All of us have been hearing from childhood that to live a healthy life, we should have food three times a day. Not only this, but eating at different times of the day is also called by three different names Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.
People say that you should never ever skip meals; otherwise, you can fall ill.
But what if you skip your meal and eat only once a day? What if you follow the One Meal A Day (OMAD) diet plan?
Well, today, Healthroid brings together experts from all over the world to talk to you and answer any questions you have on OMAD.
So without wasting time, let’s understand OMAD in detail:
What is the One-Meal-A-Day (OMAD) Diet?
The one-meal-a-day (OMAD) diet is the philosophy that you’re only eating one meal a day. It’s an extreme version of intermittent fasting (IF), where people spend a majority of their day not eating and confine all of their eating/caloric intake to a finite number of hours in their day, Jennifer Trepeck, an Optimal Health Coach, and Founder of Better Life Now LLC, explains to Healthroid.
It also stems from the old adage, calories in, calories out. If we only eat one meal a day, it is easier to create the caloric deficit required in this philosophy, Jennifer adds.
According to Lisa Richards, Nutritionist, The Candida Diet, “In traditional IF diets the individuals will fast from food between 16-20 hours, while most fast around the 16 hour time. The OMAD diet enthusiast will fast 23 hours at a time. This leaves enough time for eating just one meal during their one hour eating window.”
Is Eating One Meal a Day Healthy?
Experts have different opinions about whether eating one meal a day is healthy or not. Experts believe that this depends on person to person.
According to Tatiana Larionova, a Certified Nutrition Specialist, to answer this question, anyone who is trying this style of eating should confirm whether he is healthy enough for this diet plan or not. He should also ensure that he has no history of gastro-intestinal disorders (gastritis, colitis, stomach ulcers, acid reflux, etc.), blood sugar levels, diabetes/prediabetes, and eating disorders.
Tatiana added, any of the conditions listed above would serve as indicators of eating one meal a day as potentially unhealthy, particularly if engaging in eating this way triggers or worsens the conditions.
Asher Adelman, a Nutritional Therapy Practitioner and CEO of Life Health & Wellness Center, tells us that, as long as you are consuming a sufficient amount of micro- and macro-nutrients in your daily meal, OMAD is a very healthy way of eating. It is a great way to stabilize one’s blood sugar levels, to maintain insulin sensitivity, to lose excess fat, and to maintain a healthy weight.
What Happens If You Only Eat One Meal a Day?
Jennifer says, when you eat one meal a day, due to insufficient fuel throughout the day, your body goes into starvation response, a form of survival mode. The body says, wait a minute. I don’t know when I’m going to get fuel again, so I need to hold onto everything I get for survival. In such a situation, the body starts using your stores of fat as an immediate fuel.
According to Tatiana, when you follow one meal a day diet plan, initially there may be weight loss, if the caloric density of the meal you eat is below your needs. People with high blood glucose and/or insulin levels may experience reductions in either or both markers. Eventually the body adapts, and if the energy intake is low (way below your body’s needs) it may go into energy preservation mode, slowing metabolism and often making you feel fatigued, irritated and sluggish.
What Are Benefits of One Meal a Day?
Lisa explains, the OMAD diet boasts of weight loss benefits, cellular health, improved concentration for many, and increased energy if a nutrient rich diet is followed.
Apart from this Tatiana explains, the other benefits associated with it are reduced blood sugar and insulin and inflammation, autophagy – the process of ridding of old and damaged cells.
What Are Downsides of One Meal a Day?
Experts believe that this diet plan has many downsides along with advantages.
According to Melissa Morris, an ISSN certified sports nutritionist and ACSM certified exercise physiologist and fitness advisor at a life insurance comparison site, Quick Quote; hunger and long-term adherence are the two biggest obstacles. Individuals may also experience fatigue or other vitamin and mineral deficiencies if they are lacking in certain nutrients. This diet is not suitable for people with medical conditions like diabetes and is not good for children. It could also lead to binge eating or other disordered eating.
Jennifer believes that while following OMAD, we lose weight in the short term, as water and muscle, but we gain it back as fat, because when we return to our old eating habits, we have less muscle on our body to burn the extra fuel you’re taking in and so we gain that weight back. So over time, the downside of one meal a day is actually weight gain, after short-term weight loss.
Also, Lisa believes that, in OMAD, the potential for an eating disorder to develop is likely. Eating such few calories can lead to anorexia or various other eating disorders. Along with this, malnutrition can occur in one or many essential vitamins, minerals, and possibly even macronutrients. This is especially true for the OMAD dieter that isn’t intentional about integrating a balanced diet into their one meal.
Also, Amanda A. Kostro Miller, RD, LDN from Fitter Living, shared that in OMAD you’d be really hungry and may binge eat. This can lead to disordered eating patterns, eating disorders, purging, bloating, stomach distention, gas and heartburn!
Can You Lose Weight by Eating One Meal a Day?
According to Grady, an experienced weight loss specialist personal trainer, you can lose weight very quickly on OMAD. To lose weight you need to make a calorie deficit and most people get moderate weight loss from cutting out just breakfast, imagine how fast it will be if you don’t have lunch as well. Also with your stomach empty a lot of the time it will start to shrink so you can consume less during your meal further reducing your potential for consuming calories.
Lisa says, weight loss is possible from eating one meal a day, but it may not be sustainable. If the OMAD dieter decides to stop this diet pattern they must be careful in how they reintroduce more calories and meals into their routine.
What Foods to Eat and What Foods to Avoid in One Meal A Day Diet Plan?
According to Asher, the best foods to eat on a one meal a day plan are those that are most nutrient-rich and have large amounts of vitamins, minerals, essential amino acids, and essential fatty acids. These types of foods will keep us nourished and satiated for long periods of time and will not spike our blood sugar or insulin levels. The foods with the highest concentrations of these essential nutrients are beef, lamb, fish and seafood, eggs, full-fat dairy, butter, and animal fats like beef tallow and lard.
According to Lisa, you can include avocado, fatty fish, vegetables in a variety of colors, a variety of fruit from each type (citrus, etc.), quinoa, brown rice, grass-fed beef, and low or full-fat dairy yogurt in your OMAD diet plan.
The foods that we should avoid on a one meal a day plan are the same inflammatory nutrient-deficient foods that we should always be avoiding. You should stay far away from any foods that contain processed grains, sugar, sweeteners, or refined vegetable oils like canola, corn, or soybean oil, Asher adds.
Are There Any Other Alternatives of One Meal A Day Diet?
Two-meals-a-day diets are even more common and are typically easier to sustain than OMAD diets. Most people on a 2MAD diet will skip one meal each day. For example, people will either eat breakfast and lunch, lunch and dinner, or breakfast and dinner. Just as with OMAD, people on a 2MAD diet do not feel the need to snack before or after meals, Asher explains.
Also, Melissa explains, intermittent fasting is a better alternative, whether it is something like a 16:8 fast or an alternate day fast. An alternate day fast is where an individual would eat less than 500 calories twice a week and then stick to their normal calorie recommendation the other five days a week. It’s easier to get your nutrients with an alternate day fast or another type of intermittent fasting.
OMAD Diet Plan That is Suitable For Everyone
Melissa suggests, regardless of if you eat one meal a day or three meals a day, half your plate should be vegetables and fruits, one-fourth should be protein, and one-fourth should be grains, preferably whole grains. You should add one serving of low-fat dairy and consume water to drink.