form of the 3 day military diet on the internet and social media sites like Pinterest and Facebook, involves eating a large quantity of tuna and various of different vegetables and fruits during the day and ice cream at night for 3 days.
This diet seems to be similar or the same as the three-day diet sold on the website by 3daydiets.net.
Although it is still left unclear if they are the developer of the diet, as they do not claim specifically to be.
What's specifically on your menu for those 3 days depends which of the 3 day diets you follow.
One of the 3 day diet only allows water for the first day and some fruits, vegetables and fruit juice on the second day.
On third day, only vegetables can be consumed and the only drink choice is vegetable juice.
There’s no snacking, not even a healthy one allowed on the plan.
The most common 3 day diet, and the one that seems to be most popular on social media is the one below.
It's a three day meal plan that instructs dieters what to eat for:
3 Day Diet Menu
Black tea or coffee (1 cup)
1 slice of toast & 1 tbsp peanut butter
1/2 cup of tuna
1 slice of toast
3 oz. of any meat
1 small apple
1 cup of vanilla ice-cream
|1 cup of cottage cheese
1 hard boiled egg
5 saltine crackers
|2 hot dogs (no buns)
1 cup broccoli
1/2 cup carrots
1/2 cup vanilla ice cream
5 saltine crackers
1 slice cheddar cheese
|1 egg (cooked your way)
1 slice of toast
|1 cup of tuna
1 cup of vanilla ice cream
According to the military diet website, you’ll be eating healthy lean proteins like tuna and eggs along with healthy carbs such as fresh fruits, like banana and grapefruit and a whole grain toast.
Pretty healthy right?
Wait not so fast, there is more!
The 3 Day Diet also includes unhealthy foods like hot dogs for dinner, and vanilla ice cream for dessert.
This is probably the most unexpected foods to find on a short term diet that promises extreme weight loss.
Let’s a look at the meal planing behind the Three Day Diet to get a better understand of the foods that are included.
Here’s a simple meal plan of the 3 day diet:
Take a look!
Day 1 plan
That was day 1 of the 3 day diet. Now let see what's in day 2.
Day 2 plan
Day 3 plan
Other versions of the three day diet allow dieters with even more alternatives.
Some including an orange instead of a grapefruit, cottage cheese instead of tuna and various of other vegetable substitutions.
Although it doesn’t matter which versions you follow, they all promise to help you lose weight fast.
After three days, you can supposedly resume a normal diet for the rest of the week. Don’t consider it a license to binge, advises 3daydiet.net.
The site also discourages overeating but doesn’t otherwise guide dieters on how to eat on their off days, after which they’re permitted to start the cycle over again.
The 3-day diet v.s. healthy weight loss
Now let's compare the 3 day military Diet to the of a standard and recommended healthy weight loss.
Generally losing 1 to 2 pounds per week is considered a healthy weight loss plan according to Center of Disease Prevention.
This 3 day diet by far exceeds the healthy weight loss 1 to 2 pounds off a week schedule by losing 10 pounds in a mere-3 day period.
For those outside of the U.S.., that's about losing 4.5 kg in 3 days.
If the healthy weight loss requires you to cut anywhere from 500 to 1,000 calories a day to lose 1-2 pounds a week, in theory, losing 10 pounds in 3 days equates to reducing your caloric intake by far more than 5,000 calories a day.
From the numeric point of view, it sounds nearly impossible unless you eat over 6,000 to 7,00 calories a day (equivalent to 2 extra large Papa John's cheese pizza pies ) on a regular basis.
Losing water weight v.s. losing body fat
This extreme weight loss of 10 pounds in 3 days is likely to come mainly from loss of water weight.
And here is why.
Reduction of 500 to 1,000 calories a day was estimated by scientists as an requirement to lose 1-2 pounds of actual body fat a week.
Losing water weight by going on a low carb diet, or cutting your carbs way back, triggers the loss of glycogen and the water stored with it. Considering 16 oz or 2 cups of water weigh one pound, losing fluids fast can result in weighing much less on the scale, says Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD on ABC News.
With that in mind, after some digging around, here’s what I found (see below), and it’s pretty shocking!
First let’s see what the 3 Day diet is all about.
Will the military diet help you lose weight?
It can, but not in an ideal way.
While there are no scientific evidence or studies that have examined the effectiveness of the three day diet, the mere 600 to 1,000 calories you consume in a day on this diet is far less calories than what most adults are advised to eat on a daily basis.
According to WebMD, severely slashing calories (in the case of this military diet) may lead to weight loss, but can also result in slower metabolism and loss of muscle mass (1).
It can also cause your body to have a higher body fat, which increases the risk for metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.
Always the question that follows after "Does it help me lose weight?" is "Can I keep the weight off?".
Whether you’ll actually maintain your weight loss is unclear.
Although you may lose some weight initially, this type of diet is not meant to last for long.
The only diet that can offer permanent solutions is the one you can stick to for a long time.
According to Eric Rimm, associate professor in the departments of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, many popular diets result in a modest weight loss, reduced cholesterol, and improved insulin sensitivity with moderate compliance over several months (2).
However, over the course of a year, people tend to slip out of the diet and regain much of the weight lost.
The key to keeping it off is the moderate compliance for the long haul.
In other words, if you can’t see yourself following the diet for the rest of your life, it’s not for you.
Hypothetically speaking, if you can see yourself doing this for the rest of your life, how do you continue after the third day?
Since this diet is only three day long, continuing this for a longer duration requires cycling where you alternate on and off periods for any desired length of time.
With a diet as strict as this 3 Day Military Diet, this imposes another question.
Is it safe to cycle through the on-off mantra of the 3 Day Diet?
I think not.
To make it a life long eating pattern (the only way your weight loss can be permanent), this diet sets off too many warning signs and red flags.
Here are a few red flags with the 3 day diet.
1. The 3-day diet provides too few calories
The 3-day diet provides very few calories (around 800-1000 calories per day) than what's generally recommended for a healthy balanced diet, which is 1,200 for women and about 2,200 for men according to the dietary guidelines (3).
While following the Military diet for three days might not result in serious nutrient deficiencies, repeated cycles of weight loss and weight gain can weaken your organs and your immune system, and increase you risk of gallstones of heart problems says Michelle Kerns, writer for LiveStrong.com (4).
2. Is it healthy to lose 10 pounds in 3 days? probably not.
For most people who follow a healthy weight loss plan that combines healthy eating and exercise, it will take them about one month to safely lose 10 pounds, not 3 days or week.
As Mike Roussell, Ph D. points out in his is article on Shape magazine, it's not actually how much weight you lose that makes losing extreme weight such as 10 pounds in 3 days unsafe but it's how you lose the weight (5).
If you’re only drinking lemon juice and maple syrup with dash of cayenne pepper for a week and lose pounds, I would consider that unsafe weight loss.
But on the other hand, if you complete three intense metabolic resistance training sessions, another three interval-training sessions, and you are diligent about eating low-calorie, low-carbohydrate diet and 10 lose pounds in a one week, I wouldn't say that was unsafe, says Mike.
Mike also points out the more weight you have to lose, the easier and quicker you’ll be able to do it.
If you’re in the higher range of the BMI scale (overweight to obesity), just by cutting out fast foods and unhealthy fatty foods, you can cut out several hundred of calories and will definitely lose weight.
This is what often happens to people who start following the "Paleo Diet". They often experience drastic weight loss by cutting out all processed and junk foods form their diet.
In other words, it's not so much the diet itself, but it's the clean eating that helps with weight loss.
However losing, such a large of amount of weight so quickly usually has a habit of creeping back on even quicker. When you actually work hard to achieve long-term results through healthy dieting with regular exercise—You’re going to keep the weight off longer and it won’t be just water weight you will lose, like on the three day diet.
Plus, long-term solutions allow you to change your daily habits and create a new lifestyle that supports a healthy weight.
3. The Weight you lose is water weight
Dieters are often faced with the exciting feeling of losing lots of weight in a very short amount of time.
This often helps them psychologically to motivate them to stick with the weight loss plan and continue on the dieting journey to lose more weight fast.
But, what happens when the food craving kicks in and they can no longer continue the fad diet?
The unthinkable happens, all of the weight comes right back on.
Generally speaking, quicker it takes you to lose the weight, quicker you gain it back. This is why strict dieting doesn’t work in the long term.
This quick drop in weight is commonly referred to as losing water weight.
This often happens when people start to eat better and exercise, in one day they can sometime lose 5 pounds— that’s water weight.
Katherine Zeratsky, a nutritionist and dietician, told CNN that much of the water weight is regulated by our kidneys (6).
Our kidneys decide whether to hold water or not. She explains that if you had too much salt the night before, then your kidneys will hold on to more water to dilute or correct that salty imbalance— to help flush it out and detox your kidneys.
Your kidneys also tend to hold water if you’re dehydrated, so it can try naturally restore your body’s salt balance on its own.
Zeratsky explains that this extra water is sore in tissues or blood vessels all over your body.
The water weight is usually the first to go, not the fat.
Although the supporters of the three day diet say that you’re not losing water weight, but actual fat instead. However, there is no clinical evidence to suggest this statement is correct.
While many foods can cause water retention, the caffeine in coffee and tea can help relieve it, says Beth Rifkin a write for LiveStrong.com (7).
This release of water from your system can cause a big drop in weight on the scale.
The Mayor Clinic also reported that coffee is an appetite suppressant and can reduce the amount of food that you desire to eat. This is no surprise that the 3 day diet advises dieters to drink both coffee and tea daily (8).
Since the diet is very low in calories, this will help dieters stay full while they follow the 3 day plan..
4. The 3 day military claims that you will speed up your metabolism
This diet proudly claims following the 3 day eating plan will boost your metabolism that will help you burn pounds of fat and lose 10 pounds per week without any form of exercise.
However it is unclear how the diet will help increase your metabolism and lose fat instead of water.
Studies have proven that the best way to increase your metabolism is to follow a healthy balance diet and exercise regularly. But the three-day diet doesn’t follow any of them.
4 Tips to increase your metabolism
- Kick up your workout intensity up a notch and try High-intensity interval training— high intensity interval training has been shown to boost post workout metabolism up to 48 hours. This means that your body will continue to burn additional calories long after you finish exercising.
- Eat a healthy balance diet that comprises of lean protein and healthy dietary fat such as omega-3 fatty acids to balance blood sugar and reduce inflammation. This will help to regulate your metabolism.
- Build some muscle mass with strength training workouts — muscles can contribute to as much as 20 to 25% of total resting metabolic rate. Muscles are active tissues in the body and they require more energy to sustain themselves than fat.
- The 3 day diet got this one right! Drinking plenty of green tea may help with fat oxidation (fat burn). The catechin extract from the green tea may help improve fat oxidation and thermogenic, and production of energy, or heat from digestion (9).
As enticing as it is to try out a diet that claims 10 pounds in 3 days, there are too many red flags that come with it.
But the most important take-away is starvation is not a weight loss solution.
It's not sustainable nor it's safe.
Yes, you may see a drop in your weight, but it will come right back as soon as you are off the diet.
There are many safer ways to lose weight, and those safer, more balanced weight loss have a far better chance of keeping off your weight once you lose it because it's easier to stick to it.
If you need to lose weight, do it the right way.
At the end, you’ll be proud and happy and that you didn’t follow any fad diet like this 3 day diet.
Neither the staff nor management of Fitwirr are experienced, licensed, or knowledgeable to judge or recommend the validity or safety of this diet. We do not endorse this diet and recommend it.
Before trying this or any other diet, make sure to consult a physician or licensed medical practitioner.