The third part of our Debunking Fad Diet Series and up this time we have the “One Meal A Day” Diet or “OMAD” as its popularly known.
OMAD as you can probably guess from the name simply involves eating one big meal a day, usually in the evening or before bed are the common recommendations.
The OMAD diet is essentially a more extreme version of the hugely popular intermittent fasting, however with only a one hour refeeding window typically.
Generally speaking OMAD doesn’t involve restricting the types of food or the removal of entire food-groups as is common with other fad diets.
OMAD also doesn’t necessarily restrict how many calories you can eat for your one big meal a day, although most end up naturally under eating.
OMAD is a fad diet ideology in itself and is also commonly part of many other fad diets such as carnivore or even the likes of ketogenic diets.
Many of these fad diets such as carnivore that are popular with OMAD dieters do involve the removal of virtually every food-group in the diet. If you couple that with only eating one meal a day of meat, you are looking at a recipe for disaster nutritionally.
As someone who constantly evaluates the various trends when it comes to dangerous fad diets in the nutrition and alternative health sector, the rise in popularity for OMAD in the past years has once again warranted an article on this topic.
OMAD is yet another highly dangerous way of eating that isn’t supported by any quality science, most likely isn’t even safe to follow to begin with and as a result usually does not yield a nutritionally balanced or complete diet pattern.
There is very little logic to fasting or starving yourself all day, everyday and then trying to cram your entire days worth of nutrition into one massive meal right before bed time.
The most likely scenario especially in those with poor metabolic health and adrenal function is that the lack of food over the entire day especially for those who are heavily active will most likely induce a stress response as the body struggles to maintain blood sugar levels in absence of food.
Whilst some individuals may be able to get away with not eating breakfast or even managing to get to lunch/afternoon without food, for many not eating all day would just typically result in the usual afternoon slump, tired, irritable and hungry.
Not surprising then stimulants such as caffeine/coffee are extremely popular in those who are proponents of OMAD, as they opt for the likes of caffeine to mask and temporarily increase energy levels in absence of food.
Some of the sample meal plans for OMAD that are available on the internet border nonsensical and are nothing more than individuals combining 2-3 different meals and listing it as one meal.
So one typical OMAD meal might look like an oatmeal/fruit/nut breakfast with a 3 egg cheese omelette/avocado/spinach and a green bean nut sweet potato salad, all consumed in a single meal and sitting.
Even then that only comes out to around 1850 calories maximum a day, which is still slightly under eating even for most women and would result in a mild caloric deficit.
Risk Of Nutritional Deficiencies
There are very few meals that are capable of providing your entire daily nutritional requirements in a single meal, even combining the very best variety of food-groups.
As such people who follow OMAD long-term are likely putting themselves at significant risk of developing nutritional deficiencies and inadequate intake of various nutrients.
Depending on the quality of your single meal a day, the sky really is the limit how much OMAD can expose you to the risk of nutritional deficiencies.
It is often difficult enough for those following a typical Western diet pattern to achieve a nutritionally complete diet eating several balanced meals over the day, let alone trying to cram it all into one meal at night.
Why Do People Try OMAD?
So if you have got this far in the article you are probably wondering why OMAD is popular.
Weight loss is the one of the key reasons why individuals try the OMAD diet and you will find many anecdotal claims all over social media of individuals who have lost weight eating just one meal a day, which isn’t surprising to most.
Given that its often difficult for many to eat their entire daily caloric recommendations in one big meal.
Fad diets such as OMAD usually naturally achieve a huge caloric deficit due to under eating and as such many individuals especially those who are significantly overweight to begin with often lose large amounts of weight very quickly.
However, there is no magical mechanism at play here behind the purported weight loss benefits that many see on OMAD, its just pure and simply a basic caloric deficit once again and regularly under eating.
Its often not sustainable weight loss either because as soon as the individual begins to return to their former diet the weight often slowly returns, hence why its better to achieve healthy weight loss via a balanced nutritionally complete diet pattern, rather than resorting to radical extreme weight loss measures such as OMAD and fad diets that aren’t healthy or sustainable.
Eating just one single meal a day is also highly appealing to individuals who are prone to disordered eating because it allows them to virtually go the entire day without having to eat food and/or allows you a huge binge meal at the end of the day, as you manically try to fit your entire days worth of calories into a single meal right before bedtime.
Whilst quick fix fad diets such as OMAD often claim to offer rapid results, they actually promote and worsen eating disorders from what I have seen, exacerbating binging, under eating or an unhealthy fixation with food.
I have personally spoken with individuals on OMAD who are getting as little as 350 calories a day in some cases.
Although many people under eat, OMAD can also have completely the opposite effect and cause many to over eat and actually cause weight gain.
OMAD or “One Meal A Day” is another fad diet ideology to avoid like the plague if you value your health.
There are healthier ways to achieve sustainable weight loss that don’t put your health at risk of serious nutritional deficiencies and under eating.
It is also extremely difficult to near impossible to achieve a balanced diet pattern when you are trying to cram your entire daily nutritional requirements into one single huge meal.
The most likely conclusion is that OMAD would be contraindicated and dangerous for individuals with existing health conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and the elderly.
The information in this article has not been evaluated by the FDA and should not be used to diagnose, cure or treat any disease, implied or otherwise.
As always consult a qualified healthcare professional before consuming any medicinal herbs, dietary supplement or making any significant lifestyle change.