What Is The OMAD Diet? – The Most Extreme Intermittent Fasting Method

Man holding his stomach

I was recently reading through some trending fitness topics, as I like to stay up to date on the industry. That’s when I came across a new (at least to me) diet that is gaining popularity: The OMAD diet. If you are like me, you are asking yourself, “What is the OMAD diet?” Therefore, I started doing some research and in my opinion, the results were startling!

OMAD, which stands for One Meal A Day, is an extreme form of intermittent fasting that has me scratching my head. Before we get into the what the actual diet is, it would probably be a good idea to go over the basics of intermittent fasting, since that is the system OMAD is based on.

What Is Intermittent Fasting?What is the OMAD diet

When you go to sleep at night, you are likely going through your longest time without food. Think about it. If you have a minimum of three meals a day, you are probably going about 5 hours in between meals. Then, when you go to bed, it’s recommended to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep. That is a fast and the reason your first meal of the day is called “breakfast” (i.e. break-fast).

Intermittent fasting works in much the same way, in most cases, but looks at extending that 7-9 hours without eating. However, it can also be accomplished over the course of a full week.

We can look more in-depth at intermittent fasting in a future post, but for a quick overview, these are several of the most popular ways of doing it:

  • The 16/8 Method: The way this works is you fast (don’t eat) for 16 hours and have an 8-hour window in which to consume your calories every day. What that schedule usually looks like is eating lunch and dinner, while skipping breakfast the next morning.
  • The 5:2 Method: This method sees you eating normally for 5 days a week and then limiting yourself to 500-600 calories per day for the other two days.
  • The Eat-Stop-Eat Method: Eat-Stop-Eat means that you eat normally, but 1 or 2 times a week, you fast for 24 hours. Basically, if you at dinner at 5 p.m., then don’t eat again until the same time the next day.
  • The Every-Other-Day Method: This is petty self-explanatory. You do a full day fast every other day. For some this means consuming no calories, while for others, you can eat up to 500 calories on the fast days.
  • The Warrior Method: This method involves eating small amounts of fruits and vegetables during the day and having one big meal at dinner, during a 4-hour window. There is also a focus on whole foods, somewhat similar to a Paleo Diet.
  • The Unstructured Method: You skip meals when it works for your schedule and how your body feels. If you are busy or just aren’t hungry, skip a meal.

How Fasting Works in the OMAD diet

The OMAD diet takes these concepts and turns up to intensity to 11. When consuming one meal a day, the concept is to fast for 23 hours, while leaving a 1-hour window, during which you can eat anything you want. Like the aforementioned intermittent fasting methods, during the 23 hours of not eating, you are allowed to drink beverages such as water, black coffee, and/or tea (also with nothing added).

What Your Meal Should Look Like – How To Use Your Plate

Salad with fish

How it probably should look. Photo by Ive Erhard on Unsplash

From all the research I was doing, there seems to be no limits as far as what foods you choose to eat during your 1-hour window. You are supposed to stick with a standard size dinner plate (which is about 11 inches in diameter) and only pile your food no more than 3 inches high.

Ideally, you will choose to fill that plate with whole grain carbohydrates, healthy fats, lean proteins, as well as fruits and vegetables. For the most part, I would think that the easiest thing to do would be to mix everything into a salad, as having everything in separate piles on the plate might leave you without enough room.

Lots of doughnuts

How it definitely shouldn’t look…

While you are allowed to fill your plate with pizza, burgers, etc. (as anything goes with your one meal) it is more advisable to go with more nutrient-dense foods.

My Take – What Are We Doing To Ourselves?

If this is a diet that works for you, then go for it. However, I have to wonder if extreme diets like this would be necessary if people were taught how to better balance their nutrition. I have no problem with the regular, less extreme intermittent fasting. Studies have shown it to be helpful and again, if that works with your lifestyle, then by all means keep doing it.

I’m just not sure I see the same reasoning behind this particular diet. In my mind, there are some major pitfalls someone could run into while attempting OMAD:

  • Going so long without eating can lead to going overboard when that hour window opens. Think about how you feel when you go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. You basically want to eat the store and that’s after only a few hours between meals. Now imagine you haven’t eaten for 23 hours. Being ravenously hungry is also going to interfere with your ability to make good decisions and fill your plate with healthy food choices.
    • It can also lead to the dangerous habit of binge eating, which is when people eat large amounts of food in a short period of time, even after they are full. The potential for this seems extremely high since you may feel you need to stuff yourself up to get ready for another 23 hours before eating again.
  • Extreme diets also take an extreme level of discipline. If you don’t have that, then it will be incredibly difficult to adhere to OMAD. Being hungry can seriously affect you physically, mentally, and emotionally. It makes people irritable (anybody ever heard of “hangry”?), unable to concentrate, tired, weak, and shaky. I know when I am extremely hungry, I get headaches. You have to ask yourself if it is worth feeling these things for the potentially quick weight loss.
    • On that note, how many of you would be willing to put up with those feelings every day?
  • OMAD is not for everyone and it’s not just because of preference. Those with health conditions can’t participate because they need to eat more frequently. I’m thinking specifically of those with diabetes or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

    What is the OMAD diet?

    Photo by Oliver Sjöström on Unsplash

Forgive me for getting on a soapbox here, but one thing I always ask with these extreme diets is “Why?” Why do we have to come up with all these different ideas for putting our bodies through what I think are unnecessary and certainly extreme challenges? To lose weight as quickly as possible?

Our bodies were designed to function with fuel. The feelings of hunger and the symptoms that result, are the body’s way of telling us it needs something. What is so wrong about eating a normal, balanced diet consisting of complex carbohydrates, lean protein, healthy fats, vegetables, and fruit?

Many of us live in countries where good, nutritious food is readily available, yet we come up with extreme diets like OMAD that in many cases purposefully deprive the body healthy access to that nutrition. Either that or it sets many people up for failure because rather than being able to think clearly about what kind of healthy foods can I put on my plate, their so gosh darn hungry it becomes, “Give me all the burgers”. Again, why?

What is especially troubling to me is that medicalnewstoday.com cited one study’s findings that stated those who participated in intermittent fasting didn’t lose any more weight than those who just reduced their daily caloric intake (again, if intermittent fasting works for you and you don’t find yourself suffering, however, then keep doing it! Finding what works for you is going to be what is most successful in the long run!)

I guess my question is if people, in general, are having the same results whether fasting or not, is there any point to using the more extreme methods of dieting like OMAD?

OK, I’m done now and ready to come off of my soapbox! If you are still there, thanks for hanging in.

Is OMAD For You?

I hope you come away from this article more informed about the One Meal A Day, or OMAD, diet. Hopefully you can feel confident with the answer to “What is the OMAD diet?” and can move on to “Is the OMAD diet for you?”

Let me know your thoughts in the comments! Have you tried the OMAD diet or any other type of intermittent fasting? How did it work or not work for you? Do you agree with me or disagree? Feel free to give me a piece of your mind! Additionally, if you have any questions about my nutritional philosophy, or nutrition in general, please leave them in the comments and I will get back to you within 24 hours!

For now, whenever you choose to eat next, enjoy!