Eating once a day for weight loss? Yes, it’s possible to lose weight with intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting is an eating pattern that cycles in eight to twelve hour windows without food followed by a twelwe to sixteen hour period of eating. This dieting approach isn’t as popular as many other diets out there right now, but it’s still been show to lead to some pretty amazing results. In fact, people who practice intermittent fasting have lower body fat levels and higher lean muscle mass than those who don’t fast.
What is the OMAD diet?
Although OMAD is considered an extreme form of intermittent fasting, it’s actually really simple: Eat one large meal each day, within a one-hour time frame, and then fast for the other 23 hours.
Aside from that, the only other real rule with OMAD is to stick to the same daily schedule.
That means, if you decide you’re going to eat between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. (one of the most common eating windows for people following OMAD), that will be your ongoing eating window.
But while the OMAD diet outlines when to eat, there aren’t a lot of specific rules about what to eat. There’s no strict breakdown of macronutrients or calorie guidelines to follow.
As long as you’re sticking to your eating window, you’re technically following OMAD.
That being said, as with any dietary plan, it’s always a good idea to make healthy choices when you do eat.
Amy Shah, M.D. says, “Avoid carb-loaded meals and sugary drinks as they will cause a blood sugar roller coaster, raising your insulin levels and making you feel even more hungry.”
Shah adds that refined carbohydrates aren’t just a problem in the moment, they also make fasting the next day even more difficult because hunger hormones, like ghrelin, will be raised and you’ll feel hungrier. During your hour eating window, try to stick to lean proteins, healthy fats, and plenty of vegetables.
Benefits of the OMAD diet
Because OMAD is a form of intermittent fasting, the theory is that it comes with many of the same benefits, just with a smaller eating window. These are some of the potential benefits of eating only one meal a day:
It’s simple to follow
One of the biggest benefits of the OMAD diet is simplicity. Because you’re only eating once per day, and there aren’t any rules about what to eat, there isn’t a lot of meal prep or forethought required.
The only thing you have to really think about is when to break your fast and then stick to that same schedule on the days you incorporate OMAD.
The OMAD diet is one of the most simple forms of fasting. You only eat one meal a day over a one-hour period. There are no other rules.
It may help manage weight
While you can lose weight with any type of calorie restriction, one research review compared intermittent fasting to regular, daily calorie restriction to see the effects on body composition.
They found that while types of calorie restriction can lead to weight loss, intermittent fasting may help promote a greater amount of fat loss, while also helping retain lean body mass (or lean muscle).
Another small, controlled study with 32 participants found that even when overall calories weren’t restricted, eating all calories in one daily meal resulted in greater loss of body fat.
Note: It’s important to point out that researchers from that study also found that eating one meal a day led to slightly increased blood pressure and cholesterol levels (although it did decrease cortisol levels too).
Research shows that eating all calories in one daily meal can lead to greater weight loss than other forms of fasting.
It may improve metabolic health
What’s even more impressive is that intermittent fasting might help improve various health markers, even without weight loss.
In one small study, researchers had pre-diabetic men follow different intermittent fasting schedules, but gave them enough food to maintain their current body weight.
After 5 weeks, the men had better insulin levels, improved insulin sensitivity, and better beta cell response. They also saw improvements in their blood pressure and had decreased oxidative stress levels.
Another small study followed 10 obese men with type 2 diabetes who were currently taking metformin, one of the most popular diabetic medications.
After two weeks of fasting, the men had better blood sugar control than when they first started the study.
Research shows that different forms of fasting may help improve insulin levels, blood pressure, and manage stress.
It may help improve mood
Intermittent fasting isn’t just about the physical benefits, there are also mental benefits too.
One study showed that prolonged fasting can increase availability of serotonin—a mood-boosting neurotransmitter—in the brain. It may also boost natural opioid and endocannabinoid production.
Studies show that prolonged fasting can increase the availability of serotonin, a mood-boosting neurotransmitter in the brain.
It may promote longevity
Although a large amount of the research on intermittent fasting and longevity has used animals as subjects, the results are promising.
As one 2019 review points out, research on animals and humans indicates that reducing your food intake through fasting can significantly slow or reverse aging.
In fact, one of the longest-running animal studies focused on prolonged fasting found that rats could increase their lifespan by as much as 80 percent.
However, the effects of fasting also depends on sex, age, overall diet, and genetic factors.
But while there’s definitive research on less intense types of intermittent fasting, there isn’t a lot of focused science on whether or not going for longer periods without eating (as with OMAD) has additional benefits
What Are the Negative Effects of Eating One Meal a Day?
With your packed schedule and desire to drop a few pounds, eating one meal a day seems like an easy way to go. While intermittent fasting, going long periods of time without eating, has become a popular way to lose weight, like most other diet trends, it’s a fad that won’t lead to lasting results. In addition to the havoc it plays on hunger, both physical and emotional, eating once a day may impact your health and lower your metabolism. If you’re struggling with your weight and finding time to eat is an issue, consult with a dietitian to design a plan that fits your diet needs and lifestyle.
Hunger: Enemy Number One
One of the major downfalls to most diet plans is that they make you hungry, and as it turns out, following a diet where you only eat once a day is no different. A 2007 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigated the effects of eating one meal a day on health parameters in a group of healthy adults. The researchers found that one of the biggest complaints among participants was hunger. This one little complaint, may make the one-meal-a-day diet very difficult to stick to.
Eating one meal a day not only affects your physical hunger, but your emotional hunger as well. You know, when you’re so hungry you snap at your husband when he asks you what time you’re going to be home from work. This type of hunger is affectionately known as being hangry. Unfortunately, feeling hangry may tap into raw, uncomfortable emotions, which for some may lead to poor food choices and overeating to console those feelings.
Impact on Health
Limiting your meals to once a day may not have a positive effect on your health, even if you lose weight. While the participants eating only one meal a day in the 2007 study from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition lost weight and fat mass, their blood pressure and cholesterol levels went up. And a 2008 study published in the journal Metabolism found that eating once a day increased fasting blood sugar and insulin levels. This study also noted an increase in ghrelin levels, the hunger hormone, in those eating only once a day.
Risk a Slower Metabolism
While you certainly could eat all the calories you need in one meal, limiting yourself to eating only once a day makes it harder. If you eat too few calories, less than 1,000-calories a day, your body goes into preservation mode, which causes a metabolic slow down, which means you burn fewer calories. Additionally, eating more often, three meals a day, may help you burn more fat, according to a 2008 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition.
How Does The One Meal A Day Diet Work?
The one meal a day diet works on the principle of calorie restriction and consuming nutritious and low-calorie food one time of the day (or night). When you fast for 23 hours, your body will use the energy reserve (fat) as fuel. Taking the readily available energy in the form of carbs, fruit sugar, etc. aids fat mobilization. It also prevents constipation and improves digestion and absorption, thereby positively influencing fat loss.
However, the one hour window that you get can become your enemy if you don’t watch what you eat. Here’s a list of foods that you can consume.
Foods To Eat On OMAD Diet
- Veggies – Carrot, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, beetroot, turnip, scallions, purple cabbage, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, bell peppers, sweet potato, white potato with peel, spinach, and kale.
- Fruits – High GI fruits like grapes, watermelon, mangoes, and pineapple, and canned fruits should be consumed in limited amounts.
- Protein – Chicken breast, lean cuts of pork and beef, fish, mushroom, beans and legumes, tofu, and eggs.
- Dairy – Full-fat milk, full-fat yogurt, cheddar cheese, feta cheese, buttermilk, homemade ricotta cheese, and cottage cheese.
- Whole Grains – Brown rice, black rice, broken wheat, millet, quinoa, barley, and sorghum.
- Fats & Oils – Olive oil, rice bran oil, sunflower butter, peanut butter, edible grade coconut oil, and almond butter.
- Nuts & Seeds – Almond, walnut, pecan, pine nuts, pistachios, macadamia, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, and melon seeds.
- Herbs & Spices – Cilantro, mint, dill, fennel, rosemary, thyme, oregano, garlic, ginger, onion, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper, black pepper, white pepper, chili flakes, allspice, star anise, cardamom, garlic powder, and clove.
- Beverages – Water, homemade lemonade, homemade electrolyte, coconut water, freshly pressed fruit juice, and cold pressed juices.
So, you see, you have a lot of options to choose from and make delicious food at home with minimum fuss. However, you should be aware of what you should avoid to maintain your health. Here’s a list of foods you must avoid.
Foods To Avoid On OMAD Diet
Fruits – High GI fruits like grapes, jackfruit, mangoes, and pineapple should be consumed in limited amounts.
Protein – Fatty cuts of pork and beef and bacon.
Dairy – Low-fat milk, low-fat yogurt, flavored yogurt, and cream cheese.
Whole Grains – White rice. Consume in limited quantities and include at least five types of veggies with it to balance out the GI.
Fats & Oils – Hemp seed oil, dalda, lard, vegetable oil, butter, margarine, and mayonnaise.
Nuts & Seeds – Cashew nuts
Processed Foods – Salami, sausages, fries, ranch dip, bottled jams, and jellies.
Beverages – Packaged fruit and vegetable juices, soda, diet soda, and energy drinks.
Now that you know what you should eat and avoid, let me tell you how to design your meal so that you don’t lose focus while on the OMAD diet. Scroll down.
What To Include In Your One Meal A Day Diet
- Include at least five types of veggies.
- Consume three types of fruits.
- Include lean protein sources in your diet. However, once in a while, you can consume a controlled portion of red meat.
- If you are a vegetarian, consume a good amount of plant protein such as nuts, seeds, kidney beans, garbanzo beans, and whole pulses.
- Consume half a bowl of curd or a cup of buttermilk to aid digestion.
- Have a few unsalted nuts. Make sure not to go overboard with them.
- You can consume a piece of 80% dark chocolate.
- For other sweet treats, choose fruits and sour cream or yogurt. Or bake and store brownies that contain healthy ingredients and, of course, less sugar.
- Keep yourself hydrated throughout the fasting phase.
- You can drink 3-4 cups of green tea during the fasting phase.
- If you workout, make sure you consume an egg before working out and replenish your electrolyte reserve by drinking coconut water post-workout.