After following all those social media celebrities who post their gym progress, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. For 89% of American women, being unhappy with their current weight is a typical problem. A survey shows that 39% of women evaluated stated they worry about the scale number (1).
Their insecurities are driving their self-worth and self-esteem, making them feel very unhappy. So, they like to shed the excess pounds. For many, the one meal a day diet is the preferred choice. It is said to be the most efficient weight-loss strategy. But, for others, the risks that come with it, seem to outweigh the benefits.
That’s why we decided to take a closer look at the one meal a day diet and see what experts have to say. We collected the latest studies that can shed some light on this meticulous eating plan. Here are the real impacts of a diet such as this.
One Meal a Day Eating Plan: What’s the Point?
One meal a day eating plan or OMAD diet claims to slim the body by forcing the system to burn fat. It utilizes a 23:1 type of intermittent fasting. Meaning that an individual dedicates 23 hours to fasting and has only one hour eating window. All the calories they need to consume are eaten in a single hour.
In Western culture, it is normal for the daily food intake to feature three meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Many nutritionists and dietitians are suggesting two snacks in between the afternoon and morning. Snacks can help control the appetite, creating this 5-to-6 times a day eating strategy.
But, what we all call a “traditional eating routine” is only a recent behavior, research shows. Take Ancient Rome, for example. People back then had only one substantial meal that they ate at about 16:00. Eating more than once was considered unhealthy (2).
If people decided to eat in the morning or at noon, their food would be quick, light, and frugal. As time went on, and the industrial revolution began, breakfast became a predominant factor in peoples’ daily lives. Workers needed the energy to get through the day, which meant more and more families were eating before dawn and after dark.
The Health Benefits of One Meal A Day
From previous records, we can see that the OMAD diet has a rich history. People have been using it for many years. But, how does it benefit the system? And will it cause more harm than good? According to experts, eating a single meal manipulates the body on how to use its fuel (3).
When following a traditional pattern, like eating 5-6 times a day, the energy comes from the food you consume. When you focus on carbs, the body breaks them into sugars. But, if you eat more carbs than necessary, you pile up the extra sugar in the blood, forcing the insulin to carry it directly to the fat cells.
Avoiding meals for an extended period creates less insulin. The body still requires fuel; therefore, the fat cells end up releasing that energy to compensate for the lack of fuel. This can only occur in people who’ve avoided eating meals for a long time. These effects can create a beneficial impact.
The most notable benefits are:
- A single meal can improve longevity and overall health.
- People can get rid of the excess pounds faster.
- Solid productivity and focus boost.
- The diet is easier to follow since there is no caloric restriction.
- Nothing is off-limits.
Overeating is a major problem for people. It can lead to obesity, heart problems, and mobility issues. Reduced meal frequency can increase lifespan and protect people against cardiovascular complications, diabetes, and blood pressure fluctuations.
Intermittent fasting has a positive impact on glucose metabolism, blood pressure, brain, and cardiac cells. Although it may seem restrictive for many, it can provide the body with worthwhile properties. One pilot study evaluated weight maintenance and overall health in healthy adults (4).
Volunteers consumed either 3 meals or 1 meal a day. Those who followed the 1 meal diet a day noticed a modest change in body composition. They also reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease. The diet reduced the blood urea nitrogen by 13.4%. When these levels are too high, it means that the kidneys are not working properly.
Based on a 2014 review, intermittent fasting decreased body weight from 3% to 8% in a span of 3 to 24 weeks. People find intermittent fasting to be much easier to follow than curbing the calorie intake. When experts examined the rate of weight loss with this diet, they noticed that it can create notable weight reduction results (5).
In one week, the weight loss rate ranged from 0.25 to 0.75 kg (0.55 to 1.65 pounds). That means people could lose their belly fat and reduce waist circumference roughly from 4% to 7%. As a result, this type of fasting could be used as a viable weight reduction tactic (6).
Another thing to mention is the productivity and focus boost. Who doesn’t feel the groggy 2:30 pm slump at the office? Eating a single meal a day is said to get rid of that slothfulness. Since you won’t have anything to digest, the body doesn’t need to use up its energy on digestion. So, you end up feeling more energetic and focused.
Even pro athletes like Herschel Walker, a retired football player, and Ronda Rousey, a professional wrestler, follow this diet. They’ve been eating one meal a day for many years, which has contributed to their physique (7).
One of the key reasons why people love the OMAD diet is that it’s much easier to follow. With such diet freedom, they don’t have to worry about counting how many calories have they lost from time to time. So, they can eat pretty much anything they like. That includes beer, burgers, pizza, and so on. Only if they stick to their 23:1 schedule, of course.
Plus, it’s a more convenient approach. There is no meal planning for a couple of dishes a day. This means people have more time for themselves and can focus on other things for the rest of the day. These are one of the key benefits when following a dietary approach such as this one.
But, to make the most of an OMAD diet, it is best to eat that one meal after the most active part of your day. Thus, creating the perfect opportunity for the body to recuperate and replenish its nutrient sources (8).
Remember, whenever you work out or do a physically draining activity, the body needs to refill its energy sources. Getting a full meal at the right time acts as natural fuel for your system. Replenishing the nutrients gives you a push in the right direction.
The Risks of One Meal A Day
When it comes to dieting, there isn’t a “one-size-fits-all” method. The simplicity of OMAD may draw you in. But it too has its downsides. Other than being an extreme diet plan, it could be very difficult to get into. For someone who has never tried fasting, let alone eating one meal a day, they can feel extremely hungry, fatigued, weak, and irritable after starting it (9).
As their blood sugars drop, it becomes difficult to stay focused. Research indicates that those who can’t handle eating a single meal a day may be more vulnerable to binge eating in one meal time. In certain cases, extreme dietary restrictions can put a person at risk of developing an eating disorder (10).
Probable side effects include:
- Lack of energy
- Nutrient deficiency
Another major setback is the way the body handles the meal. For instance, the stomach fills too quickly. So a person won’t be able to enjoy a highly abundant nutritious dish. Therefore, they will get hungry sooner. Eventually, their desire to eat increases while fasting, and they end up piling extra body fat.
Individuals who don’t pay attention to what they eat can also develop nutrient deficiencies. Since nothing is off-limits, people tend to eat their favorite dishes, like pizza and burgers, instead of a full nutritious course.
The abundance of processed foods and high carbs can have a profound impact on their heart health. Besides, as a person enters semi-starvation, they begin to lose muscle mass. This makes it a problem for those who want a leaner figure.
There is more!
Experts advise people with an underlying health problem to stay away from OMAD. Particularly those with a metabolic condition and unstable blood sugars. Although the diet may be beneficial for keeping the blood sugar in check, people must maintain steady glucose and insulin levels throughout the day. Metabolic conditions need constant management. So, creating rigid restrictions can throw these levels out of sync.
Then, there are genes. A 2012 report suggests that eating 1 meal a day can worsen your health, as opposed to eating 2 meals. Mice that ate a single meal experienced elevated body weight, fat, and insulin. They were also prone to liver oxidative damage (11).
Scientists found that eating 1 meal could have a negative impact on the genes that regulate metabolism, the body clock, and sleeping and waking up cycles. In a different report from 2017, experts studied the effect of alternate-day fasting. Although it is different from OMAD, it too can create similar beneficial properties (12).
In the study, 100 volunteers took 25% of their energy needs in food once a day and 125% the next day for a whole year. Volunteers who took part in the intermittent fasting trial had a spike in LDL cholesterol. This is the bad cholesterol that could make a person prone to stroke, heart issues, and increased blood pressure.
Healthier Alternatives for Those Who Don’t Want to Take Their Chances
There are safer ways to lose weight. OMAD can help, but it is not the easiest solution. Your best starting point should be the DASH diet or Mediterranean diet. The first one is packed with whole grains, fruits, and veggies. It consistently supplies the system with nutrients, even when cravings strike.
While the latter reduces mortality risk from heart disease by a staggering 20%. The Mediterranean dietary pattern is also packed with fiber. It takes a while for it to digest, which means you don’t have to worry about the swings in blood sugar levels. With an option such as this, you can keep the weight gain at bay while maintaining optimal health (13).
If you are not in the mood for following any dietary regimens, then these tips below can help:
- Regulate the portion size. Use the plate to guide the size. Half of it should be filled with veggies. A quarter with complex carbs, half a tablespoon of high-fats, and a quarter with protein. With smaller dinnerware, you can even trick your mind into thinking that you are satisfied by eating less. This will give you ultimate control over how much you eat. (14)
- Cut back on the evening snacks. People who love to munch on some goodies in the middle of the night tend to eat more. That’s why they can pack on a few extra pounds. By eating more calories without spending them, the body experiences weight gain.
- Crank up your fitness routine. Many think that if you eat right, you don’t need to exercise. But, that’s not true. Exercising is a key aspect in getting rid of excess weight and keeping the results of your weight loss. Whatever fitness routine you select, it can boost your metabolism and burn excess calories. That’s how you achieve a better lean body mass and a properly functioning system. Even something as simple as walking can help.
- Don’t overindulge in sugar and treats. There is literally nothing better than enjoying your favorite snack after a long day at work. Although you can enjoy treats from time to time, you shouldn’t be overeating them. Instead, make sensible, sustainable, and healthy dietary choices that yield long-term results. For instance, stock your fridge with fresh veggies and fruits instead of processed meals. Make a fruit salad rather than cookies or chocolate. Simple choices like these go a long way.
- Record your dietary experiences. Everyone is different. Your body can react differently to any diet. What you can do is adopt a practical recording strategy. Make a food diary or a journal of what you are eating on a regular basis. These records can help you get a better perspective of your food choices. You can see how these choices have affected your system and whether or not they need changing.
- Don’t carry the burden by yourself. Regardless of the type of diet you select, be sure to consult with a dietitian or doctor beforehand. Any drastic changes to your routine can affect your overall health. Particularly when dealing with an underlying health problem. Your doctor can help you make worthwhile choices. Another option is to talk to a friend or a relative. They might have tried the diet you want to go for. So, they can give you some valuable insight on the things to expect.
Each diet has something unique to offer. Eating just one meal a day has its perks. Losing weight is easier for its followers because it creates flexibility, variety, convenience, and notable results. But, just like any other option out there, it too comes with risks. The diet itself is very extreme. Not everyone can handle eating a single meal a day. This creates a serious problem for those who need regular meals to avoid cravings. Overall, there is a lot of evidence that supports this type of intermittent fasting. But, some experts advise against it. What you can do if you decide to try it is to consult with a doctor first. This is the safest and best way to avoid possible risks. The doctor will assess your medical condition and will let you know if your body is ready for a change like this.