Have you ever heard about the OMAD diet? Most people haven't. In fact, upon first hearing of it, the word that comes to mind is MAD.
Why is this the case? Because the lifestyle it entails isn't for the faint of heart. Let's explore all that the OMAD diet is about.
What is OMAD Anyway?
The OMAD diet is a type of intermittent fasting in which you eat one meal a day. The acronym literally stands for "One Meal a Day." This style of eating is not new, but it has gained popularity in recent years as more research has emerged on the benefits of intermittent fasting.
The origins of the OMAD diet are unclear, but it is likely that it was created by someone who was trying to simplify the process of intermittent fasting.
Intermittent fasting is a dietary approach that involves cycling between periods of eating and fasting, as we would have discussed before.
There are many different ways to do intermittent fasting, but the most common method is to fast for 16 hours and eat for 8 hours. The OMAD diet takes this a step further by only allowing you to eat during a 1-hour window.
This style of eating has been shown to have numerous health benefits, even though it is definitely more challenging to adhere to than other variations.
Some OMAD RULES
There are certain rules that you need to strictly adhere to if you want to be successful with OMAD dieting. These include:
One Eating Interval Daily
This should go without saying, but there are some grey areas that may arise, so it's worth mentioning. You need to eat your meal at one time. No eating some now and leaving a bit for later.
One Beverage With Calories Daily
Well, technically it could be more than one, but we are referring to with your meal. At any other time, you are only allowed water, tea, and black coffee.
One Hour To Eat
During that one-hour interval, eat, drink and be merry. This means that you should do your best to consume all the calories that you need in this one sitting.
Tip: eat first, drink later. Liquids are notorious for filling you up quickly, so eat solid food first and drink your beverages afterward (within your one hour window)
During Your Eating Interval Eat Until You Are Satisfied
This is important because you need to make sure you are getting enough calories and nutrients to sustain yourself throughout the day. It can be easy to undereat if you are not used to eating just one meal a day, so don't be too restrictive of yourself at this time.
Get Most of Your Calories From Nutrient-Dense Foods
As with any diet, you want to make sure you are getting the majority of your calories from nutritious whole foods. This will help you feel fuller for longer and get the nutrients your body needs.
Yes, you can probably get away with an inferior quality diet on OMAD and still lose weight, but do your best to not eat crappy food every day. If this is a struggle for you, we recommend Field of Greens and Fortify to support a healthy diet.
What Makes OMAD Different From Other IF Variants?
By far, the primary reason many people start following an IF lifestyle is for weight loss or weight maintenance. The most common variant followed is the 16/8, but that's not to say that OMAD isn't better in certain regards.
If you're wondering, here's where it excels.
Autophagy is one of the body's essential processes, during which damaged, or unusable parts of cells and associated matter is removed. This helps to prevent the buildup of toxins and improves cell function.
Not to mention that the removal of damaged cells can be a major contributor to cancer prevention, especially when you consider that damaged cells are often what fuel tumor growth.
While autophagy (or autophagocytosis) occurs on a daily basis, fasting for extended periods of time (usually exceeding 12 hours), massively increases the extent of this process.
Thus, it becomes much more efficient from a health standpoint to fast for longer periods, but without tripping the starvation/ survival mechanism switch.
Improved Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin resistance is a major problem in our society. It's a major contributing factor to type II diabetes, and it's also been linked to heart disease, obesity, and cancer.
Intermittent fasting has been shown to improve insulin sensitivity, and OMAD is likely even more effective than other variants.
The reason is simple. Insulin tends to remain elevated/desensitized the longer glucose is in the blood. Plus, most at-home or lab tests don't check actual insulin levels, but only blood sugar.
This makes it important to utilize the best way to lower insulin levels- fasting. Even a low carbohydrate and sugar diet might be inadequate for some people if they don't fast intermittently.
As you can see, there are some definite advantages to following the OMAD diet. However, it's not right for everyone. Let's take a look at some of the potential disadvantages.
The OMAD diet is the closest thing that exists for guaranteeing weight loss without starving yourself, as it forces your metabolism to stay at the same rate by avoiding the metabolic crash that calorie-restricted diets tend to cause.
But make no mistake, you are going to achieve a calorie deficit- and sometimes a very big one. How many calories are you capable of eating in a one hour window? 99% of the time it will not be the same as your intake spread through the day.
This makes OMAD attractive, especially to people who have tried to lose weight with 16/8 but have little to show for it. Most people on OMAD have achieved significant weight loss.
The only time you might experience difficulty with OMAD fasting is if you have been yo-yo dieting for years and have caused some degree of metabolic damage to your body.
Lean Muscle Gain
Though it might sound counterintuitive to some, OMAD and other variants of intermittent fasting can actually be very beneficial for those looking to build lean muscle mass.
This is largely related to an important effect of insulin known as nutrient partitioning. In effect, this helps direct calories to where they are most likely to be of great benefit. Optimally functioning insulin preferentially shuttles carbohydrates and amino acids into muscle cells, and secondarily into the liver for storage as glycogen.
In turn, fewer calories are stored in fat cells. As a result, lean muscle tissue is preserved and accrued, leading to body recomposition.
Improved Energy Levels
Initially, this claim is a far cry from what actually occurs. Let's be real- when you're used to eating multiple times daily, and suddenly dial it back to once daily, blood sugar levels are all over the place as your body struggles to meet energy requirements.
As a result, you'll feel miserable. At least for the first week or so. After this, things change for the better. Tired of those mid-afternoon energy crashes? OMAD might help with that.
Your body becomes more efficient at producing energy, and you'll no longer need to depend on blood sugar highs to get through the day.
This is largely due to increased insulin sensitivity, as well as improved mitochondria function. The end result is that you have more sustainable energy levels throughout the day, without needing coffee or other stimulants to get going.
Want to turbocharge your energy levels? Try ketOMAD. This effectively adheres to keto principles (high fat, moderate protein, low to no carbs) for your one meal. As a result, throughout the day ketone bodies are produced to meet energy needs, with it being well established that they function as excellent, and sustainable fuel sources.
This is a controversial claim, but there's some evidence to suggest that OMAD can lead to cognitive enhancement.
OMAD fasting can elevate levels of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a protein that helps support the growth and development of new neurons, as well as the protection and maintenance of existing ones.
This links intermittent fasting to improved cognitive function, as well as a reduced risk for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
Plus, again- when combined with keto, you can all but eliminate mental cloudiness and "brain fog".
Less Meal Fatigue
Meal fatigue refers to two things; the need to constantly eat even when not really hungry, and also finding foods/ cooking several times daily.
OMAD frees you up from this to a great extent. You'll find that you have more time on your hands, and can use it as you please. This is a great thing for productivity, creativity, and just general enjoyment of life.
Save On Food Bills
This is a big one for many people. When you're only eating once daily, you're not buying groceries as frequently. You're also wasting less food, as it's likely that you'll be able to finish what's on your plate in one sitting.
The more prepared and strategic you are with your OMAD meal, the greater the savings potential will be.
Potential Disadvantages of the OMAD Diet
While OMAD may sound attractive, there are also some important considerations/limitations that have to help form your opinion. Factors such as:
The primary disadvantage of the OMAD diet is that it's not sustainable long-term.
OMAD fasting can be taxing on the body, and as a result, it's best used in shorter stints- no more than 3-4 months at a time.
Not to mention that some people have an appetite that is hard to tame- regardless of how long they have been on the diet. This makes every single day a battle when following OMAD principles.
In theory, smaller meals have an advantage over OMAD, at least when it comes to nutrient assimilation.
Recall that with OMAD you're consuming all your calories in one meal. Your digestive system wasn't designed to handle this large influx of food, and as a result, can become easily overloaded.
This can lead to increased gut permeability (leaky gut), as well as dysbiosis- an imbalance in gut bacteria. In turn, this can lead to inflammation, which is the root cause of most chronic diseases.
You can see how just one possible issue can cascade into several others.
Another potential disadvantage is that without adequate planning, you can easily fall into the trap of overeating.
While it's great to have one large meal each day, if this meal isn't well balanced, it can be detrimental to your health.
For example, a meal consisting primarily of processed foods, simple carbs, and unhealthy fats will do more harm than good- regardless of when it's consumed.
Plus, some people get tied into reward eating syndrome- that is to say that they deserve to pig out after going 23 hours without eating. This type of thinking can surprise you and can lead to operating (at least from a caloric standpoint).
When Is The Best Time To Have Your Meal?
The great thing about OMAD is truly the flexibility. You aren't tied down to one thing (most of the time).
You can have your one meal at any time that best suits you, your lifestyle, and your goals.
That being said, most people tend to have their meal in the late afternoon or early evening.
This is for two reasons; first, it's more socially acceptable to eat later in the day. Second, it allows you to sleep in a bit longer and start your fast on a fuller stomach.
Plus, the hours spent asleep on a full stomach are far more forgiving than going to be hungry and agonizing over it the entire time. Most people can also easily deal with skipping breakfast; fewer can say the same about dinner.
If you prefer to have your meal in the morning, that's completely fine as well. Just listen to your body and do what feels right for you.
Just make sure that you're not eating too close to bedtime, as this can cause indigestion and disrupt sleep quality.
OMAD, while intimidating on the surface, is a perfectly valid way of eating that can offer some unique advantages.
However, it's not right for everyone and comes with some potential disadvantages that have to be considered.
The best way to find out if OMAD is right for you is to give it a try yourself. Start slow, and increase the frequency/duration as you become more comfortable with the diet.
Most importantly, make sure that you're eating nutrient-dense, whole foods and not using OMAD as an excuse to overeat junk food. If you can do that, then OMAD just might be the perfect diet for you.