Weight loss has become an obsession of everyone over the past decade, so it is not surprising that health fad diets became the new norm for weight watchers.
Looking back in history, people lived until over a hundred. They don’t die of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, or other weight-related diseases.
People die due to accidents, lack of hygiene, poor water system, no proper medical care, and due to natural deaths like old age and hunger. Food was scare and people were eating just one meal a day.
In the old days, harvesting and gathering food takes almost the entire day up to several days. Food cannot be stored over a long period, so they immediately put in the pot whatever is gathered.
The advent of agricultural technology paved the way for manufacturers to produce and create food that can be stored over time.
Fast Food Chains and Packaged Meals
During the 20th century, manufacturers introduced pre-packed food like cereals and “easy to use” appliances to the American culture. Since it was wartime, they rationed food, so people preferred the “pre-packed meals” now popularly known as “take out” or “food to go.”
Fast-food chains made it possible for everyone to get easy, fast and ready-to-eat meals anytime and anywhere. With the introduction of the microwave oven, you get the convenience of having a meal in just minutes.
It became even more convenient when manufacturers introduced the concept of “Instant food.”
In short, food became readily available anytime, anywhere. No long waits, no cooking, no hunting. Simply pick up a meal and place it in the microwave, and you can eat within minutes.
The old concept of having one meal a day is long forgotten.
Higher Health Risk
The more meals you eat, the more calories you consume.
The influence of advertisements turned our eating habits to what it is now.
Why do you think you eat breakfast cereals?
I’m pretty sure it’s not because the cereal will make you healthy.
It is because of the convincing spiel of the advertisement telling you that cereal is healthy.
If we really look at it, cereals come from grain, and although grain has fiber, it is still a big source of carbohydrates.
Carbs that turn into stored glucose in your body when not processed.
Carbohydrates are one of the three primary macronutrients our body needs and one of the most important sources of our energy. Carbs come from sugar, starches, and fiber.
Consuming carbs do not lead to obesity per se.
However, many high-carb foods are also high in calories, and this leads us to consume more carbohydrates than we actually need.
Our body digests carbs from sugar and starches quicker, triggering our hunger pangs.
It also caused our blood sugar to fluctuate, thus pushing our pancreas to produce more insulin.
The more insulin our body produces, the more it converts carbs into fats. Fats that get stored in our body and often in our belly.
Too much insulin reduces our body’s ability to burn the stored fat.
We become insulin resistant, triggering an increase in blood sugar level, and eventually lead to Type two diabetes.
To combat the large volume of calories consumed daily, some have started going back to old age practice – eating one meal a day (OMAD) diet.
What is OMAD?
One Meal A Day Diet, otherwise known as OMAD, is not a new diet fad.
It is actually an extreme type of intermittent fasting diet where one consumes all the daily calories the body needs in just one meal.
Unlike other types of intermittent fasting, OMAD is not new.
Our ancestors practiced the habit of eating one meal a day, not to fast, but because of the scarcity of food.
OMAD Eating Window
In one meal a day, one usually fasts for twenty-three hours and spend one whole hour eating.
It does not tell you when to eat, what to eat or how much to eat but just to eat once a day.
It is up to you to choose your eating window hour, but most choose late afternoon to early nighttime.
Usually, most schedule their eating window between four to seven pm.
You can choose between those hours but stick to one hour.
Once you have chosen your schedule, stick to that schedule, and do not change it.
Choose carefully and put consideration on the following:
- Your current health
- How you discipline yourself
- How do you manage your hunger
- Your daily work schedule
- Schedule of your social activities
- Family time
- How you manage stress and energy levels
Once you have the answers to these questions, then you can easily determine your eating window.
These will help keep you from binging.
The Science behind OMAD
The food we eat contains the three primary macronutrients – protein, fats, and carbohydrates.
The proteins are broken down into amino acids, the fats into fatty acids and glycerol, and the carbohydrates into glucose and other sugars.
We know that carbohydrates are our main source of energy.
The glucose and other sugars from carbs passes into our liver and onto our circulatory system increasing our blood glucose levels.
Once the body has its fill of glucose, our liver stores excess glucose that we can tap into if our blood glucose level falls beyond normal.
Once the liver has its fill, the remaining glucose turns into fat and stored long term.
When we go into fasting, our body does not receive enough glucose, and fat becomes our primary source of fuel.
Our body burns our stored fat or our triglycerides for energy.
This the reason why some researchers say we lose weight and lessen the risk of cardiovascular disease when we fast.
Experts even say that the shift from glucose to fats starts between fasting windows of ten to sixteen hours.
Other experts say the shift is more evident after eighteen hours of fasting. This is why experts say one meal a day or OMAD diet is more generally accepted.
Effectiveness of OMAD
How effective is OMAD?
Can it really help me lose weight?
How will it affect my overall well-being?
These are probably just a few of the questions that run to mind if you plan to adopt one meal a day in your daily regimen.
OMAD is an extreme form of intermittent fasting, so yes, most likely, you will lose weight and help prevent chronic disease.
Some research suggests it can help regulate glucose levels.
Despite these positive effects, the drawbacks can be extreme on your overall well-being.
Fasting for almost a day can lead you to extreme hunger, uncontrollable cravings, fatigue, and lack of energy.
It can turn you so hungry you end up eating the wrong kinds of food.
When you are in a state of hunger, you eat anything to satisfy the craving.
While it is true that there are no off-limits in OMAD, eating low nutrient-dense foods can lead you consuming more calories than necessary.
Eating unhealthy foods would eventually counteract the positive effects of fasting and in the long run, increase your risk of chronic diseases.
Benefits of OMAD
Those who have tried using OMAD swears to experience many benefits compared with other intermittent fasting windows.
Experts based some of these benefits on research studies they conducted:
- Increase lifespan. A research indicates reducing your food consumption by fasting can increase longevity. In animal research on prolong fasting, rats increased their lifespan as much as eighty percent. However, note that on humans, the effects of fasting are also dependent on gender, age, genes and overall diet.
- Improve metabolic health. Two pieces of research conducted separately showed significant improvements in their insulin and blood sugar levels. One research consisted of pre-diabetic men using different fasting schedules. Their meal plan consists of enough food to maintain their current weight. The other group consists of ten obese men with type two diabetes and under metformin medication. The first group showed improved insulin levels and sensitivity. The second group was able to control their blood sugar level better than before they joined the research study.
- Help manage weight. Restricting calories would normally help lose weight. In a research conducted, they made a comparison between calorie restriction and intermittent fasting to see its effects on the composition of the body. The results showed that while calorie restriction can reduce weight, intermittent fasting promotes more amount of fat loss without losing lean body mass. In another study, eating a one-day meal without calorie restriction yielded the same results.
- Enables autophagy. Autophagy is a natural body process that serves as a defense mechanism that protects the body against neurodegenerative diseases, infections, and malignancy by cleaning up the body cells of toxins. Further, it helps prevent neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer and Parkinson’s diseases.
- It is simple. OMAD has no rules on what to eat or how much to eat as long as you fast for twenty-three hours and eat in one-hour window. No need for any fancy ingredients or substitute ingredients in your recipe. Simply choose which hour to break your fasting and then keep to that schedule every time.
If there are benefits, there are also possible cons because nothing is really a hundred percent perfect.
- OMAD has no restrictions on what we can eat and how much to eat. When we are hungry, our body tends to ignore hunger signals and not recognize it when you are full.
- Missing out nutrients. Even if OMAD has no restriction, it is not a license to eat unhealthy food. Try to stay within your allowed calorie and focus on nutrient-dense foods.
- Lower energy. Fasting deprives our body of glucose; hence, we burn stored fats as a source of energy fuel. Our body is used to digesting glucose throughout the day and when deprived, it can get confusing and functions differently.
- Increase bad cholesterol. Low-density lipoproteins (LDL) or “bad cholesterol” builds up cholesterol in the body that could lead to stroke or heart attack. A study showed fasting can increase the level of bad cholesterol.
What to Eat on OMAD
What makes OMAD popular?
There are diets and there are fad diets. Our ancestors practiced OMAD since the pre-historic period, so it is not something that started out of the blue, and it is not even a diet but more of an eating habit.
The thing that most people love about OMAD is its “no rule” policy.
It does not require you to remove or replace ingredients in food. You can eat anything but everything in moderation.
Like everything else, we should always take things in moderation. Food, alcohol, sugar, caffeine, and even exercise.
Nothing in excess is ever good.
So what does this mean then?
Yes, OMAD allows us to eat anything and everything during our one-hour eating window, but it does not mean we should overdo it.
We still need to eat within our daily-recommended calorie count.
We need to eat healthy, nutrient-dense food like vegetables and other leafy greens.
We should still follow a balanced diet that contains carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, and other minerals that our body needs.
Avoid processed foods. Eat whole foods like meat, fish, poultry, egg, cheese, and other foods that contain proteins, amino and fatty acids essential to the body.
Nutrient dense vegetables like Swiss chard, broccoli, spinach, and other green and leafy vegetables.
Starchy food like potatoes, rice, carrots, quinoa, beetroot, and turnips are high sources of digestible glucose.
Fruit is good but eat moderately because it is rich in natural fructose.
Healthy fats that come from avocado, fish, eggs, olives, and coconut are good fats that will not cause inflammation and make you fat. Nut and seed-based oils and MCT oil are sources of healthy fats that you can use.
Herbs like rosemary, dills, fennels, thyme, arugula, coriander, and parsley are rich in nutrients, and the majority of which has zero calories.
Medicinal mushroom types like reishi, chaga, lion’s mane can help strengthen the immune system.
If your goal is only to lose weight, standard macros for OMAD is around ten to twenty percent from carbs, forty to fifty percent from fat, and twenty to thirty-five percent from proteins.
Best Candidates for OMAD
OMAD is so easy to adapt that practically anyone can start on it. If you are doing intermittent fasting and adapted the 16/8 approach, you will find it easy to transition to OMAD.
If you were already doing a Keto diet, then you would be the best candidate to start OMAD. Being in the state of ketosis means have gone fasting and your body is used to fasting.
Who shouldn’t try OMAD
OMAD is not for everyone. It might work for me, but it is highly possible that it will not work for you.
People with medical conditions, children, pregnant women, and older people cannot adapt OMAD in their health regimen. Extreme hunger can affect both the physical and mental faculties of a person.
Those with type two diabetes should not adapt OMAD without consultation with your doctor. Fasting can affect your glucose level and could become detrimental to your health.
If you have a history of an eating disorder, you should probably avoid adapting OMAD.
What Experts have to say about OMAD Effectiveness
Experts have conflicting opinions about OMAD. OMAD may have many benefits and success stories, but research showed contradictory evidence on its effectiveness.
Despite studies showing that eating one meal a day is not bad for you, there are many downsides to it. It can raise the hunger hormone ghrelin. When you are hungry, you get irritable and tired.
Often you feel so hungry you end up eating more than you should. Despite the no holds barred rule of OMAD, eating more than your daily allowed calorie intake could affect your weight.
Precautions and Tips
No matter what everyone says, fasting is never easy, more so if you are doing something as extreme as OMAD.
Trying fit in all the nutrients you need in just one meal daily is a challenging task.
If you are planning to start with OMAD, it is best to consult with your physician or dietician before you embark on this journey.
Here are a few tips to help your body adjust to OMAD as well as a few danger signals you should watch out for:
- Listen to what your body is saying. Even if you are eating healthy during your eating window, your body can reject the concept of fasting. Fasting is not for everyone, so if you are feeling some stress while fasting, it is best to listen to the signs your body is giving you.
- Start slow. Do not go overboard with the fasting window. Start with a shorter fasting window until your body learns to adjust with fasting. If you have an active lifestyle or fast metabolism, it will be challenging to follow the OMAD fasting window.
- Make the most of your eating window. You only have a one-hour eating window, so make the most out of it. Choose a balanced meal that includes both the macronutrients and micronutrients that your body needs.
- Be mindful of both physical and mental stress. Fasting affects both your body and your mind. Fasting requires discipline, which can be taxing to the mind. Meditation and yoga can help clear your mind.
- Knowing when to stop. Fasting cannot be long-term. Once you have achieved your goal, stop. You can transition to a more normal diet that will help keep your body healthy.
Now that we have discussed OMAD extensively, you still might have some lingering questions in mind.
We gathered here some Frequently Asked Questions about OMAD.
1. What do I need to start?
You just need to get your body and mind conditioned and ready. Get yourself committed and prepared to change your old eating habits. Use our OMAD Starting Guide.
2. Does OMAD have cheat days?
Every diet, we asked this question.
Cheat days means lack of commitment and often become the pitfalls of any diet. However, it is a matter of personal preference.
If you are going to have cheat days make sure you are still on track when you return to your fasting.
3. How many calories should I have in every meal?
There is no specific calorie target for OMAD. However, the recommended daily calorie intake is between 1200 to 1500 calories in every meal.
Going over the daily-recommended allowance can counter your goal of losing weight.
4. What should I eat? What about beverages?
The beauty of OMAD is that there are no restrictions on what food to eat.
However, the recommendation is to eat nutrient-dense food that contains all the macro and micronutrients needed by the body.
However, it is essential to keep yourself hydrated. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Tea, coffee and zero-calorie drinks are acceptable in OMAD.
5. How fast can I lose weight?
This is an extreme form of fasting, so the loss of weight is fast.
However, weight loss is different for everyone.
Your friend may lose weight faster than you or vice versa. It depends on so many factors like metabolism rate, physical activities, etc. Just remain consistent.
6. Will I have a bad breath while fasting?
Some do, others do not. Usually, fasting slows the production of saliva.
Without moisture, the tongue starts breeding different bacteria that causes bad breath. Just consistently brush your teeth and gurgle mouthwash.
7. Do I need to exercise?
Yes, any diet is most effective when coupled with physical activities like exercise.
8. I have diabetes; will OMAD work for me?
Do not use OMAD if you have a medical condition such as diabetes.
Fasting affects glucose levels and insulin production and can be detrimental to your health.
Consult your doctor before starting OMAD
9. Can I combine OMAD with other diets?
Again, this is up to you. Majority of people combine OMAD with Keto or some other diet.
OMAD is not long-term, so they combine another diet with OMAD.
10. It is not working! What do I do?
Okay, don’t panic. Check your meal plan. Are you eating within your allowed calorie count? Are you eating too much carbs? Maybe you have been eating calories
Do not get frustrated when you do not see results.
Obesity has become a major global problem. Numerous diets and eating patterns are introduced daily. It is hard to decide which one you will use.
Our ancestors were on the right track adapting the One Meal A Day (OMAD) diet. However, there is a vast difference in the kind of food then and now.
OMAD is extreme fasting that can give the results we want but at a certain cost. The conflicting studies on OMAD tell us that it is still prudent to take caution when adapting to OMAD.