Many people see dieting as a way to lose weight fast. Yet what you eat also affects your mental and physical health, so it’s important to eat what’s healthiest for your body, rather than jumping on the latest diet fad. Diet trends and fads come and go. Rarely, is there a trendy diet plan that has staying power, but it’s important to know what’s trending and the pros and cons of various dietary approaches.
One diet that’s popular at the moment is called the OMAD diet. It stands for “One Meal a Day” and that’s the exact premise behind this eating plan. You eat only one meal a day. This eating plan was created by Brad Pilon, a Canadian personal fitness trainer and nutritionist, who is also known for authoring the book Eat Stop Eat.
A Diet Plan Based on Intermittent Fasting
OMAD is a variation on intermittent fasting, which is popular at the moment. Unlike most diets that tell you what to eat, the OMAD diet focuses on the frequency of meals. If you follow the tenets of this diet, you can eat what you want as long as you only eat once per day.
With the OMAD diet, you can eat whatever you want, so long as you eat it in one sitting. Although the diet doesn’t restrict portion sizes, it recommends using a small plate and not piling it high with food. Snacks are off the table, literally. Once you’ve consumed your daily meal, that’s it.
Timing of what you eat matters too. Proponents of the diet recommend eating the daily meal at around the same time each day for consistency. Although snacks aren’t allowed, you can drink beverages that don’t contain calories or sugar, including water, tea, and coffee between daily meals. Can’t argue with that! Hydration is important.
The OMAD Diet and Weight Loss
Does the diet accomplish what some people hope it does–can it help with weight loss? If you eat only once per day, it’s hard to consume enough calories to gain weight and you might lose a few pounds. One study found that male subjects who ate one meal daily versus three meals per day lost more body fat. However, some of the participants also experienced a rise in blood pressure and blood cholesterol.
Are there potential health benefits? There is some evidence that intermittent fasting, of which this is a variation, can improve blood sugar control in people with prediabetes or type 2 diabetes, but it’s an area that needs more research. One benefit of the OMAD diet is that it’s a timesaver because you don’t have to worry about preparing and eating three meals per day. There’s also some evidence that intermittent fasting improves cellular health by enhancing autophagy, the process by which cells eliminate old, weak cells. By enhancing autophagy, intermittent fasting may slow cellular aging, but more research is needed.
The Downsides of the OMAD Diet
Despite the potential of losing weight by eating only one meal per day, this diet strategy can also backfire. If you deprive yourself of food most of the day, you might make less healthy food choices because you’re famished and frustrated by the inability to eat. Rather than choosing healthier options, you might munch on more refined carbohydrates and foods high in sugar, and that’s bad for your health.
Weight loss and weight management are more than just calories; the composition of your diet matters too. If you’re only eating once per day, you need nutrient-dense fare. Plus, refined carbohydrates and foods that contain sugar increase insulin more and that makes it easier for your body to store fat. That’s one of the flaws of the OMAD diet; it ignores the types of foods you eat.
Plus, if you make the wrong food choices for your one meal and stay on the diet long enough, you could end up with nutrient deficiencies. Eating once per day isn’t healthy for digestion either. You’re cramming in one large meal and forcing your digestive tract to handle a larger volume all at once. It could easily lead to indigestion and could worsen the symptoms of some conditions, like acid reflux or irritable bowel syndrome.
Also, the OMAD diet isn’t a good choice for people who have a history of an eating disorder, since it’s overly restrictive and doesn’t encourage healthy eating habits.
The Bottom Line
There are some health concerns with the OMAD diet, including the risk of nutrient deficiencies. The OMAD diet doesn’t promote nutritional variety or emphasize nutrient-dense foods. If you try it for weight loss, do it only short term. Even better, follow the diet only a few days per week. For example, you might follow the OMAD approach on Tuesday and Thursday and eat as you usually do the other days.
Also, think about the composition of what you put on your plate. Choose nutrient-dense whole foods and consider taking a multivitamin since it’s difficult to meet all of your body’s nutritional needs with one meal per day. Talk to your physician before going on such a restrictive diet. The OMAD diet may not be healthy if you have certain medical conditions or have problems with blood sugar control or low blood sugar.
The reality is you don’t need a diet like the OMAD diet to lose weight. One study found that people who lowered their calorie intake lost as much weight as those who practiced intermittent fasting. Focus on making smart dietary choices first and you’ll enjoy better health and a healthier body weight.
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