One of the latest circulating 'challenges' or ''programs' is the 75 Hard program: aka, 'the ironman for your brain'. Why talk about it on a nutrition podcast? Because the #1 rule of the program is to follow a diet plan... so we need to talk about it.
This program is so intense that somebody actually started a 75 Soft program so it wasn't as torturous. Listen to the countless red flags as I lay out both these plans along with their implications and potential risks.
As always, here is my honest and unfiltered, dietitian review.
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DIETITIAN REVIEW: 75 HARD™ & 75 SOFT
Challenges. It’s the hot thing to do right now.
“Join my free 7-day challenge”, “3-day challenge to XYZ”, “challenge yourself for 30 days”, etc.
I’ve been asked a lot about the 75 Hard challenge, and I confess that up until this point I really did not know much.
More recently, a friend of mine asked about the 75 Soft challenge. To this question, I was even more clueless.
For this episode, I did some digging and found out the truth, lies, and bottom line about these 2 challenges. As always, here is my honest and uncensored dietitian review.
Who Started 75 Hard?
To begin, I wanted to get some background information on the guy who started this trend: Andy Frisella.
On his website, he talks about how he grew up loving “junk” food and how he was bullied about his weight. He talks about starting a business, building a successful podcast, and essentially his entire journey through entrepreneurism.
The impression I get is that he is definitely the “don’t quit until it hurts”, cliché rough-and-tough guy.
He goes on to say how wonderful it is that he made his 75 Hard program as a free resource, and that it will “build mental strength and discipline within you”.
I couldn’t find anything anywhere that indicates Andy Frisella has an educational background in nutrition, health, fitness, or science.
He owns a supplement store but has no formal education beyond high school. With all due respect to Andy, this is red flag #1.
As a side bar, the supplement industry has been known to be gimmicky, misleading, and unregulated. So… red flag #2, because this guy profits off of that industry.
I can already begin to see that this is your classic “do as I’ve done to become like me” type of guy. Red flag #3. Seems appealing, but the problem is that no one is Andy Frisella besides Andy Frisella. Likewise, no one is you like you.
What worked for him and changed his life for the better is not necessarily going to work for everyone, or you.
What is the 75 Hard?
The 75 Hard Program is evidently “not a fitness program, it is a transformative mental toughness program.”.
As the creator himself writes, it’s “an ironman for your brain”.
This program is shouting from the rooftops about how you will transform your life if you can make it all the way through 75 days without breaking a single rule. As a human reading through it, even I am starting to get thoughts of “all of my problems will be solved if I just do this challenge”.
But wait, reality check, this is likely to cause more problems. Why? Well, let’s take a look.
What are the rules for 75 Hard?
There are 5 divinely-given ‘tasks’, and they are as follows:
1. Follow any nutrition plan designed for your goals, with zero alcohol and no cheat meals.
2. Complete two 45-minute workouts every day, one of which must be outside.
3. Drink a gallon of water every day.
4. Read 10 pages of an educational or self-improvement book every day.
5. Take a progress picture every day.
According to Andy, if you fail to uphold all 5 tasks at any given moment within the 75 days, you have to start over.
*squirms uncomfortably in chair*
Red flag #4.
Let’s dig into the reality of each task a little bit closer.
Follow any nutrition plan designed for your goals, with zero alcohol and no cheat meals.
Red flag #5. No cheat meals? You’re kidding, right? What if somebody chose the keto diet as their nutrition plan, and had to go 75 days straight with absolutely no cheating? Dieting is notorious for leading to binge-eating. There’s a very good chance that someone engaging in this challenge will have to start over, possibly multiple times, just because of this 1st task alone.
I personally have no beef with taking a break from alcohol. If you need it, you need it.
What disappoints me the most with this task is that (as far as I can tell) there is no direction whatsoever on how someone is to find a nutrition plan designed for them.
Anyone with a brain can guess that 99.9% of individuals who follow this challenge will turn to Google or their favorite Instagram influencer for what they should eat over the course of the next 75 days. Because of that, they will likely find themselves malnourished and headed down a dangerous road for their health.
People need better direction than a simple Google search on how to eat for their needs & goals. I cannot recommend enough consulting with a Registered Dietitian anytime you want to evaluate your eating habits, which is what I wish would have been included in the directions of this challenge.
Complete two 45-minute workouts every day, one of which must be outside.
Do you know anyone who can honor this for 75 days straight? Seriously. Think about this for a minute… the people you know, not just that you follow or have heard about… coworkers, friends, families, etc., can they do 2 full workouts/day, every day, for 75 days? Can you?
I also am genuinely concerned for the health status of anyone who does this. No rest days or you have to start over? This is an injury waiting to happen. Red flag #.... never mind, I lost track.
This advice is also extremely general. There’s no mention of intensity, focus area, or exercise type. Is it okay to just walk? Or does it have to be Crossfit? Again, this is an injury and/or hospitalization waiting to happen.
Last note on this (and it’s nitpicky I will admit); I also hate the language of “must” be outside. I live in Nebraska and let me tell you-- I’m not going outside for 45 minutes every day during the winter OR summer here. #IYKYK
Drink a gallon of water every day.
I don’t have too many qualms about this, but speaking from experience of working with many clients who struggled to get even 1/3 of that in every day, I think it would be incredibly difficult for most to achieve 1 gallon/day x 75 days.
Additionally, 1 gallon/day is not backed by science. It is suggested that 74 oz/day for women and 101 oz/day for men (+ replenishing any fluids lost through exercise) is perfectly adequate. To go beyond that, there are no convincing health benefits found.
Read 10 pages of an educational or self-improvement book every day.
I love this. But, I think it’s okay to work in books that are just for fun. Personally, my job requires a great deal of creative thinking. If I’m going to read something that isn’t for work, I want to feel relaxed and invested in the material. Maybe that’s just me, though.
Take a progress picture every day.
This might be my biggest issue with the ‘program’. Forced body checking? Taking a progress photo every day encourages severely disordered thinking and even behaviors.
I’d be less (but still) offended by this if it were just a photo before and after. But every day? Because of how the human body NATURALLY is, there will be days where there is more water retention, bloating, etc. A daily progress photo is a great idea if you want to feel a) depressed or b) conceited.
What is the diet for 75 Hard?
As mentioned previously, there is no specific diet. It is up to the individual what they choose. 75 Hard gives examples of “keto, paleo, vegan, flexitarian, etc”.
All of the mentioned diets have some risk included and are not grounded in science.
75 Hard does not give any insight into what those risks are or what people need to consider while following such a laborious exercise schedule.
This is a huge issue because, as I said before, people will turn to Google and likely end up damaging their bodies.
The only part that is clear about the 75 Hard diet is to have 1 gallon of water/day. Not only is this unrealistic for many, but it is not research-backed.
What comes after 75 Hard?
A natural question, “what comes next”?
Well, nothing comes next. It’s over. You go back to your life, which is probably going to look exactly like it did before you started the program, because that was the whole point right? Do it for only 75 days… Not for the rest of your life.
No human on planet earth is going to be able to sustain x 2 workouts/day and no “cheat meals” on whatever diet they chose.
Which is red flag #1,002 that I have about this: why do it if it’s only going to be for 75 Days?
Should you do 75 Hard?
Maybe I fell on my head as a baby, but I don’t get the appeal of doing a ‘challenge’ like this that is designed to be short term. What is it teaching you, really?
Here’s what I have sorted out to be the underlying messages that 75 Hard is teaching:
- Dieting is good
- Rest is bad
I’m not okay with either of those messages. They are not backed by science, and they are a recipe for eating disorders.
Therefore, I do not recommend.
What is the 75 Day Soft Challenge?
To further prove my point of the 75 Hard Challenge being unrealistic, someone came up with an easier version called the 75 Soft Challenge.
Who Started 75 Soft?
The 75 Soft came from Tiktoker @StephenGFitness. I actually know nothing about Stephen, except that he is a fitness expert and attempting to become Batman, as shown by his Tiktok.
Does he have a scientific background? Formal education on health/fitness? At this point, it’s unclear.
What are the rules for 75 Soft?
1. Eat well and only drink on social occasions.
2. Train for 45 minutes everyday for 75 days. One day a week is to be active recovery.
3. Drink three liters of water a day.
4. Read 10 pages of any book a day.
You will notice that there is no 5th rule about body checking with a progress picture… I like this already.
What is the Diet 75 Soft?
A positive but also downside to this version is that it is less restrictive, but still unclear. What one person considers to be ‘eating well’ can be vastly different from the next.
For example, I know many people who would consider having a gluten-free dairy-free diet to be eating well (imagine this person does NOT have celiac disease or lactose intolerance), while another would consider not eating fast food any more to be eating well, and still another will consider that having a completely plant-based diet is eating well.
To guide someone to ‘eat well’ does not necessarily prevent the possibility of a disordered eating from being triggered. Because of this, I do still have concern over the ‘diet’ of 75 Soft.
I will add, the 3 liters (about 12 glasses) of water is closer to being research-backed, but still potentially unnecessary.
Should you do the 75 Soft challenge?
Honestly, I don’t hate the idea of the 75 Soft. Again, there’s some vagueness to the dietary guidelines, and I still think planning to do something for only 75 days is a bit illogical. However, if you’re someone who loves doing challenges, I think this would be far more realistic and not as risky as the 75 Hard Challenge.
I appreciate the change to reading any book, as well as adding a rest day. Rest/relaxation is just as important for ‘mental toughness’. The 75 Soft Challenge is more suited for the average individual and could -potentially- spark some lifelong health-promoting habits.
As with any lifestyle change involving nutrition and exercise, it is important that you consult your physician and registered dietitian before beginning.
What are your thoughts on these challenges? Pop over to my Instagram @MichelleYatesRD and let me know!