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Trying Out The 3 Day Army Diet: Basics, Diet Plan, Myths and Reviews

3 day Army diet
Angie Moore
Written by Angie Moore

What if I told that there was a diet out there that you could lose tremendous amounts of weight in a matter of 1 week? That all you had to do was eat a certain combination of foods and you could see the extra pounds on your body melt away. The results so effective, that you could potentially lose as much as 10 pounds in 3 day.

Sounds crazy? Well the diet is real, and it’s commonly referred to as the military or army diet. The program gets its name from, you guessed it, being referred to as the diet people in the army go through when they want to lose weight fast. It speaks volumes about how strong of a mindset you have to have in order to complete this diet.

The basic idea is that you eat excessively less calories in a period of 3 days, usually 1,000 to 1,300, and then up the count to around 1,600 calories for the following 4 days. You follow this pattern for a series of weeks, and then see the amazing results produced.

Still sound too good to be true? Well the army diet is and it isn’t. The truth is there is some truth to the diet’s many promises, but also some uncertainties. To help you explore this new popular fad diet, this article will explain the dos and don’ts of the 3 day army plan.

The army diet basics

There have been an almost infinite amount of diets that have been used over the many years that humans have been concerned about weight gain, which has pretty much been forever. Some are sensible, some not so much. There once was a diet that stated to continuously chew your food into oblivion without swallowing while you absorbed the nutrients through your mouth. Then you just spit the food out. Needless to say, this was not a sensible diet.

The army diet basics

With all of the fad diets constantly moving in and out of the public eye, it’s hard to keep track of which ones are safe and honest and which ones aren’t. While the 3 day army diet can be called a fad diet it’s appealing to the public for two main reasons; it’s fast and it’s easy. The process is just as it says, it only takes 3 days to gain notable results from the program. The foods required for the diet are also affordable and easy to come by so you don’t have to endlessly search for obscure ingredients in your local food co-op.

Of course a diet that is affordable, quick and easy is going to sound more appealing than a long term plan. The plan is designed for people who need to lose weight fast; as fast as possible actually. If you’re stressing out about fitting into those new clothes you just bought, or looking go in a bathing suit in time for beach season, the army diet will provide the results you want. It may be a “fad” diet, but the weight loss is tremendously realistic.

What is the 3 day army diet?

So what exactly does the army diet entail? Well the easy answer is just a bunch of food that you can easily find in your local grocery store. The program is simplistic in that it lays out every meal for you in an easy to understand list. While the calories for the 3 days are pretty low compared to what you are normally accustomed to, they provide the right chemical balance of carbs, proteins and fatty acids that are said to balance out your metabolism and kick it into overdrive.

Military diet food options

The diet’s 3 day regimen is as follows,

Day 1

Breakfast

  • ½ of a grapefruit
  • 1 slice of toast
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
  • Coffee or tea (no sugar or creamer)

Lunch

  • ½ cup of tuna
  • 1 slice of toast
  • Coffee or tea

Dinner

  • 3 oz. of any meat (Ideally chicken or steak)
  • 1 cup of green beans
  • ½ of a banana
  • 1 apple
  • 1 cup of vanilla ice cream

Day 2

Breakfast

  • 1 hardboiled egg
  • 1 slice of toast
  • ½ a banana

Lunch

  • 1 cup of cottage cheese
  • 1 hardboiled egg
  • 5 saltine crackers

Dinner

  • 2 hotdogs (without the buns)
  • 1 cup of broccoli
  • ½ cup of carrots
  • ½ of a banana
  • ½ cup of vanilla ice cream

Day 3

Breakfast

  • 1 slice of cheddar cheese
  • 5 saltine crackers
  • 1 small apple

Lunch

  • 1 hardboiled egg
  • 1 slice of toast

Dinner

  • 1 cup of tuna
  • ½ a banana
  • 1 cup of vanilla ice cream

What about the other 4 days?

So you made it through those pretty tough 3 days, pat yourself on the back. But now what? Do you just go back to eating pizza, donuts and hamburgers? Well not really. While it’s being advertised as the 3 day army diet, the truth is that the program lasts for the entire week.

You still need to keep your calorie count to under 1.500 for the next 4 days of the week, even though there is no strict meal plan during that time. Of course you don’t have to limit yourself to just plain tuna or cottage cheese, but you can’t exactly go nuts and eat a whole meatball grinder to the face either.

Maeatball grinder

Although it doesn’t explicitly say it, working out is also strongly advised during the 4 days off as well. While eating a diet that features a very low calorie count you will lose weight, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to be building any muscle in the process. There’s no miracle food that miraculously makes you instantly have a good body. The only way to do this is by doing a little cardio and lift training 3 to 4 times a week. Start by doing some aerobic exercises. Take a walk or run around your neighborhood. If it’s a nice day out, take a bike ride down the road.

Cardio is important, but the common misconception is to overdo it. You don’t want to spend too much time burning those carbs, because once you start lifting you might burn more muscle than build it.

Cardio workout

Once you get in about 15 to 20 minutes of cardio lift some weights. Don’t go crazy here, just start with what you are comfortable with. Lifting weights will begin the process to convert that unwanted body fat into lean muscle you’ve always been looking for. If you want join a local gym. If you’re not comfortable with that then all you really need is just a couple of dumbbells to get your routine going.

Some important things to remember on days 4 through 7 is not to overeat. It may be hard to resist the urge to snack, but it will be worth it if you want to lose that unwanted weight quickly. If you do like snacking, try some healthier alternatives to ordinary unhealthy foods. Don’t go out and buy chocolate cupcakes or barbeque potato chips. Instead try buying some nuts or pears to satisfy that urge to snack.

5 Myths: True or False?

#1: So the military diet is only for 3 days?

Well yes and no. The 3 day army diet’s calorie restrictive meal plan is only on for half the week, but the truth is that this is actually a 7 day diet really. Although you are given 4 days to eat normally again, “normally” here is loosely defined. You still have to make sure you eat a diet that consists of proteins and low carbs that doesn’t exceed 1600 calories.

Diet plan concept

The 4 days “off” of the diet which are supposed to be more relaxed is actually a diet in itself that doesn’t provide much wiggle room. Cheating during meals is virtually impossible which will give you the results you want but is also completely nerve-racking. If you want the occasional cheeseburger or slice of pepperoni pizza, you’re not going to be able to pull it off on the military diet. Even though the hardest part about the diet is the 3 day stretch, the truth is that you’re on the military diet 24/7.

#2: Is it healthy to lose that much weight that fast?

Losing 10 pounds in one week might seem like a dream come true for some, but it might not be the healthiest option. Losing weight like that should really be spaced over the period of 4 weeks, not just 1. If you weigh 220 pounds and your target weight is 150, then losing 10 pounds a week the healthy way is almost impossible.

Initially you might see strong results for the first week you’re on the diet, but that is largely in part of the amount of water weight you would drop. A basic rule of thumb here is that the heavier you are, the faster you’ll be able to lose weight. That might sound off putting to people who are just trying to shave 30 pounds off, but the truth is the military diet is ideal for people who are extremely overweight. Strictly cutting your calorie intake will rapidly drop your body weight for people who are heavier.

Before and after

Even for people who are trying to lose weight quicker, the diet is still a risky gamble. Dropping so much weight in such a short amount of time means there is a big possibility you could put it back on even faster. Since the military diet is so strict, you might be put off of it after the first month or so. If you don’t think you can manage the highly strict regimen, you might want to consider a diet that has slower results, but in the long run might be much healthier.

#3: Do these foods really kick start my metabolism?

One of the more impressive promises of the military diet is its promise that these certain combinations of foods will react in a certain way to strongly boost your metabolism, meaning you can burn calories at the speed of light. For anyone who strongly believes this, prepare to be disappointed.

The truth is that there is no science to back up the hypothesis that eating tuna, cottage cheese and peanut butter will kick your metabolism into overdrive. There are tricks and methods used to boost your metabolism, but unfortunately nothing in the military diet incorporates them. If you really want to lose calories quicker, you should start by eating numerous minor meals a day rather than 3 large ones. You’re probably thinking, “how is eating more meals going to help me lose weight?”.

The frequent feeding model as it’s referred to means your metabolism won’t be slowed down and the proteins you ingest won’t be wasted. However this method is not 100% proven either so take it with a grain of salt.

Boost Your Metabolism

What you can also do to boost your metabolism is eat plenty of omega-3s which are usually found in fish. Omega-3s greatly help control your metabolism by balancing out your blood sugar. This in turn will cause you to burn fat at a quicker rate than normal. Green tea is also a natural solution because it increases your body’s energy of heat by strengthening fat oxidation.

#4: Are hotdogs and vanilla ice cream really nutritious?

This diet might look appealing for many different reasons. One of which is the promise that these meals, which comprise of commonly found food items, are a sure fire way to lose weight fast. A diet where I can eat hotdogs and ice cream and still lose weight? Sign me up! But hold off on that thought for just a moment.

The fact is that eating hotdogs and ice cream are not the healthiest options for a diet, especially think that the combination of the two will somehow optimize your metabolism. The military diet’s key is not really about what you’re eating but how much you’re eating. The results you’re able to achieve are based on a large part on how little food you are eating throughout the day. 1.000 calories is not a lot to go on, so the thought of eating hotdogs to maximize your weight loss border on the realm of absurdity.

Hot Dog

The good news is that there are plenty of foods that are healthy for you that you can eat a lot of. You don’t have to necessarily starve yourself in order to shed weight. Fruits like oranges, apples and pears work incredibly well for weight loss for their high average of fiber. Vegetables like broccoli, garbanzo beans and spinach that are packed with great nutrients. You can even eat an abundance of starches like oats and barely that provide sufficient energy, and the best part is they keep you pleasantly full.

#5: Does the 3 day army diet set me up for long term success?

In a word, no. The allure of the military diet is for people who want to lose pounds in a matter of no time. While this is all well and good for a short term plan, it doesn’t exactly condition you to stay thin and healthy. It trains you to eat most of the wrong things and then conditions you to think that these food options are susceptible when you’re eventually off the diet.

Eat and live healthy

Of course eating hotdogs once a week and eating vanilla ice cream twice a week are not healthy meal options. With this mindset, the military diet doesn’t teach you how to eat healthy food to maintain a target weight. The intensive 3 day cycle is on one end of the dieting spectrum, while eating the unhealthy food that got you there is the other. What you have to do is meet in the middle and learn how to eat healthy, well balanced meals. Only then will you be able to properly maintain your weight levels.

Are the results real?

Thanks to its promising effects, the army diet is sweeping the internet by storm and being used far and wide. Again, the people who find this program attractive are the people that are in code red for weight loss and need to shed those pounds quickly. Although the promise of the diet is that you can lose up to 10 whole pounds in just 3 days, the results will vary from person to person. Obviously an individual who weighs more will be able to shed weight faster than someone who is much skinnier.

Such is the case for Miss Yanyi, who has her own YouTube channel and a video to discuss her results with the army diet. Each year the YouTube vlogger tries a different diet challenge, and last year she attempted the military program. With a vacation coming up, Yanyi decided it was a good time to lose some extra weight for beach season. What better diet for a last minute resort than the 3 day military challenge?

While she didn’t feel the effects of hunger and fatigue during the first couple days of the program, by the end Yanyi stated was substantially weaker. She states that she is used to working out at least 4 times a week, and to be able to do that while on this diet was nearly impossible. Yanyi doesn’t recommend persistent workouts if you’re feeling fatigued while on the diet. She ends her video by saying the results vary for everyone.

The body fat on Yanyi, who is used to working out and eating healthy, isn’t very substantial. At the end of the diet she only lost a total of 2 pounds, but again the diet varies and would be more profitable to someone who had a high count of body fat. Yanyi’s sister accompanied her on the army diet, and she was able to lose 5 pounds.

Rob, another person who has his own YouTube channel “On the Cheat Tip,” has also given the military diet a go. Like Yanyi, Rob doesn’t have much body fat but decided to use the diet since summer was right around the corner. Weary of diet fads, Rob asked his personal trainer about the army diet before he decided to give it a go. The trainer agreed that Rob could try it out, stating that the foods used in the program were low in calories, but could still keep you full.

Rob states in the video that the hardest part while on the diet was resisting to snack. He states that he sometimes ate a lot out of boredom, which he didn’t fully realize until he was on the diet. He also says he got tired of eating the same foods over and over, especially tuna, but pulled through it. In the end Rob lost a total of 6 pounds in 3 days, which is pretty impressive considering the fact that the YouTuber was relatively skinny to begin with.

Another person who shared their progress was Kendra who has a blog titled “Partners in Crime”. She decided to try the 3 day army diet after all the talk on various websites. Her husband Dan went on the program first, losing a total of 6 pounds. Kendra emphasizes that most of the foods aren’t really her suitable choices such as tea with no sugar, plain tuna and plain cottage cheese.

On the bright side she does state that she never felt hungry while on the army diet, even sometimes struggling to finish all of the food for dinner during the 3 days stint. She highlights drinking plenty of water, which is ideal on any diet, especially this one.

At the end of the week Kendra lost about 5 pounds but states the regimen was much harder than she thought it would be. She frequently suffered from headaches and being tired with achy muscles. While she thinks the program is a good way to lose weight before swimsuit season or before a wedding, she doesn’t consider it a long term solution to managing your weight.

On average most of the people who give the army diet a go usually lose around 5-6 pounds in a week, which isn’t too bad. While the results are suitable, many won’t go on record strictly endorsing the program. Many state that the regimen is very difficult to keep up with, especially if you’re on it for more than just one week. Complaints of feeling very weak or fatigued during the 3 days is very common, and it’s not advised you can keep up your normal workout routine while using the army diet.

Weight loss next exit sign

Your energy intake is considerably lower for these 3 days so if you lift weights during this time chances are you’ll be burning more muscle than fat. So are the results real? Yes in a sense; you will lose the weight on the army diet. Is it a long term solution to maintain your weight? No not really, this is more for people who need that extra push to fit into that new swim suit or dress.

The verdict

Is the army diet a long term solution to your wildest weight loss dreams? No, but it is a great way to lose those unwelcome pounds in a brisk period of time. This diet is for people who are entering crunch time when it’s coming down to swim suit season or that big wedding day. It’s like staying up all night and cramming for that big test in school tomorrow.

What you should have done is study every day, but you decided to postpone it until the last minute. That’s kind of what the 3 day army diet is like; cramming a month’s worth of weight loss in just 3 days. That’s not to say it doesn’t work, but don’t count on using this tough regimen for the rest of your life. After all, the diet is based around the army.

About the author
Angie Moore
Angie Moore

Angie brings a mix of knowledge and experience in diet creation and fitness best practices. With Kansas State University‘s bachelor’s degree in dietetics and over 7 years of experience working with thousands of clients to better their life, Angie is passionate about your health and well-being. She is also a well-known foodie, having published a few books about diets that work. For most of the time, you can find her in the gym working out with friends and clients, pushing them for top results and fulfilled life.

  • Nona Jerry

    Dear Angie, the article is written in an excellent way. Motivating enough to make me start this diet.
    I’m starting with my day 1 today and I will be back after 3days to share my results.
    Thanks 🙂

    • That’s great Nona! Yes, please share your results so others may benefit with your experience with the diet.

  • Mary Ong

    At first I thought the military diet program will last for 3 days only. But as I scrolled down, it made sense to me what a 3-day military diet was all about. However, just wondering, is this the kind of diet suitable for teenagers around 13 to 15 years old? I have an aunt whose daughter is quite bigger than her other schoolmates. Maybe this can help her?

    • During the preteens and teenage years, expect an increase in weight. This is to support the physical growth, including the height of many teens. Parents and adults should be careful of the words they use in telling their teens that they have to undergo any kind of diet regimen. Weight and body image are critical issues during the teenage years. More often, eating disorders, body image disorders and loss of confidence occurs.
      If you have a teen that is overweight, discuss with your health professional on how to get your teen on track with a healthier weight.

  • Chynna Lambert

    Not everyone’s metabolism is the same. Based on my experience, I tend to eat less when I add hot sauce to my diet. The hot sauce causes me to eat slower and allows my body to process that I am already full before I overeat.

    • Spicy food may help you lose weight. There were studies done before showing that cayenne, which makes your food spicy can make you feel full faster. It may also help you lose those sugar, fat and salty cravings.

  • Sophia Smith

    “The military diet’s key is not really about what you’re eating but how much you’re eating.” I agree with this one. I believe, controlling your food intake is really the key to having a good diet. It takes a lot of self-control and discipline if you are really serious about pursuing a diet for a healthy body. On top of it, doing a good workout routine would be a big help.

  • Olivia Johnson

    Seeing that vanilla ice cream on the diet regimen quite confused me but delighted me at the same time. 🙂 How awesome it is to still have ice cream for dinner.

  • James Williams

    Do I need to add up some specific set of exercises while in this 3-day diet? Or can diet alone help me get some visible results? Because I’m afraid that I won’t be that consistent when I try adding exercise to it due to the toxic schedules I have. I believe getting passionate about dieting would mean adding it on my priority list. That’s why I wanted to know. Thanks in advance, Angie.

  • David Brown

    How about for those who naturally have a fast metabolism? Because they are the ones who are often hungry. Does slowing down of metabolism helps in lessening the food intake and would help cope up with the diet regimen you gave?

  • Hi James and thanks for your questions. Let me just say that losing weight is not a walk in the park. It takes commitment and a set of goals to help you succeed in shedding unwanted pounds. The 3 day military diet will help prepare your body to eat lesser calories and make better food choices even without strenuous exercise. However, for the long haul, you need consistency in setting food portions, calorie counting and staying active in order to lose weight.

  • Thanks for that great observation Olivia. Most people on the 3 day military diet look forward to that 1 cup vanilla ice cream for dessert. It’s a great way to end the day with a little sweetness (only 300 calories, too!).

  • Hi Sophia! We shouldn’t forget that calorie counting, adequate food portions and exercise play pivotal roles in losing weight. That’s why a lot of people are “happy losers” after doing the 3 day military diet. As they say, no pain, no gain!

  • Thanks for stopping by David. People with faster metabolism are lucky indeed. They can be frequently hungry but they can burn calories faster, even at rest. So most people with fast metabolism are within their body weight range. The military diet works because of the proper food combination regardless of whether you have slower metabolism. If you want to rev up your metabolism, you can exercise more, drink plenty of water, get enough protein and sleep.

  • Savannah Harris

    Kendra’s experience sets a good example. It wasn’t really easy to be on a diet. Just like Kendra, she encountered some major adjustments specifically with her choices of food. It may not be what her taste is craving for, but it’s what her body needs more.

  • As I always say, “no pain, no gain.” Losing weight is no walk in the park. It takes goals and determination to make the scale move downward. Every body is different and deciding what’s best for you and your lifestyle is still up to you.
    What’s great about the military diet is that it’s merely for 3 days, so you can decide if it’s really for you or not.

  • Linda Taylor

    I was huge during my teens years and I lost a lot of weight with running. However, I don’t think my legs and joint can take much running now, so I am looking into options where the focus is more on eating and not too much exercise. This is why I am interested in learning more about this military diet. I liked this advice: “You don’t want to overeat and to snack so don’t overdo cardio. Get in 15-20 minutes and lift some weights.” This is so true, if you exercise too much, you would want to eat more and you need to plan pre-workouts and post-work out meals to manage your energy. I don’t want working out and meal planning to take so much time like it did before. A diet tool with military-like simplicity and effectiveness is what I need.

  • Barbara Tucker

    Like Kendra, the 3-day military diet should be used for what it is intended to be, a one week, crunch-time strategy to lose flab so your clothes can fit a little bit better for an an event, or so you can look slimmer for a photo shoot or in a bathing suit. It doesn’t promote itself to be a sustainable diet, or a replacement for a healthy, well-rounded diet all year round. You don’t do the army diet everyday or every week. It’s only for special missions like weddings when you are willing to go the extra mile to look great!

  • Angie Moore

    Most people I know use the 3 Day Military diet to jumpstart their fitness journey. I think it’s a wonderful idea to be able to learn a lot about calorie intake and portion control. The diet also helps in weaning people from sweets/sugar and high calorie food and beverages.
    Once you’ve done with the diet, you can choose to cycle it by “resting” for 4 days and if you must – begin another round of the 3 day Military diet again.

    Thanks for dropping by Barbara!

  • Angie Moore

    Great to hear from you Linda! Thanks for your valuable input and I hope the 3 Day military diet can help you lose weight. Combined with a sensible exercise activity (think light walking or water aerobics which are easier on the joints), it really help you achieve your weight loss goals.
    Thanks for dropping by and good luck on your weight loss efforts!

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