Who’s OMAD, you ask? Not who, but what… it’s a type of fasting also known as “One Meal A Day.”
Fasting, in general, can be a powerful tool for regulating your body’s performance and improving your health. There are several different methods of intermittent fasting, and recently more people have been exploring eating only one meal a day. How exactly is this “OMAD” fasting done, and can it kickstart weight loss efforts? We were curious, and here’s what we learned.
What does an OMAD diet look like?
Eating one meal a day. Sounds simple enough. But what exactly do you eat? Well, what’s really appealing about this plan to some people is that theoretically, you can eat whatever you want during your one meal. You should use a standard-sized dinner plate and shouldn’t heap tons of food on, but other than those two rules, you’ll find that most OMAD guides tell you that you’re free to eat whatever you want.
But… that doesn’t mean you should. Most things that sound too good to be true are, right? If your goal is to lose weight and improve your health, you’ll still need to eat a healthy, nutritious, balanced meal. Think unprocessed and nutrient-dense foods.
Unhealthy foods will make success on OMAD a lot harder, because they’re only satisfying in the moment. Filling up on processed, high-sugar, high-carb, greasy junk foods will only leave you feeling hungry again in a few hours. Not only do they not have any nutritional value, but they’ll actually make it so that your cravings during your fasting period are substantially stronger than if you had eaten healthy food.
How to do an OMAD fasting plan
“One meal a day” essentially translates to eating during one hour of your day and fasting for the remaining 23 hours. You can choose to eat any meal you’d like — breakfast, lunch, or dinner. So what does the one hour eating window look like, and what (if anything) can you consume during your 23 hour fasting window? Let’s take a look.
What to eat during your one hour meal:
Your focus should be on healthy foods that nourish your body and can sustain you for the following 23 hours. If you already follow a Keto, Paleo, or LCHF diet, great, you can absolutely stick with that. Otherwise, focus on leafy greens, healthy fats, clean protein and unrefined carbohydrates. Each of these are essential to feeling satiated for a prolonged amount of time.
- Leafy greens include: kale, collard greens, chard, spinach, bok choy, romaine. Try lightly sauteing them in oil to make them more digestible and gut-friendly.
- Healthy fats include: avocados, olives, extra virgin olive oil, walnut and sesame oil, wild caught salmon and sardines.
- Clean proteins include: Legumes (beans, peas, lentils), nuts and seeds, eggs, wild-caught fish, pasture-raised white meats (chicken, turkey, pork).
- Complex carbs include: whole fruits, vegetables, whole unrefined grains (wild rice, white rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat and unprocessed oats).
What to consume during the other 23 hours:
Basically, anything without calories. In order to reap the health benefits of fasting, we need to keep your insulin from spiking during your fasting window. That means avoiding anything with calories and also artificial sweeteners, as they can spike insulin despite being calorie-free.
Fasting for 23 hours isn’t easy, but there are some beverages you can drink to help satiate your appetite. Water, tea, apple cider vinegar and black coffee are a few. We’ve got an entire post about what you can safely drink while fasting if you want to know more.
How is OMAD different from other types of fasting?
The beauty of intermittent fasting is that there are countless schedules and plans to choose from, so there’s really something for everyone. Here are some of the most popular styles of fasting:
- There’s the 16:8 fast, during which you fast for 16 hours and have an eating window of 8 hours.
- The 5:2 fast is a week-based approach. For 5 days a week you eat regular meals and snacks. During the other two days, you limit yourself to 500-600 calories per day.
- Eat-Stop-Eat. Similar to the 5:2 fast, you maintain your normal diet for 5-6 days a week. During the other 1-2 days, you spend an entire 24 hour period fasting.
- Alternate day fasting. With this approach, you eat normally one day and fast the next. The duration of your fast on alternating days is up to you. Some people go the full 24 hours without calories. Others simply consume about 500-600 calories during fasting days.
- Spontaneous meal skipping. Fasting doesn’t have to be intentional. If you aren’t hungry or are too busy to eat, you can fast by simply skipping that meal.
We’ve got a guide to the most popular schedules, in case you want to know more. The OMAD intermittent fasting schedule is unique in that it aims for a 23:1 fasting ratio, giving your body 23 hours each day to reap the benefits of a fasting lifestyle.
When compared with the other schedules above, you can see that OMAD amounts to far more time spent fasting than eating. For this reason, OMAD is generally considered to be a more advanced fasting approach that typically works best once you’ve already spent time following less-extreme fasting schedules.
5 ways OMAD helps weight loss
Like all intermittent fasting, OMAD has been linked to a wide variety of health benefits. Improved energy, mental clarity, and immune function are a few. But the most common reason why people turn to OMAD is due to its ability to boost weight loss efforts.
Here are 5 ways OMAD fasting can help you lose weight.
1. Resets your tolerance to hunger
Food is essentially meant to be fuel, but most of us have malfunctioning hunger signals that makes us want food even when we don’t need it. Feeling thirsty, bored, lonely, stressed, emotional, or even just being presented with good-smelling foods is often all it takes for us to reach for something that our bodies don’t actually need. The more disciplined you become by only eating one meal a day, the less compelled you’ll feel to grab something good just because it’s there.
2. Reduces cravings
Food cravings happen when your blood sugar rises quickly and then drops drastically. When it drops, you crave more carbs to bring your blood sugar back to a normal level. People typically reach for an unhealthy, sugary snack to help, which can cause blood sugar to spike again, creating a vicious cycle. By controlling and limiting your food intake, your blood sugar has fewer opportunities to spike after a meal and you eat fewer high-sugar snacks. Win, win!
3. Helps burn fat
Following OMAD will fire up autophagy in your body, which has been linked to a decrease in body fat. Autophagy literally means “self-eating.” It’s a natural cellular renewal process whereby your body gets rid of toxins, waste, and damaged cells, which can include fat cells.
If you’re constantly feeding your body calories and never giving it a break, you won’t reach autophagy. Enter fasting. The ability to support your body’s autophagy process is actually one of the main health-related reasons to incorporate intermittent fasting into your lifestyle, and OMAD is no exception. Considering that OMAD requires you to fast for more hours than other fasting schedules, you’re more likely to enter autophagy on OMAD and experience its benefits.
4. Reduces calories
By now, most of us know that different diets work for different people. Some people lose weight on low-carb diets while others do better with some carbs. Same goes for high-fat versus high-protein diets. At the end of the day, most of us will lose weight when we eat less. It’s basic science. Since OMAD fasting inherently restricts the amount of food you can eat in a day, it will result in a decrease… in calories and in waistlines.
5. Can boost metabolism
That’s not a typo! Most people fear that fasting will lower their metabolism. Nope. In fact, while eating too few calories can indeed reduce your metabolism, fasting does not. Confused? Here’s how it works:
Your body can either burn glycogen or fat for energy (this is what stokes your metabolism). To simplify things, think of glycogen as the stuff you’re eating and fat as the stuff that’s stored in your body. Your body can burn the glycogen for fuel anytime, but it can only access the stored fat if your insulin levels are very low. So if you simply restrict your calories dramatically, but you keep eating all day long, your body will run out of glycogen to burn and it CAN’T get to the stored fat, because your insulin levels are still too high.
Fasting brings down your insulin levels and thus allows your body to burn fat for fuel. So from your metabolism’s perspective, it’s still getting plenty of fuel — it’s getting all your body fat to burn! This is why some people actually experience increased metabolism after fasting.
Other health benefits of OMAD
Fasting, including OMAD, can help your body reach peak performance by activating stress response pathways, which boost mitochondrial performance, autophagy, and DNA repair in your cells. It can also activate beneficial metabolic changes and help improve insulin function and keep your blood sugar regulated.
Other health benefits include:
- Increased energy
- Better focus
- Improved mental clarity and memory
- Helps promote longevity
- Boosted cell health
You can read more about the amazing health benefits of fasting (and the science behind them) here.
4 Tips for OMAD success
Ready to give OMAD a try? Here are a few tips to help you get started and increase your chances of success:
1. Ease into it
Jumping right into 23 hours of fasting can be crazy hard! Maybe try some 16 to 18-hour fasts for a week or two before increasing your time. Your body will have an easier time with OMAD if it has a chance to adjust.
2. Cut down on refined carbs
You already know they have very little nutritional value, but they’ll also make it harder for your body to adjust to fasting. The more refined carbs and sugar you’re used to eating, the tougher your cravings will be when you try fasting.
3. Drink tea and coffee
They’re not just something to fill your belly! Caffeine can help boost your energy and metabolism. The catechins in green tea help to regulate ghrelin (the hunger hormone), which means you could experience a decrease in appetite. And the theaflavins in black tea support digestion and also help keep your blood sugar regulated (less cravings, yay!).
4. Make OMAD work for you
Be willing to adjust your approach to OMAD. If you tried only eating dinner one day and you felt miserable, maybe try moving your one-hour eating window and having lunch instead. Also, don’t feel like you need to jump into doing OMAD every day. Try once a week to start and you can always increase from there.
Who shouldn’t try OMAD?
Intermittent fasting and eating one meal a day aren’t for everyone; some people are more prone to health risks than benefits with this lifestyle.
Those who are underweight, who struggle with eating disorders like anorexia, bulimia, or binge eating disorder, or have a history of eating disorders, should avoid all types of intermittent fasting.
If you have medication that needs to be taken with food, you should discuss the risks with your doctor before trying OMAD or other fasting. You should also consult with your doctor before starting fasting if you have any of the following conditions:
- Problems regulating blood sugar
- Low blood pressure
If you’re a woman trying to conceive, are currently pregnant or breastfeeding, or regularly miss periods, definitely consult your doctor before trying any kind of fasting plan.
Should you try OMAD?
If you’re trying to lose weight, eating one meal a day could be the boost you need to hit your goals or break through a plateau. It’s definitely a challenging fasting approach, but the benefits just might be worth the effort.