What Is The 75 Hard Challenge—And Is It Safe? Trainers Break Down The Pros And Cons

If there’s one thing I love, it’s a challenge. But some are a little more extreme, especially when it comes to kickstarting a health and wellness journey. You’ve likely seen the 12-3-30 treadmill workout and Dukan Diet trending on social media, for instance. But today’s viral obsession is: the 75 Hard Challenge.

If you aren’t familiar, this 75-day plan boasts to “permanently change your life,” starting from the inside out with a special focus on mental toughness and commitment, says Gina Newton, a certified personal trainer and holistic body coach. Unlike other nutrition plans or fitness regimens, 75 Hard is less about specifics and focuses more broadly on self-improvement with six arbitrary “rules,” she explains.

With 1.3 million hashtags for #75hard and over a billion views on TikTok, it’s natural to wonder if 75 Hard is safe, effective and worth your time. “Some people thrive on rules and this sort of strict challenge, but if reading the rules sends you into an emotional frenzy, it may not be the best challenge for you,” says Cara D’Orazio, a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor.

Meet the experts: Cara D’Orazio is a certified personal trainer, group fitness instructor and founder of C.G.M Fitness, Inc. Gina Newton is a certified personal trainer and holistic body coach.

Intrigued? Keep scrolling for everything you need to know about 75 Hard—including the rules, benefits and potential risks.

What is the 75 Hard Challenge?

The 75 Hard Challenge was created in 2019 by Andy Frisella, a public speaker, entrepreneur and podcast host. At its core, the system is slated as a “transformational toughness program” that combines elements of nutrition, fitness and self-improvement, explains D’Orazio. It’s not a specific diet or exercise plan, but rather an “Ironman for your brain,” per the 75 Hard website, that focuses on five main pillars:

  1. Nutrition
  2. Movement
  3. Self-evolution
  4. Hydration
  5. Mental discipline

To break it down a bit more, Frisella explains that he developed the challenge for mental toughness and discipline.

“The goal is to become immersed in healthy eating and fitness so they become a part of our everyday lives,” says D’Orazio. According to the methodology, if a participant can stick out 75 days of the challenge, they can then apply the mentality to other life situations, ultimately making them less apt to quitting, she explains.

So why is the challenge so popular, you ask? “The 75 Hard has garnered interest because it can look like a ‘quick fix,’” says Newton. “For 75 days you follow the outline of the requirements and there are many examples from those who have done it showing substantial and/or significant weight loss and physical transformation,” she explains. According to the challenge website, over a million people around the world have successfully completed 75 Hard.

The 75 Hard Challenge Rules

The 75 Hard Challenge consists of the following six non-negotiable rules which are intended to be complete for 75 days straight.

  1. No skip days. The key format of the challenge is that if you skip a day or any of the rules, you *must* start over. Even if you miss one of the five following tasks on a given day, you must restart to day one, says D’Orazio. “This was intended for the sake of not tweaking or compromising the rules, as this can open the door to quitting,” she says.
  2. Follow a diet. Stick to a diet with zero alcohol and no cheat meals. The diet itself is up to you and can vary depending on your goals, but whether it’s intermittent fasting, keto, plant-based, or paleo, the challenge requires you to follow a set and strict meal plan for 75 days straight, says D’Orazio.
  3. Complete two 45-minute workouts a day, one of which is outside. Rain or shine, 75 Hard requires one 45-minute workout in the morning and one 45-minute workout in the afternoon. It’s up to you which workout is outside, but the rules state one must be outdoors, explains D’Orazio. “The purpose of this is to get people to commit and not throw in the towel even if conditions aren’t perfect,” she says.
  4. Drink a gallon of water. This one is pretty self-explanatory, but 75 Hard emphasises hydration and requires a gallon (around 3.7L) of water a day.
  5. Read 10 pages of nonfiction. In the name of inspiration, education and self-improvement, you’re tasked with reading 10 pages of nonfiction a day, says D’Orazio. And nope, it *cannot* be an eBook or audiobook. It must be a physical copy.
  6. Take daily progress pictures. Get your camera out because the challenge requires a daily progress pic, says D’Orazio. The full-body photo is intended to track progress and maintain accountability.

Benefits Of 75 Hard

  1. Accountability. Because 75 Hard is strict in its rules and structure, it can hold you accountable for its entirety, says D’Orazio. “When the going gets tough, it can help those who would have probably quit stick to a routine,” she says.
  2. Structure. Given the simplicity of the rules, the structure is easy to follow and understand, says Newton. The consistent structure can also provide a sense of direction and encourage healthy habit-forming behaviour like hydration and daily movement, she adds.
  3. Holistic approach. The program entails both physical and mental commitment, so it can provide a more holistic or well-rounded approach to wellness, says D’Orazio. As Frisella has previously mentioned, 75 Hard doesn’t sell itself on a single idea or magic solution to health and well-being. Instead, the concept is to reboot your lifestyle and encourage optimal nutrition, daily fitness and self-improvement.
  4. Customisable. Unlike other challenges or diet plans, 75 Hard offers an element of choice, depending on your goals, says Newton. You choose the diet that best suits you, the non-fiction book you like to read and the exercise you most enjoy. As long as you’re sticking to the six general rules, the specifics are up to you.
  5. Physical endurance. Whether you’re looking to gain strength, boost cardio, or lose weight, working out twice a day for 75 days straight will improve your overall fitness, says Newton. Not to mention, it fulfils the US Department of Health’s recommendation of 75 to 300 minutes of exercise per week, adds D’Orazio.

Is 75 Hard Safe?

Like anything, the safety of the 75 Hard challenge depends on the individual, says D’Orazio. “If the individual is new to fitness, the two 45-minute workouts back to back may be too much in a day and I truly feel one to two days of rest per week is crucial to avoid injury,” she explains. People with heart conditions, chronic illness, or existing injuries should also always consult with a healthcare provider before embarking on the challenge, she adds.

On top of that, 75 Hard can be a major shock to the system if you’ve never actively or routinely focused on nutrition, hydration, and/or fitness, says Newton. “Listen to your body and change course when you need to, you won’t get in trouble,” she explains. If the plan becomes too hard to follow and you want or need to stop, that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you’re weak, your body just isn’t quite ready for it, she adds.

Remember that safety is most important. If you’re extremely fatigued and/or have persistent aches, pains, or injuries, stop the challenge and talk with a doctor, says D’Orazio. And if weather conditions are treacherous, stay inside for both workouts, she adds. No challenge is worth an injury.

It’s also worth noting that those with a history of disordered eating should be cautious with the 75 Hard challenge, says D’Orazio. The program’s strict diet regimen, exercise habits and progress photos could be triggering, especially if you miss a day or rule, she explains. Instead, focus on sustainable lifestyle modifications and find a workout you enjoy.

Possible Risks Of 75 Hard

  1. Your mental health may take a toll. This challenge is an all-or-nothing mentality and the average person may not have the time or resources to commit to the six rules for 75 days straight, says D’Orazio. “Psychologically, it can be damaging to get past day 50 and have something unavoidable happen in life and need to start all over again,” she explains. The challenge also perpetuates perfectionism and can lead to negative self-talk or feelings of inadequacy if you don’t make it through all 75 days, adds Newton.
  2. Extreme lifestyle changes aren’t necessarily sustainable. It may be difficult to overhaul your life and maintain several new habits at once, says Newton. “I don’t think it’s worth it or sustainable,” she explains. You may see results during or after the challenge, but the six rules aren’t necessarily feasible in the long run and could harm your idea of self-worth and progress, she explains. “I am an advocate for long-term solutions to health, not quick fixes.”
  3. There’s an increased risk of injury. Working out twice a day with no rest days can increase your risk of injury, whether you’re new to exercise or not, says D’Orazio. In fact, research shows that rest days give your body time to repair, rebuild and strengthen itself between workouts.
  4. The lack of flexibility can cause burnout. The 75 Hard challenge preaches rigid adherence to the six rules and any slip requires you to start over. As a result, the negative reinforcement or pass/fail criteria can add unnecessary stress, guilt and burnout, says Newton. “People need to be kinder to themselves, not harder on themselves.”
  5. Progress pictures aren’t the only way to measure success. Studies show that placing an overwhelming amount of importance on body image can lead to anxiety, depression and body dysmorphia. “The photos only show the outside and not what’s happening on the inside which is where the transformation really starts,” says Newton. If the pictures make you feel discouraged, toss ‘em.
  6. It promotes a negative diet culture. Although you’re allowed to select the diet you choose to follow, the concept of cheat days can be problematic, says Newton. “I wish the word ‘diet’ was removed from our nutritional vocabulary and the term ‘cheat meals’ would go away,” she explains. Instead of insinuating that you’re “bad” for enjoying certain types of food, it’s better to view food as fuel and focus on balance, she adds. If you’re concerned about nutrition, talk with your doctor or a registered dietitian.

This article was written by Andi Breitowich and was first published by WomensHealthMag.com.

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