You may have heard about the one meal a day (OMAD) diet, which has gained popularity due to endorsements from public figures like British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and singer Bruce Springsteen. Proponents claim that this diet leads to fast, long-term weight loss success and even delays the aging process. However, it’s important to carefully analyze the OMAD diet and understand its implications for weight loss.
Intermittent Fasting and OMAD Diet
The OMAD diet is essentially a form of intermittent fasting, where you fast for 23 hours and consume all your daily calories in one meal within a one-hour time frame. The rules of the OMAD diet are seemingly simple: you can eat whatever you want as long as it fits on a standard dinner plate, and you can drink calorie-free beverages throughout the day. Consistency is also emphasized, as you should eat your one meal at the same time every day.
The Limited Research on the OMAD Diet
Unfortunately, there is limited research on the OMAD diet itself. Most studies have focused on intermittent fasting in general, rather than specifically examining the OMAD diet. The existing research primarily involves animal studies and a small-scale study involving 11 lean, young individuals following the OMAD diet for just 11 days. Claims about the OMAD diet often rely on the broader research on intermittent fasting.
Studies have shown that intermittent fasting can be effective for weight loss in the short term. However, most studies have only considered results achieved within 12 weeks or less. One longer-term study from 2022 randomly assigned 139 obese patients to either a calorie-restricted diet with time-restricted eating or a diet with daily calorie restriction alone for 12 months. After the 12-month period, both groups showed similar weight loss and changes in body fat, blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure. This suggests that intermittent fasting, including the OMAD diet, is not necessarily superior in achieving long-term weight loss compared to traditional dieting approaches.
Nutritional Concerns and Unsustainability
One major concern with the OMAD diet is the lack of nutritional guidance for the one meal consumed each day. A healthy meal should include a balanced combination of protein, wholegrain carbs, vegetables, fruits, and good fats to support overall health, prevent diseases, and manage weight. The OMAD diet’s reliance on fasting for 23 hours per day can lead to intense feelings of hunger and uncontrollable cravings, potentially leading individuals to consistently choose unhealthy foods during their mealtime.
Extreme diets, particularly those that advocate for extended periods of fasting, can be difficult to sustain in the long run. Strict eating patterns often result in feelings of deprivation and social isolation during meal times. It becomes challenging to resist temptations, like a piece of office birthday cake, when you haven’t eaten for 23 hours. Moreover, restrictive eating can contribute to an unhealthy relationship with food, making it harder to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
The Truth about the OMAD Diet
Like other popular intermittent fasting methods, the OMAD diet may seem appealing due to its simplicity and initial weight loss outcomes. However, it is ultimately just another way of cutting calories to see a quick drop on the scales. As your body senses the weight loss, it activates defense mechanisms to regain the lost weight, a response inherited from our hunter-gatherer ancestors who needed to survive periods of food scarcity. Additionally, the OMAD diet is not sustainable in the long term and does not yield better weight-loss results compared to other approaches.
While the OMAD diet may be endorsed by some public figures and appear as a quick solution for weight loss, it is important to critically analyze its limitations. The lack of research specifically on the OMAD diet and the potential nutritional concerns make it a questionable choice for achieving long-term weight loss or better health. It is best to consult with healthcare professionals and adopt a well-rounded approach to diet and exercise that is sustainable in the long run.