Should you experiment with the OMAD diet? What are its pros and cons? Is it safe for your health? Will you receive all the nutrients and necessary calories from this diet? Will it work for you? Check out the feedback of our writer, who’s been following OMAD for two weeks, to see if you should try this type of intermittent fasting for yourself.
The point of this diet is that you eat during a one-hour eating window, and you fast for the rest 23 hours of the day. OMAD is an extreme version of intermittent fasting, which has multiple schemes, including 16:8, when you eat during an eight-hour window and fast for 16 hours or 5:2 when you eat only five days a week and fast for two days.
One of the main arguments of the OMAD followers is that fasting is a natural state for a human being, and people around the globe used to and still fast regularly. Some people fast because of religious reasons. Some communities eat only three square meals a day and have no snacks in between, unintentionally sticking to the 16:8 scheme. Our ancestors used to fast because they were hunting mammoths and could eat only when they had enough food.
Dieters with a more science-based approach say that OMAD, being a kind of prolonged fasting, can stimulate autophagy(1) linked to cell renewal and improved longevity. Some OMAD followers also combine a one-meal-a-day approach with ketogenic diets. They state that the combination of intermittent fasting and restrained carbohydrate consumption helps them get and stay in ketosis(2), which is a beneficial state for your health as it normalizes(3) insulin production and stimulates(4) weight loss. All these arguments sound legit, and the results the OMAD adepts promise look appealing. It’s time to try it on myself to see if it really works!
These February and March turned out to be quite a stressful time for me, accompanied by emotional eating and no exercise at all. Because of this, on the 15th of April, I found myself at 133 pounds, 11 pounds heavier than my perfect-to-normal weight. I was distressed and searching for quick fixes, so I decided to try an OMAD diet.
The beginning is the most challenging part, they say. That is 100% true for those who decided to try a one-meal-a-day eating pattern. The first day was not hard as the weeks before, I was eating in a massive calorie surplus. I decided to eat at 4 pm every day. My first-day meal seemed quite heavy, and I couldn’t get myself through all 1,400 calories my body needed.
On the second day, I started to feel hunger early in the morning. I usually eat a light breakfast at 7 am that consists of fat-free cottage cheese and berries, and it was hard to calm my cravings for high-quality protein and juicy carbs. Everything I could think of during the second, third, and fourth days was food. The fact that my job is writing about food didn’t make fasting easier.
Even though I tried to stay in a slight calorie deficit, I couldn’t finish the whole 1,400 meal even once. The reason behind this failure was that I tried to eat a balanced meal filled with lean protein and vegetables. The result was a heavy 3-dimensional plate I couldn’t stuff into my face all at once.
On the fifth day, I started to feel that I’m in a constant deficit. I had a full-day Brazilian jiu-jitsu seminar, and on its fourth hour, I understood that I couldn’t stay any longer; otherwise, I will simply faint. I went home before the seminar has ended, lay on a bed without changing my clothes, and fell asleep for three hours even though it was only 4 pm. When I woke up, I faced a binge episode, the one I haven’t had in years. I ate everything I could find at home, and though it was still technically one meal a day, that wasn’t healthy at all.
I understood that I have to hit my calorie goal. If I won’t, I would be unproductive during my workouts and would surely have binge episodes. I also understood that if you go to the gym more than three times a week and don’t take supplements, you have to sleep more. Otherwise, your muscles will be weak, and your performance will suffer.
To get more calories, I’ve added more fats to my meals and decreased the volume of vegetables on my plate. This was not an easy decision for me, as I truly love cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes, and other juicy but voluminous veggies. Adding more olive oil, opting for salmon instead of cod, and pork instead of turkey helped me increase my calories and eat them all in one sitting.
Some people might find it easier to follow an OMAD when the first few days were over, but it wasn’t my case. During the last days of my diet, I started to enjoy hunger, and I knew this was an alarming sign. Eating one meal a day can trigger your eating disorders, and that’s specifically dangerous if you used to have disrupted eating patterns.
On days 11 to 14, I was able to eat my 1,400 calorie norm though I wasn’t particularly happy with the kind of food I was eating. Let me explain. It’s extremely easy to get all the calories you need in one sitting without stretching your stomach too much: Just choose high-calorie foods! However, in this case, your meals won’t be well-balanced.
It’s easy to eat two double bacon cheeseburgers and small ice cream and receive your 1,400 calories but will your body benefit from this food? Opting for high-calorie but low-in-nutrient meals is a kind of mistake many OMAD dieters make. They believe that the only thing that matters is to fit all the food in one hour and overeat with junk food. And they don’t understand why they can’t lose weight eating only once a day.
You have to keep OMAD meals balanced to see results!
During 14 days on the OMAD diet, I’ve lost seven pounds. It’s a bit more than I’ve expected. I explain this number with two reasons. First, most of this weight was fluid. Second, I was at a higher deficit than I’ve planned. Being unable to eat all 1,400 calories in one sitting, I end up at 1,154 calories per day on average, which is way too much below my maintenance level.
The great thing about intermittent fasting is that you pay more attention to your unconscious snacking and stop drinking a late-night glass of wine. If you’re prone to these habits, OMAD might work for you.
What I’ve found while reading OMAD forums is that this eating pattern is frequently combined with the ketogenic diet. It makes sense, as eating keto, you consume more calorie-dense fats, which means you can easily fit all calories you need for a day in one meal by simply adding more oil to your food.
OMAD is not my diet-for-life. I’ve tried it, I didn’t like it, I won’t try again. If you’re about to start OMAD, make sure you consult your doctor first!