The Military Diet: Is it More Harmful than Helpful?Last Updated: June 21, 2021
You may have heard of some pretty silly diets over the years. There's the lemonade diet, which promises dieters that they can shed massive weight fast by drinking lemonade seasoned with cayenne pepper and maple syrup. Then there's the laundry list of single-food diets: the grapefruit diet, the boiled cabbage diet, even the Twinkie diet, just to name a few.
But there's a new contender throwing their hat into the ring for "Least Effective Diet on the Internet" status. That diet is The Military Diet. For starters, despite what the name might imply, this diet has no association with the US military (or any other nation's military that we know of) whatsoever. Well, other than the fact that many of the foods on their suggested meal plan - including plain toast, saltine crackers, and canned tuna - resemble what you might find in a tasteless, freeze-dried MRE.
But this is just the tip of the Military Diet's iceberg. For more information on this bizarre diet, and some helpful advice on how to lose weight (and keep it off), just keep reading...
What is The Military Diet?
The Military Diet is a meal plan where, three days out of the week, you follow a calorie-restricted meal regimen. That one sentence right there basically describes their diet in a nutshell, but there are a few additional caveats:
- The Military Diet believes that sugar is literally evil, and forbids it in all forms except for Stevia
- The Military Diet claims that, unlike how actual service members lose weight, little-to-no exercise is required
- Although the diet claims you can "eat whatever you want" on days 4-7, participants are strongly encouraged to only consume a maximum of 1,500 calories per day on their "off" days
- The diet claims that its meal plan is "chemically compatible" with losing weight, despite including ice cream, hot dogs, and canned meats
The Science behind the Military Diet
The Military Diet is an interesting hodgepodge of outdated nutritional science which has been disproven as ineffective, and newer research that actually can help people lose weight. For instance, here are some of the things which the Military Diet gets wrong, scientifically speaking:
- Alkaline blood levels. The truth is that the human body is much better at maintaining a neutral blood pH than we're willing to give it credit for. While many of the suggested foods on an "alkaline" diet are generally healthier for you and can promote weight loss, substituting baking soda just because you don't like grapefruit isn't going to help your waistline.
- Fasting and weight loss. The Military Diet may be a form of fasting, but it doesn't technically qualify as a form of Intermittent Fasting (IF). Fasting is simple calorie restriction. Intermittent Fasting typically involves the use of "food windows" (a block of hours during the day in which you are permitted to eat normally) and a fasting period in which no calories are consumed at all. This type of fasting has a stronger metabolic influence on the liver and on your overall metabolism than simple calorie restriction alone. Plus, unlike the Military Diet, IF regimens typically use exercise to compound the positive health benefits of fasting and lose more weight, more quickly.
- IGF-1 is NOT the enemy, especially if you are an athletic person. IGF-1 (in combination with Growth Hormone) produces more muscle and brain tissue while decreasing atrophy in both areas. These are good things for anyone trying to lose weight. However, too much IGF-1 has been linked to decreased longevity in animal studies due to the fact that living tissue doesn't fight oxidative stress as efficiently when IGF-1 levels are high. Increasing the number of polyphenol-rich foods in your diet (dark chocolate, green tea, and blueberries to name a few) can help reduce any oxidative damage. But overall, the important thing is to keep a good balance in order to take advantage of IGF-1 benefits without causing too much oxidative stress.
Are there Good Weight Loss Alternatives to the Military Diet?
Sometimes, the oldest advice is the best advice. For instance:
- Stick to a healthy diet of fruits, vegetables, and protein.
- Don't cut out fat - just increase the amount of healthy fats you consume
- Sedentary people should eat fewer carbs than athletic people (but don't eliminate them entirely from your diet)
- If possible, try and achieve your calorie deficit from exercise rather than starving yourself
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