As the new year inspires everyone to embrace that “new year, new you” attitude, the 75 Hard Challenge is taking over TikTok again. The extreme fitness regimen is hardly new to the scene—1st Phorm CEO Andy Frisella created the challenge back in 2019—but it is drawing in droves of new year’s resolution-makers eager to transform their minds and bodies on a tight deadline.
It’s not hard to see why this intense program is so alluring. The dramatic transformation videos alone showcasing people’s bodies before and after are clearly enticing. But is the challenge really as good for you as it claims to be?
What is the 75 Hard Challenge?
Frisella, the creator of 75 Hard, bills the challenge as a “mental toughness program,” rather than a fitness regimen. For 75 days, participants are tasked with completing each of the following:
Follow a structured diet. No alcohol or “cheat meals.”
Complete two 45-minute workouts a day. One must be outside.
Drink a gallon of water.
Read 10 pages of a nonfiction, educational book. Audiobooks don’t count.
Take a progress picture.
If you fail to complete any of these tasks, the challenge starts over at day one.
Is 75 Hard actually good for you?
In short, 75 Hard isn’t a sustainable health program for most people, and even if it does give you results you like, they’re aren’t made to last.
“There’s really no one that I would recommend it to, no matter what their circumstances are,” says Christine Byrne, MPH, RD, a registered dietitian in Raleigh, North Carolina. “I really just think that the 75 Hard Challenge is so rigid for no reason.”
While Andy Frisella is the CEO of a supplement company, it’s important to note that he is not a certified personal trainer or a registered dietitian, and the parameters of the program weren’t developed using scientific research.
In fact, the program is characterized by vagueness. Participants are tasked with following a “structured diet” but not given a specific diet to follow. You must complete two 45-minute workouts but there are no guidelines on what types of workouts to do. And the promised outcomes are just as ambiguous: increased confidence, fortitude, and grittiness.
Byrne worries that the challenge might actually have the opposite effect for some. The rigidity of the dieting requirements and daily progress pictures can encourage an unhealthy obsession with food and your body, even for people who’ve never had a strained relationship with either before, she says. “If you are eating too little or if you are not allowing yourself to eat the variety of foods that you want and need, you are probably going to think about food a lot, and that can lead to some really obsessive and disordered thinking.”
Following such a rigid diet alone is a demanding task, but top it off with two 45-minute workouts a day and you run the risk of overtraining and underfueling, says Rachel MacPherson, an ACE-certified personal trainer and member of Garage Gym Reviews Expert Panel. “This should not be a time when you are trying to lose weight or cut down on calories because you will need fuel to recover from this much activity,” she says.
The program also neglects to schedule in rest days, which are crucial to muscle recovery, avoiding injury, and building a sustainable fitness routine. All of this can build to not only physical exhaustion, but mental exhaustion as well, MacPherson says.
“If you miss a workout, you have to start over, which can leave you feeling defeated and like a failure,” she says. “You could be needing more recovery, you could be too busy, and the demands of two-a-day time commitments could be adding stress that is even worse for your health.”
But what about the “mental toughness” aspect?
75 Hard may not be the key to a sustainable health and fitness routine, but can it at least deliver on its promise to make you more mentally tough? Well, it depends on your definition.
“Mental toughness is a set of attributes, it’s not one thing,” says Amanda Myhrberg, a certified mental performance coach based in Sarasota, Florida. “We tend to use the term ‘mental toughness’ as a catchall but it’s a lot of your values, your attitudes, your emotions, and behaviors that help you overcome obstacles.”
While 75 Hard is definitely an obstacle, Myhrberg says it’s unique because it doesn’t encourage any preparation or training. Unlike other obstacles like running a marathon or giving a speech that you can practice for in the weeks leading up, 75 Hard is an all-or-nothing event you dive into head first.
The program also leaves little room for you to be in tune with your own body, MacPherson adds. Even if you wake up sore and feeling like you need a rest day, 75 Hard doesn’t allow for that. “If your body is telling you to back off, ignore the ‘rules’ and listen to your body instead,” MacPherson suggests. “For some people, this is harder than following a fad blindly.”
Facing any kind of challenge will naturally prompt you to grow in mental toughness, but it’s important to ask yourself why you want to take on this specific challenge, Myhrberg says. If you’re looking for a lasting lifestyle change, you’re likely better off adopting small, incremental habits that add up to a healthier routine rather than trying to completely overhaul your life in 75 days.
Is 75 Soft a better option?
There’s a newer, more forgiving version of this challenge circulating called 75 Soft. But while it’s definitely less stringent than its predecessor, it’s by no means a cakewalk. The rules, developed by TikTok fitness influencer Stephen Gallagher, are as follows:
Eat well, and only drink on social occasions.
Complete one 45-minute workout a day. One day each week should be designated for active recovery.
Drink 3 liters of water a day.
Read 10 pages of any book. Audiobooks are allowed.
Although this alternative allows for a little more flexibility, it still has some red flags for MacPherson. “I find it interesting that it’s called 75 ‘soft’ when you are still working out every day with only a single day of active recovery. That’s definitely not soft,” she says.
If you want to test out 75 Soft, give yourself permission to add in an extra day or two of active recovery if you need it, MacPherson suggests. (Also keep in mind that this program is better suited for people who are already consistently working out several times a week.)
There are also countless other ways to foster mental toughness without devoting yourself to a extreme fitness trend. MacPherson recommends leaning into forms of movement that you already love and finding ways to push yourself. If you’re a runner, try to tack on some extra miles each week. If you’re a yogi, commit to learning a new pose once a month.
“These things are personal and will foster intrinsic, internal motivation as you build skills and feel pride in your accomplishments,” she says.
We all love the idea of a shortcut to our dream life or body, and in a way, 75 Hard feels like just that. But if your goal is long-lasting change, you’re better off taking the slow and steady route—even if it doesn’t make for a trendy TikTok.