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Military Diet: How to Get in Fighting Shape

get in fighting shape

If you are a person who is looking to shed excess weight or fat, you should know by now that unless you get your diet under control, it is nearly impossible to achieve your goal.

To lose fat, you have to put your body through a caloric deficit each day. Sure, you can put your body in the caloric deficit state by working out to burn calories, but at the end of the day, you’ll almost always find yourself falling short. For instance, walking at an average speed of 3.5 to 4.5 MPH for an hour on the treadmill burns an average of around 350 to 450 calories.

For a better perspective, a McDonald’s cheeseburger and small fries will put your calorie intake at around 530 calories. Therefore, your one hour of grueling cardio workout is completely negated by eating unhealthy and junk foods. What do you do in this case, and how do you continue losing fat consistently?

woman on the treadmill

This is where a good diet steps in. Research states that you burn the maximum number of calories when your body is at rest. For example, a 220-pound person burns anywhere from 2,200 to 2,400 calories per day by being at rest. In order to burn the same number of calories, that person would have to spend around 4 hours on the treadmill, which is way beyond what’s possible. The same 220-pound person can lose a lot of fat consistently over time by regulating their diet, simply by consuming lesser number of calories than their body burns. In this case, that is achieved by consuming lesser than 2,200 calories per day.

A well-planned diet can get you to drop fat quickly without needing to work extra hard at the gym. There are tons of diet plans and options that you can adopt to get on the road to losing weight. Some of them are well known, popular, and tried and tested like the paleo diet, the keto diet, the GM diet, and the military diet, among others. This article will help shed some light on the military diet, so that you can use it to your advantage to lose fat and get in shape.  

What Is the Military Diet?

military diet

Also known as the 3-day diet, the military diet is an extremely quick weight loss program that can help you shed a lot of weight within a week. Some of the more avid proponents of the military diet claim that you can lose up to 10 pounds in a week. It is also known by different names, such as the army diet or the navy diet. These different names for the diet have led some to believe that this is a meal plan advocated by the U.S. military to swiftly get their soldiers in shape and ready for battle. Unfortunately, this is very far from the truth. In fact, the U.S. Department of Defense has come out with a statement disassociating itself from this diet.

So then, what is this military diet all about, you ask? The answer to that is simple. Basically, the military diet is a very strict, low-calorie meal plan that has to be followed for 3 continuous days in a week, followed by 4 days off. This weekly cycle can be repeated as many times as you like till you reach your goals. The total calorie intake during the 3 days of diet should ideally be around 1,100 to 1,400 calories per day. As you can see, the caloric intake during the three days is much lower than what the average person’s daily intake should be. The remaining 4 days of the week, you are encouraged to eat healthy, with no foods off limits as long as your caloric intake does not exceed 1,500 calories per day. As the military diet incorporates the rules of intermittent fasting in its diet, it helps boost your metabolism and encourages fat burning.                

What Can You Eat?

This diet clearly lists out the food that you can eat for three days. To reap the benefits of the military diet, you should follow the meal plan strictly and with discipline. The number of calories that you consume everyday gets lower and lower so as to ease your body into the low calorie meal plan.

Day 1 (1,400 Calories)            

toast bread and peanut butter

Breakfast: A slice of toast, two tablespoons of peanut butter, half a grapefruit, and black coffee or tea with no sugar.

Lunch: A slice of bread or toast, half a cup of tuna, and black coffee or tea with no sugar.

Dinner: Three ounces (85 grams) of meat, a cup of green beans, half a banana, a small apple, and a cup of vanilla ice cream.

Day 2 (1,200 calories)

cooked eggs

Breakfast: A slice of toast, half a banana, and a cooked egg.

Lunch: A cup of cottage cheese, a hard-boiled egg, and five saltine crackers.

Dinner: Two hot dogs without buns, a cup of broccoli, half a banana, and a cup of vanilla ice cream.

Day 3 (1,100 calories)

apples for military diet

Breakfast: A slice of cheddar, a small apple, and five saltine crackers.

Lunch: A slice of bread or toast, a cooked egg.

Dinner: A cup of tuna, half a banana, and a cup of vanilla ice cream.

The military diet gives you a little bit of a leeway by allowing you to substitute certain foods from this list for others, as long as you stay within the maximum calorie guidelines per day. As mentioned before, during the remaining 4 days, there’s no limit on the foods that you can eat, but there’s a limit on the calorie intake per day (1,500 calories).

If you are a vegetarian or a vegan and you’re intimidated by this meal plan, then fret not, as the military diet allows you to substitute the eggs, tuna, meat, and hot dogs with nuts, lentils, tofu, and soy or tofu dogs instead. Also, you can substitute cheddar, ice cream, cottage cheese with nut or tofu cheese, soy ice cream, and vegan cottage cheese. The diet doesn’t allow for any extra meals or snacks in between the stipulated three meals.

Does it Work?

As the military diet is based on the premise of calorie restriction, it will work for everybody irrespective of their weight, body type, or the amount of fat. When you restrict your calorie intake and create a caloric deficit, your body is not getting the required number of calories it needs to function properly. So, when your body senses this energy deficit, it starts to break down the fat cells stored in your body to use as fuel for its requirements. This is how you lose weight when you’re on the military diet.

Fat is not the only thing that you’ll be losing when you’re following this diet. In fact, the first thing to go from your body is the water weight (your muscles contain as much as 80% water). The initial pounds that you seem to lose quickly in the first week is not fat but water that your body is holding. So, in order to get past that and burn the stored fat, you should continue being on the diet for at least 2-3 weeks.

losing weight

There’s a catch here though; you are more likely to put back some of the weight that you lost once you come out of the diet program. Therefore, the military diet is ideal for people who are looking to lose a few pounds quickly for some big event that’s coming up. However, if your goals focus more on the long-term aspects, this diet may not work for you.

This is because the military diet is too restrictive with the caloric intake, which makes it hard for your body to function well in the long run. Also, with this diet, you don’t get the necessary micronutrients like vitamins and minerals to help improve and sustain your overall health.          


Following the military diet for more than several weeks at a stretch can cause your body to go into what is called ‘starvation mode.’ This is where your body starts to slow down and burn fewer calories in an attempt to preserve your body’s muscle and fat mass. This is an instinctive response, and at this point, the diet stops working. This proves the fact that the diet is ideal only for the short term. Irrespective of that, the military diet works for everyone.

The degree of effectiveness might vary as each person’s metabolism is different and reacts differently to the diet. Some people might drop 10 pounds in a week doing nothing, while others might have to maintain an active lifestyle in addition to following the meal plan, in order to lose the same 10 pounds. Incorporating a mild exercise routine in conjunction with the military diet can help you lose fat and get you in fighting shape rapidly.

The exercise routine can be anything from low-intensity cardio to weight lifting. Remember to avoid working out on the 3 days when you follow the military diet as you would be in a strict caloric deficit and may experience dizziness, headaches and fatigue. Lifting mild weights on the ‘off’ days of the diet will help you tone and tighten your muscles in addition to keeping your metabolic activity high.

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