Does the Military Diet Work?

Military Diet Lunch

The "Military Diet" actually has no connection with the military anywhere in the world. It is a low-calorie fad diet which will likely help you to shed a few pounds temporarily. However, neither math nor science back up the claim of a 10 pound weight loss in three days. The unknown creators of the diet also offer no evidence to support their ambitious claim.

Not a Magic Diet

The military diet, also known as the 3 Day Diet, is a calorie-restricted diet that limits your choice of foods for three days a week. The combination of foods are said to boost weight loss by some chemical-combination mechanism, not defined by the creators of the diet.

There is no magic to this diet, however. Any diet that reduces calorie intake can result in some weight loss, however ill-advised the diet may be. Some people might find this diet convenient because they don't have to count calories, or prepare intricate meals.

The Truth in Real Calories

Does the military diet work? The math doesn't add up. The military diet contains about 750-1100 calories a day. Suppose your regular diet that maintains your current weight has 2,250 calories a day. On the military diet, you will eat around 1,500 fewer calories a day, or a total of 4,500 fewer calories over three days.

To lose one pound you have to eat 3,500 fewer calories. The 4,500 fewer calories, therefore, translate to less than a pound and a half weight loss in 3 days; not the promised 10 pounds. Any additional weight loss would likely be water loss.

Adverse Effects

As with any other low calorie, or very low calorie diet, if the military diet is followed long-term, the reduced calorie intake can make it harder for you to lose weight.

  • Your metabolism goes into protection mode and your resting metabolic rate slows down. You use fewer calories for your body's basic functions, making it harder to lose weight.
  • You lose lean muscle and strength because of low protein content of the diet. Decrease in lean muscle mass burns means fewer calories burned, making it harder to lose weight
  • Your metabolism also shifts toward conserving fat as a defense against what it senses as starvation, and your body burn's muscle for fuel instead.

Any weight lost on the diet will likely return when you start eating normally again.

An Unhealthy Way to Lose Weight

In addition to the lack of proof that this diet helps you to lose 10 pounds in three days, the military diet has the following deficiencies and concerns:

  • It is a calorie-restricted diet under 1200 calories, which is not recommended over a period of time. The creators of the plan do not say how long you can continue the diet.
  • It limits your choice of choice of foods and does not ensure that you get a balance of all the essential macronutrients and micronutrients your body needs.
  • It contains unhealthy foods such as hotdogs while it warns against artificial sweeteners.
  • Because the diet is restricted and limited, in practice it is boring and therefore difficult to sustain.
  • It doesn't encourage sustainable healthy eating habits.
  • People who lose weight on low calorie diets usually regain the weight quickly.
  • There may be adverse effects on organs such as the heart, gallbladder and bones if the diet is followed long term.

These kinds of low-calorie diets (LCD) and very low-calorie diets (VLCD) should only be done under close medical supervision. For the overweight and the obese, the health risks of the extra weight might outweigh the risks of short-term reduced-calorie diets. These groups can lose 3-5 pounds a week on a LCD and VLCD plan, if done under safe medical attention, that includes a strategy to keep the weight off after stopping the diet.

Lose Weight the Healthy Way

The only "magic" way to lose weight is to manage your calories with a healthy weight loss plan that is sustainable. Add exercise to boost your weight loss effort.

Avoid fad diets like the military diet that don't work, are unhealthy, difficult to sustain, and, by definition, are not scientifically proven to work.

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