Arguably one of the most common ‘diets’ floating around the health and fitness industry today is the ‘3 day military diet’.
The 3 Day Military Diet has become increasingly popular for two key reasons.
Firstly, it claims to produce up to a whopping 10 pounds (4.5kg for those out there using the metric system) of weight loss in just a single week.
Secondly, it is free. It doesn’t require an expensive ebook, any special food, or any ‘amazing’ new supplement.
These are both two very big positives for many people.
Ultimately, it appeals to human nature, claiming to create significant change in a VERY short amount of time, at ZERO additional financial cost.
But does it actually work?
What does the 3 day military diet entail?
The 3 Day Military Diet is considered a ‘rapid weight loss diet', that claims to help you lose 10 pounds in a single week. Advocates of the diet claim that it was first designed by nutritionist working within the US military as a way to get soldiers into shape rapidly (hence the name).
Interestingly, the diet is not actually affiliated with any military or government institution.
The 3 Day Military Diet is a weeklong diet that is split into two distinct phases.
The first 3 days of the diet are based upon a restrictive, set calorie meal plan. During these 3 days you must follow a set meal plan for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You are not allowed to have any snacks between meals.
These set meal plans can easily be found on the internet, and are suggested to contain specific food combinations that can ‘increase your metabolism’, further promoting additional weight loss.
Taking a closer look at the meal plans, the food included is relatively low in protein, and quite high in carbohydrates.
During these three days daily caloric intake is set around 1100 calories, which is very low
The following 4 days that are still relatively low calorie, but slightly less restrictive. During this 4 day period you are encouraged to make healthy food choices while keeping a low daily caloric intake (under 1500 calories per day), but there is no set calorie meal plan.
Advocates suggest you repeat the diet indefinitely until your goal weight is achieved.
Does the 3 day military diet help you lose weight?
While there haven’t been any scientific studies undertaken on the 3 day military diet, there are many people who recommend its use as an efficient and effective weight loss tool.
And it does make sense.
The 3 day Military Diet is effectively a ‘low calorie diet’. The weekly caloric intake it recommends is considerably lower than that recommended for the average adult human.
This is going to result in a fairly significant weekly calorie deficit where our energy intake is considerably lower than our energy expenditure.
And, as most of us know, if we use more energy than we take in, we will see weight loss.
So while it is not suggesting anything ground breaking, the 3 day military diet is going to create SOME weight loss due to the considerable energy deficits it places us in.
But what about the specific food combinations?
Unfortunately there is no evidence to back up this claim.
While food does have a ‘thermic effect’, where we see a small spike in energy expenditure after eating food, this is strictly due to the energy required to breakdown and digest that food, and is NOT related to any particular food combination.
This thermic effect of food (or TEF) is actually greatest in foods high in protein (as protein requires the most amount of energy to digest), and lowest in those higher in carbohydrates (as carbs require very little energy to breakdown and digest).
As the 3 day military diet is typified by foods higher in carbohydrates and lower in protein, it does not stimulate any significant increase in metabolism, rendering these claims completely false.
So, can the 3 day military diet help you lose 10 pounds in a single week?
This diet became incredibly popular almost entirely due to its claim that it can help you lose 10 pounds in a week.
And, theoretically, in some very specific situations, it might.
This amount of weight loss is certainly possible in someone who is VERY overweight. As the calorie intake is so low, it is likely to sit well below their daily energy requirement, creating a HUGE weekly calorie deficit, which will lead to considerable weight loss.
It is also important to note that a relatively high percentage of the weight loss observed on the 3 day military diet is going to be from water.
We lose water weight when we restrict calorie intake. This calorie restriction causes a subsequent reduction in glycogen stores within the body. Glycogen is stored with 3 parts water for every 1 part glycogen, so as our glycogen stores reduce, we also see a significant reduction in water weight.
Unfortunately, when we return to eating a normal diet, we will refill our body’s stores of glycogen, which causes a subsequent increase in water weight.
Is the 3 day military diet safe?
The diet is relatively safe due to its short duration.
As it only lasts for 7 days, it is too short to do any considerable, lasting damage.
It is important to note than if run repeatedly for a lengthy amount of time, the strict food restriction could cause deficiencies in essential nutrients, leading to illness, disease, and metabolic dysfunction.
So in conclusion….
Despite the popularity that the 3 day military diet is seeing at the moment, it is unlikely to be as effective as its advocates suggest.
While it will cause some short term weight loss, most of this is likely as result of reduced water storage in the body, and will be regained as soon as normal eating patterns are resumed.
Additionally, if run for a lengthy period of time, it may lead to nutritional deficiencies that can have negative health implications.
Ultimately, it is not an effective or efficient way to promote sustainable, healthy, weight loss.