75 Hard Challenge: What to Know

Medically Reviewed by Zilpah Sheikh, MD on June 14, 2024
9 min read

If you’ve been checking out new fitness programs, you may have heard of the 75 Hard Challenge. It’s a relatively new program that launched in 2019. Blame COVID-19 for its late adoption, but these days, it’s kicking up quite the storm. The 75 Hard Challenge is part exercise, part nutrition, and part mental progress/self-help. 

It works by dictating you commit 75 days (2½ months) to a military-style checklist of daily nutrition, exercise, and reading tasks.

Created in 2019 by entrepreneur and podcaster Andy Frisella, the 75 Hard Challenge (or #75Hard as you might see on social media) was inspired by Ironman competitions. (An Ironman is a triathlon competition covering more than 140 miles of long-distance swimming, biking, and running all in 1 day.) 

Frisella interviewed James Lawrence, the “Iron Cowboy,” who completed 50 Ironman races in 50 days over 50 states. Lawrence believed putting yourself in uncomfortable or hard situations would build mental toughness. Frisella built on this idea, and 75 Hard was born.

Today, there are hashtags #75Hard, books, T-shirts, and more. And it seems it has taken over around the world.

The 75 Hard program is not the first of its kind. Challenges designed to motivate you to meet your health and wellness goals have been around for many years. Each one is different enough to have its own title and band of followers. Some may sound familiar:

  • Tae Bo
  • P90X
  • “Sweatin’ To the Oldies” 
  • HIIT (high-intensity interval training)
  • CrossFit 
  • Influencer workouts (such as Billy Blanks, Shaun T abs, etc.)
  • And if you’re old enough … Jazzercise!

Other challenges include private groups like ones in your workplace or a social team. Tracking has become easier via apps and online logging. Prizes can get pretty outrageous. 

The 75 Hard Challenge may seem easy on paper. Check off five simple things each day – for 75 days, and that’s it! Of course, like most challenges, this one can be easier said than done. 

Here’s how it works:

Step 1: Pick a diet plan of your choice to follow. 

Select whatever plan works for you as long as you stick with it, and it doesn’t include alcohol or “cheat days.” 

Unlike some plans where a fall off the wagon means keep riding, for 75 Hard, if you skip the meal plan or eat something that’s not allowed, your 75-day commitment starts over again. 

Here is a list of nine plans you can select from:

  • Keto: High-fat, low- to no-carb diet, focused on improving metabolism and muscle
  • Mediterranean: Plant-based, with a focus on healthy fats and lean meats like chicken and fish
  • Paleo: What cavemen/women ate: fruits, veggies, nuts and seeds; no dairy or refined sugar
  • Whole 360: No dairy, grains, or legumes/beans; instead, fresh fruits and veggies, some fats, and lean proteins
  • DASH: High-potassium, low-sodium diet focused on lowering your blood pressure
  • Vegan: A diet that avoids anything from animalsmeat, dairy, eggs, and even honey
  • Vegetarian: The focus is fruits and vegetables, but unlike vegan diets, some food that comes from animals is allowed. 
  • Flexitarian: Vegan plus vegetarian with meats/animal products every now and then
  • Pegan: Paleo meets vegan, with 75% plants and 25% meats, fish, or eggs. 

People who eat a healthy diet of fruits and veggies tend to weigh less and have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. 

Step 2: Exercise two times per day for 45 minutes. (One workout must be outside.)

Most of us know the benefits of regular exercise. But to keep up with one workout a day – let alone two – may prove a significant challenge for some. Others prefer a variety of cardio workouts matched with some weight training or flexibility movement options like yoga or Pilates. 

If you sign up, take your pick of:

  • Walking
  • Running
  • Swimming 
  • Dancing (Zumba, salsa, African, belly dance, etc.) 
  • Strength training exercises
  • Pilates 
  • Yoga 
  • Recreational sports (tennis, racquetball, etc.)

Nutrition is very important, but don’t sleep on staying active. The benefits are many. Regular exercise can help lower blood pressure and the risks of heart disease and certain cancers. It can improve sleep quality, mood, and may even help you live longer. 

Step 3: Drink 1 gallon of water. 

Most of us know that drinking water daily is one of the tried-and-true health to-dos. Drinking is one thing. Measuring is another. Committing to a full gallon per day is a hard-and-fast rule for 75 Hard. 

Certain folks are more at risk of dehydration, such as infants, young people, and people who work or exercise outside. Since exercising outdoors is a key tenet, staying on top of water intake is important. But no one said it was easy. Check for tips online that suggest things like flavoring your water or making sure you bring some wherever you go. 

Step 4: Read 10 pages of any nonfiction self-help book.

The goal is to include the mind-body connection as part of the plan. Evidence shows that such a connection matters when it comes to pain and gain, and it’s even a factor for top athletes. 

As in steps 1 and 2, the choice of book is up to you. You can read more than 10 pages; that's just the minimum. 

Some popular books on 75 Hard blogs include:

  • Atomic Habits by James Clear 
  • How to Make S*** Happen by Sean Whelan 
  • The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg
  • Can’t Hurt Me by David Goggins
  • The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
  • Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
  • Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

Step 5: Lastly, take a progress picture. 

As we’ve progressed from click cameras to Polaroids, digital and now smartphones, taking regular pics is a common thing. Still, snapping a pic of your full body to show progress may be an unusual task. The point here is to rely less on the scale to show progress and more on how your clothes fit or how you look in pictures. 

Because you may lose fat and gain muscle as you progress, the scale may not shift as much. Many experts point to how your clothes fit as a better sign that you’re closer to your goal. 

Part of its appeal, and also its lack thereof, is 75 full nonstop days of committing to lifestyle changes. The list may be short, but the ways to “mess up” are good to know. 

Here’s how you break the rules of 75 Hard:

  • Drink alcohol. There are no exceptions. It doesn’t matter if it’s your birthday or your best friend’s wedding. Absolutely no alcohol! If you’re used to a drink or two per week, think now about your mocktails or other substitutions. 
  • Skip a day. Research notes it takes about 21 days to form a habit. Some of the 75 Hard rationale is to make certain health practices a lifestyle. If you skip any of the rules during the plan, you have to start over from Day 1. 
  • Read a fiction or audiobook. The point is to get out of your comfort zone by dedicating time to reading about topics that help make you a better person. It’s less about leisure reading and more about fine-tuning an area of your life that needs improvement.
  • Switch between meal plans. The goal here again is commitment. If you switch from paleo to keto and back, there’s a chance you’ll miss the opportunity to build a willpower muscle. 
  • Have a cheat day. Unlike other plans that may allow for a little break here and there, 75 Hard has a no-cheat policy. If you fall off the wagon, you have to go back to the start line.

Since 75 Hard has only been around since a year before the pandemic, there are fewer lists of tips and hacks. But diehard 75ers suggest the following:

  • Start small. 
  • Grab a buddy to join you in your workouts.
  • Go grocery shopping. Make sure you have all of your approved items.
  • Cook or prep for the week. 
  • Pick two times per day that work for you.
  • Pick a workout that is fun. 

Safety is key with any new (or harder) exercise program. Do these things to help prevent injury:

  • Wear loose-fitting clothing.
  • Replace your athletic shoes every 6 to 8 months.
  • Don’t forget to warm up and cool down.
  • Stay hydrated. 
  • Rest when you need to.

Because 75 Hard is touted by founder Andy Frisella and others as a mental toughness builder instead of a fitness program, many of the reported benefits start in the mind. 

  • Increased self-esteem
  • Mental toughness/fortitude 
  • Improved confidence 
  • More grit
  • Increased self-worth 

On the program’s website, 75 Hard graduates often show noticeable weight loss and report improved overall health. More research is needed to see if 75 Hard might improve blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, long-term weight loss, sleep, or other health factors. 

The top benefit seems to be finishing something you thought would be hard or impossible to do!

Is it a fad or fantastic? Since 75 Hard launched in 2019, more research is needed to understand the benefits and risks. It borrows from some longtime programs, but the approach (and time commitment) is new. 

Still, any fitness challenge or program without your doctor’s blessing can be risky. Our bodies are shaped differently, but they also function in specific ways internally. People with conditions like high blood pressure or diabetes, those with heart disease, or smokers should speak with their doctor before starting a workout program. 

Tasks like taking a daily progress pic, for example, could lead to eating disorders or negative body image for some. 

If you decide to give 75 Hard a try, watch for the following signs it may not be the program for you. 

  • Loss of appetite 
  • Disturbed sleep 
  • Dizziness or fainting 
  • Extreme pain or numbness in any area of your body
  • A hard time breathing 
  • Anything that is not normal for you 

If you’re not ready to jump aboard the 75 Hard journey, no sweat.

The 75 Soft Challenge has surfaced as a beginner-friendly option to try. 

Here are the key differences:


75 Hard: Stick to a select meal plan, no exceptions, no alcohol 

75 Soft: Add healthy foods to your diet, alcohol is OK on special occasions 


75 Hard: Two 45-minute workouts per day, and one must be outside 

75 Soft: One 45-minute workout per day, plus one day for recovery


75 Hard: Drink 1 gallon of water each day.

75 Soft: Drink 3 liters of water each day (a little less than a gallon). 


75 Hard: Read 10 pages of a nonfiction self-help book each day. 

75 Soft: Read 10 pages of any book each day. 

The 75 Soft option doesn’t mention a daily picture. It focuses on slowly adding healthy lifestyle changes. Most experts suggest going slow is more effective than diving in. Still, you’ll need to see what works best for you. 

The 75 Hard Challenge includes five steps:

  1. Stick to one meal plan. 
  2. Exercise two times per day for 45 minutes (once outside).
  3. Drink 1 gallon of water each day.
  4. Read 10 pages of a nonfiction self-help book each day.
  5. Take a daily progress picture. 

Benefits of 75 Hard may include:

  • Increased self-esteem
  • Mental toughness/fortitude 
  • Improved confidence 
  • More grit

Risks to watch for include:

  • Loss of appetite 
  • Disturbed sleep 
  • Dizziness or fainting 
  • Extreme pain or numbness in any area of your body
  • A hard time breathing 
  • Or anything that is not normal for you

What are the five things for 75 Hard? 

  1. Stick to a healthy diet – no cheating, no alcohol.
  2. Work out two times per day for 45 minutes (one workout outside).
  3. Drink 1 gallon of water per day.
  4. Read 10 pages of a nonfiction self-help book each day.
  5. Take a daily progress picture. 

Does walking count for 75 Hard? 

As long as the exercise is 45 minutes twice per day and once outside, walking is just fine. 

Can I have coffee on 75 Hard?

You can have coffee, but most people skip the sugar. 

Can you eat sugar on 75 Hard?

You can have sugar, but it might conflict with your health goals. 

Can you lose weight on 75 Hard?

You can lose weight on 75 Hard, but there are risks along the way. The intensity of the program may not be right for everyone. Check with your doctor on the best weight loss options for you. 

What’s considered a cheat meal on 75 Hard?

It depends. If you’ve selected the keto diet, then processed sugar is a no-no. 

Can I eat rice in the 75 Hard Challenge? 

It also depends on what the diet you select allows. White rice paired with veggies or a lean protein could be just fine in moderation. Brown rice has more fiber, which is part of a healthy diet. 

Is the 75 Hard Challenge right for you? 

It’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before launching a fitness or nutrition program. Some health factors may make it even more important to do some prep work first. 

If you check one or more from the list below, it’s super important to discuss options with your doctor before 75 Hard or any other exercise or diet program.

  • I’m 65 years or older.
  • I have heart or chest pain.
  • I have high blood pressure.
  • I have arthritis.
  • I tend to have fainting or dizzy spells.
  • I have diabetes. 
  • I’m not already working out or following a meal plan.
  • My lifestyle (work, family, social) would make it hard to commit to 75 days. 

Because 75 Hard is pretty much an all-or-nothing program, it doesn’t easily allow for life to be life. Managing an illness, loss of a loved one, travel, celebrations, or shifts in workload may pose a challenge. Talk to your doctor about how to build a program that is right for you!