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What is the Chemical Breakdown Diet?

Nicole Madison
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The chemical breakdown diet is an eating plan that is said to help a person lose several pounds in just three days. It requires the dieter to lower his calorie intake drastically. Like other types of fad diets, its low calorie requirement may be unhealthy.

While the name may indicate that the chemical content of foods are the focus of the chemical breakdown diet, this is a misconception. This diet doesn’t require the dieter to eat foods with a particular chemical content or combine foods in specific ways in order to enjoy weight loss. Instead, this diet focuses on drastically lowering a person’s calorie intake, which causes weight loss. A person using this diet may lose several pounds, but the weight loss is unlikely to be permanent. Since most of the weight loss a person can expect on this diet is from water weight, he'll probably regain it once he starts eating normally once more.

Sometimes this diet is referred to as the three-day diet, the Greenlane diet, or the 3-day tuna diet. It involves extreme calorie restriction for a three-day period, followed by an immediate return to normal but healthy eating once the three days are over. The list of acceptable beverages while on this diet include water, black tea, black coffee, and diet soda.

There are many variations of meal plans for the chemical breakdown diet. In one variation, a person only consumes crackers, a piece of fruit, and his chosen beverage for breakfast; he may also eat one slice of cheese in some variations. Lunch might include a whole boiled egg, one piece of toast without butter, a piece of fruit, and his chosen beverage. At dinnertime, a dieter may eat a cup of tuna, vegetables, fruit, and a small amount of vanilla ice cream. He may also drink one of the liquids on the acceptable beverage list at dinnertime.

Some people assert that they’ve been able to lose five to 10 pounds (2.26 to 4.53 kilograms) in a three-day period while on this diet. The diet delivers less than 1,000 calories daily, with most people eating just 750 calories each day, depending on their food choices. Doctors and health experts tend to frown on diets like this because they deliver too few calories to support optimal body function. An individual who is considering any variation of the chemical breakdown diet should ask his doctor's advice before beginning it.

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Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By anon941573 — On Mar 23, 2014

All this advice from people who are obviously not qualified to give it! Where did you all get the medical information you are imparting? I totally agree that starvation is not the way to safely lose weight, but explain this to me: Before starting this diet, my urine was orange. After two days on this diet, my urine is nearly clear. That tells me that there is some benefit to the diet, if only as a quick cleanse.

Only a fool would believe that pigging out after three days on this diet would be wise. I asked my doctor about this and he said keeping extra pounds off is done by watching calorie intake. Period. Just eat small portions.

By anon300902 — On Nov 01, 2012

Also, I have to respectfully disagree with what you said about the weight lost being water weight. You are drinking tons of water the entire time you are doing this diet so I don't believe it's water weight.

You can keep the weight off once you lose it but you need to make wise eating choices and stay away from the junk. I managed to keep the 20 pounds off for five years. You can do it too. And remember to exercise, even if it's only walking a few times per week. --Rebecca

By anon300901 — On Nov 01, 2012

I have done this three-day diet in the past (like 15 years ago). My friend and I did it together several times. First time we lost 10 pounds, waited four days and did it again. I think I lost six the next time and can't remember how many she lost. We didn't modify the diet at all and measured everything out as specified. It definitely works but it's not easy to do. It is doable, though.

I'm actually on it again now for the first time in years. I did it earlier this week and added an extra piece of bread twice, one extra turkey frank and I only lost five pounds. Just goes to show that you have to follow it exactly if you want the results! Good luck everyone! Rebecca

By yournamehere — On Nov 23, 2010

Has anybody reading this tried the three day chemical breakdown diet? It sounds really gimmicky to me, so I've kicked it out in the past, but I just recently heard some really good things about it.

Some people are saying that it's like a cleanse for your body, and all the weight you gain back goes back down once your body re-adjusts to eating again.

So I'm kind of divided on it. Can anybody who's actually done this diet give me a better idea of what it's like, or if it actually works long-term?


By FirstViolin — On Nov 23, 2010

Ah, so it's the water weight that goes. I was always wondering why you saw results on diets like that, since usually on a program or diet with such a restricted caloric intake, your body actually holds on to as much nutrition and fat from the food as it can, since it thinks that you're beginning to starve.

Thanks for clearing that up for me -- it totally makes sense that the results would come from that. Of course, the fact that the average person has three to five pounds of water retention is kind of scary in itself...

By rallenwriter — On Nov 23, 2010

This is just like all those other fad diets -- whether you call it a 3 day chemical breakdown diet, a cabbage diet, or a 3 day cardiac diet, what it basically comes down to is depriving your body of nutrients for a short time to see immediate, but short term weight loss.

I think it's so sad that people actually use these diets, because not only do they not provide the kind of results you want, in many cases you can actually end up harming your body.

I know it's been said a thousands times, but a diet of cabbage soup isn't the answer -- you really need to just eat a healthier diet and exercise, and then you'll be shocked at how fast you lose weight.

And if you're really serious about it, or need a certain plan to follow, then talk to a nutritionist or your doctor. They can help you figure out a plan that's good for your lifestyle, and that won't actively harm your body, like these fad diets do.

Best of luck, and remember, losing three pounds is not worth risking your health over!

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a The Health Board writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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