By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness
June 8, 2018
- What makes eating one meal a day (OMAD) day so appealing?
- Why every calorie you eat counts
- Better than OMAD!
OMAD, or eating just One Meal A Day, is taking dieters by storm these days. And I have to admit. It sounds pretty appealing… despite the fact that it requires starving yourself for 23 hours a day.
What’s the big attraction? Well, one of the touted benefits of eating OMAD is that after 23 hours of ravenous hunger, you can take one hour each day to eat anything you want. No restrictions.
This sounds pretty exciting to some folks. After all, if you can sit down to a dinner of chicken, ribs, pie and whatever else you want to eat it may sound like it is worth the effort.
Well, not so fast. If you approach this style of eating as a free-for-all for your favorite foods, chances are slim that you’ll get all the nutrients you need from your meals. (This is why many articles on the topic recommend supplementing with a multi-vitamin while eating OMAD.)
So if you find yourself drawn into the OMAD concept, remember that healthy meals are still going to be your best bet. But I’ll be the first to fill you in on a little secret.
Is the OMAD Lifestyle Right for You?
The truth is, eating one meal a day is probably not the best dieting strategy for most folks. This is true even if you’re filling your OMAD plate with a well-rounded meal of veggies, healthy fats and lean proteins.
That’s because when you eat only one healthy meal a day, it can be hard to consume all of the calories you need to support your energy requirements for the day.
Believe me! I actually sat down and tried to figure out what a meal like this would take.
I started the meal with a very large salad that had more toppings than you can shake a stick at. I selected surf and turf as the main animal proteins, along with sautéed mushrooms and onions to top the steak off with. The star of the show was an olive oil and balsamic vegetable dish, followed by a healthy blueberry dessert.
After a good half hour of planning this huge meal, I hadn’t even reached the 1,500 calorie mark.
In other words, unless you are eating all of the wrong foods it is pretty easy for OMAD to turn into a calorie restriction diet. And while this is certainly one way to lose weight, it’s not the best one. Nor is it sustainable.
Calorie restriction can lead to sluggish brain function, headaches, low energy levels and lean muscle loss. Plus, extended periods of restriction can slow down your metabolism. (This, of course, can actually derail your weight loss efforts.)
To top it off, when you’re restricted to eating only once a day, it’s extremely easy to “fall off the wagon”. The more deprived you feel of food, the more urgency you’ll feel to eat more of it. So it’s very easy to become obsessed by food.
Needless to say, a one meal a day lifestyle won’t work for everyone. And it may not be the best choice for the majority of dieters.
Additionally, it can be dangerous if you have certain medical conditions, such as diabetes or kidney disease. So it’s always a good idea to talk to your doctor before making any major changes in your normal dietary patterns.
But I’ve got some great news for you. There is actually an easy way to get similar results without starving yourself for 23 hours a day.
Better than OMAD!
I want to introduce you to an extremely simple meal-timing strategy that can help you lose weight without triggering the loss of strong, shapely lean muscle mass. And you don’t have to skip meals or reduce calorie intake to do it.
It’s called time-restricted feeding. It’s basically a form of intermittent fasting. The key is to designate a window of six to eight hours each day to enjoy regular meals. Then fast for the remaining 16 to 18 hours.
You have to admit, this is much more doable than going 23 hours each day without food. And it’s a lot easier to sustain on a long-term basis without any negative health effects.
To make it work for you, I recommend making your first meal of the day the largest. Load up on high-quality proteins along with plant-based carbohydrates.
(Some good protein choices include eggs, wild-caught fish, plain Greek yogurt, almonds, avocado, pasture-raised poultry, beans, sesame and pumpkin seeds, and grass-fed beef. Plant-based carbohydrates – which will also support your fiber needs – include most fruits and vegetables.)
Two or three hours later, opt for a smaller meal. As with breakfast, zero in on healthy proteins and plant-based carbs to keep you fueled and steady as the afternoon wears on.
Wait another two or three hours, then enjoy your final – and smallest – meal of the day.
Fill your plate with non-starchy veggies from any and all colors of the rainbow. These foods are absorbed slowly since they’re high in fiber. That means they’ll help control your blood sugar and hunger until you break your fast the following day. You can even enjoy a little protein at this meal, but keep it to a minimum.
It’s okay to schedule your meals within any six to eight hour time window that suits your lifestyle. Just remember to start your day with the largest meal, and end it with the smallest.
Moro T, et al. Effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-trained males. J Transl Med. 2016 Oct 13;14(1):290.