We have TikTok to thank for putting us up to countless workout trends (hello, 3-2-8 method or Wall Pilates) and challenges (think: plank, dragon flag, barbell), but it has yet to test more than just our fitness prowess—that is unless you’ve taken part in the #75Hard challenge. Yes, it sounds vague and intimidating, but enough to leave you wanting more. So, what is 75 Hard? “If you’re looking for a new fitness program or challenge, this is not it,” says the program’s website. Rather, it’s a “transformative mental toughness program” that combines fitness, nutrition, self-improvement, and physical and mental discipline. Although not new to the scene, with 1.5 billion views to date (yes, billion), the 75 Hard regimen is still going strong—and the before and after photos of participants alone can be alluring enough to make just about anyone consider doing it. But is it all that it’s cracked up to be? I turned to experts to find out.
What is 75 Hard?
75 Hard was born out of an interview creator Andy Frisella, a podcaster and CEO of the supplement company 1st Phorm, had with “Iron Cowboy” James Lawrence (he completed 50 Ironman races in 50 consecutive days across all 50 states), who told him that you must put yourself in uncomfortable places in order to develop mental fortitude. The 75-day program is based on the following daily criteria:
- Follow a diet, which can be your choice, but it must be a structured eating plan with the goal of physical improvement. No alcohol allowed.
- Complete two 45-minute workouts, one of which must be done outdoors.
- Take a progress picture.
- Drink one gallon of water.
- Read 10 pages of a non-fiction book (audiobooks excluded).
If you don’t follow through on any of the set guidelines, the challenge resets at day one. And no modifications are allowed–yeah, it’s intense.
On 75 Hard’s website, Frisella claims that his program will show you how to boost your confidence, self-esteem, self-worth, self-belief, fortitude, and grittiness—making a positive impact on yourself, your career, relationships, time management, thinking, and physical shape. “75 HARD is the only program that can permanently change your life…from your way of thinking, to the level of discipline you approach every single task in front of you with,” he states.
What experts are saying
While 75 Hard may sound good on paper, I’m skeptic of anything too rigorous or restrictive, so of course I had to dig deeper by grilling doctors, dietitians, and fitness trainers to break down the pros and cons of the program.
“75 Hard is a great way to develop discipline and mental toughness,” said Dr. Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT, an OBGYN physician and NASM certified personal trainer. “By committing to 75 days of strict adherence to the program, you’ll be training your mind to push through discomfort, which is the biggest factor in achieving long-term goals. Additionally, 75 Hard can help you develop healthy habits, such as regular exercise, proper hydration, and mindful eating.” Erica Baty, RDN, CDE, a registered dietitian and fitness instructor, agreed that most of the “rules” of 75 Hard are generally healthy habits: “Reading, exercising, being active outside, consuming a healthful diet, and drinking lots of water have all been shown to provide numerous health benefits such as more energy, weight maintenance or weight loss, improved body composition and lower risk of chronic diseases.”
Dr. Shoaib Malik, MD, a board-certified family medicine doctor, warned that it’s important to understand the full picture (read: the good, the bad, and the ugly) of the challenge before deciding whether it’s right for you. He cited that the strict requirements of the challenge can be intense, leading to burnout, injury, or negative impact on mental health for some individuals, as well as the potential pitfalls related to negative body image. Catherine Karnatz, RD, creator of Nutrition Education RD, echoed the same concern that 75 Hard can give rise to: “Taking a progress picture daily may spark an obsession with your physical appearance, frequent body checking, and body dysmorphia. In the most severe cases, poor body image and restrictive eating habits may contribute to disordered eating and eating disorders.”
Alayna Curry, a NASM certified women’s fitness specialist, also pointed out that while 75 Hard is meant to be challenging with the goal of achieving radical change, it’s not sustainable. “The average person can’t commit to exercise 7 days a week, let alone 2 workouts a day,” she asserted. “As soon as people give up the strict routine and go back to ‘normal,’ it will be hard to maintain the changes they’ve experienced.”
There may be even more potential cons depending on what “diet” you choose, not to mention the repercussions of adhering to an overly restrictive diet. “While I encourage following an eating plan that will be personally sustainable for your lifestyle, I do not recommend completely cutting out entire food groups that you enjoy,” Karnatz voiced. “Categorizing different foods that you eat as ‘good’ or ‘bad’ can create disordered behaviors and fear around food.”
The Everygirl verdict
We encourage doing what feels right for you, first and foremost. While we provide expert opinions and possible factors for your consideration, only you know what is right for you. But as for whether or not we think 75 Hard is worth it? Factors like getting outside, reading 10 pages of a book, and being conscious of fitting in movement and nutrient-dense foods are undoubtedly beneficial, and perhaps the structure might help you find motivation or stick to goals that otherwise feel difficult.
That said, the challenge can be especially triggering for anyone with a disordered relationship with food or exercise, particularly the progression photos that give more focus on appearance than more important factors like how you feel and your well-being. The restrictions (no alcohol, going outside of your eating plan, exercising every day) leave little to no room for flexibility and can lead to detrimental and obsessive behaviors.
Plus, the truth is that our minds and bodies feel and need different things every day: you may feel ready to conquer the world after a 45-minute morning workout and afternoon walk on one day, but on other days, your body will let you know it needs rest, which isn’t a part of the 75 Hard plan (FYI, rest days are just as important as your workouts). Word to the wise: The program isn’t backed by science or guided by a trained expert, so it should be taken with a grain of salt. What’s more, for a plan to be effective and attainable—be it a fitness, eating, or career—it needs to be sustainable and enjoyable, and 75 Hard doesn’t fit the bill for most people.
Alternatives to 75 Hard
If you’re looking for some structure in your workout and diet without the hardcore measures of 75 Hard, consider it’s less stringent, more accessible cousin 75 Soft. Created by TikTok fitness influencer Stephen Gallagher, this alternative challenge to 75 Hard calls for one rest day, limits drinking rather than cutting it out entirely, and doesn’t require any pictures, making it a more flexible and realistic option—with one caveat: it only includes one day of recovery (hot tip: If you need more than one day of recovery, always listen to your body). The four rules of the 75 Soft challenge are as follows:
- Eat nutritious foods and only drink on social occasions.
- Train 45 minutes a day, with one day designated for active recovery per week.
- Drink 3 liters of water a day.
- Read 10 pages of any book (audiobooks are allowed).
PSA: You can achieve mental toughness without committing to fitness trends and putting yourself through extreme practices. Instead, stick with movement that brings you joy and create your own little challenges. If you do Pilates two times a week, try adding one more sweat sesh a week. Maybe you’ve just discovered lifting weights makes you feel like a badass and you can’t get enough; make it a goal to add more reps to your back squat every two weeks (think: 8-10 squats week 1, then 10-12 squats week 3, and so on). Whatever your health and fitness goal—attaining mental toughness, eating healthy, working out more—it’s not all or nothing, and taking the what-makes-you-feel-good approach wins—TikTok trend or not.