Everything You Need to Know About the OMAD Diet?

There's more to it than eating just one meal a day.

If you follow weight loss trends, then you've probably heard about intermittent fasting—which can have dieters forgoing food for one to two days a week or certain hours of the day, according to 2018 research published in Current Obesity Reports.

The OMAD diet, however, is different. OMAD stands for One Meal a Day; the idea is to fast for 23 hours straight and then consume one large meal in a 60-minute window. The OMAD diet is proposed to be a weight loss method as well as a way to tackle chronic disease and other health issues.

To find out what the OMAD diet is all about and whether it can really help you reach your weight loss and health goals, we asked two nutritionists to give us their take.

How to Follow the OMAD diet

Like many diets, OMAD has a host of rules. For starters, your one meal should be eaten in the same four-hour time block every day, so you eat on a consistent schedule.

You're allowed to drink beverages during your 23-hour fast, but they have to be the calorie-free kind, like black coffee or water, explained Dana Angelo White, RD, a sports dietitian based in Connecticut and author of Healthy Instant Pot Cookbook.

You also must consume your one meal on a standard dinner plate—nothing larger. Whatever you choose to eat can't rise higher than three inches on your plate. "Other than that, dieters can (in theory) eat whatever they like," said White.

With the OMAD diet, you don't need to consider your calories or worry about the exact nutritional profile of the food you eat, as long as you're saving all of your calories for that one period of time, said New York City-based nutritionist Natalie Rizzo, RD, author of The No-Brainer Nutrition Guide For Every Runner.

Can OMAD Lead To Weight Loss?

OMAD can be seen as an extreme level of intermittent fasting. But Rizzo noted that there is some positive research surrounding fasting in general, showing that fasting could aid in weight loss and assist in preventing chronic disease. "Other research suggests that intermittent fasting helps regulate blood glucose level, which may be therapeutic for those with diabetes," Rizzo said.

Yet whatever weight loss or health benefits you see on the OMAD diet will likely be short-lived. The drawbacks are obvious: Not eating for 23 hours will probably lead to serious hunger, lack of energy, fatigue, and uncontrollable cravings, said Rizzo.

What's more, fasting for so long might make you so hungry that you may end up choosing foods that are high in fat when it is time to eat, like fast-food hamburgers and fries.

True, such foods are allowed on the diet; no food is off-limits for your one-hour meal. But indulging in high-fat, low-nutrition foods could leave you taking in more calories than you need and lead to stomach discomfort and bloating, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

"When someone deprives themselves of food for 24 hours, they tend to lose control and overeat when it's time to eat again. This can lead to choosing unhealthy options and eating way more than what feels natural in one sitting," said Rizzo.

Plus, it'll be tough getting enough of the nutrients your body needs each day. "Joking aside, it would be fantastically difficult to meet your nutrient needs eating this way," said White. "Sure, a well-balanced multivitamin and omega-3 supplement would be helpful, but I would still have concerns about dieters meeting their needs," White added.

If You Do the OMAD diet, What Should You Eat?

If you decide to do the OMAD diet, it may be best not to indulge in just anything you crave. "The diet allows you to eat whatever you want," said Rizzo. "Personally, I would suggest a well-balanced meal with healthy carbs, protein, and healthy fats," Rizzo added.

Since you're trying to make up for the calories you skipped throughout the day, feel free to load up on foods with lots of healthy fats, like avocado, olive oil, and nuts, Rizzo suggested.

Also important: add variety. "Because our nutrient needs are so diverse, variety would be essential. Mix it up by eating different things every day, so you don't miss out on nutrients," suggested White.

You Probably Shouldn't Do It, Though

Both Rizzo and White agree: the OMAD diet isn't a sound one. "I would not recommend this diet. I think it's entirely too restrictive and can lead to choosing unhealthy options. If I starved myself all day, I would be more inclined to eat a pizza than a piece of fish with veggies," Rizzo said.

If you do want to try intermittent fasting, at least go with the 16:8 method, which has you fasting for 16 hours and eating for eight. It's not for everyone, but it's a much more balanced approach, Rizzo said.

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